February 3, 2009
Seven. It’s just a number like any other, but it does seem to come up on a fairly regular basis. There’s the Seven Wonders of the World, The Seven Deadly Sins, and the Seven Dwarfs: Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Doc, Dopey, and my personal favorite, Grumpy.
Phone numbers are seven digits, and they say the optimum brand name should be no more than seven letters long. Seven it seems is a magical number, as the average human brain can only grasp seven things at a time. Interesting, my wife says I’ve got trouble with two, never mind seven, but that’s another story.
So I’ve been thinking, what are the seven most important words associated with Web-marketing. I’ll give you a hint: Search, Engine, and Optimization don’t make the cut.
So what words do make the list? What are the seven words that will make your website worth viewing?
Words Can Move You
By someone’s count there are 171,476 entries in the Oxford English Dictionary, plus another 47,156 words that have fallen out of favor. This of course doesn’t count the 9,500 additional permutations, that don’t deserve their own special attention.
Fifty percent of these words are nouns, twenty-five percent are adjectives, and 14.285% are verbs, with the rest made up of all those other things, the purpose of which most of us have long since forgotten.
Others may find fault with these numbers, but no matter what the total, it’s a lot of words. Of the several hundred thousand words to choose from, the average person recognizes less than ten percent, while the average teenager seems to only be able to handle about half that amount; of course that doesn’t count slang, instant messaging jargon, or the ever-popular four-letter variety.
Why the heck are there so many words if we all refuse to use them. I mean why waste all those perfectly good words on English teachers and college professors. By the way, they say swearing is the refuge of the feeble-minded, people who can’t express themselves in a more articulate manner, but to be honest, I really don’t give a damn.
Here’s the thing, words have meaning and impact, and they provide the emotional context of our communications, to which we can add subtlety and nuance through their delivery by means of tone, cadence, and gesture.
So as important as words are, the way they are delivered is even more important.
What Website Design Is Really About
The other day I was listening to a local all-news radio station. It is mostly rip-and-read wire service stuff that they repeat over-and-over like some kind of psychological torture, but they do provide traffic reports on a nauseatingly regular basis. You only have to wait ten minutes until they repeat everything, so if you want to hear what traffic snafus to avoid just wait a few minutes; but here’s the problem: the announcers talk so fast that no matter how hard you concentrate, you can never quite get the particular information you need; and if you’re driving you have other things to consider, like the idiot in the Hummer who just cut you off.
None of these guys ever uses a period, let alone a semicolon or comma. Either they have very small bladders and are under pressure to finish quickly, or they’re late for their afternoon pilates class. They seem so intent on rushing to the commercials that they never deliver the content in an appropriate manner. And your website just might have the same problem.
Too much information is as bad as not enough. Information overkill leads to information anxiety, buyer’s remorse, reduced satisfaction, unattainable expectations, and purchase-decision paralysis.
Website owners have been told that visitors won’t wait for anything, that they are impatient, and you’ve got to get to the point fast, make the pitch and close the deal; well that just isn’t going to work with any sophisticated product or service.
Your website presentation needs to slow people down so they hear what you have to say, and you have to say something worth hearing.
Website design is about more than layout, markup language, and technical wizardry. Website design is about communication, it’s about turning advertising into content, and content into an experience that viewers will remember.
Seven Words To Remember
People are always asking us what’s wrong with their websites, and the answer in the vast majority of cases can be summed-up in a quote from the movie, “Cool Hand Luke” (1967): “what we have here is a failure to communicate.” Communication is the key to success, and that doesn’t just apply to your website, it applies to almost everything you do both inside and outside your business-life.
If your website isn’t communicating on both a rational and emotional level, if it doesn’t provide the psychological and emotional context of your marketing message, then exactly what is it doing?
I can’t think of too many people who actually like being sold. In fact, sometimes customers get so irritated by sales tactics that they end up not buying the thing they came specifically to your website to purchase.
Solving the problem is merely a question of altering your perspective; the average buyer is predisposed to dismiss and ignore high-pressure tactics, and meaningless sales pitches. So instead of treating customers like customers, try treating them like an audience. Audiences want to be engaged, enlightened, and entertained. And that is the most effective way to make a sales impact.
All too often websites inundate their Web audiences with facts, figures, statistics, and an endless list of features, benefits, options, and whatever else the sales department can think of throwing in. All that stuff just confuses people.
Focus your message on the most important elements of what you have to say. If your website can embed that singular idea in an audience’s mind, then it has done its job.
The words used, and how they are put together provides meaning; they inform personality; they provide mental sound bites; and they make whatever you are saying, worth remembering.
Language is one of the critical elements of ‘voice’, the ability to convey personality; and writing without a ‘voice’ is instantly forgettable.
Even the most articulate prose can be lost in a befuddled delivery. Communication is more than words; it’s a combination of language, style, personality, and performance.
Things are rarely what they seem. Even our memories are a stylized versions of what we’ve actually experienced. Creating a memorable impression is about managing the viewer experience, and providing the right verbal and non-verbal cues that make what is being said memorable.
Every business has a personality. The first problem is, few medium-sized companies ever attempt to manage that persona, and as a consequence, the buying public forms its own opinion. And that opinion is often not the way you want to be regarded.
The second problem is companies either don’t have a firm grasp of who they really are, or they know, and they are afraid to promote it. If your company’s identity isn’t worth promoting, it is time to think why that is, and change it. The bottom line is, a company without a personality is a company without an image, and that makes you instantly forgettable.
The most important feature you can offer your audience is psychological fulfillment, not deep discounts, fast service, or more bells and whistles.
The real reason people buy stuff is that it makes them feel something. Cosmetics make women feel attractive or sexy, while cars make men feel they’ve achieved some level of status. Even services make people feel important, as in “I’ve got a guy, who does that for me.” Finding the psychological hot spot in your marketing, and promoting the hell out of it consistently and continually should be your primary marketing goal. All those features and benefits are merely the excuse for a purchase, not the reason.
The Web Is Fast Becoming A Video Environment
Websites are not just marketing collateral; they are not just digital brochures. They are a new presentation medium that requires specialized communication skills, and knowledge of how best to use the medium.
You may be a great salesperson, and nobody knows your business like you do. You may even be skilled at delivering speeches at conventions and seminars, but performing effectively in front of a camera is a whole different ball game, and for most people, it’s way out of their comfort zone, let alone their skill level.
The same old methods that used to work won’t work any more. You’re no longer competing with just the company down the street; you’re competing with the entire world.
Web-businesses may never actually meet their customers face-to-face, or even talk to them on the phone, so it is imperative that they use marketing presentation methods that deliver an experience worth remembering.
Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design firm that specializes in Web-audio and Web-video. Visit http://www.mrpwebmedia.com/ads, http://www.sonicpersonality.com, and http://www.136words.com. Contact at email@example.com or telephone (905) 764-1246.