November 16, 2010
As a specialist copywriter who works exclusively in writing online content for business, I regularly come across copy that leaves me wondering if the website owners have a pulse.
Lifeless, dry, dull, uninspiring, devoid of personality, and completely lacking in charm and appeal. Banks, insurance brokers, accountants, medical practitioners, property developers and real estates are experts at pretending there are no humans employed in the business at all.
They’ve mastered the technique of stripping out humor, passion, and excitement from their websites, leaving behind a cold and barely breathing site that’s in urgent need of life support.
Why is it so hard to add a little spice to a website? I’m not talking racy office gossip or controversy. But I do want to connect with your business at some level – any level! I want to know a little bit about you because if I choose to do business with you there’s a slim chance you will learn a bit about me, including my address, my credit card details and my shopping habits. Is it too much to ask that your website reveals something in return?
Finding the perfect icebreaker that connects me to you immediately is trickier for big business than small enterprises, but that’s not to say it is impossible. Making me smile or laugh is a perfect start. Featuring the achievements of employees in activities both in and out of work shows you value your staff (and recognize that there is more to life than work). Highlighting your business’s charities and donations indicates you have a heart.
Big business needs to move away from trying to seem august and serious on their websites. I don’t really care that you think you are leaders in your field, the biggest in the business, and all the rest of the chest-beating stuff that “serious” corporations carry on with. Sure, I want to know that you are good at what you do, but in a way that makes me feel good about doing business with you both on and offline.
Smaller businesses have a much easier task in promoting their corporate personality on the web. Sometimes the personality of the owners shine through so strongly that you feel you know them, trust them, and most importantly, want to do business with them.
Many of my clients find sharing personal details difficult. “People aren’t interested in reading about me” is a common comment. While I don’t need to know your favorite football team or that your last meal would be nachos and a glass of red wine, I DO, however, want to know that you are passionate about your business, what drives you, and why you are in the job you’re in. And I also want to know why I should choose you over your competitor. This goes beyond cost and quality. It goes to customer service, follow-up and feedback, and while many of these aspects of business interaction will occur outside of your website, I want to read that they are available and that you value them as much as I do.
Adding a dose of personality to your site is a simple, effective tool that fast tracks a connection with a discerning and critical global audience. If you need any further proof just ask yourself how many times you’ve clicked on “About Us” on a website before you’ve clicked on “Products.” And disappointingly, how often have you found that About Us is merely a repeat of what has appeared on the homepage, or the services section, and doesn’t tell you anything “about them?”
We’ve become so conditioned to seeing an About Us button that it is almost mandatory for all websites. The reality is that many sites don’t divulge anything of meaning to their customers other than price, payment, and product. Adding personality to the mix is a low risk strategy that will distinguish you from any competitor whose site is so perfunctory and clinical that it has a limited lifespan.
If you are going to add an About Us button then disclose information beyond products and services. When revealing personal information is too painful or difficult then try to think of other ideas that can encourage a relationship between you and your customers – such as the joy you get from seeing customers make the most of your products (turn a property developer into a creator of homes), service and commitment to customers (always here for you, staff training that is client centered), environmental and safety consciousness (recycling, reuse, health aware) and community service (volunteer work, fundraising and charitable donations).
A personality driven website should capture online what happens in your brick and mortar premises, from the moment a client calls or walks into your office. If they don’t like what they see, they’ll move on – the only difference is that in the online world you’ll never even know they were there.
Nikki Cripps is a Sydney based copywriter who writes exclusively for small business websites. She’s been a journalist, public relations consultant and writer for almost 20 years. She is the owner and operator of www.wordsforwebsites.com.au.