I review a lot of building material company websites as part of my work. I’ve noticed that many of them are missing a critical element. I recently put my finger on just what it is.
The missing element is the customer.
I am currently working with a company that is focused on gaining more architectural specifications. To achieve that goal, I’m helping them update their website and their digital marketing.
I’m working with a team that includes all the usual people: their agency, the web developer and some marketing people. It also includes an architectural firm.
That’s a really smart move. The company didn’t just survey or interview architects. They are actually paying an architectural firm to play an active part in developing their site.
The architects are involved in every detail and give advice on what makes a website work for customers (who are architects just like them).
The best part is that the team is open to that feedback, even when it’s blunt and direct. Too many creative people get defensive when their work is criticized, which gets in the way of the company’s success.
The particulars are really interesting, too. Here are some of the ways these architects are helping the company build a better website.
- The order of information. Every company has to make a choice about how to order the information on their site. Do you start with colors, then sizes, then textures? Or do you put texture up front? The architects in the room could tell them exactly how they like to see the information presented.
- Using images the right way. The images you add to your website can make it more eye-catching and appealing. Using the wrong ones, however, could detract from your message. In one case, the company had a set of project photos they were really proud of. The architects didn’t feel the same way. They had a negative reaction to them and they could point out all the details that their customers would notice. They also provided feedback on product illustrations and showed us where we were focusing on the wrong detail.
- Words can make a difference. They reviewed every piece of copy on the website, which led to some good debates over phrases or even single words. The result is a much better story for the architects who visit the site.
- Cutting out non-essential information. Most websites have more information than the customer needs. Companies typically take a “more is better” approach to information, but the site gets bloated if they add too much. Extra sections can make the site harder to navigate for the customer. The architects helped us identify the ones that weren’t essential so they could either be moved to a better location or deleted entirely.
- Typefaces, color and design. The web developer is an excellent designer, but they don’t have the brain of an architect. Working with the team taught them what different colors, typefaces and design elements say to an architect.
- What are the best Calls to Action (CTA)? “Get a Quote” or “Talk to a Rep” are common CTAs, but they’re not what an architect is looking for when they visit a building material website.
Maybe you’re not focused on selling to architects. That’s fine. The point is that you should figure out who you’re designing your website for and add them to your team.
If you want to sell to builders, bring a builder on the team. If it’s contractors you want to impress, get direct input from one.
You’ll have to do research to find the right person. It shouldn’t be your best customer – they’ll probably tell you what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear.
Ideally, you’ll find someone from a forward-thinking company who isn’t a current customer of yours. They’ll have a more objective view of your site and can give you better advice.
Whoever you decide to bring on, make sure you’re paying them enough to take this assignment seriously. Your website is the face of your company. It’s what your customers see before they decide to talk to a rep or make a purchase. You want to make sure the builders, contractors, or architects you’re hiring as advisors will devote hours to helping you rebuild your site and not let it fall to the bottom of their list of priorities.
You should hire marketing and design experts to help you put together a killer website. But no one knows what the customer needs more than the customers themselves. When they’re the missing element from your site, you run the risk of having potential customers clicking away before they should.
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