When your website means business.

«Return to Blog List Part 1, Why Bad Websites Happen to Good Companies: Thinking of the Company Website as an Online Brochure

Ah, the good old days, when the web was a simpler place: you could just take your company brochure and put it online. Often, the only interactive feature was an email link. It was all about companies putting their message out to their market, which was presumed to be unable to contain itself waiting to see the company website. The “online brochure” is a recent version of the “horseless carriage.” We all had difficulty at first seeing beyond the print paradigm we were familiar with and understanding that we had our hands on an entirely new thing that required us to think differently in order to utilize its potential. Unfortunately, some of us still have that difficulty.

More and more, however, companies are beginning to understand that their website is not a broadcast station, from which the faceless corporation blasts out its message to a faceless market. People in companies are recognizing the need for their website to serve as a business platform; a tool for connecting with and interacting with people in their markets. The value of the online business platform is its ability to enable person-to-person communication, one-to-one, about various issues an individual customer faces. To customers, the web is a personal experience. They don’t find impersonal, puffed up company websites helpful. (Have I bold-italicized people/personal enough to make my point? Because I can do more…)

One of the primary reasons the shift from online brochure to one-to-one communication tool is not happening faster is that it’s threatening to traditional company roles and ideas about protecting the company brand. If one-to-one communication is enabled, the company facade will be breached, and its brand may be called into question. Traditional business people want to control the message and maintain the facade.

But brands are always being called into question; traditional managers and business owners, secure in their marketing communications cocoons, just don’t know it. Every time a customer has a difficult or frustrating experience with a company product or service (think “phone company”), believe me, they understand there’s a disconnect between their experience and the ads they see on TV or in magazines. And they don’t tend to think of their experience as an aberration. One-to-one interaction gives people at the company an opportunity to resolve the issue and solidify a customer relationship. The alternative is to lose a customer, or at best, create a disgruntled customer who tells friends about his bad experience.

Using the web as a one-to-one business platform means giving up the online brochure paradigm, not just creating a “customer service” tab on the online brochure. It means connecting customers with technical issues to technical people, and people with service issues to service people, who are themselves able to access useful information and authorize solutions. It means creating feedback loops that are not only usable, but compelling. The technology exists. The willingness to use it exists in some companies, but not in others. Yet.

For more posts in this series, see the “Bad Websites/Good Companies” category at right.

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