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When your online strategy fails - Changing direction and re-engaging your website visitors
29th March 2012

The online world is littered with unsuccessful websites created with grandiose visions by their owners but just like the movie business, there are online hits and misses. Even the best of us have had well designed carefully planned websites do absolutely nothing except maybe earn a few compliments on how well designed they are (which just adds to the pain).

So, what do you when your carefully planned strategy comes unstuck?

Many times its not the website functionality at falt but the message - rework the story.

When things don't go as planned website owners tend to start tinkering with the functionality - maybe it needs an additional link on the homepage or maybe the form needs to be spruced up. Piecemeal solutions just do not work. You can change the site functionnality till dooms day but it won't get you more sales.

What needs to change is the central message or the story of the website - what are you presenting to the prospective customer. Here is where creativity comes into picture. Are you presenting your products blandly or are you telling the visitor the story of the product. Are you describing the wonderful properties of the products or are you showing how useful it could be for the visitor.

This topic deserves a post by itself but the main points are these:

  • Revisit the central theme of the site and the tone of the communication.
  • Are you displaying data or are you telling the story of the product.
  • Are you answering the most important question for the visitor - 'What's in it for me?'

What's in it for me ? You really have to answer this question for the visitor.

Most websites are like technical brochures of the products, describing a lot but hardly addressing the customers requirements. When there is not emotional connect there is no sale. The most important thing to address is why you think your product is of the greatest use and importance to the visitor. The key here is 'engagement' - how do you engage the visitor the moment he lands on the page.

Some good engagement ideas are

  • Tell your story in a colourful and fun way - use animation (carefully) and cleverly written prose.
  • Tell the story of your product in a fun way
  • Offer a juicy discount or special bundle that will atleast tempt the visitor to know more.
  • Ask a relevant question - get the visitors curiosity going- hook him with his knowledge gap.

Some of you would be wondering that this suspiciously sounds like a landing page strategy but you have to realize that your websites homepage is also a landing page - a big one that too.

Throwing more advertising at the problem won't solve it. Address the real issues.

Another knee-jerk reaction to poor response on the site is to throw more advertising at it. Thats just a way to burn money without solving the underlying issues. Even if you get a sales boost from the advertising it would be temporary because as soon as you stop spending sales will slump. The best sites generate huge sales on very modest ad budgets - they rely on the greater sales due to the sites stickiness rather than ads.

Don't neglect the inner pages - weave some relevance into them as well.

Search engines throw visitors not only onto your homepage but depending on the keyword searched also into the inner pages of the site. Do not let the visitor loose his bearings when he lands on an inner page. Make sure you have message continuity and a lot of cross linking through out the site. Otherwise you will get just a 'bounce' - a visitor landing on the page and leaving from the same page.

Bring the important stuff to the front - Fewer the clicks, the better the engagement.

You won't believe the amount of times I had to click 3-4 times just to reach a page with relevant material on many websites. Don't make your website into some kind of online scavenger hunt for the visitor. Keep all the relevant material and links upfront and easy to reach. That does not mean you cram your homepage with text and links. Find an elegant way to do it.

Be prepared to throw it away - even if you put lipstick on a pig its still a pig.

With all due respect to pigs and other sundry farm animals - some sites are beyond salvage. Either there is actually no demand or the concept is poorly thought through. No matter how much you try it won't work. You have to know when to give up.

There is no single solution when your site does not work (in terms of sales) even with visitors coming to it. You have to analyze and adapt as the commandos say. Learn more about your visitors and change your game.

Cheers

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