Connecting online

Are you really worth the energy it takes to click?

We have plenty of art director friends who strongly encourage us to limit copy in print ads. And they have a legitimate reason:

“You don’t have to tell everything in the ad. Just direct the reader to the website,” they tell us soothingly, often in a tone reserved for hard-to-train puppies. “Your job is now easier.”


But what happens when the ad readers do go to the website? Is there content available there that completes the interaction started by the ad? Is it truly worth the reader’s time to visit the website, and does the website lead the reader onward to a relationship or sale?

That’s where the job of copywriting (and art direction) hasn’t gotten easier. The website is now an extra step in the communications process. And boy, is it hungry.

As communications professionals, we used to feel that much of our job was done once a prospect had made the decision to contact a company. After all, the goal of the ad, news story, or other communications piece was to generate interest, and once the prospect was in the hands of the sales force, it was up to the sales staff to complete the transaction.

Now, research shows that over 70% of initial meaningful contacts with an organization or product come through its website. Before prospects will make direct contact with your people, they’ll see what you have to say online.

The remarkably good thing about this is that we no longer have the sick feeling in our stomachs that occurred when clients proudly would take us into back rooms and show us the boxes and boxes of leads that our ads had created--leads that just sat in the boxes and were never followed up.

The bad thing about this is that we now have the ongoing challenge of making sure that when website visitors come, we have the right content in place—and more than enough of it—so that they’ll take the next step of contacting the organization or making the decision to buy.

The copywriting thing hasn’t gotten easier. We’re not just writing the ad anymore.

We’re writing for two.

And web visitors know that they should expect more than just an electronic form of a brochure once they get to your site. After all, the rest of the web is giving them forums, studies, entertainment, and many other ways to gather, interact, and converse.

Jakob Nielsen, a web designer/consultant, summed things up nicely in an Ad Age article by Matthew Creamer: “The web is not an advertising medium. It is not a selling medium; it is a buying medium. It is user controlled.”

That’s one of the reasons why Facebook fell on its face when it implemented its Beacon social ads and overstepped perceived privacy bounds. Users felt control had been taken away from them. The same is true when a website offers information that is irrelevant or incomplete. The user doesn’t feel as if he or she is being taken seriously.

But user control is a tremendous opportunity as well: How much stronger is the connection with your brand when people feel they’re choosing to interact with it, rather than having you force it upon them.

Creating a website that offers the proper user experience requires work, interaction, listening—and, typically, plenty of adjustment and fine-tuning. The user experience changes with site visits. The first-time visitor is looking for something very different than an ongoing visitor. Here are a few observations.

A website is not always about entertainment.

Budweiser discovered this with the failure of People didn’t necessarily want to have a new TV channel based around a brewer. But Johnson and Johnson is doing pretty well with, a website sponsored by a number of J&J brands that provides detailed information about child care.

We also know of a number of technical websites that are required bookmarks for engineers, because they provide the “heads up-heads down” info that is required to get work done (“heads up” information is news about new ideas and products; “heads down” information are the charts, tables, and details needed to write the spec.)

A website has to be refreshed.

One critical sin is not offering new content if you expect visitors to come more than once. And it’s difficult to do properly. We see lots of sites with great intentions—special news sections and highlight boxes that never get updated. One of our favorites is the site for Web Content Awareness Day (February 9, in case you don’t have it on your calendar), which hadn't been updated since 2007, and, last we checked, had been taken down.

If you’re going to treat the website as an extension of the ad, then there has to be a connection.
Again, the information superhighway to hell is paved with good electronic intentions. We’ve followed numerous ads to websites, looking for the ideas or solutions offered and found (at least at first glance) dead ends. There was not online reference to the ad content or message. And if we did find the information we were looking for buried in the website, we found it only because of our morbid curiosity. Most visitors won’t take the time.

We’re strong believers in the concept that ads, news releases, and other communications now are intertwined with website content. And in one sense, it does make the job easier. Communications can be simpler, cleaner, and focused on a single message (which is all you can ever hope to get across in an ad).

But that just means that there’s more pressure than ever on your online content. Is your website really worth it to the people who take the time to click?

To find out how BrainPosse can help you keep the fires of good web content stoked, click here or call (865) 330-0033.


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