Jeffrey Zeldman posted an article the other day previewing Internet Explorer 9. More specifically, he rakes Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft’s General Manager for Internet Explorer, over the coals for some of the language in his IE9 blog entry. According to Zeldman, Hachamovitch “brags” about the new features of the browser. He says that the writer should have adopted a more personal, down-to-earth tone.
I am not going to take sides. Myself, I think this situation is a good illustration of a writer (the MS fellow) not understanding his audience. Engineers and other technical types, even more than others, do not react well to bloviation of any kind. In Hachamovitch’s defense, the article didn’t seem that boastful to me, but after reading the comments at the bottom of the post, I’d say that I am not a typical reader of that kind of blog. Hachamovitch didn’t understand his audience. Or maybe he was edited. Who can say?
Anyway, understanding one’s audience is crucial.
The process of identifying your target audiences (and vetting them) is anything but simple. But I”m not going to get into personas and user-centered design right now. That is a topic for another day (several days, really).
Instead, we’ll be continuing on in the same vein as last week’s 404 post, with something seemingly trivial but that speaks volumes about how you think about your readers: whether you hide content behind a registration form.
Try to avoid registration whenever possible. At the top end of the sales funnel, users are going to your website to do research on your firm. You should make this information as easy to get to as possible.
Move as much info as possible to the “open” parts of your site to gain credibility. Like it or not, you can’t rely on your sales force to control access to product info. The web has moved power into the hands of customers and it is long past time to face that. Furthermore, the web has conditioned people to think they can get this information fast. As I always say, your competition is only a click away.
And in your content, do use wording that speaks to customers and makes it clear that you can fix their problems. Avoid puffery, particularly if one of your target segments is the aforementioned technical types. Case studies, videos, fact sheets, webcasts and the like speak for themselves. They back up your claims of being able to do something. You must establish trust.
Think about it this way. In the B2B space, there is a good chance that someone who is looking at your site is going to be presenting to a decision maker about your firm. This is particularly true if your product is expensive/has a long sales cycle (months or years). If you give this researcher enough “ammunition,” they will become an advocate. You’ve helped them do their job of research. If all you’ve given them is unsubstantiated boasts, you’ve failed to differentiate your firm.
Everyone says they are “world leaders”. Everyone’s “best of breed”, “next generation” products are “groundbreaking,” “robust” and “cutting-edge.” Unless you can back up what you say, this is all so much noise. People want to know what problems your product solves, and they want proof that it works.
We are communicators. Communicate. Yeesh.
Anyway, once that initial research period is over, and you’ve moved customers down the sales funnel, it is OK to move some content behind a registration. White papers and other value-added documents are a good for getting users to offer up their contact particulars.
Oh, and make sure you have a clear call to action on each page. If a visitor can’t be converted (however you are defining conversion) on every page of your site you are failing.
User registration. It might seem like no big deal but it is an important part of your overall web strategy. Sweat the small stuff.