I frequently tell clients that getting a brand’s website in good order is paramount. I know I’m stating the obvious here but I’m particularly passionate about it. Why? Because for most brand managers, the website is the most visible asset they have. More people will see and experience your website that will ever visit your office, read your brochure, or have a virtual call with you.
As the most visible ambassador of your brand, it’s important to get it right. That’s why we’re particularly eager to show our new creation to our community of clients, friends, and family as well as our next wave of teammates and clients.
As we reflect on the process we went through to get here (anyone who has launched an extensive site knows the energy and effort required), a few things rise to the top as far as lessons learned or best practices followed. Here’s a run-down:
1. Focus on content first.
Too many web projects I’ve been involved with make the content an afterthought. “Use our current content,” they said. But what inevitably happens is that the next version of the site becomes a re-tread of the old one. And your customers can tell. We encourage clients, as we did with this project, to map out the content first and actually agree on it prior to beginning the design process. While it’s easier to tell a design team to simply start giving us some ideas to review and we’ll worry about the content later, that’s a mistake. The content actually helps the designers to compose artwork that works in tandem with the content. In some cases, a line of copy becomes the art.
And while you can always tweak the content later, having it mapped out and composed early will make the whole process more fluid and the end result more fruitful. What’s more, there’s very little scrambling for copy at the end of the process.
2. Use your voice.
If you’re not sure what your brand voice is, it’s worth considering. How you write and how you sound should reflect the core of who you are as a brand. For us, we like to combine the whimsical and humorous with the aspirational and educational. Someone who reads what we write will hopefully connect with the soul of our brand and our culture. The goal is to be intentional about what we say but to say it in a way that reflects our personality. Visitors who read your content should feel like they’re getting to know you. Are you intense or lighthearted? Casual or formal? Spontaneous or methodical? Your tone can make it known (see what we did there?).
3. Distinguish yourself.
One of the most important elements of this effort was to distinguish ourselves from those we compete against. We are particularly passionate about this because so many agency websites are quite similar. They showcase a list of services, some articles about how to succeed online, and list of logos showing client experience. This is challenging for the visitor or prospect because most agencies present the same picture: we do lots of creative things for lots of prominent companies and we know our stuff.
While not abandoning this approach altogether, we did want to highlight some of the things that make us different while drawing a contrast between us and competitors. A few of the obvious ones we wanted to include were:
- A physical office building that we own and manage which gives us a laboratory to collaborate while sending a subtle signal of our longevity. We also demonstrate that we have a dedicated team of employees with a certain scale.
- The Brand Narrative podcast where we broadcast regularly about what we’re learning in the marketing realm.
- A feature on our book, Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market From the Core, to demonstrate our contribution to the field.
- A highlight of our flagship brand offering, Brand Exploration, to familiarize visitors with our repeatable process of brand discovery.
4. Give them what they want
We’ve always known that there are a few areas of our site, which we assume applies to most agencies, that are the most popular. For us, it’s the work we’ve done and who works here. We surmise that web visitors like to see demonstrations of the creative, but they also want to know *who* works for an agency. Who would I be interfacing with? What are their backgrounds? Do these people have credibility? What guides their work? By being open with work samples and team member bios, you can help visitors answer those questions.
5. Don’t overthink it
Lastly, I know that there is temptation to edit, tweak, and revise. After all, show me a website and I’ll show you how to improve it. There’s no such thing as perfect. But if you stand a chance to dramatically improve your online presence by replacing an older site, get to the finish line as fast as you can. You can always iterate after you launch. As Steve Jobs famously said, “real artists ship.”
If it’s been a few years since you’ve touched your website, ask yourself if the most visible brand asset you have is doing its job for you. If not, it’s probably time to re-visit, re-fresh, and re-launch.