I’ve looked at a lot of websites over the years, both as a web developer and strategist and as someone who spends time online, someone who buys online. Years ago when I first started building websites, it was enough for a small business just to HAVE a website! A website added credibility; it helped your potential customers take you seriously, to see you as a “real” business. After all, websites were expensive! Having one meant that your business was earning enough to afford marketing like the “big guys”.
Unfortunately for a lot of small businesses, their thinking hasn’t moved beyond that mindset. It’s not enough anymore – and hasn’t been for some time – to just slap something up and forget about it, and to assume that “if you build it, they will come”.
The internet has changed. The economy has changed. Marketing has changed. Personally, I think the changes have been for the better. As business owners, we need to be much more responsive to what our prospects and our clients need, and we need to talk to them in their own language in order to break through the chatter and noise and be heard.
And we need to be continually re-assessing and re-working our marketing to meet their needs. It drives me crazy when I visit a website again after not seeing it for a while, and realizing that it hasn’t changed AT ALL since the last time I was there. Now with so many website, small business websites in particular, including blogs with dated posts, it’s really easy to see that the last time they added content was May 2011.
It also drives me crazy to meet someone at a networking event, then go to their website when I get home, and what I see has almost no relation to what they talked about at the event! And I’m as guilty of this as anyone. My business has changed – and changed A LOT – over the last year, year and a half. My own website hasn’t always kept up with the new direction and new focus.
I had to go back through my own process, and do it more than once, to get my website to truly represent me and what I do. The good news is that I *HAD* that process to work through! (I always end up working with clients to help them do what I’ve had to do for my own business.)
So as the first step in creating any marketing materials, we need to look inward. This phase is all about you.
You know how sometimes you take a shower in a small bathroom, especially in hotel rooms, where the fan ventilation isn’t very good? You hop out of the shower, towel off, and then turn to the mirror to do your hair, shave if you’re a guy, put on your makeup if you’re a woman. Except you can’t see yourself clearly, because the mirror is all fogged up.
You need to clear the fog off the mirror in order to get a clear reflection of yourself, so that you can see yourself well enough to take the next step.
Well, when you’re looking at your marketing, the first thing you need to do is clear that foggy mirror! You have to see yourself clearly, because your marketing is a reflection of you.
This “looking inward” stage helps you define and document things like this:
- Your company and business goals, and your website goals, because when you know your goals you can figure out how to achieve them. Here you need to think both about the long term, big picture stuff and the shorter term, get-it-done-NOW stuff.
- Your compelling story, because knowing how you got to where you are now helps both you and your clients see the value that you offer. Very often our best clients are the folks who are where you are before. I know that’s the case for me.
When I work with clients, and even when I do this step for myself, I sometimes have to revisit this several times in the course of working through the whole strategy process. In the first pass through this first phase, my clients — and I — tend to focus on the “big picture” WHY. That’s important stuff, and we all need to think about who we are and why we do what we do. But the language used to talk about a really big WHY isn’t the language used to get a prospect to pick up the phone and call for an appointment.
To bring it back to that reflection in the mirror, they’re standing behind you seeing your reflection too. What do they see? What image do you want to portray?
What you need to see clearly here is all about you, yes, but it’s the you that your clients will want to connect with. It’s what opens the door they come in through to work with you. It’s you, but from their perspective.
Because in the end, it’s really ALL about them.