Pretty Websites – Is that Enough?


You see it time and again as businesses write about their new corporate website … they are so pleased with how it looks and as a consequence pleased about the money they spent. They see value because they have in some cases created an excellent first impression and of course that is good. The problem that arises is that a pretty website is just the beginning … well in fact it wasn’t the beginning but actually a few steps down the process of creating an effective website that “works”.

So what are the steps to an effective website? First we need to define your brand. Who are you and what does your company represent. What sets you apart from the rest of the pack? From those interviews we can get a feel for your company and begin to develop the message.

We need to determine the target market, as there is little sense building a corporate  executive site for a client whose target market is teens … no matter how pretty we make it look.

Site architecture … what makes sense for your visitors and where do we want them to go after they visit a particular page? Is a static website best suited for your company (where the design firm maintains artistic control over the content) or is a CMS system such as Drupal the best alternative for your business?

About here we are beginning to have a good idea as to what the site web design should be … we know the target market, we know the brand concept and we know about how many pages and sections we are going to require and so can build the navigation scheme.

Then we need to research key words and key phrases and see how those can be worked into your web copy and carry on with the interviewing of key personnel. Our copywriters then take the notes from the interview process and combine that with the key phrases and begin to write copy for the web pages … again paying attention to the target market and the various calls to action.

The designers then create the look and build in the navigation for each page and section of the website, and then begins the SEO work from the back-end. This process makes it so your website can be found by the search engines … for words and phrases that actually matter to your visitors.

It takes all of these components and more to create an effective website that works for your visitors, your sales team, your support team and anyone else that has a  vested interest in your website. We didn’t even talk about online stores or integration of software or developing hooks into your database or reservation systems … the list goes on.

Lastly when the site is done we need to look at updates, Social Media interaction and ongoing copy and of course analysis of the web pages. Are your visitors going ot the pages we wanted them to end. Does this page “A” work better than this new page “B” and why.

All of this is why when you build a website you need more than a web designer … they are a part of the web development process. It takes a team effort to make a website that “works”.

Ian Conklin
OTR Web Solutions Inc




Customer Service and Branding


Customer Service and Your Brand
Often when we think of our company’s brand we think of the logo or other distinctive trademark, but there’s much more to our brand then just a distinctive and recognizable mark.

One morning I walked into a department store wearing my well-worn brown leather jacket. I was looking at some dress slacks and shirts and when I took my jacket off, the clerk noticed that the inside lining of the jacket was showing signs of wear. He immediately checked and came back to tell me that they could replace the lining and have it ready for me later that day. I was of course impressed with the attentive service and asked how much this would cost? His reply was no cost, as that is a service we provide for our customers. I then said, but I didn’t buy the jacket from your store. He gave me that look that said, you don’t think I know my own stock? And replied, I know this is not from our store but you are a customer and this is a service we provide for our customers. At that point I didn’t want to say, but I am a visitor from Canada, as I did not want to get that look again, this time saying, you think I didn’t recognize your accent?

I then went on to purchase a couple pairs of slacks, a few shirts and a pair of shoes.  Interestingly enough I never did get the lining of my jacket replaced as we were leaving that afternoon to head back home and there was no time. It has been well over 20 years since that particular incident took place and as I sat today to write this article on the relationship between customer service and branding, that day and that store was what immediately came to mind. You can imagine how the favorable perception of the store, the clerk and stores brand has been implanted (or branded) in my memory.

In an era when companies are now charging for every perceived “extra” such as a few inches of extra legroom, or your luggage or your in-flight meal, (just picking on airlines). It makes one wonder how this impacts their brand, how their customers perceive them? The word that comes to mind is, “cheap”. That is not how I want customers to think of our company, as I am sure it is not how you would want customers to think of your business.

You hear people say, well everyone is doing it, and I think what an excellent time to set your business apart from the rest. Unless you have some proprietary product that everyone needs and can charge and do whatever you wish, then the only thing that we as business people have to offer is exemplary customer service.

Think about your brand as more than just your look, but rather the overall customer experience with your business. Place yourself in the customer’s shoes and imagine dealing with your company and envision that experience and determine if you would like to go through it. I think the CEO of our auto club should try to order travel insurance by calling into a service center. You’re greeted with a pleasant recorded voice saying thank you for calling the Motor Association; please listen carefully as our options have changed. Press one for this, press two for this, press three for that, and press four lastly for what you wanted. Finally I will get to speak to someone, but alas I get the voice, thank you for calling the Motor Association insurance division, please listen carefully as our options have changed. This time I’m greeted with seven separate options! At this point I’m wondering if my existing insurance covers suicide, as I wish to slice my wrists or at least cancel my trip.

Okay they saved a few bucks, but at what cost to my perception of their business and brand?

Of course it is a good thing to review your brand from every aspect. Is your creative consistent across your entire organization? Is the same “look and feel” consistently deployed across e-mail, marketing, newsletter, tradeshow booth, corporate webpage, pricing sheets, sales proposals, business cards, and any other branding opportunity? However you can do all that exactly right, consistent everywhere, and all people are reminded of is cheap because they are charging me for my bag, or they saved a few dollars by not having a receptionist.

By all means review your brand but at the same time review your customers experience.

Ian Conklin – President
OTR Web Solutions Inc