One of my favorite things about working with agencies is that the events I attend for marketing purposes are also educational events that I would typically want to attend anyway. I always learn a great deal from these events. One such event is the annual New Business Summit, organized by David Baker and Blair Enns, in Nashville. I have taken part in this event five years in a row, the first two as an eager and slightly overwhelmed attendee, and the last three as a just-as-eager speaker. Regardless of how many times I attend the summit, however, I always come away with new and valuable tools.
The first time I attended the New Business Summit in 2005, I heard Blair Enns say that “the purpose of the agency website is to inform and inspire.” This resonated with me, and it quickly became a central theme in my perspective on the agency website. Over time, I realized that it is both appropriate and important to bookend “inform and inspire” with “attract” and “engage.”
In the 9 Step Process chart, I chose to leave out the inspire part. I did this because I have observed that most agencies already understand that part of the equation quite well. This process is designed to help agencies with the aspects of web development they typically struggle with. While I will present some design ideas and tips in the book, I have neither the need nor the expertise to consult you on how to inspire through your design work.
The elements of your site that are responsible for informing and inspiring are relatively straightforward. The site inspires through its portfolio and informs through its content strategy. The inspiration part comes easily for most agencies since it comes from their creative work. The problem is that many site visitors are unskilled at evaluating design. When comparing two talented agencies, many visitors are unable to readily tell which has the better design. They like both.
The last thing most agencies want is for a contract to be awarded based on the flip of a coin. Fortunately, there is a way to differentiate your site—it isn’t easy, but it is necessary. As the inspiration piece comes easily for most firms, the informative piece does not. Informing consists of explaining to your site visitors, by using actual words, why your work is so good. You inform by writing about your expertise. Many people find writing to be quite difficult, but that is why there is such opportunity associated with it; few do it, and even fewer do it well. But I can promise this: the agency that does great work and can explain why it is worthy of a prospect’s attention using meaningful, understandable language will consistently beat out the agency that does equally great work but does not take the time to write about the expertise behind the work.
This post is an excerpt from my book, "A Website That Works."