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Creative Collaborators: Is your website a “Toddler in a Tiara?”

Larry Buckley September 27, 2011 Branding & Design, Creative Collaborators, Noteworthy

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My teenage daughter is obsessed with the reality show Toddlers and Tiaras, which follows the exploits of these nutty “pageant moms” who gussy-up their 3-year-olds to look like (I’m not making this up) “Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman” in hopes of winning a four-foot plastic trophy and becoming “Little Miss Chattahoochee” or something.  The time and effort spent in making these wanna-be divas “pageant pretty” includes, (but is by no means limited to): spray tans, false eyelashes, false teeth, hand-stitched hooker outfits, eyebrow waxes and, of course, hairspray by the gallon.  In the end the “toddlers” have a $10,000 wardrobe and high-gloss finish–but, underneath it all, they’re still just little kids.

Every now and then I come across a website that reminds me of these “toddlers.” It appears to have everything—stunning design, motion graphics and slick navigation, but it leaves me wondering “what do they want me to do?” or “that was cool, but so what?” after the flash subsides. Their site may look cool, but what are they saying?  By contrast, really good websites use smart content and copy to tell a clear story and then drive action.

So let’s look at some steps that can lead you to build a site that’s attractive, exciting—and effective—from the inside out:

1. Craft your “story”

This is the phase that deserves the most attention. What messages do you want to convey? What’s truly unique about you? (And don’t use your “Pageant Mom” lens here.  What will other people –your customers and prospects–find unique and compelling about you?!) How do you want visitors to feel about your company? Here, language (“tone of voice”) can be particularly powerful in conveying an appealing personality. You see?—it’s far more than skin deep.

2.  Use an “outside-in” lens

One of my favorite “Isn’t my baby beautiful?” exercises in corporate navel-gazing is the company that wants to promote their “full range of products” to audiences that would, by definition, only potentially use one particular product or service.  Instead of deciding what YOU want to say, how about thinking about what your prospects and customers would like to hear? Radical, eh?

3. Decide what you want visitors to do.

Then make the path toward that action clear and direct. Are you trying to lead them through a transaction or inspire them to opt-in to your marketing? Begin with the end in mind—focus on the “what” before you turn to the “how.”

So…by all means… get that spray tan, plug in plenty of hot rollers, and buy some new tap shoes… but when the microphone gets to you— have something great to say, baby! 

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