home page strategy

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Having worked in technology, marketing and branding for a while (a fairly unique combination) I have come to a conclusion about homepages. The best home pages are a lot like product labels. They sell at the point of contact. The worst ones are like tables of contents. They help visitors navigate through cluttered over-complicated environments. Environments where every dept. in the company gets a piece.

My new thing is the landing story. It’s strategic and it is a serial presentation of product, benefits, reasons to believe and value. It is told by brand managers and people with creative chops whose main goal is to sell. Not provide information. The more mature a product and, therefore, the more familiar consumers are with it, the easier it should be to tell the landing story. Coke doesn’t have to educate new visitors as to what a cola is. They just have to get them to buy or buy more. There are real correlations between engagement levels on a website and purchase, no doubt; but getting someone into the library and getting them to read a book isn’t one and the same. So engagement for engagement’s sake is not the way to do it. 

The home page, in my opinion, is one of the most misunderstood and misused marketing tools in the digital arsenal. Let’s try to fix this. Let’s bring home pages to life. Let’s storify them. Peace. 

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I was on the Wells Fargo home page this morning, don’t ask, and counted the clickables above the fold.  There were 46. In my lifetime there is no way I’d be interested in 46 different pieces of information on banking from Wells Fargo or any bank for that matter. Imagine walking into a bank and having 46 questions? (Too many clicks, for those Bush Tetras fans.)

The irony is that most bank home pages have a similar number of links. Citibank does a good job, providing only 18 clickables…on one of the cleaner pages in the category.

I advocate using your home page to convey the company Is-Does and brand value. I recently had a major difference of opinion with a company over this approach. The executive team at regional (non-financial) brand with national aspirations and a changing business model, felt it more important to use the homepage as a navigational tool than to explain the complicated business it was in and what made it different. Similar to the bank approach, it organized upon the home page an array of things it thought customers would want, by target. It’s the “me” versus “you” argument I often have in reverse when discussing advertising. (Good ads are you focused, a good home page is me/brand focused.)

Cory Treffiletti a really smart colleague once told me, “If you give customers too many choices they will make none.”   To that I will add, if you don’t tell people what you do and do differently than competition, they won’t make a choice. Certainly, not an informed choice that is.

Even in a category as generic as banking – when simply removing confusion can be a differentiator – companies need to use their home page to convey their brand story, their soulful difference. Homepages that are simply navigation-driven are tofu and a lost, lost opportunity.  Peace!

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