In recent months, I’ve been approached by numerous people asking why Sensei’s corporate website is predominately a blog site rather than more artistic presentation of the technology and creative we supply our clients.
“Our goal is not to promote ourselves but our thinking; our website is not a sales tool but an educational one,” I reply. The answer seems to really perplex those who ask, especially the marketers in the group. Why build a corporate blog instead of a corporate website?
I’ve been in the “sales and marketing game” for over 20 years, pre-dating corporate websites. During this time, I’ve seen websites emerge as corporate brochures and evolve into innovative and interactive displays of a business’s capabilities and case studies. As for marketing agency websites, the vast majority today focus on visually representing their achievements by streaming client logos, their best creative, their people, and their awards. The prevailing rule: The most technologically-advanced user interface wins.
More Creative + More Awards = Winning!
I understand the pressure that marketing agencies face; for the most part, their websites are visited by prospective clients for the purposes of verifying their credentials. Are other businesses using their services? How does their creative stack up against competitors? Are they big enough to handle our work?
In response, marketing agency websites are too often developed to showcase how funky and creative the agency’s designers are. The problem with this strategy is two-fold in my opinion:
1. It’s about the agency and not the customer.
2. It doesn’t showcase the strategic thinking of the agency, only its creativity and ability to win client projects.
To be fair, many clients are very visual and tend to make emotional purchase decisions based on creative rather than taking the time to “lift up the hood” and understand the experiences that shape the thinking of the key players in the agency. Education, patience, and persistence are required.
As a client, I’d rather understand the creative thinking of an agency than scroll through their creative designs. I would like to better understand how the principals think and react to trending issues and get a sense of their personalities. This will tell me how they may react and think in the future, when faced with issues and technologies we have yet to face. In my opinion, this is better accomplished through the information they share, not in a list of clients for whom they’ve done work in the past.
As a result, Sensei has decided to focus on sharing the wisdom of our principals and colleagues instead of links to the web and mobile sites we’ve designed and built. Not that you can’t find that information on our site; it’s just not what we choose to push front and center.
This is a gamble. We know that a corporate website typically has mere seconds to capture the interest of a visitor and establish its credibility. People are engaged quickly by imagery and tend to read less, so a corporate website that is predominantly a blog may be a risky strategy in our time-starved world. So why do we do it? And should you consider the same strategy?
Websites That Build Relationships
Aside from wanting our prospective clients to focus on the thinking that drives our services, we’re focused on building long-term relationships with our audience – prospects, clients, and friends of the brand. Every day, as more and more content is being created and published, designers have sought to cut through that clutter with eye-popping creative and technology. That may capture visitors’ immediate attention but will they return? If they don’t call a company representative immediately, will they know anything about the people behind the brand?
Marketing and consulting businesses like Sensei, which freely give away their content, strategy, and thinking, may seem to be acting in a counter-intuitive fashion; however, in today’s open digital/social environment, we think it’s the right choice. Chris Brogan, bestselling author and founder of Owner Magazine told me earlier this month that 85% of his thinking and ideas are given away freely. That’s a very large percentage and requires a significant investment of time. Yet, for companies that have adopted this strategy, the investment pays off in the long term, by helping develop relationships with a larger, more engaged audience.
Trust is earned slowly and through repeated engagements. Similarly, credibility – the type that encourages a business to invest large amounts of dollars with a service agency – is established through relationships, not innovative creative galleries. A content-centric website that shares insights and starts conversations pays off. It has for us anyway.
1. Is a corporate blog an add-on to the company’s website or should it be the website?
2. Is social proof created by visually parading client logos and creative or freely giving away the strategic thinking of its principal?
3. Does your website sell or educate? Does it provide flash or generate conversation? Which is better?
Join the discussion; add your views in the comments below.
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego
Image Credit: Nicola – licensed via Creative Commons