Websites Behaving Badly: Social Media Fails From 2014


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The fail: doing something very badly and not realizing it 

As part of my “2014 Social Media use among North American PCB manufacturers" survey, I visited around 100 manufacturers’ websites. A couple of them had notes on the front page saying something along the lines of “Welcome to our new redesigned website.” And the redesign was awful. One website looked like rejected Donkey Kong graphics. I half expected the gorilla to show up and start throwing barrels on the “equipment list” page. 

The problem is that the company forgets that the website is the face of the company for website visitors. Their first visit is their first impression. Many companies seem to think, “Right. The website needs a capabilities list, an equipment list, a page with our location and phone numbers, and a history of the company. Oh, and don’t forget, we are a PCB manufacturer, so it is required that we have a photo of a fighter jet on the front page.” Then they do the one thing that they all-out hate when their customers do it: They buy website help based on price. That’s the only explanation I can come up with. 

And this is a complete shame, because websites are easy to build these days and the cost to hire someone to create them is low. A good looking multipage website that features a response form can be done for well under $2,000. I know, because that’s what I did for my own website. 

You want to look sharp when you meet a prospect for the first time. Your website meets hundreds of prospects on your behalf for the first time. What impression is it leaving?    

The fail: playing hard to get with the good stuff 

In my research, I found one company with a bunch of really cool videos. They were relevant, they were the right length, they were just what a prospective user of the company’s products would appreciate. And they were buried several menus deep where no one was ever going to find them. As possibly the best sales and marketing tool the company had, there should have been a prominently displayed link to these videos on the front page of the website.

The lesson here is that if you have some really good stuff, don’t hide it. And speaking of links... 

Fail: buttons that don’t work, links to nowhere 

If a company website is going to feature a Twitter button, it needs to be tested every once in a while. The same goes with links. If you have a link to an industry standards group, a trade show, suppliers, newsfeeds or other industry partners, check them. 

What is a prospective client going to think if things like this don’t work? “Ah, here’s a company that pays poor attention to detail, strike them off the list.” Does that sound drastic? Yes. But don’t kid yourself; there are lots of vendors out there that would like that client’s business. I mean, what’s the best-case scenario here? “Well, they don’t pay attention to detail so they probably sell on price.”  

Fail: not having anyone really in charge of the website 

Aha, the mother lode. This is the obvious mistake I've seen at many companies I've surveyed. 

The “Company News” or “Latest News” section of almost any website will let you know how seriously they take their website. On many websites you will see “upcoming trade shows” listed that occurred years ago, and companies that purchased equipment quite regularly then seemed to stop three or four years ago. At least the company whose news consisted of announcing they had new furniture in their offices sharpened up and deleted that one. But my favorite is still the company whose news section consists of this one headline: “Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to 2011!”  

But is that any worse than a company that has an “All the latest news” page that is completely blank? "Welcome to our news page. There is no news, and never has been any news."  

Before I close out this week’s column, let me mention a couple of ideas that I really liked, things a couple of companies are doing really well;

One manufacturer has live chat on its website. The idea of having a live human being offer to answer any questions a visitor may have -- in real time -- is very impressive. And another company has a form below the list of upcoming tradeshows offering to set up an appointment at the tradeshow. This is a really nice, low-key option to offer a visitor. Well done. 

 

Bruce Johnston is a sales consultant specializing in Social Media and especially LinkedIn. He has 30 years experience in high tech sales and management. He can be reached at brucej@practicalsmm.com or through his profile on LinkedIn.

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