Companies, particularly IT companies, in a growth stage, find it difficult to stop what they are doing and re-organize their service offerings and structure. They often say that their industry is too fluid. My experience working in this sector, has allowed me to take a step back. Those who succeed, and succeed big, put a stake in the ground, regarding who they are and how they want to be perceived by ideal clients and future employees. Just like in the software industry, version 1.0 is not the latest version. Think of your company as embarking on major versions, as well as point upgrades, and you’ll move your company’s brand forward, just as you are improving your product or service offering.
Here’s our website evaluation for one company:
While this company’s website is clean, attractive and visually appealing, there are a number of inconsistencies resulting in a less than effective portrayal of the company’s brand. The logo itself seems to have very little to do with the industry, target audience, or main messaging, and is somewhat outdated looking in terms of a symbol within the IT industry. The slide show on the homepage is very inconsistent in all aspects. Visually, there is a mix of visual assets – most of which are generic photos (one showing speed, one close up, one illustration, a collage of event photos, and one of a professional association). Ideally, the slide show should tell a story in a logical sequence, or at least consist of parallel thoughts demonstrating company benefits that are portrayed a similar visual style. The service areas are represented with icons, which is a very nice way to organize them; however, the icons selected do not relate well to those particular service offering. In general, for a company of this size and in this industry, it is a clean looking site with the right amount of white space and content; the logo is not terribly problematic, just a little outdated.
Main Messaging, Value Proposition, Key Differentiators
Here’s where there is a significant lack of clarity. The homepage content pretty much says that this company is all things to all people, which requires the viewer to click through the entire site to learn what the company does and for whom. While that alone, is not really a problem, there is no value proposition anywhere on the site. Once you click to any of the service pages, the lack of a value proposition continues. While consistently organized, the information itself is not in the best order nor is it clear. Rather than begin with why the company is so good at providing the service, the content should speak to client needs—why the client would seek such as service and the value of solving that particular problem. If that can be quantified, that’s even better. In the area where the service offerings themselves are described the problem continues. Rather than speak about what the company actually does to deliver these services, or what a typical engagement looks like, this company again touts its track record. It reminds me of someone always talking about themselves, without taking the time to understand client’s issues. I believe that this company actual is client-centric in its sales and implementation approaches, so unfortunately the content puts the company at a disadvantage. Furthermore, truly important information, such as the company’s methodology and the client’s experience are far down on the page and hidden. I have a suspicion that the company took the advice of an SEO firm that told them to use their company name dozens of times on each page. While that may have initially increased its searchability scores, it unfortunately makes for a very awkward read.
The “About” section does begins to answer the differentiation question, but does it hurriedly, and without testimonials or examples. The leadership section only lists two executives and should at least list the service area leads. It is the qualifications of those individuals that prospects will use to make a decision to consider this company. The news section is really a blog (which would ideally be in a separate section). Unfortunately the blogs are sparse and old. The actual news section (press releases) is also sparse and old. Either keep these sections updated or don’t include them at all.
One other problem is that two of the main navigation buttons actually leave the site and look visually different than the other content pages. There must be a good reason for this; however, it jars the viewer.
In general, I believe this company would truly benefit from a repositioning exercise that allows it to speak in a single voice—with clear verbiage regarding why clients use them, what value they gain or what problem they solve, and what makes this company a good choice. In addition, they would greatly benefit from a thought leadership campaign and client case studies. These missing pieces of content would bring life and perspective to those considering using this company’s services.
Product/Service Offering Structure
Looking back at the icons on the home page, there are five different service areas. As with other items on this company’s website, they are inconsistent, don’t match the descriptions very well, and lack specificity. In addition, the drop down under the services main navigation has five somewhat different services. Furthermore, if you look at both the main navigation and the services drop down, there are seven service areas.
I believe this company has to sit down and determine what its “client-facing” services are. While this does not have to exactly map to the company’s internal structure, it does need to be more consistent and clear. Many companies, particularly in the IT arena, feel that they need to keep adding more services to their offerings to be competitive. I often challenge them to recreate their service offerings to be aligned with client needs and to limit the number to five, especially when other services are ancillary offerings or sub-offerings. Another area that could be more prominent is the company’s credentials, which are very impressive, and important.
If we were to re-organize this company’s website, we would first list all of their assets, then determine which ones were missing, such as testimonials, case studies, and current thought leadership pieces. We would then be in a good position to create a hierarchy of information and navigational structure.
Rather than tear this website apart, I suggest working with the company to determine who they are in terms of what they provide, to whom, the benefits, and differentiators. Ideal client needs should also be at the forefront, so that the narrative of the website, answers those needs, without literally asking the question. In addition to an evaluation of assets (content, credentials, etc.), I would like to determine if the company has the resources to consistently create interesting thought leadership pieces, and if not, if they have the budget to outsource this to a reliable marketing partner. Regarding the logo mark, this could be addressed at a later date, but not too late. If the company is ready to be more active in its marketing efforts, the logo should be updated first. The new logo should be the same color and same name, but look more modern and techy.