Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Key Mistake: Who Are You?

The fabulously popular CSI franchise on CBS starts with a simple premise, sung by The Who during the opening of each episode: who are you?

The job of the CSI team, whether they be in Las Vegas, New York or Miami, is to answer that simple question. Who is the person who did this (crime)?

When it comes to putting out your corporate Website, don't make your potential customers and partners turn themselves into the CSI team just to figure out who you are. Tell them, clearly, in the "About Us" section of your site. Put up the bios and pictures of the key officers. Even better, go a step further and provide links to their LinkedIN pages, Twitter feeds and blog posts.

But at least start with the basics. Too many companies ignore this simple rule.

In the traditional world, corporate sales people get on planes and establish relationships because that's how they close deals. All the marketing is great in identifying pain points, creating awareness and growing the prospect list, but most often closing the sale takes on a personal tone.

Online buying changes this slightly in that people buy without a sales person, but that doesn't change the need for a personal connection. That's why companies have instant chat buttons open to consumers and call centers with actual humans. Zappos.com has made a name for itself with this kind of human interaction. Just look at the New Yorker article which talks about the chatty interactions customers have with call center personnel.

That's why I'm always surprised when I run across online businesses that don't put names and bios in the "About Us" section. It's one of their key mistakes.

I'm not going to link to some of the company's I've found as I don't want to call them out, but it's not just one or two and not just companies that lack social media savvy. Some are actually Twitter-focused organizations.

It's not that they're actively trying to hide their identity, a few searches on LinkedIN or even a look through a related blog tell you at least one person behind the organization. But they don't make it easy.

I've asked other marketing folks about this and received a number of good reasons why companies don't put up this data:

  • Fear: They don't want their best people poached
  • Control: Agencies often don't want clients demanding a specific person from the site who may or may not be available
  • Spin: They believe if they put up the one or two people behind the organization then they won't look big enough
I look at the bios as key in building trust. I like knowing the people and faces behind an organization. In fact, companies like Genotrope use the individuals behind an organization as the basis for helping job seekers finding jobs that fit them. Tom Summit, who started Genotrope, told a Mass Innovation Night audience that this is how recruiters work, they look for personal connections to help find a fit.

So by "hiding" your best people, you're not really hiding anything that can't already be found. The same goes for control. As for the spin, even the largest companies have their officers on the site and laws like Sarbanes-Oxley require CEOs and CFOs to sign off on statements PERSONALLY, so even the government wants a face behind the corporation.

Your customers want that information too.

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