Is Your Web Presence Multi-Use

Loopy Labs at StoryLand Chalk this up to being on vacation in New England. We’re in areas that are used differently by mountain bikers than by families, used differently by Harley riders than trail marathoners, and it occurs to me that because we fit into one track or another, that something happens. I see things from a parents’ perspective faster than I do, say, a Harley rider. I think of hiking differently than the trail marathon types. Because I’m slotted into a few perspectives, I see similar people (Seth would say tribes) easier, and I don’t see things as clearly for other groups.

Now, imagine that I’m the proprietor of a business or two in this region. How should I market? Who do I throw in with? What might I do to attract people from all or many or some of these groups, and which ones matter most to me? If I run a hotel, it’s tricky. I have to cater to families, but I realize that families might be noisy and off-putting to seniors or bikers or sports types. If I cater to the trail marathon crowd, they will most likely only want the most bare-bones services, and won’t necessarily be apt to stay at my place if I’ve built it to be more luxury-minded.

Tricky, eh?

Now, think about this with regards to your web presence.

If you’re building your site for the web savvy, that’s quite a different crowd than the “my kids just got me onto Facebook” set. How do you accommodate both? It’s probably not just as simple as putting a phone number on every web page, but that wouldn’t hurt. But then, is it about your website at all?

What About Email Marketing?

Are you using email marketing as part of your interactions with people? “Email is the most successful protocol on the planet,” said Lars Rasmussen ( quote found here). Are you really ready to throw it out in favor of things like Google Wave or Twitter?

How Flexible Can You Be?

If your primary goal is selling, or building relationships that benefit sales, or building educational and informative content that warms people up to better use your product or service (or buy it), how will you maintain this kind of effort? Add just one additional language (not everyone speaks English – a shocker for my US friends) and things get tricky. How will you promote a Twitter channel as part of your online strategy and not offer a Spanish language option? Example: GM did this very successfully during their live tweeting of their bankruptcy proceedings in tapping Andrea Canabal (@acanabal).

But really think about that. If you’re going to crack open social media and then layer on multi-language support, then you’ve got to think about multi-regional support. Spanish spoken by a Mexican speaker is quite different than a Cuban speaker, for instance. If you’re global, how will you add this dimension into the mix, or will you?

Community vs Sales

What if your web presence is geared towards promoting a community ethic? You spend time and money building to that mindset, but then, that isn’t really the right kind of setting to push sales normally, is it? If we’re talking about products and how we use them, that’s not really the place where we talk about buying, at least not directly or cleanly.

Working, then, with the question of whether your web presence should/could be multi-use, how will you approach the mix of community-mindedness, and the need for sales?

Take Small Bites and Think Big Thoughts

In the end, just thinking about this topic raised more questions than I felt I could answer in a single post. My advice falls into the category of “simple, because otherwise it hurts.” Take small bites.

Starting with your webpage, assess whether or not you are making it easy for people to reach you from at least two different slices of your audience. In my case, I’ve picked the web savvy and the baby boomers who are daring to touch the web. Try looking through their eyes a bit. Pick three or four direct changes you might seek to make to your web presence that will benefit those two groups (3 to 4 each).

Decide if there’s another way to reach out and build online relationships with people that doesn’t require your website. Add to this some offline ways (phone or snail mail, for instance). Determine what (if anything) you want to do about various locations or languages, and make a plan for that, too.

What does this make you think about? How are you approaching this? What advice would you share with folks looking to take a next step?

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  • http://twitter.com/waynebcox Wayne Cox

    You've got me thinking about multi-use in relation to our church website (http://www.bridgecommunity.org). We're in the process of revamping the site and using it as a connecting point to our various web “outposts” (ht Chris for your previous, helpful post!).

    I've tended to dismiss the not-so-web-savvy and just think, “they need to get up with the times” in order really connect with us. How arrogant – you've really got me thinking. Even with such a small step as putting a phone number on every page – this would help some feel more connected and stay in tune with community life.

    Thinking about other “small bites” …

  • http://www.kranzcom.com/ Jonathan Kranz

    When you try to be all things to all people, you become nothing to anyone. I wouldn't expand a presence for maximum accommodation, but hone it into the sharpest tool possible for the audience I most want to reach.

  • http://www.ryancmiller.com/ Ryan Miller

    Chris,

    I kind of agree with Johnathan… Trying to be all things to all people rarely works. You still need to lead your 'tribe' but know that higher engagement may mean a smaller quantity of users. Isn't the web all about being able to cater to a niche?

    @ryancmiller
    @romanelli

  • http://www.iangilyeat.com/ Elizabeth

    Chris it seems each time I read one of your posts it gets me thinking about other “small bites” and it just flows from there. Thanks!

    As for the niches Jonathan and Ryan were mentioning, I agree and disagree. Yes it is good to hone your website for the one audience you want the most–if you only have one strong audience and a bunch of little outliers. That totally makes sense. However, if you have a strong audience in one area and an only slightly weaker audience in another area, you shouldn't ignore the others. I say you should go for both or more if it makes sense for your business.

  • http://twitter.com/jgraziani Janie Graziani

    It's really tough in hard economic times to be everywhere doing everything with limited resources. We took the approach of looking at who our members are and trying to meet them where they are. Trouble was, not many were engaging in social media (spectators or non-participants). But another goal is to reach out to new members, who are on social media. Repurposing existing content or engaging friends/fans online to create their own content has worked well, but there is still a lot to do especially when the group is large and extremely varied.

  • http://www.fogofeternity.com/ fogofeternity

    Very insightful stuff, and a lot to think about. I take Jonathan Kranz's comment earlier about the danger of trying to be all things to all people, so how do you best achieve the balance? I completely agree that you want to maximise the routes with which you can build relationships, but do you find it difficult to maintain a focus in doing so?

  • http://twitter.com/designtramp designtramp

    Most of the people we talk to are boomers, I like to say that there are several paths ahead that at some point have to be trod. At this point they're all forge-your-own-way dirt roads, but better to start before they are paved in stone.

    Incremental changes are easier for both sides of the equation, if a bit of education can be woven in to diffuse fear of new things it seems to help.

  • http://www.netwitsthinktank.com frank barry

    @Chris … I'm so glad you pointed out Email.

    From DMA:

    “E-mail’s ROI in 2008 was $45.06 for every dollar spent on it, according to the DMA’s just-released Power of Direct economic impact study. This compares to $48.34 last year, and a projected $43.52 in 2009, according to the annual study.”

    Email is still critical for pretty much any organization doing business online (and arguably anyone not).

    This post makes me think about “thinking more broadly” about online presence. We (I) get so caught up in Social Media/Networking, but I need to remember there is a lot more to it.

    http://twitter.com/franswaa

  • http://twitter.com/LouiseBJ Louise Barnes-Johnst

    I'm going to have to read this great post a few more times in order to get all the gems!

    One thing I've noticed is that people in the US seem to market only for fellow Americans. Even though they invite potential clients from other countries to attend, for example, their teleclasses – they nearly always omit to give any time zones outside the US!

    Perhaps another example of where flexibility could be applied?

  • gregdelima

    Chris,
    I always enjoy what you have to say and really agree with many things you say. However, this time, I differ from you first in the regard to Google Wave. I believe that rather than throwing away email for things like twitter and Google Wave, you could use those tools to enhance your email marketing for positive results. You could be able to track your conversations about your marketing strategies and use them for feedback on what you're sending out.
    Secondly, about multi-lingual marketing/blogging/ etc. Even though you provide something in one dialect of a language doesn't mean that others won't be attracted to it. In your example of Cuban Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish, quite simply I think it doesn't matter. If it's offered in their language, they are more likely to read it in another dialect than bother with a full on translation. Sure it's not direct catering to a very very specific market, but you're still reaching a broader with more languages.

  • gregdelima

    Chris,
    I always enjoy what you have to say and really agree with many things you say. However, this time, I differ from you first in the regard to Google Wave. I believe that rather than throwing away email for things like twitter and Google Wave, you could use those tools to enhance your email marketing for positive results. You could be able to track your conversations about your marketing strategies and use them for feedback on what you're sending out.
    Secondly, about multi-lingual marketing/blogging/ etc. Even though you provide something in one dialect of a language doesn't mean that others won't be attracted to it. In your example of Cuban Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish, quite simply I think it doesn't matter. If it's offered in their language, they are more likely to read it in another dialect than bother with a full on translation. Sure it's not direct catering to a very very specific market, but you're still reaching a broader with more languages.

  • spryka

    I will recommend using ePostMailer for all bulk email marketing needs. Its the best bulk email marketing software I have used so far.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=691905045 facebook-691905045

    Your brand cannot be all things to all people, but depending upon the lens that they are looking through you could be different things to different people.
    In our business we have focused our efforts on one thing(wedding photography), but because our brand is known for that we are accepted as experts in the larger field(photography). We have grown our business by 40% each of the last two years, using only viral marketing. Reaching our client base with quarterly e-newsletters gets our name back in front of the ambassadors that refer us! Our blog posts refer those that we work with(creating more good will) and present our work in slideshows that are easily able to go viral (and do). We use FB in an effective way to spread the brand, the community actively participates :) Offline spreading brand by snail mail is something that we also do..sending clients that book us a bottle of champagne.
    You have got me thinking about other small bites that we could be thinking about… http://www.emlieinc.com
    Portland, Maine :)

  • ifairsaleyu

    What About Email Marketing? That is a effective method.

  • http://www.teamandadream.com/ Skip Shuda

    Your post got me thinking not just about multi-channel, multi-audience marketing but the need for “attention filters” on the receiving side. I see the explosion of communication channels being met with a similar set of filters like RSS readers, alert monitors and improved search tools. The marketers and receivers are co-creating these structures and people decide what needs to flow through them.

  • nicola

    Chis. I think you need your holiday right now. It is possible to take time out. Please lead us by example?

    All marketing should start with One Big Idea and stick with it. How many “tribes” drink Coke? Does each communication have to reach every single tribe? It can't – so social media is now allowing the boundary of the Big Idea to be stretched even further.

    By opening a conversation we can reach further but we should always return to the Big Idea. Invite people in? Coke makes you happy that's the Big Idea! Buy it and you'll feel happy. (Also gives you wind)

    Nicola.

  • http://twitter.com/calgreg greg cryns

    Yes, sir. We need to have all of our potential customers and clients in mind when we market through the Web.

    Good point on email. I always think of the emails I get from Walgreen's about twice a week. They are telling me how I can save money by shopping there, often about buying enlarged photo prints but much more. They offer specific and blanket discounts.Walgreen's chose that model for their email effort and I think they score on it.

    If baby boomers are in your scope (and perhaps they should be if they are not right now) think about the size of the text on your website. So often, as a baby boomer myself, I get frustrated by the very small (and often faded) text. Why should I squint to read it? There are plenty of sites much more friendly to my faltering vision.

    If the youngsters are in your scope, then be sure they see those Facebook and RSS feed icons.

    Broaden your vision and reap the benefits.

  • Pixie Stevenson

    As always, your post got us buzzing, and thinking, and asking questions like “how can we make it better.”

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  • http://www.ewinwin.com/ Greg Mesaros

    Another way to build online relationships, in addition to your company’s website, is through the use of Social Media Marketing. Targeting social networking sites specifically is a great way to interact with your customers and prospects. Alternatively, the use of opt-in programs or special rewards offered via a registration page is yet another way to segment your prospects and communicate with them in separate venues.

    - Greg Mesaros, CEO of eWinWin

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