Who would have in your dinner party dream team? Mother Teresa? Ghandi? Michael Palin? Bono? Stephen Fry? Throw in a few wild cards like Bertie Aherne and William Hague, spice it up with Boris Johnson and Roy Keane and you’ve the makings of a good night’s banter over a few bottles of red.
Unfortunately sitting next to Kerry Katona, Paris Hilton and Posh Spice at the other end of the dinner party spectrum sits too many corporate websites. Insufferably dull, irrelevant, self obsessed and full of their own self importance, the “press release” website bores all it meets into submission and leaves its potential acquaintances with the distinct feeling that they put talking about themselves above listening to their new contacts.
For your website to be commercially successful it needs not just something interesting to say, it needs to listen and to answer the most important questions that are on its customers minds.
I write this article from a hotel room in County Limerick, in the South West of Ireland. Before I left on my journey yesterday I went to the hotel website to print out driving directions and hopefully a map, so I navigated to the “contact information” area of the site. To my horror I read the following:
“The ***** Hotel & Spa in ***** is located on the borders on counties ***** & ***** and offers luxury accommodation, award–winning restaurant, newly refurbished bars, leisure facilities, conference/wedding facilities & Rain Spa & Wellness
· Close to the city centre, the hotel is set on 20 acres of landscaped gardens.
· The hotel is on ***** Road leading to the ***** Airport.
· Most of our luxury rooms and suites offer a view of landscaped gardens or the magnificent ***** Mountains.
· Our award winning Restaurant adopts a fresh approach to Irish and international cuisine, while our newly refurbished bar offers a unique dining experience.
· We offer 1,000 sq metres of sophisticated and hi–tech meeting and conference facilities.
· Complimentary Wireless Internet access (WiFi) throughout all areas of the hotel
· Rain Spa & Wellness Clinic & Leisure offers state of the art gymnasium, indoor pool, saunas, outdoor Canadian hot tub, thermal suite & 9 treatment rooms offering a wide variety of luxurious treatments.”
Following this was the hotel’s postal address and phone number. The link to the map provided me with a “404 Page Not Found” page. There was nothing there to help me get to the hotel. Exasperated I called the hotel to get help in finding them from the main arterial route. The phone number was incorrect as the area code has changed in recent months.
So rather than helping me buy from it, the hotel’s website was making it harder for me to interact and buy from the hotel; the opposite of e–commerce, if you like.
Whoever built the website decided that talking was more important than listening. Rather than thinking about what customers might need to know, or what they may wish to achieve they simply fill in the white space by talking about themselves. The site looks pretty. Technically it functions perfectly well. I have no reason to doubt that it is hosted in a solid and secure environment. But because it hasn’t thought about the customer, it has turned itself into an irrelevance.
As we all know, there are 100s of examples just like that one.
Make sure your online publishing puts you in the company of Fry, Palin and Bono, with a listening ear and something interesting to say. An evening with Posh, Kerry and Paris may have its attractions but engaging conversation, and the start of a long and happy relationship, are unlikely to be among them.