Website not giving you the results you expected? How about some non-judgemental feedback from a fresh set of eyes? Apply for an online marketing tune-up with Paul Montreal

Don’t go all stiff and corporate just because your sales conversation is taking place online. A website marketing makeover.

by Paul Montreal. Average Reading Time: about 8 minutes.


I’m doing a marketing makeover on Sasha’s website. She’s working for an established company who help people choose the right career. They’ve been around about 30 years, so they must be doing something right. Is their offline expertise translating to the web, or could we tweak a few things to dramatically improve their results online? I think we can. (I’m listening to Faithless while I work). So hold onto your resume, here are my top 8 tips for turning this website around…

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Click for fullsize

1. Clear the decks, help your customer get to the message that’s relevant to them as quickly as possible.

First impression: So, this is a company that helps people choose careers. They are targeting at least 4 different groups of people at different stages of their lives. “Students”, “Young Adults”, “Mid-Career Changers” and “Senior Executives”. Right away they’re attempting to identify those customers and funnel them off so they can speak to them individually. That’s superb! When you know people have different needs, even if the end product is the same, you should always talk to them in a way that you would in real life, one-on-one.

If anything, that filtering process is the only thing you want to do on the homepage. Everyone fits into one of those 4 boxes, so just help them make their choice as quickly as possible, don’t waste their time and energy with anything else. Every drop of energy spent processing things that aren’t relevant, makes it less likely for your reader to find the things that ARE relevant.

I would test clearing everything else off the homepage and blowing up the 4 customer type boxes so they’re centre stage. Remove all the copy and testimonials underneath and the big rotating image and quote box. You can re-insert quotes and testimonials that are relevant to each of the age groups you’re targeting, on their individual sales pages.

Right now, each customer group has a one-line description under it. I would optimise those. The student and young adult descriptions are more appealing than the mid-career and senior executive descriptions.

What is the number one problem or challenge that each age group has when they come to you? State that problem from their perspective, so they get a double dose of relevance the second they land on that page.

For example, it might be that the thing senior executives value most is the ability to talk to someone about career options in complete and utter privacy, so they don’t rock the boat with their existing company. (I’m just making this up, as an example). But if that’s a key concern with that group, lead with that benefit.

Action: If you’re targeting multiple customers, with different needs and mindsets, identify and separate them as quickly as possible. You want each individual scanning your page and quickly saying – “Yes, that’s me, yes, that’s the problem I’m suffering” – CLICK. It should take just a second or two to bring them deeper into the relevant part of your site.


2. It’s not all about authority, a website needs charisma too. It will either raise or lower the energy of your user.

My initial visual impression of the site is mixed…

  • The colour scheme feels dated. If I looked at this site without reading the copy, I’d guess it was some kind of “insurance-type” site for the over 65’s. It’s inoffensive to the point of being bland. It needs an injection of energy.
  • The tagline is good, but could go deeper. “A worldwide leader in helping people like you choose careers they love, since 1981.” This is a good tagline. It communicates authority, longevity and it’s reasonably clear what you do. But I’d still be testing it to prove that it’s the most appealing description possible. It’s all about what your customers want to hear. Not what you want to say. I’d be asking every happy customer to describe what they loved or valued about the service the most. And seeing if there was a more relevant human response, or unique benefit, that would be more appealing as a tagline.
  • The design style is cramped. I can already tell there’s going to be a lot of copy on this site. Smart, professional people have sat down and thought about all the things they need to communicate. But, in a world of a billion websites, where people are searching on all sorts of different devices, big and small, we have to be increasingly aware of the impact that lots of copy in a small font, has on a reader. It looks tiring. It looks like hard work. They don’t care about your copy, they only care about solving their problem, so they will attempt to skip it wherever possible.
  • The human imagery is good. There are plenty of smiling human faces on the homepage, that’s great. People love people. They look a bit stock-photo-generic though. For an established company, I’d really recommend hiring a professional photographer who has a distinctive style, so that throughout the site you can represent real people in an appealing but distinctive manner. Visually you want to be communicating the message – “Look, these people are happy because they came to us”. Not – “Look, some random happy people”.

Action: Use more energetic colors, increase your font sizes, create more space. Make the design feel easier to read. Reading is not the default action of people who visit your site. They scan for the path of least resistance, which is often the back button.


3. It doesn’t matter how good your copy is, if you can’t draw your user into reading it.

Digging deeper, I click on the executive page…

The design becomes less appealing as I delve further. It’s dense and dry and text heavy. There’s no use of space or hierarchy, almost everything is the same size, so the brain doesn’t know how to prioritise.

The page tagline is almost the same size as the navigation tabs, which are the same size as the headline, the sub-header is just a fraction smaller, the bolded copy a fraction more, and the main copy is tiny. I’m also now presented with about 20 colour blocked links down the side bar, that all stand out more than the main copy. Everything is the same size and fighting for attention, it feels like I’m about to read an encyclopaedia or law journal or something. It may be structured and ordered but it has no appeal.

You need to lead the eye and the mind into the page. You should start with a big, compelling headline. The headline isn’t just a signpost of where they are, it isn’t to organise your pages and categories. Your headline’s job is selling your user on the idea of investing time to read further.

Pair your headline with a big compelling image that reflects visually what you’re saying on the page. Then, when you start your copy, you start with an introduction that tells them what they’re going to get out of reading the rest of the page.

This page talks a lot about the company’s famous founder, and clients are invited to call him for a private consultation, but there isn’t so much as a head shot of the gentleman. The “call to action” isn’t clear at all. “Get more info” or “register”, but for what? If the desired goal is to set up a conference call, then make it non-threatening and inviting. Have a video of the gentleman you’re going to be calling, explaining briefly and in a friendly manner, what to expect on the call.

Action: Guiding your user through your pitch is a continual process of selling each step, easing them into the page. Persuading people to invest the time and energy to read what you have to say. You are constantly battling apathy and fear, even in the most motivated users. Remember, you don’t have the social norms of politeness to hold their attention like a real-life interaction, so their default move is to leave. You have to hold their attention with every single line.


4. What are the dominant emotions that plague your customers?

“Working directly with Rockport founder Nicholas Lore, you’ll engage in a proven process of assessment, discovery, consultation and coaching”.

People don’t wake up one morning thinking – “I must seek assessment, discovery, consultation and coaching today”.

They wake up feeling depressed, nervous, sick, stressed, bored, under-challenged, frustrated, angry. Whatever it is, it’s something dramatic and emotional. If is wasn’t, they wouldn’t take the action required to make a change.

What are the actual reasons and the actual emotions that prompt people to use your service? I’d be speaking directly to those very real human states. I’d be telling human stories, real or imagined, that communicate how much you understand the deep connection people have with their jobs, and how gut wrenching it is to consider moving from one company to another.

You know how you help customers better than I do. You must have clear value to have been in business for 30 years. But it’s not connecting with me in a genuine human way through your copy. It’s not clear you really understand my human, emotional problems, or the pain I’m suffering as a customer.

Action: We don’t act until we feel emotionally strong about something. It’s emotion that creates the energy to DO. To pick up the phone, to submit our email address, to take out our credit cards, to go for it. It’s not a logical decision, it’s a rush of chemicals. We were taking action, long before we learned to reason. So the core of any sales pitch should be the emotional aspects – the negative emotions we want to lose and the positive emotions we want to gain.


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