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Who Are You and What Do You Do?

by Justin Palmer - December 8th, 2008

“Who Are You and What Do You Do?” – Is this possibly the last thought your prospect has right before they leave your website?

Too many websites have identity issues. That is, it’s too hard to figure out what the heck the site does, or what sets them apart from the crowd. Simply put, if prospects can’t understand what your business does within a few seconds of arriving on your page, you’ve lost them for good.

Identity issues are more problematic when visitors arrive through certain types of traffic than others. For example, a Google searcher who lands on Amazon.com after searching for “online bookstore” is much less likely to need assurance about what Amazon does. (even though the homepage does not explicitly say anything about selling books)

On the other hand, suppose a friend forwards a link to another friend with a vague message such as “check out this site, I think you’ll like it!.” Unless your site clearly identifies your purpose, you’ll never get the full effect of this word of mouth marketing.

So how can you easily explain your business and unique value to first time visitors? Here’s 7 easy ways:

  • Use a 1 line identity slogan near your brand logo: Having a one sentence definition below or beside the brand logo in your site header is priceless. The Recylced Retriever sums up their purpose with the short statement “eco-friendliness for pet lovers.” Fugitive Toys declares themselves to be “an urban vinyl toy store.” It may be hard to sum up your business in a few words, but there is tremendous value in these succinct identity statements.
  • Have an Easy to Scan About Us page: Visitors who are interested in digging deeper will likely seek out your about us page. Going into your company history on your about page is great, but make sure you succinctly define who you at the top of the page. Also, don’t get too creative with what you call your About page. If you don’t want to call it “about us”, stick with something like “Who We Are” or “What We Do”. Here’s some more tips for creating a powerful About us page.
  • Explain How it Works: If your business model is particularly unique, a “How It Works” page may be necessarily. Here’s a great example from Fashion Hire, which lets customer rent, rather than buy, expensive designer handbags.
  • Use a Short, Informational Video: A short (1 minute or less) video explaining your business and unique value proposition can engage customers who are otherwise too lazy to browse around your site to find information. Lulu, which offers on demand print content, clearly explains their business model with a short demonstration video.
  • Show your stuff: If you sell a physical product, show contextual product photographs (products in use, rather than just on display) on your most frequently trafficked landing pages. Remember that customers are always entering your website through side and back doors via search engines, so make sure you optimize your top landing pages with first time visitors in mind.
  • Create a Carefully Crafted Title tag: In addition to SEO value, your title tag is an effective way to communicate your purpose. Don’t waste this important page element by only filling it with only your brand name.
  • Integrate identity into your brand: If you’re still brainstorming on what to call your business, consider integrating your purpose into your brand name. Knituition communicates their purpose (they sell knitted products) through their domain name.

It all comes down to not making the costly assumption that your website is as intuitive as you think it is. Always remember a good percentage of your visitors are there for the first time, so assume only one thing – they know absolutely nothing.

Once you’ve answered who you are, the next step is to communicate why you’re different. The world doesn’t need another widget shop, so explain why you build a better mousetrap.


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4 Responses to “Who Are You and What Do You Do?” by Justin Palmer

  1. Audio Bible Says:

    i need someone to write me a great Unique Value Proposition…..

    could can i get that is great and at a good price?

  2. Bloggers Digest 12/12/08 | Get Elastic Says:

    [...] Dr. Flint McGlaughlin at Marketing Experiments says visitors to your site will ask three questions: “Where am I?” “What can I do here?” and “Why should I do it?” Justin Palmer gives some practical tips to answer the first question clearly: help people figure out who you are and what you. [...]

  3. Gee Ranasinha Says:

    IMO a website should do more than outline what your company does. It should clearly explain what the benefits of your business offering are in the eyes of your target market. Website visitors are looking for a solution to a particular problem that they may have (or think they have). They don’t want to buy your product/service; they want their problem to go away. Your value proposition should be clearly explained in your prospective customers’ vocabulary – not yours.

  4. Tina Benitez Says:

    Thank you Justin. I needed this— I am going back to the drawing board and taking your advise—Also a thank you to Dr. Flint McGlaughlin at Marketing Experiments and Gee Ranashinha’s –


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