Many businesses approach website design and brand development in a formulaic fashion, almost as if they are ticking off items on a check-list of best marketing practices. Of course, tried and tested strategies like creating compelling content and targeting your buyer persona are integral to growing your business.
But how can you make your website and company image go from great to fabulous?
Looking at the websites of leading marketing agencies - they are the experts, after all - it was clear that they all excelled at:
- Using social proof
- Being client centric
- Developing a distinctive brand voice
Let’s take a look at what these concepts mean, before seeing how the websites of 4 leading marketing agencies use these game-changing strategies.
What is Social Proof?
People will copy the actions of the masses - or assume that something is good if others say it is - this is what is called social proof in marketing terms.
Customer reviews, case studies, expert opinions, certifications - even just the fact that large numbers of people use your services - all constitute social proof that can be included on a website. Simply put, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Imagine you are walking down the street, looking for a cafe. You come across two options, one of which is bustling with customers, and one is practically empty. You are more likely to go into the busier cafe, even though you may have to wait longer, because you assume that if the cafe has lots of customers, that means the cafe is popular and doing a good job. It’s just an assumption, but it’s powerful enough to get that cafe your business.
What is A Customer-Centric Approach?
This almost seems like the opposite of social proof, where you show off what your business has achieved. Whilst it’s important for any company to show what it can do, inbound marketing is all about the customer - focusing on what will appeal to them - as opposed to a sales-pitch. Beyond making your website easy to navigate and user friendly, utilizing customer-centric language and images can make a prospective client feel like your business truly cares about their success.
How to Use a Distinctive Brand Voice
David Chapin points out that many competing businesses are targeting the same buyer personas, wanting the same market attention, and promoting their copy on similar forums. One key way to distinguish your business is through the content you share, ie. what you are saying. However, another prime -but often neglected - way to set yourself apart is how you say it, ie. the tone that you use.
Relaying the same information in a formal/ funny/ enthusiastic/ matter of fact tone will totally change your prospects perception of your brand. Consider the impression that different tones have on your audience, and make sure that the tone you choose authentically represents your business’s values. Consistently using this tone will result in a distinctive brand voice, and will set you apart from your competition.
Let’s take a closer look at how some leading marketing agencies incorporate these 3 ideas
Square2 marketing’s website has these 3 concepts interwoven seamlessly throughout.
First, let’s take a look at how they incorporate social proof. The homepage itself features an interactive set of impressive reviews from high profile clients. Two of the seven tabs in the navigation bar are dedicated to work (companies that square 2 has worked with and accompanying case studies) and reviews. That’s a significant amount of space to dedicate to social proof but it works: it justifies their claims to accomplish great marketing success.
Square2's website stood out particularly for its focus on the client.
The language used here is striking. Imagine if the marketing section read “we can drive more web traffic” or “we create more leads and sales opportunities”. Whilst the content wouldn’t truly be all that different, the sustained focus on “your” and the absence of “we” means the entire focus is on the company they seek to attract. The message is unambiguous - it’s all about YOUR success.
So far, these are great strategies implemented well but where square2 really excels is establishing a distinctive brand voice.
Check out what you see when you click on their website
The language used here is charged and powerful. ‘Accelerate’ is purposeful and action-driven. The chatbot’s opening line is ‘what brings you here today?’ also invoking a powerful goal-oriented approach.
Look at the words circled from this screenshot from a different section of their website:
The terminology used here clearly mirrors what we saw above. Elsewhere on the website, podcasts titled ‘smash the funnel’ and call to actions such as “see how much we can do for you in 30 days” continue to channel this charged and powerful voice.
But this is only one dimension of square2’s brand voice.
A powerful strong voice can attract clients. But if you take it too far, you run the risk of coming across as overly authoritative and strident, which can alienate prospects. How does Square2 combat that? Look at these blog posts below
Here, Square2 strikes a far less formal tone. The blog author is clearly knowledgeable, and many of the article titles retain the more powerful terminology we have seen above. But the tone here is more relaxed - the author is engaging with the reader in a conversational style.
A great example of this duality can be seen in the ‘work’ section, where square 2 showcases the companies they have been hired by.
The language at the top reads:
“Driving Revenue For Our Clients
Fueled By Strategy, Focused On Results” - active, purposeful words
But check out what comes next - the companies are represented by whimsical pictures, an example of the more casual and relaxed tone we saw in the blogs.
This complexity resonates throughout the website and gives Square 2 marketing a consistent, sophisticated and - best of all - easily identifiable brand personality.
Let’s take a look at Smartbug’s website, for a totally different marketing approach.
They immediately position themselves as an industry leader by leveraging their social proof:
They raise awareness of their Hubspot diamond accreditation, awards won and positive reviews by placing it in a central spot on their homepage. News and media coverage is also easily accessible on their website.
How does their attempt to portray themselves as an industry leader play out? Let’s look at the language they use to describe themselves. Below, they use words such as ‘experienced’ and ‘experts’ in their field.
This terminology is invoked again here
We can see a clearly defined marketing voice here; the market leader, experienced and successful.
You can see this not only in the words that they use to associate themselves with, but how they advertise their accomplishments. This screenshot is of businesses whom they have provided services for.
One of the first things you’ll notice is how many statistics are used; 91% increase in ROI, 540% increase in leads. The statistic-heavy focus is seen at many points in their website, lending legitimacy to their claims of expertise.
However, like with Square 2, the ‘expert’ voice is one facet of the overall brand voice Smartbug has created. Their tone throughout is friendly and approachable, for example, their chatbot's opening line is “hi there, how can I help you today?”.
Another stand-out line from their website is
Intelligent InboundⓇ isn’t just a catchy phrase—it’s how we rock it for our customers and partners.
- Again, striking a personable tone. Although we don’t see the same use of “your” vs “we” terminology as we did with Square2, as the tone is more welcoming and helpful, the result is customer-centric. This is achieved not just by language, but the images chosen. Look back at the case studies shown. Whilst it’s true that there are a lot of statistics, almost all of the business images contain people. The benefits of this is 2 fold - 1) it sends a message that as business, Smartbug values the people behind the businesses they are trying to attract, and 2) it complements the ‘voice’ that Smartbug has created - that of a helpful and friendly industry expert.
Avidly is another great example of how they incorporate language, images and media to present a people-centric (and therefore customer-centric), helpful brand voice.
The first thing you see when you open the Avidly homepage is this video of employees celebrating being named Hubspot’s Global Partner of the year. The quote underneath ends with “let us help you grow with Hubspot”
It’s a fabulous way to integrate social proof with a focus on the people behind the achievement and at the same time launch Avidly’s brand voice as helpful and serviceable ; the result is a message which sounds less like bragging and more like ‘we’re a team that can help you be successful too’.
This is carried through throughout their website;
For example - the words circled above - ‘our focus is your business goals; and ‘ we want to help’ represent client-centric language.
The blog titles above are user-friendly and further promotes Avidly as a helpful resource, telling your business how they can improve.
Here, Avidly accompanies their sustained client-centric vocabulary with photos of agency employees all striking a pose that is friendly, relatable and unassuming. This effectively consolidates the supportive, helpful voice Avidly is embracing.
Moz is a leading SEO service provider, so it’s no surprise that an industry that’s all about ranking uses terminology that is action driven and results-oriented.
Check out the language used here:
Words such as ‘proven’, ‘metrics’, ‘track’ and ‘scores’ are suggested that Moz can help you concretely measure whether your goals have been met.
Similar language is employed throughout the website
Here the images - of check marks - complement the idea that specific goals can be attained.
This uniform tone can be seen here too; look at the titles - these ones are both about 2020, showing that Moz can be relied upon to be up to date with marketing trends. The accompanying images are of graphs and pie charts, matching the results-driven terminology that we have seen throughout the website.
What emerges from all this is a brand voice is authoritative, reasoned and informative.
The way Moz uses social proof is true to form, and totally in keeping with its distinctive brand voice.
Sections of their website are dedicated to case studies, and a news and press section, which is a more evidence based and serious approach to providing social proof. Contrast that to the smiling company directors pictured alongside their glowing reviews that we have seen on other websites.
Here, a prime section of the homepage ( before you scroll down) is a list of prominent companies that use Moz. The names are enough to be authoritative, accompanied by an image of seemingly satisfied and successful clients.
This authoritative, evidence based approach doesn’t seem to leave much room for the customer-centric approach we discussed above, and indeed the language and images used don’t seem particularly inclusive. Instead, Moz uses a more conventional way to show that they value their clients.
This q&a forum both claims to instantly resolve burning SEO questions that clients may have, and discusses a Mozpoints system, where clients can receive rewards for being helpful members of the Moz community. Although more unconventional, this points to a focus on bringing value to the customer, and caring about their success.
Key Take-Aways for How to Make a Great Website Fabulous:
The market can seem saturated at times, and it’s hard to get attention. Leveraging social proof will make potential clients take notice of you, adopting a customer-centric approach will make them feel instantly valued, and crafting a distinctive brand voice will help your business stand out in a noisy market; all sure-fire ways to take your website and brand image to the next level.
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