We claim no expertise in website design. But we did come across a video of a workshop presentation featuring a guy who does claim some website design expertise, and we thought it would be worth passing along to you. Don Miller is an American author, public speaker, and business owner. His company, StoryBrand, is a company that helps businesses clarify their messages. His presentation is in two parts. In the first part, he critiques websites provided by workshop participants. In the second part, he talks about how to write a “one-liner” (aka, an elevator speech). He then critiques the one-liners provided by volunteers from the audience. In both parts, he offered tips, observations, and lessons that are worth your attention. To learn about the ideas and conclusions he offers, please continue reading below.
If I were a prospective new customer for your business, would your website pull me in or turn me off?
There are two themes that run through both parts of Miller’s workshop: brevity and clarity. In both the home page of our websites and in the construction of our one-liners, he wants there to be absolute clarity about what we do while using the fewest possible (carefully chosen) words. We’ll start with how he advises us to construct an effective one-liner.
Miller dissects a one-liner into three parts:
- Describe the problem your customers are experiencing. Think carefully about what it is your customers dislike about doing business with companies in your industry.
- Describe how your company helps to solve that problem. This is your differentiator, what sets you apart from your competition. Essentially you’re saying, “We understand the problem most people have doing business with companies like ours, so here’s what we’ve done to prevent that problem from happening here.”
- Describe the positive outcome your customers experience as a result of your solution. Here we tell people about the happy ending our customers experience when they do business with us.
Here’s an example from a medical massage company:
The problem: People are tired of taking pills
The solution: we offer medical massage therapies for the relief of chronic pain
The outcome: We help people have less pain, more movement, and a better life.
Put all together, this one-liner looks like, “People are tired of taking pills, so we offer medical massage therapies for the relief of chronic pain. We help people have less pain, more movement, and a better life.” Yeah, this “one-liner” is actually two sentences, but that’s OK. Even at two sentences, it’s still short, succinct, and covers all three elements.
Once you have crafted your one-liner, Miller wants you to use it everywhere . . . in all your collateral materials, on your website, and if public speaking is part of your marketing mix, use it there as well. Then get everyone in the company (not just the sales people) to memorize it and practice it so that everyone in the company, when asked, “What do you do?” is giving the same, exact answer. And just like that, you’ve made your entire company part of your sales force without paying so much as a dime for it.
Miller also brings his themes of brevity and clarity to website design. He talks about the “curse of knowledge” which is something most of us suffer from. We all know more about our respective businesses than just about anyone else on earth . . . way more than our customers know or want to know. And while we may believe we’ve filtered out all the industry jargon and technical terms from our customer communications, in many cases, we have not. Everyday, we’re so immersed in the language of our business, we may forget that the words and phrases so familiar to us are mere gibberish to outsiders.
Miller believes that the home page of our website has but one purpose: to tell visitors exactly what we do in the clearest, most concise terms possible. Visitors want to know, “Am I in the right place? Do these guys do what I need?” and they’re only going to give us a few seconds to make our case. If visitors are confused by what they see, or if we try to get them to read too much, they’ll be gone. So make sure visitors have to read as little as possible and make sure that every word and every picture on your home page amplifies and clarifies what you do.
Below are links to videos of the 2-part workshop we’ve been describing here. The first is the part where Miller talks about website design, while the second part is where he talks about “one-liners.” You may not agree with everything he preaches, but he has been successful in the business of “helping businesses clarify their messages” for a long time. If you believe your communications with your customers and prospective customers would benefit from a little clarifying, watching these videos will be well-worth your time.