Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Homepage Marketing

As we all know, a corporate homepage is the face of a company.
And like in real life, you cannot undo a bad first impression.
The homepage of a company must tell the visitor in one shot what the company is all about.
If it is too cluttered or doesn’t convey what products or services are being offered, the visitor will leave never to return.
A corporate homepage must be so inviting, that the visitor will click through to other pages and get the correct information or contact the company.
It’s called homepage marketing.

Successful homepage marketing consists of five phases.
  1. The company must perform an internal and external research in order to understand the corporate branding directives.

    The branding on the homepage has to be in sync with the rest of the corporate collatural, including logos, colors, product names etc.
    An excellent example is the homepage of the Coca Cola Company.
    The Unilever homepage on the other hand, doesn’t have a core message.
    The company’s positioning as “healthy to a tea” is confusing – especially with the graphics used.
    There is also no consistency between the homepage and the rest of the web pages – each page has a different layout and use of graphics.
    Even the logo is different from the U that Unilever normally uses in its collatural.
  2. The design of the homepage must reflects what the company stands for.

    The homepage of ICI doesn’t reflect its core business (chemicals) - it comes across as a cosmetics company.
    The homepage of Pfizer, on the other hand, explains in one shot what the company does.
  3. In larger companies, different departments want to be a part of the homepage.

    Each department wants to direct traffic from the homepage to its specific product or service.
    The way to handle these (sometimes contradicting) demands, is allocationd of a fixed and appropriate part to each (strategically important) depratment or business unit.
    Computer Associates’ homepage handles this very well.
    They divided their homepage in 4 sections that each have a key title that invites clicking. They cleverly avoided lots of text and explanations on their homepage.
    Another example is the agricultural company Bunge.
    They created the perfect balance between the core business and activities (top half) and the latest news and developments, including stock price (bottom half).
    An example of an unfocused homepage is IBM.
    Different departments want to promote their own business, which leaves the visitor confused.
  4. Make the homepage (and rest of the website) dynamic.

    Apart from the frame with the company name and logo, all contents should be subject to regular updates.
    Apart from keeping the website information itself up-to-date, web spiders love new material and it therefore helps with the ranking in major search engines.

    To make sure that all contents is regularly updated, it is essential to make sure that each department supplies updates.
    Seasonal themes, summer sales, product updates, customer reviews, promotional campaigns, competitions and press coverage create dynamic content.
    A good example is the “low carbon” campaign of British Petroleum.
    An example of seasonal promotion is Harney & Sons.
  5. Make sure to keep it appealing.
    A corporate website needs to be non-stop accessible.
    The homepage needs to be reviewed regularly for performance and contents.
    It is important to check with the target audience how they perceive the homepage as well as the rest of the website.
    The website needs to attract and drive traffic.
    This also involves looking at the number of hits, the ranking in search engines, knowing from where visitors ogin and how long they stay on each page, as well as the download time of documents or brochures.
    Tastes change – the company must keep monitoring if the homepage (still) fits the preference of the target audience.

    If you compare the homepage of Brooks Brothers with the one of Levi’s, you can immediately tell who their target audience is.
    Brooks Brothers serves affluent customers that like an understated classic elegance.
    Levi’s main customers are (or perceive themselves as) young and trendy.
    Both companies hit bull’s eye with their homepages.

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