Welcome to the first
issue of The Minerva Minute for 2004. My goal
is to publish regularly this year, just as I recommend
that my clients do! (You've heard about the cobbler's
I start out this month with
an article about lazy websites — all fat
and no protein. Please feel free to forward this
using the link at the bottom.
you missed my unabashed promotion of the Wall St.
Journal article that quoted me last month, it must
mean you had better things to do on Christmas Eve.
Originally in the print edition's Marketplace section,
you can now read it at the following link:
You Boost Your Career At the Office Holiday Party?
Fat, Dumb, and Happy Websites
Almost every business has a website, but many websites
are fat, dumb, and happy. They take up space, cost hundreds
of dollars in hosting fees, and do nothing to help the
business. It’s not enough just to HAVE a website.
Businesses should have websites that WORK for them.
You might compare these lazy websites to mere online
brochures. But really, they’re more like brochures
stashed in a dusty box, stuck between the cartons of
copier toner and coffee filters.
Fat, dumb, and happy websites are on the lowest rung
of the marketing food chain. Their messaging is inconsistent
with the company’s ads, flyers, and other materials.
Perhaps they were created with cookie-cutter templates
that do nothing to differentiate the business from its
competitors. They don’t encourage visitors to
do anything, like subscribe to a newsletter, download
a white paper, or pick up the phone. No one monitors
email received through their contact forms, making them
virtual black holes for leads.
How Websites Get Lazy
Some websites are born lazy. Others get that way from
neglect. How it happens may depend on a company’s
intentions when it had the site built.
Business owners create lazy websites when they feel
they have to be on the Web for the sake of being on
the Web. They have no specific objectives in mind beyond
“We need a website.” They build their sites,
pat themselves on the back, and walk away. Meanwhile,
their sites languish untended, carrying old news, inaccurate
information, and, in extreme cases, even the bios of
Or they had the perception that the Web is a panacea
for a lack of good marketing materials. They posted
irrelevant content — as if putting something on
the Web magically makes it good. Software developers
used to have an acronym for this syndrome: GIGO —
Garbage In, Garbage Out.
Part of the problem is lack of accountability —
no one in the company has been designated as “owner”
of the website. Or, perhaps the entire website effort
was outsourced, with no provisions for ongoing maintenance.
In a smaller firm, the problem can simply be due to
a lack of time. It takes discipline to focus on marketing
when that requires taking time away from your customers
— and immediate revenue.
A Kick in the Pants Is Needed
So what do websites need to become productive? First
of all, they need someone who cares enough about the
business to set higher expectations for its marketing
efforts. A website needs to deliver a return on its
investment — even if it can’t be measured
in exact numbers.
Some thought needs to be put into how the website can
enhance and reinforce the company’s other marketing
and business activities. In small firms (which benefit
the most from the level playing field the Web provides),
the website needs to be managed as an active extension
of other sales efforts, not an afterthought that can
be ignored without consequence. In a larger company,
the person who “owns” the site needs to
establish and maintain strong relationships with other
parts of the business to ensure they all work together
to supply the newest, most relevant content from their
Lazy sites do nothing to attract visitors. They’re
often so far down in the search engine results pages
that you can’t find them unless you are truly
determined (and how many prospective customers are?).
That’s because these sites were not built with
search engines in mind.
If a company cares about being found on the Web (and
isn’t that why they built their site in the first
place?), they need to invest some energy in optimizing
their website for search engines. Ignoring search
engines is like hiding your retail store’s front
door in an unmarked back alley, while your competitors
have brightly lit storefronts on the main thoroughfare.
How many pages of links in the search engine results
do you think your customers will be willing to wade
through before reaching your site?
There are many other online and offline ways to attract
traffic, including placing a listing in relevant directories,
and contributing articles to other websites and publications.
…And Then Do Something with It
Attracting traffic to a company website is only half
the battle. Giving site visitors what they want, or
getting them to do what you want, is the other half.
Suppose a prospect sees your URL and decides to take
a closer look at your business. Is the home page perfectly
clear about what your business does? Are the management
team bios comprehensive, instilling the confidence that
this is a real company with real people? Are your products
and services described in terms the customer can understand,
or is your copy a stew of jargon-filled company-speak?
If you sell a product right on the site, is it easy
to find and buy?
How about those site visitors who aren’t ready
to call you now, but might need you in the future? What
happens when they leave your site? Chances are they’ll
forget all about you. Give them a good reason to sign
up for your email list, so you can start building a
long-term, nonthreatening relationship with them. After
they’ve received several informative, nonpromotional
emails from you, they may be ready to buy or to refer
your company to an acquaintance.
There’s no excuse for a lazy website. Just like
an employee, a website should WORK for the business.