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Making Your Website Persuasive: Brand Strategy

Article by: Michael Van Ausdeln 

Great design, absolutely. But it starts with brand strategy.

Imagine you’re driving down a highway. Billboards race past you like wind through your hair. You know they’re there, but you don’t really look at them.

Then, suddenly, you see a billboard with a picture of you on it as big as an IMAX screen.

Well, THAT you notice.

That’s the essence of brand strategy. Target audiences seeing themselves in your brand. And, if you do it right, it becomes so emotional and persuasive that audiences are incapable of choosing someone else.

Because they’re choosing themselves.

Brand strategy for your website

Now, let’s think about this in terms of your website. It is primarily a marketing tool. Yes, there are forms, information, and other functions that are needed.

But, most of all, you’re hoping the new site increases business. It’s an expensive and time-consuming venture. So why do so many web development firms say they start with design? It should all start with brand strategy. That’s the point of it all.

Great design, animation, structure, and functionality are essential, but they don’t move audiences alone to act. Brand strategy sets that in motion.

Consider this. As consumers, we receive thousands of marketing messages each day. Even a pen you are using or the cap you’re wearing contains a message.

That’s too many for humans to decipher. Therefore, we’ve become accustomed to filtering everything out – except what is most meaningful to us.

Think about that when developing your site. It contains multitudes of messages, both big and tiny. However, as advertising legend David Ogilvy said, “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.”

Your website provides users with a snapshot of your brand. For the site to be engaging and useful, ask yourself, “What is the single takeaway audiences should learn from us?”

If the answer to that question isn’t persuasive, then even great design can’t completely make up for it.

In fact, because audiences see things in a snapshot, all the components – design, messaging, functionality, structure, etc. – must tell the same story that taps into the fears and aspirations of your audiences.

Five important rules to web strategy

1. Be different than the competition. Every industry – yes, even yours – is cluttered with the same messaging. When messaging is alike, audiences ignore them. Instead, be different and better. Position yourself against the competition.

2. Align with emotional triggers. Product benefits are important to mention, but they are not the reasons why audiences choose. They are the rational reasons we backfill to rationalize our choice. Emotional triggers ARE the reflections of your audience. Nike doesn’t talk about the specifics of its shoes. Nike says Just Do It, win without all the nonsense that gets in the way.

3. It’s never about you. All brand strategy and messaging must come from the point of view of your target audience. Descriptions like “we’re trustworthy,” for example, do nothing. Because audiences only know you’re trustworthy if they are already a customer. A prospect has no idea. More importantly, it says nothing about the audience.

4. Avoid table stakes. To say you’re an expert just means you’re in business. You must be an expert to be in business. Audiences understand that. If what you say is a category benefit, avoid it.

5. Get out of your own way. This is difficult. The things you love about your brand and company may not be important to target audiences. Put yourself in their position when auditing your brand.

At eDesign, we start with brand strategy. It affects all that comes after it so that one story – one, compelling, persuasive story – is told. All with the intention of creating preference for your brand.

In the Discovery phase, we interview you and other key personnel. One-on-one, because group interviews tend to be dominated by group thinking. We probe to find those emotional triggers in your market.

We analyze the competition. So you are positioned against them, providing audiences with a true choice.

We dig into any research, primary and/or secondary, looking for the psychographics that move audiences in the context of your category.

And we map out the emotional triggers to find the single most persuasive thing you can say to cause a change. Because, most often, your greatest enemy is audience inertia. Nobody likes to change. It’s hard to make consumers choose someone other than the one they are currently using.

Once we have that brand theme, everything else flows from it. A homepage story frame that demonstrates how the story should be told. Wireframing and the site map are constructed strategically to best tell that story.

Then comes the design, which brings the story to life.

Think of that billboard. If audiences see themselves when they first view your site – reading the main brand message in the hero – they’ve become yours.

Need to design a website that generates traffic and boosts your sales? Ask us for advice. Say

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