I was recently asked to help a friend revamp her résumé. Now this person is a highly successful software sales professional whose reputation in her industry precedes her – which is a good thing because her résumé stinks. No kidding. As I sat down to try to make sense of the three rambling pages in front of me, it occurred to me that my friend’s résumé exemplified almost every problem I warn clients about when we discuss their website content.
In many ways, an organization’s web content is its résumé. Both are substitutes for personal interaction, and success means getting past the clutter. It really comes down to branding. There’s a lot that goes into developing excellent, well-branded web content, but avoiding these pervasive mistakes will likely give you an advantage over your competition:
You fail to define the value proposition. Probably the most overarching piece of advice I give to clients (and friends looking for jobs) is to think like the target. Who are they? What’s important to them? How can I structure what I say to them to get my foot in the door? Don’t make the mistake of simply listing your responsibilities or functionally describing the products or services your business sells. Whether it’s your company’s brand, your organization’s brand or even your personal one, knowing who you are and being able to articulate specifically what benefit you provide is key to making a strong impression.
You bury the lead. Journalism 101 teaches you to pull out the salient facts and to deliver them quickly. Face it: no one cares about what you’re writing about as much as you do. They’re not going to work hard to understand your point or dig to find out how you’re perfect for them, so make sure you state it early and clearly. More is definitely not better.
You try to be all things to all people. In order to cast the widest possible net, many content writers end up sounding completely generic. You’ve certainly seen a job candidate’s objective read, “Seeking a senior Human Resources position in a mid-sized company”, which equates to a software company’s “providing valuable solutions to your business challenges”. Really? Will your software help clients find parking near my office? Please don’t do that. It’s better to mean something to a few people than nothing to many.
You overlook mistakes. There are still many sticklers out there (like myself) who will eliminate a candidate for typos, poor grammar and lack of attention to detail. Similarly, sloppy writing and broken links on your site may leave business prospects wondering what else your company overlooks. Proof your work, proof it backwards, and have somebody else proof it.
- You lack enthusiasm. Not you, of course. Your writing. This is a surprisingly common mistake. Who says that business writing needs to be boring? Enthusiasm is infectious, and people want to work with people they like, no matter how serious the nature of their work might be. Show that you love what you do, and you will distinguish yourself in the process. People will want to hire you, and they’ll want to buy what you have to sell.
If, like your résumé, your website doesn’t tell a story and make you jump off the page as a good candidate, then you’re probably doing your organization a disservice. Luckily, with a little thought and a bunch of editing, it’s fixable. Good luck, and contact us if you need help.