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03/12/2012 Is Your Web Site About You or Your Customers?


Whenever people complain about navigating Web sites, it’s usually because they can’t find what they’re looking for. Usually people have a specific idea in mind when they surf. Most often, Google has provided a list of sites based on idea or word. When people get to the recommended corporate or organizational sites, they’re stumped. While people surf with an idea in their heads, what they most often find are sites reflective of an internal organizational structure, rather than customer needs. 

Here’s a test: see how many corporate sites have navigation titles of Products and Services?

Let’s take a step back. Organizations start to serve specific customer needs. As they grow larger, they find they need more internal structure. They form divisions, sub-groups and other bureaucratic functions. They reason that they must do so in order to make the growing business more efficient.

The problem, as you can probably see, is that serving customer needs now takes a back seat to internal efficiencies. Perhaps this is a necessary evil. But when it comes to Web sites, too many organizations create one of their most important marketing channels to mirror their internal organization.

Most people really don’t give a hoot how companies organize themselves. What seems like a logical structure to people working inside a company can seem confusing and downright bizarre to outsiders.

One challenge is that companies often offer a variety of “products and services” to customers. Why not organize them that way?

Amazon.com offers a lot as well. But their navigation is very customer focused. They’re not talking about themselves. JetBlue.com, with a much simpler offering, has the same customer focus.

Here’s what I think is the biggest issue: Organizations who like to describe themselves usually have the worst Web sites. Organizations who focus on solving customers’ problems quickly, online, usually have the best Web sites. The latter are the ones moving into the social channels so well.

Rebuilding a corporate Web site with a new approach is a big task for many. Perhaps one way to start shifting the thinking within an organization is to take a leap into the social channels with the goal of quickly solving people’s problems. Organizations can then take that experience and knowledge and apply it to revamping the Web site.

While this may sound backwards, it may be the most efficient way to prove, internally, that focusing on your customer, not your structure, works.

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