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David Mills
By David Mills on October 01, 2020

Brochure Websites and a Bridge in Brooklyn for sale

It's a famous story- George Parker used to sell NYC landmarks from a fake office. He sold the Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden and reportedly the Brooklyn Bridge (about twice a week). The buyers would then discover that for some reason the police wouldn't let them set up a toll booth in the middle of the bridge! It all ended after his third conviction for running these cons in 1928.

Of course, there are lots of other "Brooklyn Bridges" for sale today, and one of them is the "brochure website." This type of website is essentially an online version of the traditional business brochure, and it gets sold as a website that is exciting and valuable - like a bridge in Brooklyn. If all you want is a placeholder for a new business venture, then this approach to websites might work for you. The problem appears when someone suggests that a brochure website will allow you to "set-up a toll bridge" or actually drive business with this kind of website.

You can search Google right now and find people who will sell you a "brochure website." That's OK if we're all being honest about how little you can expect this approach to deliver.

How can you tell if you've got a bridge brochure website?

The primary difference between a brochure website and a performance website that will help you develop new customers effectively is found in the work that the website is able to perform. If a website is only about you and your services, and it doesn't offer both valuable content and multiple ways for a prospective customer to engage, it may be a brochure website. Modern websites take this a step further, by using smart technology that adapts to the user, tests page versions, syncs with a CRM and sends follow-up communications.

The problem with a brochure website is that it only works when the entire job of finding, educating, connecting and winning the customer is done somewhere else. 

There is no shame in having a website like this, as long as you don't expect it to work as hard as you do. But having this kind of website is one reason why a lot of companies are stuck in neutral when it comes to their growth.

Take this quiz: You might have a Brochure Website If

  1. Every page of the website is about you or your product or services
  2. If you printed the website, and it would have exactly the same content as your brochure
  3. You have limited or few response and engagement options
  4. You don't offer any information that would help a customer who is thinking about the problem your company solves, but who is not ready to buy or commit.

If you can answer yes to any of the four statements, then you may have a website that only functions as an online brochure. It will only work for one specific group of people - those who are already convinced that they should buy from you. It won't convert visitors to buyers for almost any other group. 

If you didn't want this kind of website, or don't want it any longer, then it's time for a change.

What percentage of the target audience can a brochure website reach?

For most industries, those who are ready to buy make up about 3% of the target audience. From within that 3%, a brochure website can win those who already know you, already trust you, and for whom your pricing and features are a good fit. With the other 97% - they need to find more in a website in order to move them toward becoming a customer.

Here's why it matters- the buying process for most industries and people starts with searching online. In that process they'll find lots of choices from a variety of different companies and website types. The one that they choose to linger on, learn from, and engage with most likely will never be a brochure style website. It simply can't compete and it won't help you compete either.

What to do when you discover you have a brochure website?

Lots of companies start with a brochure website, there's nothing wrong with that. When growth becomes a goal, and building buyer momentum is a priority, you'll want to upgrade to something that will work harder.

The place to start is to benchmark where you are today. Here are some steps:

  1. Take a look at your website analytics or performance data. How many visitors do you have online each month?
  2. Gather an internal count of how many customers you get monthly that come from the website.
  3. Count the percentage of pages that are exclusively about you and your products or services.
  4. Compare the way you work with customers in-person or on the phone with the way they experience your company online. Ask "do they line-up"?
  5. How about your brand? Is it consistent throughout all the customer encounters, including the website?

When you've gathered this information, it's time to begin thinking about the HOW of your next website, not just the WHAT. The way you build your next website will determine what you get when you're done. You can get some help with this analysis at no cost.

Use the Right Process to Get the Right Website

Traditional approaches to website design tend to create traditional outcomes- i.e., what everyone else places on their website. For most businesses, building their website is a slow and frustrating process. They really aren't sure what should be on the website, so they use two things as the basis for their website:

  1. They base the content on what they know- their products and services. But that's only a small part of what should be found on a website. As a result, the entire website ends up being only about them. Buyer's can't really find themselves in the website when its only about you.
  2. They base the new website on what they like from competitors' websites. That results in the new website looking just like all the other ones in the industry. It's a guaranteed way to hide what makes your business special.

These factors result in a painful process and a website that gets launched slowly and often over budget. Most people don't want to do anything for a couple of years after the website launches, so it remains static based on whatever assumptions they used to launch.  Instead, a process based in the same Agile development approaches used by the big tech companies allows your website to grow more effective, producing more leads over time.

Pain Free Guide to Your Next Web Redesign

Published by David Mills October 1, 2020
David Mills