This seemingly inconsequential website feature can be a make-it-or-break-it factor in whether people will want to do business with you

by Sandy Hubbard

As a business owner, you probably have a laundry list of things you want to change or improve on your website. As your business evolves and you add new services and products, it makes sense to devote web development efforts to keep up with your offerings.

However, what you omit — intentionally or not — from your website can actually work against you.

I have visited the websites of companies both big and small that do not include any sort of information about the owners and key employees.

In the “olden days” of websites — just like in selling — it was features and benefits to the forefront and everything else was optional. These days, people are more conscious of doing business with people they like and trust. Our money is too precious to do business with someone who may not perform as promised.

Furthermore, today’s customers expect transparency. They want information presented and instantly available, with no implication that there might be an ulterior motive for withholding anything. And if the information is presented to customers in a grudging or “tricky” way, it drives a wedge into the relationship.

Here’s an example. I was researching a company because some of my customers had heard rumors. There was no tab on their website that said “Who We Are” or “Meet our Employees” or “About Us.” After digging in other places, I found that the company had been sold three times in the past 5 years. The current president had ownership in other companies within the same specialty. The vice president had no industry experience. And the other principals had the same last name as the owner.

Was this good or bad? I didn’t know. I had no context.

On the one had, this could be good news. Perhaps a family was buying a struggling business and bringing in an investor (the vice president) to add cash flow to the operation. Perhaps they were all family members, and the vice president’s last name was her married name. On the other hand, it could mean that a group of investors was going to step into the business for a while, plunder as much as they could, and then sell it off again.

A simple “About Us” paragraph or page on the website could put rumors to rest and create context for the ownership. That there was no information about the owners or employees on the website said to me that this company was trying to conceal something.

In fact, the less personalized your website is — especially in a business-to-business relationship — the more likely someone will perceive it as:

1. A scam – something created quickly from a template, designed to swindle you out of your money before disappearing

2. An offshore company unwilling to divulge its location or an importer who is doing most of the manufacturing overseas

3. A potential competitor trying to disguise itself as a different business

4. A company with a bad reputation that has created a DBA (“doing business as”)

5. A wholesale web division for a company that also sells direct to your customers

6. A company that exists solely to gain business information for an unrelated purpose (unethical marketing or selling data, for example)

7. A webfront with no actual brick and mortar operation

8. A temporary holding place for individuals who have poor or tarnished reputation in the industry or who are waiting for “a real job”

9. A company whose principals have financial issues, high profile lawsuits, industry disputes, or complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau

10. A company whose principals are your former employees (maybe someone you fired) or others whom you know personally

Even if prospects and customers don’t perceive anything nefarious by the omission, they could be wondering if:

* you are not organized enough to make company information a priority

* you are too rigid to make changes to your website

* you don’t know how to update your site, and thus may have other technology challenges that are inconvenient for the customer

* you are not up to date on how to market to your audience

* you are too old-fashioned to think this information is relevant to your customers.

Can you see why it is a number one priority to be forthcoming on your website about who runs your company? Do you really want customers and prospects guessing why you don’t list your key people?

Sandy Hubbard is Print Futurist for PrintMediaCentr.



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