It was way back in 1995, when high-speed internet was a luxury and dial-up modems were still the norm, that I created my first web page using Homesite. I remember when I was about to make it live. I was a little nervous, thinking that I had made some mistakes and that I would be the lead story on the Six O’clock News: “Nick Nichols launches pathetic website – becomes the laughingstock of the tech community.”
Turns out that not only did the media not notice – no one noticed. And so began my career as an internet marketer.
What I soon discovered was that other people were also creating websites. And I noticed some similarities among them. Many home pages featured large globe images – I guess to signify that they were part of the “World Wide Web.” And still, others featured stock backgrounds that bore little relevance to the business at hand.
So I coined the term “Large Useless Graphics” (LUGs) for these globes, backgrounds, and other images because they slowed down dramatically the loading times of the pages and offered little in the way of support for what a business was trying to sell.
Fast forward to today, and the LUGs of yesteryear have been replaced with so-called hero images. You know, the mostly stock full-screen backgrounds that are supposed to suggest what a company does but rarely do? All too often, these modern LUGs have a few words of textual overlay that are abstract, vague, overly broad or industry jargon that leave visitors confused as to what the company does, who they do it for and what are the benefits to be delivered.
And guess what? Confused people rarely buy. They just click away.
I’m not saying that you should not use images, especially if what you sell is very visual. For example, if you sell something that is decorative or artistic, or if what you sell has visual impact, such as new cars or trucks, then you need optimized graphics to showcase your products. And of course, you need images if you have an online store.
What I am saying is that hero images should not be used just to be stylish. This is because most hero images I have seen – especially on tech and B2B service-oriented home pages – offer little value in the way of communicating the benefits of staying and exploring further. Many use stock images, often with anonymous people, office spaces or other abstract elements that get in the way of the message.
And as I said, many use embedded or overlaid text that is as useless as the hero images in that it requires visitors to guess at what the company does. These dysfunctional marketing messages are like a brick wall that is keeping prospective customers, potential joint-venture partners, and the media, out.
Take This Simple Test
In 50 words or less, describe how what you do solves an urgent, expensive, right-now problem or set of related problems for a specific target market, cost-effectively.
I call this your Dynamic Unique Selling Proposition, or DUSP. A Dynamic USP defines the unique benefit promised by a company, service, product, individual, or brand that empowers it to stand out from competitors.
Why 50 words or less?
According to Forbes magazine, the average adult reads 300 words per minute. That’s around 50 words in ten seconds.
According to various studies as quoted in a 2015 Time magazine article, the average adult starts to lose attention in about eight seconds. That’s about 40 words.
That means you must develop and deploy a Dynamic USP that contains 40-50 words or so if you want to deliver your message quickly and concisely so that it will be absorbed and acted upon!
In ten seconds or less, potential buyers must get a clear idea of how what you do will solve an urgent, expensive, right-now problem or problems they have, cost-effectively. Expensive is not only monetary. The problem(s) could have to do with emotional, social, physical, medical, legal, environmental, security, safety, career, time, or other issues.
The key is to link the positive results or removal of negative outcomes your target market will experience from your solution(s).
If not, it will hinder them from taking the next step, which is to take the time to explore further to determine if what you offer makes sense for them.
In today’s attention-deficit, sound bite, fast-cut edit world, you must communicate what you do, who you do it for, and the positive results you deliver, in ten seconds or less – especially on your website home page!
So, how did you do? Does your DUSP shine with brilliance or does it need work?
In my consulting practice I routinely review marketing materials for clients using a proprietary ten-point system that checks for the key components needed for maximum results.
One interesting benefit of using this system is that it allows me to objectively evaluate a marketing message from the perspective of a person reading it.
Unfortunately, all too often, marketing messages are not written from the perspective of the reader – meaning they are not outer focused. Instead, many ads seem to be written with an inner focus – meaning solely for the benefit of the advertiser.
For example, I reviewed a full-page magazine ad for a bank with the headline,
“Go ahead, judge us by the company we keep.”
The rest of the ad simply displayed the logos of five of the bank’s customers, followed by the bank’s logo and contact info at the bottom.
This is what I call an ego ad. It’s 100% inner-focused. By that I mean – it’s all about the bank and its current customers, with no mention of any benefit for potential NEW customers.
The word “us” – along with “I, me, my, mine, we, our” and your company name are what I call “inner focused” words. They a component of what I termed your “Customer Focus Ratio,” or CFR, back in 1996.
The other part of your CFR is your use of “outer-focused” words: “you and your.” To be effective your CFR needs to be 1.5 or greater. That means your marketing messages should have at least 1.5 outer-focused words for every inner-focused word.
I guess the idea is that a reader of the bank’s ad is supposed to be impressed that the bank has these other customers. I guess the bank’s management thinks that should be enough of a reason for a new company to use them. How ridiculous!
This is a classic example of an inner-focused marketing message that is all about the advertiser and provides no reason at all – except possibly amusement – for people to read it. There is absolutely nothing in it for the reader!
What was eye-opening was that most of the other ads in this business magazine suffered from the same profit-killing flaw:
Now, if you don’t care whether people respond to your marketing messages or if you just want to take an ego trip, this kind of ad is perfect.
On the other hand, if you want to get actual results from your advertising, then you absolutely must write your ads from the perspective of what’s in it for the reader, listener, or viewer, instead of what’s in it for you.
You may have heard of the AIDA formula for writing ads:
Attention – Interest – Desire – Action
This is a good rule of thumb to use when creating your ads.
You must get attention with a headline or equivalent that speaks to the reader, listener, or viewer in a way that suggests a solution for a problem he or she might have that you can solve. And your headline must be specific and targeted to the market you want to reach.
“Go ahead, judge us by the company we keep” could apply to ANY company in ANY industry and, therefore, appeals to no one specifically.
While knowing who the subject bank’s customers are might be interesting to the bank’s competitors, new potential customers really don’t care! Therefore, when writing an ad, you must create attention in a way that will appeal to new customers.
The bank ad completely lacked the third and fourth components: desire and action. There was nothing at all in the ad that would even remotely stimulate a potential customer to want to do business with this bank.
And finally, there was no call-to-action, meaning no statement of what a person is supposed to DO after reading the ad. I guess the bank assumed that people would want to come in based on the company the bank keeps. This is a seriously flawed assumption.
The point is if you want your marketing messages to work; if you want them to motivate qualified people to seek you out, you absolutely MUST make sure they are outer-focused.
They MUST clearly and convincingly convey what’s in it for the prospect if he or she absorbs the message and takes your most desired action.
So, dear reader, if your marketing messages are afflicted with Inner-Focus-itis, use the CFR formula to reposition your messages with an outer focus and you will instantly get better results with no increase in cost. To get started on the right track, get a high-performance landing page tune-up now.
Adapted from Nick’s latest book, “Business Survival & Prosperity Formula,” that shows business owners and entrepreneurs how to survive during uncertain times and thrive in any economy. Kindle version available free until October 25, 2021.