Whether you’re an emerging company, an established brand, or a fast-growing startup that can’t keep up with its own pace, at some point you’re going to need a website refresh. Maybe you acquired another company and rebranded. Or you entered a new market. Or you haven’t updated your website in 5 years and the information is outdated and half the links are broken.
Whatever the reason, it’s tempting to simply update the copy and consider it done. All you need to do is edit the “our team” page and change some dates, right? Oh. And add a page about the new product. And re-do the home page so it’s not so long. A copywriter can knock that out in a few days, right?
Not so fast!
Your website is your virtual office and showroom. To build it and scale it effectively, you have to start with a solid foundation. Without a solid foundation, your house will sink into the ground (think: Millennium Tower, SF). Do you want a house built out of popsicle sticks or stucco?
What are the elements of a website foundation?
- Reliable website hosting, content management system (CMS), development, and design
- Solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy
- On-point messaging platform
Those first two ingredients I leave to the web developers and SEO magicians, including the short list of professionals in my network. The third ingredient is where I’m focusing today.
Before your copywriter installs the windows and paints the walls of your website, you have to give them a solid foundation. Who do you want to reach? What problems do they have that you can solve? How do you solve them better than your competitors?
These are some of the core questions answered in a messaging platform. If you don’t have one, it’s a good idea to get this in place before you create or update your website.
What is Messaging?
In plain, non-marketing speak, messaging means getting clear on how you want to talk about your company and how you want people to perceive your company. Do you want to come across as formal-professional, laid-back, or science nerdy?
A marketing agency may say a messaging platform is not enough. You need a SWOT analysis, in-depth customer research, a website audit, and a messaging platform, all presented in a huge, pretty package. All these things are useful. I recommend all of them as part of a comprehensive content strategy. If you have five figures to spend and you’re not in a hurry to get your website done, go all out.
If you’re watching your budget and for right now, you just want an updated website in advance of a big conference or a new product launch, go for the ad hoc messaging platform. With it, your website will not blow away when a strong wind hits with a messaging platform as your foundation. And from it, you can build a comprehensive brand strategy or a practical content strategy.
Elements of a Messaging Platform
The messaging platform consists of the following:
- Your company or brand’s key attributes. Who you are, who you aren’t. The tone you want to convey.
- Target audience profiles. A synopsis of your primary target customer(s), what’s important to them, and the challenges they face.
- Copy platform: Two to three paragraphs that address how your product or service helps resolve your audiences’ challenges, how you do it differently, and why that matters. The copy platform describes features, but leans on benefits. Copywriters can pull from this platform when writing website copy. Much of the copy for your website’s home page may come from the copy platform.
- Taglines: Two or more taglines to use throughout your website copy, in advertising, collateral, and social media. It also includes subheads and/or additional taglines geared toward distinct audiences. (For example, a tagline for pharmaceutical companies and a tagline for CROs.
- Value proposition (as needed): a short statement that describes what you offer, the benefit it provides, and how you stand out from the competition.
- Mission, Vision, and Values statements. As needed.
Developing the messaging platform requires thoughtful discussion between your company’s key stakeholders and your copywriter. When I develop messaging platforms, I give my clients a questionnaire so the marketing and/or executive team can start brainstorming on new or revised messaging elements. After that comes a meeting to discuss your responses. And then I get to work.
Next comes a meeting to present the copy platform. The client has an opportunity to make comments and suggestions for revision. With the copy platform in good shape, we can hash out a plan for the website.
With a final version in place, you’ve laid the foundation for a high-performing website. I’ll get to work again; this time, to update your existing website or create pages from scratch. Along the way, we’ll get those broken links fixed, make sure all pages have SEO-optimized meta titles/descriptions and delete those team members who left two years ago.
Bottom line: even a website refresh involves more than changing up a few words. To make sure your website reaches its lead generating, converting potential, establish a solid foundation.
Ready to revamp your website? Get in touch.