By Marcus Underwood
While watching a show on television the other night, it occurred to me how the process by which we evaluate a potential date is not that different from how people evaluate our associations in the business world. This evaluation process (both verbal and non-verbal) is played out on your website every time a potential member finds you through a promotional link or Google search result. Consider these five important keys:
- First Impressions: Are you messy or well put together? Are you organized? Are you attractive? Are you interesting? Are you interested in other people or just yourself? Do you look current? No, I'm not talking about your wardrobe or hairstyle. I'm talking about your site. Your association's website is not unlike the impression made when you meet someone for the first time. Visitors will instantly have a reaction to it and will project that image on your entire organization.
- Getting to know you: What is your history? What have you done in the past? What are you all about? Visitors better be able to find answers to these questions quickly or they are gone and not likely to return.
- Getting to know them: Where do your site visitors come from? Where do they work? What are they looking for? Did they find what they were looking for after they visited? What path did they take to the answer? Website analytics packages can generally answer these questions. Know this, and your chances of making visitors happy are greatly improved.
- Finding a match: Now that you know something about each other, are the two of you compatible? Are your interests aligned? Is there a good chance that there will be a long-term relationship? If you've presented your association's value proposition correctly, you have a great opportunity to bring on a new member or business partner.
- Closing the Deal: Now that you've got a prospective member on your site, you need to make sure you don't lose that special person. Have you made it clear and simple for them to stay in touch with you? And you with them? Are all your points of contact up-to-date and easy to find: phone; email; social media and new member forms? Make sure visitors can contact you in a way that makes THEM comfortable.
So you see, dating and website engagement aren't really that different. First impressions count. You need to get to know each other quickly, assess your compatibility on the fly and make sure it's easy to stay in touch with each other if there's a potential match. Take a close, honest look at your website through this prism and ask yourself if your association would fare well in a “speed date” with a potential member. If you don't think so, there is a good chance you are leaving a lot of fish in the sea. And if you don't make changes to your netting soon, they'll find more comfortable waters in which to swim.
Marcus Underwood is vice president and general manager of NaylorNet, the online media solutions division of Naylor, LLC.
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