Thursday, September 14, 2006

Would an "Our Positions" Webpage Boost Value? (and a Blog Milestone!)

Today marks the 150th post on the Blue Ferret Communications Blog!

In honor of this milestone (hey, I'm entitled to celebrating once in a while), I've decided to do something big. But not yet. You'll have to wait...and check back, of course.

Now, on to the Wednesday post.

I'm beginning to think there should be another page added under the "website" umbrella.

We have the homepage, the FAQ, the About Us, the Products/Services pages...

What about an "Our Positions" webpage?

I'll explain what I mean.

I see an "Our Positions" page as a crystal-clear stance on what you as a company endorse, believe and practice.

Where'd This Come From?
It occurred to me the other day, when I was going through a few potential client websites. (The need for solid writing was, shall we say, abundant.) I couldn't even find public commitments anywhere in the copy. Everything twisted around itself, trying to avoid sort of point or position.

I thought, "I can't get a clear grip on what this company believes. I don't want to do business with them."

And that was a scary thought.

Corporate ethics are so furiously questioned nowadays, most people - consumers and businesses alike - expect to be cheated and lied to. There has to be a way to reassure them.

Like I always do, I looked for an answer in communication. Could a piece of writing do what I wanted? What message could a company truly stand on in every dealing they have?

After I thought of an "Our Positions" statement - a standalone, foundational spelling-out of how each individual in a business acts, how they operate, and what they'll support - it seemed stupidly easy. Why hadn't this been done already?

In truth, it has. Partially. Many companies think they're accomplishing this kind of honest communication with a MIssion Statement.

But be honest. How many of those have you actually read?

I've read a few. It's almost always the same - convoluted, achingly-P.C. language, desperately avoiding the potential for legal action. Continually combed through by lawyer after lawyer, I suspect. Any position, any profession that might possibly degrade their reputation in the future by some unforseen association is typically taken out.

Don't you think customers would appreciate direct honesty? Clear, unequivocal statements?

Okay, what would we put on there?
What to include? Recommendations. A FAQ tip or two. "What We Do." "What We Don't Do." Basic, straightforward information. You could detail how your company works day-to-day. Outline a typical client interaction. (I get asked how my work process goes quite often.)

Think of the things Customer Service gets asked often. Sales might want to tell customers a quick way to choose between available service options. Maybe Accounting would like customers to stop calling because they need to know a simple formula?

Here's an example: "BFC always works under contract. It protects us from lawsuits and undiscussed changes to our work. It's a benefit to you, as well - we can't 'sneak in' something to bill for that's not covered by the contract."

See? One whole idea, in just a few sentences. One of My Positions.

Why would we want to do this?
I know you could muddle around company websites and assemble a position. And each would probably look exactly like the others - "we're committed to customer service, our employees are our best assets, we promise complete satisfaction..." (Anybody remember that post I did on getting new language?)

I think spelling out positions and making concrete commitments to something tangible, like the way you (and only you) run a certain process, would go a long way toward:
  • Marking your company out as different. As unique.

  • Building trust - I know I'd be more inclined to trust a company that levels with its audience.

  • Reducing customer calls. Especially the trivial, answer-in-two-seconds ones.

I realize what I'm proposing is not in the "Standard Corporate Website Structure" manual. I realize it might seem a little redundant to some. Still, adding a page is simple. And who knows - if a customer searches for "honest business" and your "DEF Company Positions" page comes up, it might give a much better impression than "DEF (4-page-long) Mission Statement."

P.S. - Because someone's going to ask, yes, I'm putting together my own Our Positions page for the Blue Ferret Communications website. I'll make a note when it goes up. It's actually quite a mental exercise to put this together. Kind of fun.

P.P.S. - In case some of you are wondering, I wasn't able to post this yesterday because I couldn't get into Blogger. Nothing worked. I have no idea why. Luckily I save my post drafts!



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