Who Are You?

Who the heck are you, anyway?

I’ve recently talked to a number of lessors and brokers who are dissapointed in the results they’re getting from their websites.  I’m working on some other ideas for them and I hope to write more about that in an upcoming post, but I want to share a quick and timely website tip right now that I think applies to a lot of small businesses in our industry. 

Each time someone calls me I look at their web site; sometimes related to the conversation, sometimes just out of idle curiosity.  Almost invariably, they’re beautiful.  There are so many great website building tools so accessible to so many today that the professionalism, clarity, smoothness, and overall first impression of most sites are all great; I love the looks of them.  Most, though, are missing an incredibly powerful feature that’s of particular benefit to small businesses —and particularly of benefit today.  In fact, they’re not just missing that benefit, the sites are actively working against it.

When you’re launching a site you have to make some decisions about what it is you want to project about yourself; what you want people to think or know about you.  Frankly, the recent growth of easy tools to build a highly polished website presents kind of a double edged sword in that regard.  Yes, it’s easy to project yourself onto a national stage, (worldwide, actually), and to describe yourself in grand, highly-capable terms, but it’s also easy to make yourself fairly generic.

Fire up your browser program and take a cruise around the web looking at leasing company web sites.  See any similarities?  I’ll bet you will.  It’s like I’ve said for years about vendor sales kits.  Go into any vendor, pick up a batch of fifteen or twenty leasing company folders they’ve received and, I maintain, you could shuffle the pages and randomly re-insert them into the folders and you won’t have made a noticeable difference in the sales content in most of them.

Now, let’s return to the web.  In particular, on your tour, click on the ‘About Us’ links; every modern site has one.  Most say something along the lines of: “We’re a highly experienced group of professionals …yada, yada, yada.”  Sure, it’s impressive sounding; but who the heck are you?

Why is this a problem for small, newer businesses and particularly today?  It’s a problem for two reasons.  First, and this is particularly for newer brokers, while it may seem like a good idea to project yourself as highly experienced and able to “handle all your financing needs,” the fact is you probably are not and when and if that becomes apparent to a given prospect you will have undone whatever other credibility and good will you’ve built up.  It’s a completely unnecessary risk, too.

The second reason it’s a problem, and also why it’s an unnecessary risk, is due to what’s happening in the economy today.  Everyday we’re reading about large, broad-based, do-everything, well-branded but ultimately generic financial services companies failing or disgracing themselves.  Given that, and the resulting loss of confidence in the public in doing business with distant, faceless, overly-slick and over-promising companies, this is the time to be exactly the opposite of that.  This is the time to engender trust and confidence and a big step toward projecting that is to get close and get personal.  For a service type of business like ours, though the internet gives an ability to reach far and wide, the real art of using it effectively is to make us appear close and personal.

So, what does all this mean?  How does this relate to all the broker web sites we’ve looked?  What’s the feature they’re missing?  The feature’s them.  Who the heck are you, anyway?  Get a picture of yourself up there.  Get your digital camera, (something better than your phone-camera, but not a slick studio portrait, either), and get someone to take a picture of you sitting at your desk, or talking on the phone, or reading your mail, or showing your little boy or girl how to use the computer.  Let people know who you are.  People want to do business with people and they’re not looking for slick, clip-art, pretty people, they’re looking for real people they feel they know and can trust.  Get yourself up there.  If you can do a video, that’s great, too.  But a picture, along with a more personal written description of who you are, will go a long way toward helping prospects feel they know you; and if they don’t feel they know you, they won’t trust you.

Am I wrong?  How do you feel?  How do you react when you’re looking at web sites?  What would you look for if you were looking for someone to discuss a confidential business matter that involved a long term commitment and a lot of money on your part?  Even more important, ask yourself this.  What kind of prospect would this not matter to?  It wouldn’t matter to anyone desperate for credit, with no other choices.  If you can pay for web service that kind of prospect is willing to give you a shot.  Is that the prospect you’re looking for, is that your best chance of approval and funding in today’s market?

Use all the great new web site developing tools but use them to get personal with your prospects.  Use them to let them know at least this, who the heck are you, anyway?

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