They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.
—Tim O’Brien, in The Things They Carried
In O’Brien’s widely acclaimed book on the Vietnam War, he tells the story of a platoon of American infantrymen through the things they carry—letters from an unrequited love, comic books, M&Ms, a bible, extra rations, even a diary with a thumb cut from an enemy corpse.
The “things” your website “carries” tell a story about your organization—your thinking, your doing, where you’ve been, and where you are headed. It is quite revealing.
One of the most frequent refrains I hear from organizations is “our website is out of date” followed by “we don’t do that thing our website says we do anymore.” Maybe your website is still carrying that mostly failed service offering like the soldier with a worn-out photo of the person who no longer loves him? Are you afraid to remove it thinking that maybe some future client may fall in love with that offering?
It’s you have some very sticky “candy” in the pocket of your website that no potential client can find because it is so buried under all the other unimportant stuff. Maybe a free guide, assessment tool or newsletter sign-up would be an attractive offering on your site if visitors could find it. [Note to self: make your newsletter sign-up more visible on my website. It’s non-existent, dam(t!]
And do you even know what the “terrible power” is that your site could or should be carrying and bringing to bear on your business operations, your sales, your market, your competition? Every soldier knows their weapons and how to use them to survive.
What are the powerful weapons of your organization’s website that will keep you “alive” during a pandemic?
Jonathan Stark in a recent podcast, said that in the list of things his business carries, his website is not the most important. In fact, he said he would toss his website before his email list. This is someone who understands what his organization’s most “terrible” weapon is.
You need to know what your website is and isn’t carrying and why. You should have a sense of what’s the most powerful parts of your site in terms of your business, specifically your brand, positioning, and marketing.
Where to start, though?
Take inventory of all the pages on your website (spreadsheets work well for this), categorize the content, map it to business/marketing/positioning goals, measure its effectiveness, then prioritize its usefulness. I’m going to be working on strategies and tools to help you do this optimization work on your site.
You will need to dig deeper into the things your website carries for transformative change. I’ll cover this in a future email but for now, I leave you with this thought from O’Brien:
They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment.
What are you carrying on your website?