The Main Thing is the Main Thing

What Do You Do?

The first thing anyone coming to your website or business wants to know is what you do. If you don’t communicate that immediately, you lose them. If you’re a complete wizard, you tell them what you do for them.

The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing. – German proverb

Try this at the next tradeshow you attend, bearing in mind that everyone displaying has spent at least $5,000 in booth, printing, display and staff costs just to be there. Walk past 10 booths without stopping and count how many make it clear specifically what they do. It’s not enough that it says “staffing”, for example. Do they help recruit for companies? Do they find you a job?

If there’s any possibility you don’t understand what I’m talking about here, read Naomi’s post at Ittybiz about the business elevator speech and Vegas hookers. If you do understand, read it anyhow because it’s fun and makes the moral of the story utterly clear. While you’re at her site, notice how clearly the site communicates what her business is – in six words.

People Are More Receptive to Things They Understand

Your potential customers don’t want to chance looking stupid. They don’t want to humiliate themselves by asking a dumb question about what you do. If they aren’t clear about what you can do for them, it’s easier for them to pass on and find someone who is.

Your Business Will Fail Without Communicated Focus

The 5-second test you need to pass is simple. Anyone, including your internet-resistant great aunt and the most attention-deficient teenager you know, needs to know what you can do for them within 5 seconds of hitting your website. Seriously. FIVE seconds. This is difficult, and you may need to get help. Do it. There is no other single thing you can do with your web presence that is more important than this.

Go to Your Website Right Now

If you look through the eyes of a first time visitor, what does this company/person do? Can you tell if you, the visitor, may be in the right place for what you need, within a few seconds? If the answer is no, the 5-10 words you’ll need to write to fix it may be the most challenging phrase you’ve ever had to write. You need to distill your business down into a few words that tells, as much as possible:

  • who your customers are
  • what problems they have
  • how you fix those problems
  • what your customers gain because you fix those problems

Three Last Tips

  1. Watch for opportunities to tell a story or create a visual image in your phrase. An evocative image can be very powerful.
  2. Slip in at least one of your keywords if you can.
  3. If you can’t make it perfect, make it better.

Show Me What You’ve Got

So here’s my challenge. Show me what you’ve got. In your comment, tell me in 10 words or less what your business does. It doesn’t have to be perfect – mine isn’t. But if you don’t play, you can’t win.

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 7th, 2009 at 4:53 pm and is filed under Web Presence. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


  1. Monica says:

    I would like to see if all your teachings have revealed my inner freakdom with the success of an animated gravatar…

    • Karilee says:

      I think you’ve successfully created an animated .GIF, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear that Gravitar supports GIF animation.

      Such a tiny image doesn’t do your beautiful painting justice, but at least it’s on your website for art lovers to admire!

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