What Should You Do to Make Your Business Message Clear?

Summary: A clear business message isn’t only about words. It’s about different elements of your website working together (or at least not getting in the way). Below I’ll explain what elements those are and show you how to make a business message clear using an example of a real but messy small business website.

Did you know that your navigation is a part of your business message?

True story!

Compare these two examples:

Example #1:

Navigation example #1

Example #2:

Navigation example #2

Who of these two folks just told you more about their business?

The person #2, right?

The person #1 can be anybody, but the person #2 is obviously in the coaching business (navigation label “Courses”) and has been probably doing it for a while (they wrote books!).

Whether these courses and books are any good is a different story we will learn about later, but for now, a smart person #2 gets brownie points.

So yes, it’s not only about the copy.

Even if you are the best in your field, people will think you are an amateur if your website is messy.Click To Tweet

What is your business message and how your website communicates it

Your business message is more than just your website tagline. A clear business message answers all of these questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do and for whom?
  • What’s the benefit?
  • What niche are you in?
  • How big is your business?
  • How experienced are you?

On your website, you communicate this with:

  • Words (aka copy)
  • Images
  • Navigation
  • Page structure
  • Web design in general (colors, fonts, white space, visual effects, etc.)

Now, let’s look at different parts of your website and find out how to make them work together to communicate your business message clearly.

Header section

This would be the first thing your website visitors see when they land on your homepage. Are you ready for this?

Image

If you are using an image, use one that not just occupies space but contributes to your business message.

Solopreneurs: Use a photo of yourself looking the visitors directly in the eye or towards a call to action.

Agencies / small businesses: If you are using a photo with people in it, these people should be from your team.

SaaS companies: Use an image that gives your visitors an idea what niche you are in.

Whoever you are, don’t use:

  • Stock photos of creepy happy people (or any people who are not you or your team). Your website visitors are not dump. They will sense a fake photo in a heartbeat.
  • Too busy images that make the copy difficult to read.

Website tagline / subtagline

Good news: Contrary to the popular belief, it’s perfectly ok to be boring when it comes to explaining what you do.

And by “perfectly ok” I mean a boring but clear headline will communicate your business message 10x times better than a catchy but vague one.

When it comes to the copy on your website, boring but clear always trumps clever but vague.Click To Tweet

Here’s a quick and easy process to come up with a solid website tagline and subtagline that communicate your business message clear.

Come up with the solid website tagline and subtagline in 3 easy steps

(If you want to check whether your existing copy is clear enough, start with Step #3)

Step #1: Write down who you are, what you do and how it helps people using as many words as you need.

Step #2: Highlight important words and cut the fluff (like jargon, buzzwords and superlatives). Rephrase your sentences around the main words till you have 2 sentences left (ok, 3, but only if they are ultra-short).

Step #3: Read it out loud. Would you use the exact same words if someone at a party asked you what you do? Will they also understand it straight away without further explanation?

If your answer here is “no”, start over from Step #1 or adjust your tagline / subtagline on the spot till it’s a confident “yes”.

(This process is based on a trick called “sculpting” that I picked up from Henneke Duistermaat.)

If you get really stuck, use this website tagline formula (or its variation):

{What you are}. We/I {do what} {for whom} {with what benefit}.

Examples:

  • Copywriting agency. We turn your ideas into copy that converts
  • WordPress web design for creative solopreneurs
  • Content creator and web consultant for solopreneurs and small businesses

Try it! It really works.

Navigation

Here’s something you would have never suspected to be important for your business message, huh!

In the beginning of this article, we’ve seen already how navigation labels can provide additional information about your business.

Here’s another example where the difference in the message clarity is even more drastic:

Example (original):

Navigation example 3: Unclear business message
Can you imagine? Every text label you see here is a navigation link!

I’m not going to go into details of whether it’s a good idea to spread your navigation links all over the place and whether to have a gazillion navigation options make sense.

Let’s concentrate on only one thing: The clarity of the business message this masterpiece communicates.

What can you say about this business?

Well, they must be some kind of a shop as some navigation labels seem to be product categories. But that would be it.

Now let’s look at the improved version of the navigation.

Example (improved):

Navigation example 3: Clear business message

Ok, so now we know for sure: It’s an online shop!

We also know that they work together with craftsmen and designers (how cool is that!).

If you are one of those, now you know immediately where to click. And if you aren’t, these mentions alone may spark your curiosity to stay on the website and explore more.

Ok, so…

How should you design your navigation so that it contributes to the clarity of your business message?

(Or at least doesn’t make it less clear)

Three things:

#1. The general requirements for the clear copy also hold for navigation: All the labels must be clear and succinct.

#2. If you can, include some specific navigation labels that give your prospects an idea of who you are and what you do.

Examples:

  • “Pricing” communicates immediately you are a SaaS company
  • “Courses”, that you are in the coaching business
  • “Shop”, that you are online shop
  • “Website review”, that you review websites

#3. Navigation Don’ts:

  • Linking to unimportant things in the main navigation (such as “Impressum”, “Privacy policy”, etc.)
  • Not linking to important pages (such as “About us”, “Services”, etc. from the main navigation)
  • Placing navigation labels in unexpected places.

Page content

Even the part of your web page with the main content doesn’t communicate your business message exclusively through words.

On one side, you have your web copy that should be:

On the other side, you have your web design that can massacre the most brilliant copy:

The things above not only can hide the important part of your business message but they can also communicate something totally different:

“I’m an amateur. I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t be trusted.”

Is this your business message? I hope not.

Your copy can clearly communicate your business message only if your web design isn't in the way Click To Tweet

But ok, let’s say your copy is clear and your web design is fine.

The remaining question is:

What kind of content on your homepage, besides your website tagline, contributes to your business message?

Other parts of your homepage that contribute to your business message:

  • Your services (all or main): Mentioning your services on your homepage will paint a more concrete picture of what it is that you do.
  • Featured blog posts: The titles of your latest articles will help your prospects understand the exact angle of your expertise.
  • Specific CTAs: Things like “Sign up for free trial”, “Hire me to speak at your event”, etc. give a concrete idea about what you do (you are a Saas / a speaker). If you can include CTAs like that on your homepage, great.
  • Footer: Contrary to what you may believe, the footer is an important part of your website. In the context of making your business message clear, you can reinforce your business message by repeating the main navigation links, featuring a service, provide the links to your latest articles, etc.
  • Client logos (sometimes): If you worked for some recognizable names, they may tell your prospects what niche you are in (for example, if you are a copywriter) or the size of the projects you handle (for example, if you are a web design agency).

Ok, enough theory. Let’s see how it works in real life.

What should you do to make a business message clear: A real-life example

I have this habit of going through the email addresses of my subscribers.

If you’ve subscribed with your business email, I’ll check out your website to see who you are and what your struggles may be.

If you are lucky (or unlucky, depends on how you look at it) your website will get featured in one of my articles.

Like in this article, where I took a websites of one of my subscribers (hi there, Thomas!) and used it as a real-life “don’t do it like this” example.

But along with some criticism, I’ll also show you how all the theory we just went through works in real life.

Ok, let’s transform a messy homepage into a flagship of a business with a crystal clear message, shall we?

A small business website with a messed-up business message

Here’s how the website of fitness-gareis.de currently looks like (except that I’ve translated the copy from German to English):

A homepage with a messy business message: Real-life example
Fitness center? Doctors? A diet program? Hard to tell.

Now, I dare you to figure out within 5 seconds what it is that they do exactly, for whom, and how big their company is.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Time’s up!

So, what are they?

Fitness center? Doctors? A diet program?

Hard to tell.

Sure, there are some potential clues like “fitness”, “lose weight”, “Nordic walking”, “vitamin D deficiency”. But there is no way in hell you can put these puzzle pieces together to get an unambiguous business message.

On a side note: You don’t want your prospects to puzzle anything together to figure out your business message under no circumstances. They won’t bother and will simply leave your website.

What’s wrong with this page?

Many, many things. To name the ones that impact the clarity of a business message:

  • The copy contains too many useless words.
  • “Welcome to Fitness-Gareis®! We are pleased that you are interested in our nutrition and sports concept.”

    You don’t say!

  • …and only a few that tell us anything concrete.
  • The design of the page also doesn’t make the company appear trustworthy.
    • The headings use a font that is too large and the line height that is too small, and are too wordy.
    • The subsections are too small (A one-sentence subsection? Really?)
    • The body font is too small to easily read it.
    • The links are not visually prominent and use a font color that makes the eyes hurt even more.
    • The footer is non-existent.

But the good thing about websites is that it’s always fixable.

Improved page copy and structure that communicates a clear message

I had to check out 2 more pages of their website to finally find out what Fitness Gareis actually does.

Fitness Gareis is a firm of two nutrition and fitness consultants who provide courses and consulting for companies and individuals. You can also hire them to deliver presentations or to fix the menu in your company’s Cafeteria.

I know! Who could have thought?

With this in mind, here’s how I would make their business message clear.

Note: I haven’t spoken to the folks of Fitness Gareis and can only speculate about their target audience and business goals – information that is essential to creating an effective homepage. So the copy and/or the structure of the homepage may be not ideal. Yet, this version of the homepage does a much better job in providing a clear business message already.

A homepage with a clear business message

Why is the business message clear now?

First thing you learn on their homepage: What Fitness Gareis does and for whom. (If you, like me, thought it was a fitness company, now you don’t think it anymore).

If you decide to learn more, you can easily find their services or dive into the details on courses and books using clear menu labels in the navigation.

If you decide to scroll down the page, you’ll immediately learn that they are a small business of 2 certified consultants where at least one person is a speaker (which implies that they also do presentations). They seem friendly and approachable.

After that, you learn that they offer at least one course, presentations and individual consulting. You also learn that they work with private as well as corporate clients, and whether their services are in your price range.

The footer looks nicely organized now. It seems like the people from Fitness Gareis are taking this seriously.

Overall, the page is divided into scannable sections and is easy to process and understand.

Bonus:

Although client testimonials and client logos don’t contribute to the business message directly, they are a must when it comes to supporting their claims. Otherwise, how should their prospects know that their method / product / service is the real deal?

Happy clients mean you can trust their method to work and them to do a good job. And if you know some of these companies, you’ll trust Fitness Gareis even more.

Plus, the homepage now has something that every effective homepage must have: Visually prominent CTAs.

Although they don’t contribute to the business message directly, they provide a clear guidance for the website visitors offering them hard-to-miss possibilities to take action – to learn more about certain things or contact the fine people from Fitness Gareis right away.

More words? Yes.

Longer page? Yes.

Crystal clear business message? You bet!

What should you do to make your business message clear: To summarize

  1. In the header of your homepage, tell your visitors who you are, what you do and for whom in clear terms avoiding jargon and superlatives.
  2. Make sure all of your copy is customer-focused and use “you/yours” more often than “we/ours”.
  3. Make the labels of your navigation clear and succinct. If you can, add specific navigation labels that help your visitors understand what you do. For example:
    • Courses
    • Pricing
    • Website review
  4. Divide the rest of your page in scannable sections providing more important information in the sections closer to the top of the page.
  5. If you are a solopreneur or a small business, include the photo of yourself or the members of your team.
  6. Make sure all images you use contribute to your business message and not just occupy space.
  7. Feature all or selected services on your homepage briefly stating what you offer and providing CTA buttons for your website visitors to learn more.
  8. If you worked for the clients famous in your niche, featuring their logos on your homepage will help your prospects understand what niche you are in and how big the projects you take are.
  9. If you have a blog, feature your latest posts.
  10. Make sure your footer contains the links to your main pages and featured services and/or products.
  11. Make sure your web design doesn’t destroy the clarity of your message and avoid:
    • Visual clutter
    • Misaligned elements
    • Elements that move by themselves (carousels, incrementing numbers, etc.)
    • Poor content formatting
    • Highlighting unimportant suff
    • Not highlighting important stuff
    • Elements that move by themselves
    • Annoying pop-ups, etc.

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