Three ways to prove to your customers that your firm is an ongoing, viable concern

[Update, January 27, 2021: a July 2020 study from Demand Gen Report explains WHY up-to-date content is important. I addressed that study in this post.]

When a customer is looking for a business to provide products and/or services, the customer would probably prefer to deal with a business that is not bankrupt.

Now I haven’t conducted specific surveys on this topic. This is just a wild hunch that I have. (As the meme says, prove me wrong.)

The search for viable businesses also applies in B2B relationships also, or businesses that provide services to businesses. Bredemarket, of course, provides marketing and writing services to businesses, and I’d be wasting my time if I pursued businesses that no longer existed.

What if your business IS still an active business, but just LOOKS like it no longer exists?

I’m going to list a few things that I check out, either when Bredemarket is looking at selling something to potential clients, or when I as a potential customer want to buy something. If you’re a business owner, here is a three question checklist to ask yourself when you look at your website and your social media channels.

  1. Make sure your business website still exists.
  2. Make sure the business website and social media channels have current content.
  3. Get the copyright date right.

After looking at these three items in the checklist, I’ll then have a few more comments on the SECOND of these three items, current (NOT outdated) content, because this is the one for which Bredemarket (or another consultant, or perhaps one of your own employees) can have the most impact.

Checklist Item 1: Make sure your business website still exists

This sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ll say it anyway. If a business website no longer exists, either the business is bankrupt, or the business has changed its marketing and forgot to take care of a loose end or two.

Just today I was surveying local businesses in a particular industry, and I ran across the Google listing for a particular business. The business was highly rated in Google reviews, so I checked out the business a little more. In the process of checking out the business, I found its Yelp page, which had one negative review (and an explanatory reply from the business owner). I also found a social media page for the business, which included a post about the company’s brand new location and how wonderful it was.

But in between checking out the Google listing and the Yelp page, I happened to check the business’ own website. This website was prominently mentioned on Google, Yelp, and the social media channel. And when I followed the link to that website, I saw this.

Now I’m going to give the business the benefit of the doubt and assume that the business DIDN’T send unsolicited commercial email, violate copyright, or used fraudulent credit cards. (If it did, the business owner is in REAL trouble right now.)

I’m just going to assume that the company didn’t pay its web hosting bill.

Why am I assuming this? Because after I visited the web page, I looked at the Google listing again, and took a more careful look at the other content that I found on Yelp and the social media channel. When doing so, I noticed that no reviews or other content had been posted about the business in more than a year. (See the second item on the checklist, below.) So my guess is that the business is no more.

Now, of course it’s possible that the business is still operating in a minimal way, without a website. (If I felt like it, I could drive by the new location advertised on its social media channel and see what’s there.) Or perhaps the business created a new website with a different URL and never closed the old one.

But do people really want to do business with a company that doesn’t pay its bills?

Checklist Item 2: Make sure the business website and social media channels have current content

Lack of current content is something that troubles bankrupt companies and ongoing companies alike. Ever since I started Bredemarket, I’ve dealt with several companies that are facing a “dated content” problem. Now I know that these companies aren’t bankrupt, and are in fact bringing in revenue; it’s just that their content is outdated.

What usually happens, in small and large companies alike, is that an effort is made at some point to “spruce up” the content of a website and/or its social media channels. Perhaps an employee is assigned to this task, or perhaps a consultant does it. (I’ve done both.) A heroic effort is undertaken, and a bunch of new content is produced, impressing the company heads and the company’s clients.

But then…things happen, and next thing you know your online channels have content that is three years old…or ten years old.

Or if the exact year of the content isn’t explicitly identified, there are clues within the content itself as to its age, such as “Our product is now supported on Windows 7.”

What are the ramifications of dated content? Visitors begin to wonder why there isn’t any new content.

  • Perhaps the company went bankrupt; see my first checklist item, above.
  • Perhaps the company is still a going concern, but hasn’t done anything in the last few years. Maybe that great customer reference from three years ago was the last new customer that the company got, or maybe that great presentation from several years ago was the last time the company presented anything.
  • Perhaps the company has continued to do business, but its more recent business isn’t as impressive as its previous business.
  • The most positive explanation is that the company HAS done amazing things in the last few years, but hasn’t taken the time to tell the story of its most recent accomplishments. (TL;DR: I can help.)

Now I don’t always eat my own wildebeest food myself in this regard. I’ve previously noted that my Empoprise-NTN blog isn’t updated regularly; in fact, it has only had one update in the last five years. (And no, I can’t really use COVID as an excuse.)

If you’re a business owner, ask yourself: do you want your business social media channels to look as outdated as the Empoprise-NTN blog? I don’t think you do.

Checklist Item 3: Get the copyright date right

This is a simple little thing, but it can stick out when it’s not fixed.

Now I’m writing this in January of a new year, so I’ll cut a little bit of slack here for companies with a “Copyright © 2020” notice on their web pages that hasn’t been updated to 2021 yet.

But if your website still says “Copyright © 2019,” fix it. Now.

Incidentally, I found a site that says “Copyright © 1996-2019” at the top of the page, and “Copyright © 2021” at the bottom of the page. Confusing.

But let’s get back to Checklist Item 2

Outdated copyright notices are more of a nuisance than anything else, and if your company has already gone bankrupt there isn’t much that can be done.

Outdated content is something that a company CAN remedy. And it’s something that the company SHOULD remedy.

Neil Patel provides one practical reason for removing outdated content:

The more low-quality content you have on your site, the less authoritative you’ll look to Google, and the harder it will be to rank.

But that’s just Google. Google and Bing are important, but perhaps not as important as real people.

Hugh Duffy wonders how those real people react to outdated content.

An outdated site makes your firm seem behind the times. These days, that can be cause for potential clients to steer clear. They think if you’re not updating your site, there may be other aspects of your business left unattended.

You don’t want your dated website to cause Google to question it, and you certainly don’t want your dated website to cause living breathing people to question it.

So fix the content in the website and the social media channels!

To fix an outdated content issue, you just have to ask yourself a few questions.

  • What do you want your online channels to say (the message)?
  • What recent examples can you cite in your online channels that support your desired message?
  • Who knows about these recent examples? (The account manager? The program manager? The customer?)
  • Who can talk to these subject matter experts (SMEs) and convert the examples into the proper messaging?

Now of course the step of eliciting the correct information from the SMEs and finalizing a written message has its own sub-process. For example, here’s the process that Bredemarket uses when working with a client to produce written text of approximately 2800 to 3200 words, such as the content for a white paper.

  • Agree upon topic (and, if necessary, outline) with client.
  • Client provides relevant technical details.
  • Bredemarket conducts any necessary research and provides the first review copy within seven (7) calendar days.
  • Client provides changes and any additional requested detail within seven (7) calendar days.
  • Bredemarket provides the second review copy within seven (7) calendar days.
  • Client provides changes and any requested detail within seven (7) calendar days.
  • Bredemarket provides the third review copy within seven (7) calendar days.
  • Client prepares the final formatted copy and provides any post-formatting comments within seven (7) calendar days.
  • Bredemarket provides the final version within seven (7) calendar days.

(By the way, these times are maximum times. For the white papers that I have written, both the client and I have provided our deliverables in less than seven days, and we didn’t need all of the review cycles. Better preparation up-front minimizes the need to fix things at the end.)

A similar (but simpler) process is used for shorter Bredemarket writing projects of approximately 400 to 600 words, such as blog posts or LinkedIn posts.

Regardless of the process(es) that I use, or that another consultant uses, or perhaps one of your employees uses, the goal is to create written text that meets your company’s needs.

And if you have an outdated content problem and need a consultant to help you fix it, contact me.

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