How to Build a Website that Builds Relationships - Heatherstone
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How to Build a Website that Builds Relationships

Success comes from relationships with other people.

It doesn’t so much matter what your definition is of success. It could be gobs of cash. It could be the freedom to not work, but instead travel or hang out with your kids or play video games all day. It could be becoming a household name, or maybe a boardroom name.

My Own Story

I have recently realized I have completed one major life transition. I’m started on another. The tail end of the last transition involved a lot of not working very hard. I describe it as lazy when talking to people about, but that’s just shorthand for something more complex. Instead, I was resting and recovering from difficult times.

For a few years, I was still in business, but I did no marketing. I did no networking. I’ve never done any significant advertising. I was working, but it wasn’t a time of growth, but rather a time of maintenance. I couldn’t have done that without a few great relationships.

My brother, Adam, my parents, and my wife, Nhu, were there for me on a personal level. I would go so far as to say that it was because of them I’m not dead.

Drew at Venture, Jason at Opus, Jared at Sites Realized, Matt and Steve at Grove Printing, and several others kept me “employed.” I had enough work coming in from these existing work relationships to be at least mildly busy and pay my bills. (It didn’t hurt that I moved from Seattle to Las Vegas, where life is far less expensive.)

These are great people. We share mutual respect for what we each do. I am lucky that they were all there with support (and paying work for me to do) during a time when I wasn’t looking around for more. I have recently actively recognized that it is relationships that kept things stable for me.

But Then, Websites

How does all this personal blather, all mushy-sounding relate to websites?

If your business will only be successful with strong relationships, then every part of your business should be helping you build relationships. Building relationships is not exclusively in person, shaking hands, talking, looking others in the eyes. Realistically, there must be some less intense activity, too.

When it’s not the in-person time, we can look at how we communicate with others. Today there are so many ways: phone calls, text messages, social media, greeting cards, and yes, even websites. Websites do communicate, so the question is: how?

I’m not a fan of the writing style around most websites that is impersonal and anonymous. For example, when the About page of a website has nothing about the people, but a generic block of two or three paragraphs about the company’s priding in customer service and commitment to integrity.

The About page should be an introduction to who are the people that make up the company, what they care about, why they are even in that business.

This is usually followed up with further hiding of the people, because the Contact page is only a form and the email address is something like “info@greatco.com”.

If there is a blog, it has no personality and the information is forgettable. I’ve seen websites for many home inspectors, for example. I couldn’t tell you a thing about what I’ve read on their blogs, except that maybe there was stuff about checklists or changing air filters or something. Maybe that was a handyman site, now that I think about it.

Rocky Banks, a home inspector with Pillar to Post, years ago told a story to a networking group about how a homeowner added a skylight to his bathroom. He had sawn through a couple of boards in the way so it would fit. These were load-bearing beams that were part of the roof. That was far more memorable!

Sharing that story presented Rocky’s humanity to us. Sure, he was talking about his work, but there was humor and humanity in it, too. Everyone that needs a home inspector couldn’t be in the room to hear his stories, that and others. A website is a perfectly reasonable place to share.

Social media is so much easier for people to use for just this reason. It’s about telling stories and sharing. Somewhere along the way, most people decided the website is supposed to be something else.

I’m saying it’s not as different as you think. Here’s an analogy: the retail store versus the convention booth. Your website is like a retail store. The owner oversees everything. The look, the placement of racks, the signage, the employee dress code, all of it.

The Web vs Social Media

At a convention booth, the same company has a slice of that, but in an environment where someone else defines the overall setting. There are more booths on every side, all vying for attention, too. The convention booth is a great way to start relationships, meet people. The retail store is where the long-term, stable connection is made.
Use these together, but with consideration about how each one fits in the bigger picture.

Think about your website like you would a retail store, not like another billboard. Think of it as a place where you continue to build relationships, where your customers can better get to know you (and ideally, where you get to know them, too.)

Image by JD Hancock

Aaron Overton
overton@heatherstone.com
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