THINKPIECE: Give customers a good reason to visit your company Web site or why would they bother?

I was driving down Main Street USA recently when I glanced up at a Papa John's pizza shop sign. Below the deals on pizzas was a common sight these days - the company's corporate Web address.

I was driving down Main Street USA recently when I glanced up at a Papa John's pizza shop sign. Below the deals on pizzas was a common sight these days - the company's corporate Web address.

I was driving down Main Street USA recently when I glanced up at a Papa John's pizza shop sign. Below the deals on pizzas was a common sight these days - the company's corporate Web address.

This stood alone; passers-by were given no reason to visit the site.

Instead the black letters adorned the bottom of the white sign as if they possessed some mystical power simply by being there.

This example highlights a widely held myth among companies. Just slap your address everywhere and you'll get visitors, conventional wisdom seems to hold. But if you don't give consumers a reason to visit your site, they won't.

Instead of simply mentioning it, however, companies need only to pop their addresses in the middle of this simple formula: 'visit our site at' www.yourcompany. com 'to' - and then provide a reason. You don't have to offer free diamonds or weekend stays in the Lincoln bedroom, just a decent reason why they should take three minutes to boot up their computers and punch in your address.

The package of an organic juice drink I bought recently prominently displayed a Web address, but gave no reason to check out the site. If it prompted consumers to log on and learn more about the vegetarian lifestyle, or access free healthy recipes, or even just to learn more about a clearly unique company, it would be converting one-time buyers into regular users like crazy.

Or take Bacardi, which recently launched a TV commercial touting its new light rum. The ad depicts twenty-somethings out for a good time, and the bottom of the screen flashes a Web address. Consumers are given no reason to visit the site. How many club hoppers out to get smashed first stop to research liquor online before hitting the store? The site, by the way, offered a trip to Mardi Gras. Unfortunately a host of drunk party-goers may never know this.

Many companies are using traditional media effectively to draw traffic to their sites. Nike is particularly adept at this and recently ran ads featuring famous athletes involved in bizarre adventures. The commercials built suspense before ending abruptly and encouraging viewers to visit Nike's site to learn the rest of the story.

Diet firm Nutrisystem airs TV commercials inviting customers to visit its site for product discounts and free menu plans. Ameritrade is running clever TV ads depicting businessmen in an airport where viewers actually see the site.

Guess what Papa John's has to offer on its site? Online ordering, for one thing. Plus career and franchise opportunities, nutritional information, discounts and community relations news. But pizza fans in my neighborhood will never know.

Vince Bank directs Internet branding and PR for Top Echelon, the world's largest network of recruiters



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