By Matt Baron, Founder, Inside Edge: Public Relations & Media Services
Of all the utterances in the online marketing world, few breed more false hope or ring more hollow than that all-too-common sight on websites. The “coming soon” claim—yes, sometimes the pledge is subdued without the exclamation mark—litters countless pages on the Internet.
Would-be testimonials, would-be news articles and would-be communication spanning the gamut of topics are touted as being on the brink of appearing some sweet (and conspicuously unspecified) day.
Just yesterday, meeting with a prospective client who works in a high-tech field, we zipped through a respectable-enough website that covered plenty of the usual bases. What his company does, how they do it, some of the people on his team, and beautiful photos of his firm’s work—all of those elements were present and accounted for.
Then we clicked on the “Case Studies” tab to find a page bearing only the “Coming Soon” declaration. It has been there for a few years now, which hardly puts it in exclusive company. When people slap a “coming soon” on their website, often what it really means is “No clue when we will get around to this. Your guess as good as ours.” or “We know we should have this information here, but we haven’t gotten around to organizing it yet.”
In short, it’s not coming soon at all.
Given enough stagnation, anyone associated with the organization starts to avert their gaze from the page and focus on those pages that actually deliver helpful content. Alas, to the discerning site visitor—your prospective clients or advocates, frequently—the “coming soon” page’s continued existence undermines the value of those functional pages. It becomes the cyber version of the unfinished project in your home that you can’t bring yourself to starting—so you just keep the door to that room closed instead.
Having helped clients navigate the creation, re-tooling and reinvention of websites for the past decade, and having overseen a half-dozen updates and improvements to my own company’s website since 2001, there is clearly a better way. There are three better ways, to be exact, and they are listed below in the order of their desirability as a solution:
1. Fill that page with the long-promised content.
Draw a line and stop beating yourself up for not having done anything with the page for so long. Or maybe you are not self-recriminating, but self-justifying. You use “perfectionism” as a cover for your procrastinating tendencies. Whatever the story is that you tell yourself and others, stop waiting till “all your ducks are in a row” to create the content of your dreams.
Just get the job done. Do it well, of course, but there’s no need to turn this into an agonizing assignment along the lines of some doctoral dissertation. Most of the time, taking this step takes less than 10 hours; sometimes, it’s a mini-project you can pull together in only a few hours. Every time, you will gape in wonder at how long it took you to tie up this loose end.
2. Get at least partway done.
Before you shriek in horror at the gall of doing a fraction of a task, remember the saying about how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.
If you are not prepared to wrap up the job any time soon, then the solution is not to keep putting it off entirely. Get started and begin filling the page with useful content, even if it doesn’t go as far as you (or even your site visitors) know that you should go.
By seeing the page progress before your eyes, you can feel mounting momentum and get motivated to keep building on that initial phase, bringing you closer to that ideal of completion. And it sure beats tolerating the continued existence of that dreaded elephant (complete with “coming soon” painted along its trunk) in the room.
3. Remove the page entirely.
While this is the least desirable of the three alternatives, by removing the page you are making a statement of honesty and integrity not only to your audience, but to yourself.
“No, the information isn’t coming soon,” you are implicitly stating, “and we’re not going to insult your intelligence by pretending that it is.”
If you are unwilling to entertain this step right away—and neither the partway or entire creation of content is on your horizon—then set a reasonably short-term deadline for taking some active step. I would suggest you pick a date between one week and one month in the future, and hold yourself accountable to that target.
If you do remove a page altogether, that certainly does not mean it’s gone forever. Generate the material you need off-line, without the mocking pressure of that “coming soon” lurking in the background, and then move decisively and finally by re-establishing the page in all of its full-fledged glory.
For more than 20 years, Matt Baron, founder of Chicago-based Inside Edge: Public Relations & Media Services, was a staff and freelance reporter for small-town weeklies, big-city dailies and national magazines. His past Daily ‘Dog contributions range from “Crisis PR Isn’t Black and White” (May 2008) to “Sticking Up for the Client, Sticking Up for the Story.” (October 2013).