When an organization or business shuts down, there’s always some confusion. Why? What happened? Where are they going? What do we do now?
You can leave it all to the press to tell your fans the news, the papers will report it anyway. But you absolutely must make your own public statement. Your biggest fans want answers straight from the horse’s mouth. They’ll go looking at your website. What should your website site say if the business is closed?
Let’s take a lesson from 2016’s former candidates for president.
For politicians, or any public figure, the website is the hub for their personal brand. After seeing the TV commercial or the handout, voters get online. Like small business web designs, these candidate sites are where people go to check out the story and decide if they’re going to trust the face on the homepage.
I’ve picked out the websites of several former candidates below for the unique lesson each one teaches about saying goodbye with grace, style and strategy.
Say Thank You
It’s so hard to say goodbye. So don’t. Tell your visitors, customers and die-hard fans you love them, you couldn’t have done it without them. Include a nice picture for visual interest. Mr. Cruz is no looker, but his post-campaign website does everything right. It starts with a video.
Cruz’s web team put the video of his speech high up on his post-campaign website. Not everyone will have caught the speech live and news outlets will only use sound bites. So, Cruz puts the video of the whole speech for fans to watch at home and grimace or sob, whichever suits them.
The next thing? Write a brief note. The Cruz website is actually gorgeous in its grief and simultaneous uplift. A personal note with Ted’s signature is superimposed over a vibrant shot of he and his family on stage at a rally. It all suggests an attitude of “we lost today, but we’ll be back soon.”
I think the end result is that Cruz fans feel respected, well-informed and most importantly, ready to jump in for Cruz in his next venture.
Remove All Your Pages
The other thing to note about Mr. Cruz? You can’t reach his old web pages from the “Thank You” page. A lesson John Kasich could use.
Mr. Kasich’s post-campaign splash page is fine. It’s not pretty. It hits the high spots. Ooh, he said thank you! Aww, that friendly, fun family portrait! Ooh, that thank you note is a little too much, Cruz’s sign-off was better but Kasich is still great!
Wait, “Continue to Homepage”? I guess I’ll click that. Maybe there’s more cute pictures. Nope, it’s “Join Team Kasich”. But isn’t the campaign over? Now I’m just sad.
When you close your website, make sure to remove old pages or redirect visitors to new ones. Don’t leave old information lingering out there to confuse people about your status. And for goodness sake, when you make your last call to action, make it count. Kasich wastes a golden opportunity by closing his splash page with a link to look at outdated, irrelevant info.
Even if you leave the campaign trail, you’ve still got fans out there. This can’t be goodbye, can it? Your fans cry out from their laptops, “Dear Leader, what shall we do?” Conclude your page with one last command for your comrades.
Goonies Never Say Die
The Iowa Caucus is a defining moment in America’s presidential race. Candidates often decide whether to press on or drop out after the results come in. Democrat Martin O’Malley dropped out.
But he still needs your email address.
The 2016 race solidified around Trump and Clinton in early May. O’Malley left the trail in February. But his post-campaign site still presses visitors for their email, right after Thank You for Your Support. And that big DONATE NOW button works just fine. Why?
Because O’Malley’s going strong. Just not going for president. He’s got years of leadership ahead and you might be contacted again to support those future endeavors. Not to mention the fact that O’Malley for President will gladly take your money (maybe for 2020!).
What’s important is that the campaign’s made it clear there’s still work to do. O’Malley’s still out there and he’d like to keep in touch. Most of the other former candidates do the same, inviting folks to keep watching, same Bat channel.
With a few regular emails to maintain contact with those valuable fans, these former candidates will have a ready-made fan base the next time they campaign.
Keep It Up or Cancel It
Let’s say you’re not campaigning again any time soon. What next?
You can cancel everything. No sense keeping that site if you’re retiring to live the quiet life. Call your website host and cancel your account. Cancel any related services like Paypal, Formstack, or Dropbox. But keep your domain! It’s cheap to maintain your registration and you don’t want a stranger buying your name and making their own website.
If you’re not gonna cancel it, keep it up. Maintain what you’ve built. Not like poor marcorubio.com.
Marco, what is this? Good effort bro, but you gotta fix that green button.
Which 2016 presidential candidate is the next to exit and post their Thank Yous? At this point, Hillary or Bernie. Only time will tell. But when they’re ready to close up shop on their campaign and move one, somebody share this post with them.
If you are not ready to shut down your website, maybe you need to refresh yours
Roundpeg is an Indianapolis web design firm.