July 13, 2018
Most of us are. The digital member of your team needs care and attention just like any other employee.
I have been working in digital (strategy, brand, design & marketing) for over 13 years and during that time I have witnessed; the sharp rise of social media, Google’s absolute dominance over search, the advance of mobile technology and the explosion of internet based marketing activity. There is, however, one particular aspect of digital, over the years, that hasn’t increased at the level it should have; how businesses value their own website. It has surprised me how much - across all industries - businesses neglect their most loyal and cost-effective employee, their website!
So, why do so many business people undervalue their website? I believe the problem stems from the fact that digital, in general, despite having been around a while now, is still quite new to so many of us. Technology is ever changing and keeping on top of that as a business is a challenge. However, it is a challenge that should be embraced and not ignored. Too many traditional businesses still haven't undertaken a real digital strategy. Here are a few of the common excuses:
‘We haven’t needed it before, so why do we need it now?’
‘I don’t understand it and I never will, so I won’t bother’
‘We are a face to face business and a website is so impersonal’
‘Social media does the job for us, we don’t need a website as well’
Prepare for a smidge of generalisation…
Marketing decision makers still don’t understand the power of a strategic and well-funded digital presence. It all starts with understanding the purpose of your website. Why does it exist? There are three types of website: A branding website, a marketing website and an ecommerce website. If you want to know more about these three types then click here. Once you know the purpose of the website, you have your starting point. Most websites are marketing websites. They exist to generate leads for your business. With this type of website, you want prospective customers to find you and contact you about your product/service. Imagine if a website did this job really well? The potential is huge but still undervalued by many. In today's world, if you were to employ a new sales person for your business, what costs would you expect to get the right person in and firing on all cylinders?
Let’s take a look. You would likely spend a good amount of money on recruitment and training, and of course, the ongoing costs of expenses and salary. Employing a salesperson is an exercise that most businesses have experienced to some extent. The expectations of employing a salesperson and the accompanying costs have been formed over years of operating in a traditional business world. It has become the norm; the status quo. Now that we are in a new world of digital, decision makers are still coming to terms with technology and its potential. This means that there is a lack of knowledge and therefore technology, like a website, is undervalued.
In all fairness, the SEO/Web/Digital industry has had a reputation issue to deal with over the decade or so; due to so many quick fix, bandwagon, fly-by-nights trying to scam businesses. Many decision makers have had their fingers singed in the process. It's up to people like myself to put that right. We have to work hard to gain the trust back. The days of taking out an advert in the Yellow pages to support a knocking-door-cold-calling salesman in a suit with a company car are slowly fading away.
To reiterate, a website is just a like an employee, it needs care and attention. It needs to be valued and supported in order for it to produce value for you. When deciding how much to spend on your website, you need to consider what a salesperson would cost your business on an ongoing basis. Often, marketers look at a website as a one-off project and don't budget any ongoing funds. They think that once the site is up and running, the job is complete. This kind of perspective ends up in a website that quickly goes out of date, doesn't reach the desired audience and ends up in very few conversions/leads. Hence why so many undervalue its potential. If you view your website as a one-off project and expect it to produce results from that one-off project, it will likely create you problems rather than solving them. You must view your website as an ongoing venture. You must consistently fund and support your website so it can do its job. The initial outlay/setup and then the ongoing funds that should match that of a real life employee. I think, because some people haven't witnessed what a successful website can achieve, they don't believe it can make a big difference to their business. If you get your internal systems working right, your website will not only perform the role of a successful salesperson and generate valuable leads, it will transform your business.
I have witnessed websites generating revenue at a level a human salesperson could not even dream of. Why? A website works 24/7 and doesn't need sleep. It doesn’t take 30 days annual leave, paternity/maternity leave, lunch breaks, visits to the toilet, it doesn't require national insurance contributions, weekends off, big salaries and it certainly won’t rub its colleagues up the wrong way. The only thing it requires are tools and funding to allow it to do its job. A website without consistent funding, analysis and marketing activity is like employing a gardener and telling him to cut the grass with his fingers. I must stress, I value human interaction in business. In fact, probably too much. A huge part of a successful website is often the human interaction that takes place on the back of the website lead generation. Think of your website like a salesperson that is passing leads to the in-house service delivery team.