We met one of our customers last week who, faced with a whopping 30% cut in their marketing budget, moved more of their spend into digital. A year later, 42% of their customers are from their website and despite the slash in marketing spend, they have 5% more customers than a year ago.
This customer has a particularly rational, sane approach to their digital marketing – do you? Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – pretty obvious really, but also an easy thing to slip into when it comes to your own website. We meet lots of people who have invested time and money in their websites, only to be disappointed about their ability to generate business from them and sometimes this is still the case, two or three website iterations down the line.
There can be lots of reasons for this, but one of them is website insanity - taking the same approach each time and expecting different results. The joy of the web is that you can test and change things to see what works. When businesses join the dots between their objectives, technology and customer is when the world of digital really starts to open up.
To do this for your organisation, you need to have answers to three fundamental questions . . .
Q1: What are you trying to achieve online?
This is one of those questions that seems really obvious, but it’s amazing how few companies are really clear about the link between their business objectives and their website. What do you want: more sales, enquiries, interest in your product or service, brand awareness? And how does this link to your brand values and what you are about?
It should be part of the website development brief because the more tightly you can define what you want to achieve and how you are going to measure it, the more in control you are going to be of your website’s success. By defining both big and small goals for your website based on your business objectives you can create compelling calls to action and add measures of success using Google Analytics.
This article from Avinash Kaushik provides an invaluable explanation on translating business objectives into measurable goals and targets.
Q2: What do you actually need?
When you are clear about what you want to do online, then it’s easier to find the right technical solution. This is both more and less of an issue than when we started Noisy Little Monkey five years ago. People are much more aware now of the necessity of having a site that is search friendly, but the competition has increased significantly as has the sophistication of Google’s search algorithms.
As the absolute minimum a successful website needs to give you control over the content, be search engine friendly and optimised around the search terms that your customers actually use. It needs content that explains clearly and concisely what you do and why people should buy from you, written in a way that is clear to both search engines and people. It needs to explain how your product or service is the answer to your customers’ needs underlined by signals indicating trust and credibility. Design is important, as is a fast website load time, reliable hosting and efficient coding.
This does not need to be expensive.
For some companies it is perfectly reasonable to have a website that is simply a ‘brochure’ site that exists simply as a web presence for anyone that searches for the company name. For most companies however it’s not just a case of building a website and expecting people to find it, the website must be part of a broader marketing strategy. How are you going to publicise the site and drive traffic to it? It could be the niche nature of your product or service, your off-line promotional activity, networking (in the real world or LinkedIn), social media like Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest or even pay per click advertising. The greater the level of competition within your niche, the more important it is to think about how you will build traffic to your website.
By putting your website into a broader context you are maximising its chance of success, but critically, by measuring your traffic sources against your success measures you’ll know which ones give you the best results and therefore where to invest precious time and money.
Our blog has got some great resources on specifying websites (Don’t let a cheap website ruin your business) and making them search friendly (SEO isn't rocket science). I found this article on the 5 Principles of Persuasive Web Design from ConversionXL particularly useful.
Q3: How are you going to improve it?
Getting through the last few weeks before a website launches can seem like a massive struggle but the launch is just the beginning. If you have measures for success in place and a strategy to drive visitors to the site, then you can start to improve the site so that it better meets your business objectives.
This is where having tightly defined success measures really comes into their own. It’s so much easier to look at what improves your sales conversions if you have defined success by things like completed enquiry forms, newsletter sign ups, visits to the blog or ecommerce sales. You can test new content, paid advertising or different messages on your social media to see what drives traffic to your site and test the effectiveness of landing pages and calls to action to see how you can influence visitor behaviour once they are on the website.
This stage of your website development is the most overlooked, but this is where you can really connect with your customers, ensuring your website meets their needs throughout their decision making process. It’s the stage that is the difference between a sane and insane way of spending your digital marketing budget.
I was going to write a whole post on the importance of ensuring you have budget for this critical post-launch phase, but conversionxl have done a much better job than I could ever do – it’s worth clicking the link for the blog title alone! They argue that any website budget must account for both the initial web design and the time to optimise the site for at least 12 months after launch.
So how did our customer manage to get more business with less marketing spend? They focused on a small number of key business objectives on their website ensuring the calls to action reflected the hierarchy of importance. They created an Adwords and email marketing strategy to drive traffic to the website and then have actively improved the site’s landing pages and content.
We are really excited as we think they can do even better in the year ahead by stripping back the complexity of the website and becoming an even better customer resource. Watch this space.