Yesterday I received an email from a company inviting me to “Check out their new website!”. The email went on to sing its praises and highlight all its cool features. But the question I want to ask, was this the beginning or the end of the process. A process that usually starts with the phrase:
"Our website is looking tired. I think it needs a refresh".
The conversation then moves on to the design & functionality of the site and the process of finding a web designer to build it. And then continues:
- The design is agreed
- The site is built and tested
- The site is launched with a fanfare
Then its back to business as usual. The web development company’s job is done. Whilst this process is valid up to a point, and invariably results in a good website, In my opinion it misses the point, and ignores one key fact.
A website has one function - It is a marketing tool
With this in mind, the process above is missing a number of key steps, and should run as follows “Our website is getting in the way of our marketing efforts” This leads to the following process:
- Agree your marketing objectives, and how the website should support these
- Agree on design/functionality
- Build and test the site
- Develop your marketing plan to incorporate opportunities delivered by the new website
- Launch the site with a fanfare
- Roll out the marketing initiatives on the back of the new site
- Monitor/Measure and adjust activities based on results
- Tweak the site in light of this activity
- etc – on into the future
In other words, the building & launching of the site should simply be another step in the marketing process. In reality however, often the only nod to marketing tends to be “The site should be SEO friendly & keyword optimised” or “lets include a blog/news feed”, which in reality is never used past the first couple of months.
So What makes a website a good marketing tool
I should say at this point, that I am taking the following as givens:
- A professional look appropriate to your market
- A well built site with as few bugs as possible/no half finished pages
- A “Search Engine Friendly” site
Over and above that to be a good marketing tool your site should also be:
The fact is that things change. Your priorities & requirements one year on will not be exactly the same as they were when the site goes live. It’s important that a website can accommodate these changes in priorities allowing it to continue to support activities into the long term. This is one of the key reasons we use WordPress as our website platform of choice. The massive user base & development community ensures that new features are regularly being developed, and are usually inexpensive & simple to implement. Meaning that when you have that great marketing idea. the chances are that you will be able to develop the site to accommodate your ideas.
Easy to Update
Today, content is at the heart of Marketing, and is certainly at the heart of our support for clients. Thus your site should be able to accommodate ever changing & developing website content – Content that tells your story, and proves your value. Whether you are updating the content yourselves, or working with a marketing/PR partner to deliver it, adding the content to your site should be a simple process.
Whilst it is impossible to fully future proof any website, making sure it is being continually developed and easy to update is key. Technologies and security requirements change, and it is important that your website can be updated to accommodate these changes without rebuilding it every couple of years. Again one of the key reasons we use WordPress – Keeping it up to date is a simple process.
So is your website an end or a means?
Hopefully you are now of the opinion that developing a website is not an end in its self. It is a means of easily communication your marketing message in a sustainable & controlled fashion. So as the old wisdom goes, It’s not what you’ve built it’s what you do with it that counts.