Building a new web site? Why beauty is only skin deep!

It's time to revisit your web site! Whatever the initial driver it's worth taking a step back and asking "how does my website fit with my overall digital marketing strategy?", which in turn will lead to "what technology could help me meet my marketing objectives?".

CosmeticsMany organisations are waking up to the opportunities of digital marketing, recognising that their web site can be much more than a digital brochure instead becoming part of an active digital lead generation engine.

Despite this recognition I'm quite surprised by the number of organisations that approach us to discuss digital marketing and tell us "we're just developing our new web site, it's almost ready". Often the new website will tick all the visual boxes. It'll be responsive and look really cool. How did they choose the technology to use? There are various reasons including "it's the thing our web developer recommended", "it's what everyone else is using", "our techies liked it".

This is unfortuate. The decision on what technology to use to deliver the most important element of a digital marketing strategy has been made with no consideration of how it will support (or not) that strategy.

So, taking a step back and wearing a marketing hat, how should you think about the technology you're going to use? Here's my two pennyworth:

How engaged are my leads?

Tablet userYour web site is often the primary focus for a content marketing strategy. It's the funnel through which you're marshalling potential customers and the point at which you place a name and company to a previously anonymous visitor. Building your reputation with each individual takes time, most people aren't going to buy on their first visit. How successful is your content? Are people reading your emails? Are they reading your social media posts and coming back to your site?

Google Analytics and similar packages will give you a nice broadbrush picture of the traffic on your site. It'll tell you nothing at all about how engaged your contacts are with your proposition. Your web site should be providing you with invaluable insights into how you're engaing with your audience:

  • Which known contacts are visiting your site?
  • Through which media?
  • Which pages are they reading?
  • Which leads are most engaged?
  • Which previously warm leads are cooling off? Maybe a special offer might bring them back?
  • Which forms are they completing?
  • What resources are they downloading?

This information should be on a per person basis. You should be able to see an overview of lead engagement and then focus in to see exactly how specific people are interacting with your organisation.

Can I easily implement landing pages for campaigns?

A fundamental element in a lead generation engine is, well, getting leads and then growing them. "Landing pages" are a basic building block and fulfils two functions: capturing initial contact details for new leads; building your reputation with exising leads and encouraging them to part with more information.

Questions you should be asking about how your choice of web site techology will support this process:

  1. Where does the form data go? Will it automatically be collected into a lead management system?
  2. Can I vary the fields that are shown depending on the person looking at the page?
  3. Can I skip the form completely for a known contact?

Building your reputation is much easier if you can minimise the barriers to engagement with your contacts. Take a simple and very common example: You've written a high quality white paper that has value to potential leads and existing customers.

You publish a short introductory article with a link through to 'download our white paper'. You might also put this link on social media sites. What happens when someone clicks on the link? Using marketing aware web site technology you could:

  • Encourage new leads to enter their email address in order to download the document
  • Ask known contacts for extra information without repeating data you already have (data augmentation)
  • Skip the form entirely for existing customers

By presenting your landing pages intelligently you pull down the barriers that loose you sales.

How can my web site participate in my automated campaigns

Creating automated campaigns can take some time and a good deal of thought but they can pay huge dividends in terms of time saved later and in keeping leads engaged with minimal effort.

Campaigns are driven by 'events' - things that happen between an individual lead and your organisation. Events can include opening an email; visiting your web site; completing a form; hitting a specific level of engagement or even making a phone call.

To be most effective and to give you the widest range of options when designing your campaign you need your web site to be an active part of your toolkit. Back to the simple white paper example I mentioned earlier. You have a new lead that has taken the bait, completed your data collection form and downloaded the PDF you were offering. What now? Well you will have added them to your email list so they'll get your next bulk email.

Much better is to start a new story for that lead which: waits for a day; sends a 'thank you for downloading our white paper' email; waits another week; sends a link to download a related paper; if they download that paper then create a sales task to phone them.

To do this you need information from your web site. You need to know when a document is downloaded. You need to know when that lead visits your web site. You need to know when they don't visit your web site!

Things to look for:

  • How can my web site interract with my marketing automation stories?
  • What 'events' can I glean from the web site to drive those stories?
  • Can my web site identify when a specific lead visits the web site?
  • Can the web site trigger events when specific pages on the site are visited?

Page speed insights from GoogleHow well does your site perform?

Performance is important! Regardless of how good your content marketing is, if a reader clicks on a link and is faced with a blank or slowly loading site then you'll not get the conversion you want. Research shows that a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. It'll degrade your organic search results and it'll increase the cost of AdWords if you're using those to drive taffic.

Despite this we find many sites with ridiculously poor performance. It's not unusual to find a site downloading many megabytes of data to display a fairly simple page and often taking many seconds to load. The situation is exacerbated on mobile devices with lower download speeds and of course with capped data limits.

Some technologies, while not inherently slow in and of themselves, do seem to lend themselves to slow web sites. This isn't necessarily a problem with the technology but rather the choice of developer to deliver your shiny new site. Many graphic designers are not programmers and while they can deliver stunningly beautiful designs they are often not best suited to implementing those designs. It doesn't matter how beautiful your new site is if no one gets to see it!

BEFORE commissioning that new site

Consider your web site as a component of your overall marketing and lead generation strategy rather than a separate entity. 

Before even thinking about commissioning the site make sure your organisation's digital skills are up to date:

  • If you have marketing resources in-house you might want to consider additional training as a first step. A lot has changed in the last few years!
  • If you don't have in-house marketing resources then consider engaging an external agency that can work with you, either in the short term or as a longer term partner.
  • If you already work with an external marketing agency then review their digital marketing abilities - many marketing agencies are still playing catch-up in the digital world.

When you're ready to commission your new site:

  • Review potential suppliers existing sites with a view to digital marketing. If you don't have the technical skills then ask someone with the right skills to do the appraisal. Pay someone if necessary - it'll be a good investment!
  • You'll find many graphic designers have a 'preferred platform'. These days WordPress is the favourite. It's preferred because that's what they know and not ncessarily what's best for your organisation.
  • Ask them how the solution they are proposing will meet your marketing objectives

Bear in mind that developing a modern web site is no longer a graphic design exercise, it's a multi-disciplinary project involving graphic design, software design and configuration and digital marketing expertise. To get the most from your online marketing make sure you have access to all the relevant skills!

It's never too late... make changes. You haven't shipped a product half way round the world - it's right there under your control. If you're regretting your choice of platform but love the cool design, moving that design to a better equiped marketing platform can be a cost effective option - most of what you'll have paid for will be the graphic designers creativity which can easily be preserved.

If you'd like help understanding your options book a free consultation.

Peter WilsonPeter is the chief architect for the CommsBox™ Integrated Marketing Platform. With over 30 years experience in a variety of R&D and IT positions Peter has worked for both large multi-national organisations and small technology start-ups. Peter founded YellowHawk in 2002 to bring Enterprise class web-applications to the SME market.


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CommsBox was designed by YellowHawk Ltd in response to the needs of some rather large corporate and government clients. But then we realised we had something that small and medium sizes businesses could also use to fuel their growth.

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