3 ways to turn your website into a digital powerhouse
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The Internet is no longer what it used to be. In the early 2000s, most websites were little more than static branded “billboards” on the “information highway.” And there was nothing wrong with that. This approach has allowed companies to reach more people with basic information. But there was an appetite for more from customers, and some companies started to be more ambitious, reaping competitive advantages.
As simple brand assets evolved into content publications, websites became more interactive and began to offer richer multimedia experiences. Blogs, flash apps, comment pages and downloadable resources became mainstream tactics – driving engagement and generating leads, but again, innovators who continued to push the boundaries enjoyed outsized rewards.
Today, with 70% or more of a buyer’s journey take place online and digital channels dominate the overall customer experience, well-designed modern websites are customer journey accelerators and funnel-filling powerhouses. But even with the full potential of digital experiences, many businesses still fail to get the most out of the web. You can attribute it to competing priorities, internal silos, a lack of agreement on site strategy and potential, or countless other reasons.
What we know: Websites are the marketing tool best equipped to respond immediately to changing customer needs. They can also be a major obstacle if they are outdated or out of step with your overall business strategy.
Getting buy-in from the C-suite and critical stakeholders around your strategy, management, and execution can put all business goals — from marketing to downside — on the same page. It’s the only way to get the results businesses need to win in today’s market. Here’s how.
Make your point: Companies that don’t innovate get left behind
What does original thinking do for you when it comes to marketing your website? Take data storage company Qumulo, for example. Its digital marketing team completely changed the company’s web strategy to introduce continuous experimentation and iteration on digital campaigns. This approach has generated over 1400% growth in first page keyword rankings, 300% growth in organic traffic, and 400% growth in form submissions.
This is just one example of what can happen when digital teams bring an organization together to change their processes, potentially change their tech stack, and start treating the website like a digital product; a living, breathing thing that is constantly evolving. If you don’t, bet that one or more of your competitors do.
Companies that are dragging their feet in digital transformation are missing out. The past two years have forever changed the way we interact with the internet and the number of customers who rely on websites. For example, in February 2020, online conversion rates increased by nearly 9%, reflecting a level of buying urgency typically seen only on Cyber Monday. Industries such as education, publishing, internet and software services, and experienced consulting traffic peaks close to 20% compared to the previous three months.
But were all companies ready to seize this incredible opportunity? Unfortunately no. Too many of them were frozen in time, relying on a static, outdated page to recoup their share of those oversales. It was the wrong bet.
This event is all the more surprising given that the growth opportunities driven by digital transformation are now presenting themselves in all sectors, including healthcare, higher education, food delivery and social defense. In fact, it’s not just businesses that lose out when website innovation is ignored. Nonprofits and higher education institutions can miss growth opportunities without a modern approach to the web.
What are some new ways businesses are responding to this recent surge? For starters, a growing number of companies are investing in software as a service (SaaS), and the industry expects to gain $94.9 billion by this year. Many organizations are also changing the way they think about the purpose of their website, or finally realizing that they need a portfolio strategy so that different parts of their business can take control of their own goals depending on the website.
Everyone’s goal is to transform their site (or sites!) into a growth engine. Smart leaders do this by staying consumer-centric and data-driven: constantly focusing on analytics, collecting customer feedback, finding customer pain points, and more. All of this relates back to the marketing approach, which is articulated with new engagement opportunities. It’s amazing what you can unlock when the web transforms from a drag to a driver of innovation.
Mobilize around a digital marketing strategy that drives growth
A digital marketing strategy with a customer-focused website experience is packed with benefits. And modern web practices will get you there, with faster sprint and release cycles, increased marketing team autonomy, and confidence that nothing will break during deployment.
But it’s not always clear how leaders can use their websites as marketing tools. Here are some actions to take:
1. Bring CIOs and CMOs together.
It’s time for CIOs to get out of the status quo. Specifically, they must see themselves not just as technology leaders, but as business partners who can make a unique and vital contribution to growth. They have the power to deliver new, more effective insights into data management, operations, and reporting. All of this can help create a much more robust web presence.
At the same time, in 2022, CMOs are expected to spend 47% of their budgets to keep up with digital advances. Thus, CIOs and CMOs can and should act in close collaboration, with the former’s team providing the latter’s department with new marketing platforms, guardrails and security to enable it to maximize its budget. This partnership is the foundation of everything else.
2. Treat your website like a digital product.
For websites to address the entire customer journey, they need to deliver the right content for each stage, with the right design and, of course, the right integrations with the rest of your marketing stack. This means that you have to control all these things. Today, far too many marketers can’t publish in real time, have little or no ability to adjust the design, and depend on someone else’s backlog to make functional changes, even minors.
Fix that by first getting alignment on clear “north star” metrics that connect to your growth strategy – usually something around engagement or conversion – and get authority on the customer experience and underlying technology to move the needle on those numbers. This may involve some overhaul, but don’t call it a “relaunch”. Being live is the start of your journey.
Once you’re up and running, the real fun begins. Regularly update your content, experiment with new designs and flows, measure your results, and coordinate with all other activities throughout the customer journey, from ad campaigns to customer support. That’s what it means to treat your website like a digital product.
3. Don’t sleep on social media.
Redesigning your website can happen easily – and it doesn’t matter if there aren’t enough people visiting it. Use your website as a marketing tool must harness the power of social media more than any other form of advertising. This is the means of attracting potential new customers.
Each person on Facebook can make your website known to around 338 friends — the average amount a Facebook user is connected to. That’s an abundance of potential new customers, so be sure to promote your business on these networks and do so often enough. A common model for doing this with content is called POSSE (Publish on Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere) which automates the process of delivering content to multiple social channels. Likewise, paying close attention to social sources in your web analytics setup will help you track how your investments to improve your reach are paying off.
By aligning the attention of IT and marketing within your organization, everyone’s focus is on fresh and engaging content, and by promoting robustly on social media, you can succeed. improve website engagement and use your website as a marketing tool. But start now before your competition defeats you.
Josh Koenig is Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Pantheon
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