Retailers and bigger businesses are making their websites work for them by investing in resource and expertise to continue to get the best out of their online presence. From our viewpoint, many SME's are not investing anywhere near enough into their website to get the results they initially expect to receive. There are three main areas where we believe SME's fail with their websites - the scoping process, the use of ongoing marketing expertise and the assignment of appropriate internal power.
The scoping process
I've run many scoping sessions for our clients over the past few years because it's a great time to start thinking about how to run your website once it's launched. The main issue is that as much as we try to educate them, business owners or managers are often not looking far enough ahead. They don't consider how they are going to use their website in the future, and how it forms the basis of a lot of their marketing activities. My advice here is to think at least one year ahead and consider all the marketing activities you may accomplish in this time. How will you use the website to support those activities? Think about email newsletters, news items, expertise pieces, events, landing pages, updating work and skillsets - the list could go on!
Use of ongoing marketing resource
Once your website is built, it's true that you should be able to easily update it yourself. What is not true is that your investment should stop at that point. SEO, as much as it's frequently misunderstood and confused by many, is a powerful tool to get the right traffic to come to your website and convert this to enquiries, sales, or whatever your goals are. PPC can also help, as can email marketing. Not setting aside budget for these is a frequent mistake and leads a lot of SME's to come to conclude a year later that their website 'isn't really working for them' and probably, never has in their view. My advice here is to budget at least 50% of your website build budget for online marketing following its launch. If you can budget nearer 100% that will give decent momentum for the 6-12 months following launch. This of course depends on what kind of site you are and that's based on a standard lead generation b2b site for an existing business. An ecommerce site may need slightly deeper pockets to get off the ground quickly if it's brand new and needs to gain trust.
Assignment of appropriate internal power
This, above all else, is probably the most important part. Very often, the website is assigned to a marketing manager who already has a lot of other projects and responsibilities. This is the correct place for the project, but often it's an area woefully under-resourced. Your site should be given attention almost every day. Whether that's chatting with your agency about the progress of search engine rankings (and if there's anything they need on the site to help), creating new content, keeping an eye on social networks, spreading your website content across these networks, and so on. There's a lot to do to keep a website well maintained and above all, successful. The more likely route unfortunately, is that no extra resource is assigned. The site gets a burst of activity every few months and the company generally sees the new site they loved when it went live, as a failure.
This is not a general attack on SME's. We're an SME ourselves and we have the same challenges as any other business, but we make sure we set our website and team up to be able to win, and to win consistently. If you're about to embark on or launch a new website, and the three tips above make you squirm a tiny bit, now is the time to take action and set your website up to succeed. It is your website after all!