Is your website the responsibility of IT or Marketing – and how do you decide?

It is mid 2013 now and this is a question that still seems to be unresolved in many business owner’s minds. Of course there are technical aspects to the hosting and setting up of websites, but the purpose of most websites is not to make the IT department’s job easier (or even to give them something to do), it is to make sales and marketing easier.

Your website is there to communicate with the wider world about products and services that are available from your business and, if possible, to directly and immediately sell those goods and services. When was the last time you asked your IT manager to go and sell some of your goods or services?

IT manager checklist Let’s take that one step further. Imagine calling your IT Manager into your office now, handing him some brochures and then telling him that from now on it is his responsibility to promote your goods and services and he should now get on with it.

Now imagine his face when you say that. What happens next do you think: an angry response, a resignation, or possibly worst of all – perhaps he trundles off to ‘get on with it’?

Surprisingly enough, being an expert on Active Directory, user group security policies, or configuring of sub nets does not necessarily mean you will be good at web page design, writing good copy, or presenting information about your business’s goods and services in the most positive light.

In fact the opposite is often true. The studious technical nature of good IT management does not usually come with an outgoing nature that is naturally good with people. Frankly, you will usually find that IT managers manage IT because they enjoy the exacting technical nature of the work and, had they wanted to get into sales, they would be selling IT now not looking after your network.

So why would anyone give a sales and marketing job to an IT expert?  The answer is, of course, that they wouldn’t. At least not intentionally. The difficulty is that for many business owners, a website is a problem to solve rather than a tool to solve a problem.

As a ‘problem to solve’ it looks like a techie type job because it involves coding and stuff. However, as a ‘tool to solve a problem’ of how to get more sales, other considerations such as presentation and content have to be considered.

Corporate branding, product or service descriptions, market targeting, enquiry handling and on going promotion are all marketing issues rather than technical ones.

Asking the IT Manager to do a Marketing Manager’s job not only confuses everyone, it also means that neither the IT management nor the marketing management job is being done well.

Is marketing a board level issue? Is the answer to this question so ridiculously obvious that it is not even worth asking?

I am afraid the answer to the first question is yes, but the second is no. Strategic marketing, or treating marketing overall as a central part of the business strategy still seems to elude far too many British businesses.

Often I think the reason is the confusion between sales and marketing in many owners minds. Of course sales trumps all – if you are getting sufficient sales why bother with marketing?

A good example, is that of referrals. If the business has a good reputation, then referrals will come and this may be enough to sustain a business and many businesses will be happy with this. However, to a large extent referrals are a passive way to solicit business. What happens when the referrals dry up?  How can you grow the business when the rate of new sales enquiries is almost entirely out of your control?

Strategic Marketing ScrabbleStrategic marketing means putting the image, the reach and the profile of the business under your control. This is not something you switch on and off it is something that is developed over time. If you have to start dealing with this in a hurry it may already be too late.

By dealing with marketing at a strategic level it is also placed in the context of other strategic issues. For example the issue of branding should go beyond getting a new letterhead printed, it should permeate every aspect of the business operations. For the most successful businesses the brand is the business. Consider the Virgin brand – this is not about one particular business, but a way of doing business.

Strategic marketing thought builds the brand around the way business operates and uses this approach to reach out through a range of different channels to create awareness and solicit engagement with potential customers. This can then be turned into fee earning business by the sales force.

So referrals are one channel, outbound sales calls another, mail shots another. However, the mistake people often make is to treat the internet as one channel when it is in fact a number of channels. Of course a single website for your web site is one entity, but a number of ways to solicit enquiries or engagement can be built into that one site. There can also be many journeys to the website and pathways through the website may well depend on where the new visitor landed originally.

For example, a visitor may arrive on the website for the first time from a tweet/twitter posting. The subject of the tweet may mean the visitor lands on a specific page with subject material related to the tweet. The vast majority of people who respond to such a posting will be interested specifically in the subject we have mentioned. We need to lead them on a journey which allows the to discover more on the subject and results in a contact which might lead to a sale.

This example can only work if we have recognised at a strategic level the importance of representing multiple service and product offering strands on the website and linking each up to different initiatives that reach out and draw people in. Or, as in many cases, we can just set up a website, randomly add some content and set up a twitter feed to talk about what we had for lunch in the motorway cafe today.

This is what the TrafficManager Programme is all about. It is a strategic marketing platform that brings the multiple marketing channels the internet offers into a coherent marketing whole. This puts control in the hands of the Directors and proactively reaches out to create new sales opportunities.

If you would like more information about how the Traffic Manager Programme could help your business than get in touch for a no commitment, free initial consultation.

Before promoting yourself, or your business, online it might be a good idea to first consider the promotional mix. In other words, identify the right components for you business and target your efforts in the areas that bring in the best return.

The obvious examples to examine are the social ones because there are so many mixed messages in this arena. Everyone must have a Facebook account a twitter account, a Google+ account – right? Well consider this first.

Let’s say you had a twitter account and just tweeted every now and again, what are you really getting from that? The answer will of course be nothing, but perhaps the more important question is – does it matter?

twitter in the promotional mixLet’s say you had a twitter account and were forever monitoring and feeding stuff into it, then you might be getting something from that, but it might not be the right thing.

It depends of course on how the Twitter accounts sits in the overall marketing and promotional mix. If, let’s say you are marketing to the general public, and have lots of new offerings that you need to tell lots of people about quickly, then by all means a twitter account will make sense. If you are marketing to an industrial market and a have a fairly static offering that tends to run on longer term high value contracts, then you might find that the Twitter account has little impact other than the risk of it backfiring on you.

It may be regarded as important to have a Twitter account to make the business look ‘with it’, but an empty Twitter account may give the wrong impression and it may be tempting to fill it with ‘stuff’, that can often work against you.

So something like a Twitter account takes some consideration if it is to be included in the promotional mix:

  •        is it right for this web site / business?
  •        will it be used – will someone be available to drive it?
  •        who will read it – what will they be interested in?
  •        what is the optimum frequency of updates

Remember that 140 characters can take a great deal of work once you move away from inanities. If you want to direct people to valuable content, there really has to be some valuable content there to direct people to.

This type of evaluation has to be made for each component of the promotional mix and there is no one right answer. Each promotional mix has to be specific to the client concerned, highly personalised and highly focused.

I am picking on Twitter, but of course similar evaluations need to be made on other aspects of your social media presence and indeed the overall online promotional mix. Getting it wrong isn’t necessarily disastrous, but it can mean huge amounts of wasted effort in the wrong areas and ultimately wasted money and lost opportunities.

If you would like to know more about how to make this sort of evaluation on the promotional mix for your own business – let us know.

If you have been involved in sales at all you have probably heard of the AIDA model or mnemonic. If not then it is short for Attention -> Interest -> Decision -> Action. It is a description of a generic approach that underpins all sales: first you grab the prospect’s Attention, then give some additional information that might spark their Interest, then they make a Decision (either independently, or better still, under guidance) which leads them into taking the Action, which hopefully is the purchase.the AIDA model or funnelThe purchase could in fact be just an enquiry which sparks another more detailed AIDA process towards a purchase action. The important thing is the process, or journey the prospective buyer takes.

In internet sales terms, the ideal is that the web site handles the AIDA model, or process, in full and, in the case of e-commerce sites they have to. However, the success of the site in terms of how the prospective customer is handled is often better expressed in percentage terms rather than absolute numbers.

Numbers do matter of course and the start point of any site assessment has to be the absolute numbers of visitors coming to the web site. Beyond that we have to look at percentages such as what percentage of visitors look at more than one page, and what proportion sign up for more information. Ultimately we are looking for what percentage move towards our end result, whether that be enquiries, absolute sales or any other end result we might want to target.

You may be able to see from this, that the result of a successful promotional activity may be to increase the percentage return on a given number of visitors rather than the absolute number of visitors themselves. If you are planning an increase in numbers, it often makes sense to start with an increase in the percentage return first – then you gain a much bigger pay back when the overall visitor numbers are increased.

The concept of making the assessment is therefore reasonably straightforward, however the task of increasing those success percentages is not always so easy. Often the small percentage gains can be the hardest. As with most things, if the web site is working well, then each step of improving its performance gets progressively harder.

The Traffic Manager programme supplies a framework that puts structure on to the development process and makes it easier to experiment, assess success and obtain the more difficult percentage points that characterise the truly successful web sites.