By Nicholas Kosar and Stacey Piper of Piper Strategies
Every business has a website. Sadly, however, most websites perform merely as fancy “e-brochures” – not as true marketing tools that nurture and develop a growing client base. So how do you take your website and digital assets to the next level?
In our work with businesses large and small, we’ve identified a few steps that businesspeople can take to make sure that digital properties are creating real marketing and business development value.
As you’ll see, a long-term investment in your digital marketing will best help you achieve your goals, but there are gains to be made in the short term, too.
1. Start with Company Goals and Objectives
Initially, most companies build a corporate website with static content that simply explains what they do, and perhaps includes a few leadership bios. Once the website is deployed, the “website is done” box is checked, and attention to this important channel is redirected elsewhere.
The end result is a website that is little used and rapidly becomes stagnant. If the website doesn’t have fresh, engaging content – and if the company isn’t employing inbound tactics to pull people to the website – then the website won’t be a useful tool for the company. Besides, who wants to visit a website that’s never updated?
A digital audit will reveal a number of no-brainers for fixes that need to take place. We’ve never completed an audit that didn’t yield immediate opportunities for a client to improve their marketing.– Nicholas Kosar and Stacey Piper
Consumers today are much more discerning about the type of content they want to interact with from a brand. If they visit your website at all they will expect content of value, not glorified sales-speak.
Before you build your website, you must first understand what you want visitors to do when they are on your website. In part you must work with digital marketers who know how to measure the activity(s) it is that you want your visitor to engage in. Then you design the content and functionality to support those activities. In marketing we refer to these as “calls to action” or CTAs. If you only ask your visitor to “read more” and “learn more” you will have nothing other than page views and time-on-site to measure. Once you determine your marketing objectives, the structure, message, and design of your website starts to fall in place.
In addition to the business objectives of your website, a primary objective of B2B and B2G websites today is recruiting. You must insure that your website and its content are built to support the digital journey of the online job seeker. In other words, all digital marketing should be aligned with your corporate goals and marketing objectives.
2. A Digital Audit Is a Key Step in Achieving Your Goals
Like it or not, nearly every marketing activity is now dependent on digital assets such as websites, blogs, social media, email marketing, and online publishing. Digital systems are, in essence, the cardiopulmonary system of the world of business.
This does not mean that human activity is no longer relevant. Your business’s “digital heart and lungs” (website, social media, and so forth) play an important role in the life of your enterprise, but they must be interconnected with the human aspects of your marketing.
Person-to-person marketing activities such as speaking, conference participation, sales calls, and business networking are just as important as ever. However, digital assets are required to amplify and strengthen these activities. “Digital” and “Human” go hand in hand and strengthen each other.
Professionalizing your digital assets starts with a thorough digital audit that measures your company’s digital assets against the competition and identifies both strengths and weaknesses. A digital audit focuses on issues such as:
- Owned Digital/Website – while some companies might evaluate digital properties like their apps, most organizations’ owned media consists mainly of their website. Every website has numerous factors that play a part in whether the right clients and customers can find you for the right reasons, whether you rank high compared to the competition, and what the customer experience is like once they arrive on your website. A digital audit pulls out detailed scoring vis-a-vis the competition.
- Internet Performance – how do you perform “on the web?” Do people find you easily? Is there much buzz around your brand? Are other sites linking to you?
- Social Media – depending on the industry sector, some social media platforms are more important than others. And just because you have more followers than a competitor doesn’t mean you are performing well and engaging with the right audiences.
- Employment Market – in most industries, the competition for talent is real. How are you stacking up to potential employees? In some cases, employers are not marketing their well-earned reputations as much as they should.
Your business’s “digital heart and lungs” (website, social media, and so forth) play an important role in the life of your enterprise, but they must be interconnected with the human aspects of your marketing.– Nicholas Kosar and Stacey Piper
3. Identify Near-Term Improvements
Once you know your objectives and are armed with the insights of the digital audit, it will become evident to you which investments should be made first. In our experience, when a client sees their underperformance in certain categories, there is a certain “ouch” factor – no one wants to get beaten by the competition.
However, every digital audit contains good news …
An audit will reveal a number of no-brainers for fixes that need to take place (e.g., building out site metadata). It will also be apparent where you may be able to get a quick boost in content (e.g., starting a blog), or in engagement (e.g., posting videos). You may also find ways to quickly meet objectives – even with existing content – like “gating” high value content and asking for the visitor to register to receive the full information (e.g., lead generation), or creating CTAs on important landing pages.
The bottom line: We’ve never completed an audit that didn’t yield immediate opportunities for a client to improve their marketing.
4. Run Tests by Aligning Digital Tools with Marketing Objectives
Near-term improvements to your website and other digital properties are important in order to show the marketing and executive teams that professionalized digital operations can improve the firm’s marketing and business development.
However, long-term investment and improvements are necessary in order to create lasting, consistent marketing results. Digital audits normally expose opportunities for long-term investments, which could include:
- periodic design, UX, and branding refreshes to your digital assets
- opportunities for strategic thought leadership through content marketing
- opportunities for internal personnel who can help keep your social media presence vibrant and “on message”
- Google Analytics metrics that point the way to strategic changes to your website
- digital campaigns that support specific business development goals
That being said, there is another way to “prove” the value of professionalized digital marketing, notably to the executive suite: running finite, targeted campaigns to support specific marketing goals. For example:
- Do you have a product or service that the sales team has prioritized? If so, are you supporting that team with targeted landing pages, white papers, or case studies that can be easily consumed by your potential customers?
- If one of your executives is regularly appearing before audiences, is she being supported using “digital validation“ techniques? For example, while she is on stage and the audience is tapping into their smartphones, are you directing her audience to digital content that supports your marketing goals and her status as an industry leader?
- Has your paper marketing collateral been transformed into digital content that both supports sales efforts but also improves SEO for your website?
The point is, in addition to working on the “low-hanging fruit” issues that you’ve identified in your digital audit, your team can focus on finite digital campaigns and strategies that both achieve your marketing objectives while proving to the company that digital marketing can be effective.