Perhaps one of the largest challenges facing businesses, non-profits, and associations today is understanding when it's time to not only reconsider the construction of a website but the continuing effort and it's benefits associated with it. This is a complicated topic so I'll be splitting it into two posts as to not create something that requires an interim break or bookmarking.
The first part of this series focuses perhaps on the most important factor as it pertains to making a decision. I will additionally rank them in order as I present to clients so that key qualifiers can be understood. So let's get into analysis:
It's not about the finances spent it's about how much you benefit from the investment and the value proposition associated with it. Looking at the actions below will clearly define why or why not this is of benefit to your organization.
When Unleashed Technologies sits down with a client for the initial meeting the first question we have is why? You're answer should never be "to present a more professional image with respect to our success". If you're dealing with any competent web firm this should be an assumed not a focus or extra. We consider this a mandatory portion of any client/public facing endeavor. Instead I feel it's more valuable to focus on the following:
These are very broad and for good reason because everyone representing an organization faces key challenges day in and day out that may be competently handled by the correct planning. Live by these three simply rules in "benefits analysis" and you'll be very confident in your decisions moving forward.
1. Does it help me make money or save money?
This is a basic question that needs to be NOT TAKEN at face value. This can be realized easily by both commercial and not for profit organizations. Most commercial companies seek to increase their lead generation significantly and have control over all or key aspects of their website to reduce long term management costs. For Non-Profits it's about not just attracting membership or information sharing in accordance with well defined mission statements but these organizations almost always have a diminished work force that's over tasked. Saving money is paramount and can be accomplished by taking over very small edits that they pay out to their web partner to do. These add up quickly but the real win is automating things like organization or member updates online, reserved resources otherwise sent out manually, and what about event registration?
2. What can we automate that would benefit everyone?
Automation isn't just about you it's about everyone you engage with. There are some elements of every business in which a personal connection is more beneficial or quite frankly required. It's part of the mission of that organization to ensure that they always maintain "high touch" in key offerings of their organization. HOWEVER, there are many things that are not of value such as manually sending out membership renewal notices or providing account updates only when people call in for balances. How about notifications and a resource thread for Questions and Answers. If you offer a service do you really want to walk through the same thing seven times because (and fairly so) the client is busy and doesn't have time for good focus or retainment.
Imagine what you could do with the free time you would acquire if you first analyzed those tasks that your external facing relationships would like to see provided on their time and terms as opposed to yours. Everyone wins!
3. What is the expectations of your industry and relationships?
I can't stress this enough. Be competitive. One of the items we research immediately is what is the current standard for the industry. If it's a low bar you want to blow it away. If it's high bar basic analysis says everyone went this direction because clients found value. You need to at a minimum look at that with representation to your demographic and match it.
People are often hesitant to solicit client feedback on what they feel would be of most value to them in terms of online resources. This is 100% the wrong concept. They are your most valuable asset for predicting need for your new web presence. You're going to do things they don't bring up because your thinking ahead of them but it will highlight GREAT ideas you may not have thought of and also establish an iron clad baseline for which you can quickly deduce what's mandatory that you're not doing today.
They will view this as a forward thinking effort and be excited to see that the company they are working with cares about their opinions. If you do this set an expectation within the solicitation, and most importantly, take action.
It takes not much time at all to take an initial look at your regional market. If you're an established business you know who your competitors are. This is the easiest of the analysis. The key is to not replicate but review and ask yourself internal questions like, is that really of value? You know what would be better? Most importantly DO NOT REVIEW AND COPY WHAT THEY HAVE. This is what we deal with the most. You need to be original and unique. Most businesses and organizations say they want this but as the process progresses they will force a web firm to mediocrity. TRUST YOUR PARTNER. If it's exactly the same why look at you? What's special? There are some things that will apply like design elements and of course industry standard functionality but don't spend your time copying someone, it's doesn't position you in any positive way.
Market research is a tough nut to crack and this rabbit hole goes very deep. The bigger you are the better you can explore this. If you're a small to mid-market company start by profiling your own clients as opposed to report purchasing and demographic analysis. It will get you in the right direction and you probably have substantial knowledge that can be accurately used anyway!
Statistics are deceiving because if you're reading this and really into it you probably don't have them at all or it's probably pretty bad. The reason this is the lowest item on our list is because traffic can be effected by so many variables but the most obvious are a non W3C compliant website, no SEO considerations, a non-engaging web presence, difficult to navigate, etc. It's almost a moot point because two contradictory lines of thinking apply that beckon a tangible argument:
Either scenario you need to turn into it and go through the more important priority items to establish value.
Break this all out into a document and you've got a compelling reason to understand what you want, what you need, and a good web firm will help you understand the value and it's corresponding investment. Remember, dreaming is easy... reality is tough! In my next post I'll focus on once we've got this working document how to gauge what you've come up with and what you're being financially quoted match up.