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As EDS said in their 2000 video, the internet is like herding cats. EDS made that statement 13 years ago in this video I keep returning to from time to time because it always makes me laugh.

I’ve sat with many marketing and executive teams and listened to many guesses as to why people think they need to improve their website. The graphics don’t look good. There’s no traffic. Some think it’s because there’s no Facebook icon. Or, the copy doesn’t reflect what the company really does. The logo is not right. The blog is crappy. The email campaigns don’t work. Twitter and LinkedIn followers are low numbers, and haven’t been growing. No one starts the free trial. The colours are wrong.

There’s significantly more cats in them thar hills in 2015.

The trick to your digital strategy is knowing which cats are more important than others. Without understanding the underlying data, they all look the same.

The Web Sales Funnel

I’ve been doing a lot of work answering this question myself for a variety of companies, and there’s good reason for confusion about website excellence. It’s because it’s confusing. I try to define the mathematical model of a Web company in this blog post:

Digital Brand Audit

Over the last few years,I’ve developed the “Digital Brand Audit” and I define it as the first step of a journey in brand web excellence. It has a framework that takes the confusion out of things for companies dipping their toe into the water; defines the top two measurements for your site (Traffic and Conversions) and breaks it into component parts.

Most importantly, it quantifies your web opportunity in real business terms. You know, like current ROI and potential ROI using math. The report establishes how you “appear” online and, in doing so, presents opportunities for improvements. This creates a starting “Point A” framework that gives all stakeholders common ground for discussion, followed by recommendations as to what “Point B” is for your online properties and how to get there.

As an independent 3rd party audit, the point is for us to provide as fresh a report as possible — so doing these reviews with just a rudimentary knowledge of your specific business strategy, operations and goals is our approach — just like your potential customers.

What is in the Outside-In Brand Audit report?

Each report we prepare has similar sections, depending on the need and stage of journey of the company:

  • Big picture Kudos and Concerns from our research
  • What does your website branding, design and messaging say about your company? What does it say about your primary Call-To-Action for visitors to your site?
  • “Brand-On-A-Page” Motherhood messaging draft with suggested benefit and feature statements
  • Quantifying the online presence opportunity for <Your Company>. Our proprietary Traffic, keyword SEO and Ranking analysis and opportunity algorithm I’ve been refining for a couple of years.
  • Website technical SEO analysis and recommendations
  • Google Analytics Review
  • Competitive benchmarking; what are the other guys doing? A quick look at the web design, social, brand, messaging (and pricing models, if needed) and competitive insights gathered
  • Other stuff. As applicable.

Btw, the whole point of all of this analysis is that things really do change at internet speed. Constant change on your part is required. Yes, unfortunately, even though it feels like you just spent money on it — your two year old website is already woefully behind. And, yes, it’s time to start building a foundation for your future social media and web success.

What have I learned so far in working with a bunch of different companies?

    1. There’s a varying expectation of what an online presence should be and how it works. I preach that there’s two things a well designed website, social media and content publishing strategy should do:
      1. Drive visitors to your sites by generating awareness of your brand
      2. Convert the visitors to your site to happy, paying customers
    2. Most companies are worried about whether they are doing enough online … or even if they DID enough, what would they get out of it? So, there’s a gut wrenching feeling that you need to participate somehow, but you don’t know what the right level of investment is, nor where to start.
    3. Social media isn’t used by <insert your industry and client base type here>, so we really don’t need to do much.” <sarcasm>Hey, you are right! There are over 200 million people with LinkedIn accounts, but for sure none of them are YOUR clients. </sarcasm> Honestly, no matter what the business is, if you haven’t started your journey in web and social excellence yet, rest assured at least some of your customers (and prospects) already have.
    4. The expectation that adopting social media is going to fix all their problems by next week and start delivering significant traffic by the end of the month. “Social media feels like a sprint, but it’s really a marathon,” as my buddy Scott Pledger @scott_pledger says.
    5. Putting the social channel cart before the content publishing horse. A company’s first thoughts about social media is often “Get a Facebook page” “Get a Twitter account” “Get a LinkedIn Group” and then they wonder why they quickly become ghost towns with no one participating. That’s because there’s no content publishing / inbound marketing strategy — once in place, the rest falls into line. I preach the “Reach, Quality, Frequency and Consistency” school of social media.
    6. WRT marketing messages I see on existing sites — there’s a great deal of confusion about a benefit and a feature. A benefit is something that describes the customer … a feature describes the company — something that you do or have in your product / service that supports the benefit statements. For e.g. “Delivers 67% more leads than typical email processes” is a benefit. “Our platform integrates with the LinkedIn API” is a feature statement that gives you a “reason-to-believe” the benefit statement. This was one of our specialities when I was doing QuickBooks and Profesional Tax marketing at Intuit.
    7. Key Benefit statements typically fall flat because the company fails to define it’s true value. Look at the benefit statement in 5) above. “Delivers 67% more leads than typical email processes” — this is far more powerful than just “Delivers more leads than typical email processes.”  How about “1.3M users in over 50 countries depend on us.” vs. “Many customers use our software world-wide!” How well do companies understand their Web Sales Funnel and conversion %’s? Naturally, many software and technical companies have a better understanding of their online presence than their bricks-and-mortar cousins:
        1. Typically, though, the big online picture is not quantified even in software and hardware companies. Also, web excellence can sometimes be put on the back burner, either intentionally due to strategic decisions or more-often-than-not by not having processes, following through or having organizational resistance (in the case of larger enterprises).
        2. Bricks-and-Mortar companies have SO much to gain from a great online presence because so many of them do it poorly. Especially professional services companies like accountants, lawyers, financial advisors etc… Mostly from a local SEO perspective but also from the perspective to use branding to attract the type of client they wish to work with. Check out my post: Accountants, get your local SEO mojo working 
    8. In order for a web SEO / social media strategy to work, your organization needs to be committed to it, which means from the C-Suite down to individual contributors. This requires people skills training in addition to technical changes.
    9. Websites are really tough to do well; it’s a fine balance of technical skills, graphic skills, copywriting skills, SEO skills, social media / content publishing, sales and branding skills. Make sure you’ve got capable people in place that have delivered on great projects already. Especially if you’ve got a need to take payments and manage accounts through eCommerce on your site.
    10. It is a very tough horse race to get first or second page ranking on search engines (i.e. Google, Bing and Yahoo, the top 3 that account for 94.9% share of searches: comscore). At 10 organic website listings per page, you have to be able to get into the top 20 in order to even start seeing any significant click-throughs to your site. Most people find what they need from a search in the first two pages. Just like you, I bet — I’m for sure that way. Sometimes I stop after the first page.

In any event, you CAN achieve an online nirvana for your organization, but you need the strategy, resources and patience to do so.

Not to sound too much like an advertisement, but the Audit is a fine complimentary side-dish to the CRD Customer Relationship Diagnostic annual survey we offer at TCELab. The Audit provides great brand info and analytics — the CRD helps companies measure, valuate and improve the health of the customer relationship.

Herding cats, indeed. Be careful out there! Herding Cats video EDS
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