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Web Marketing

My web marketing tantrum. By Genevieve, aged 2

My two-year-old is screaming and crying and refusing to get back in the car – and it’s all because of poor web marketing!

It’s usually me that gets frustrated when I see companies failing to get their web marketing strategy right – but today my daughter was the one venting her anger.

We’d just been to see a new day nursery. Like most potential new nursery clients, I’d checked them out on the web before going.

They have a great website – tons of useful information, informative pictures, links to a glowing Ofsted report, social media engagement and testimonials from happy mums and dads.

So I emailed them via their enquiry form, which asked me what I needed. The auto-responder pinged back with a message saying someone would get back to me within 24 hours – great! But 24 hours, plus several days, I still hadn’t heard back, so I rang.

“Oh, you’re the one who emailed,” they said (in a way that made me think I was literally “the one” person who had ever emailed them). They apologised for not getting back to me, explaining they didn’t check their e-mail very often and suggested I come in and take a look around with my daughter.

Now, had they read the email they would have seen I wanted to come because I need a place right now for my daughter.

When I arrived, it looked fantastic – Gen loved it too. But when I asked when Gen could start, I was told there were no places available until September.

The Web Marketing ABC

Cue tantrum. Not from me, though I felt like it, but from Gen who was not happy that we were leaving such a nice place as soon as we’d arrived. I wasn’t too happy I’d taken a morning out for no reason.

The thing is, if they’d read my email I could saved a journey – and a tantrum – and they might have got a client in September if I could find an interim solution. Instead, they had one unhappy mum and one very grumpy toddler.

This scenario is all too familiar – businesses making an investment in the web, then undoing all their good work by falling at the last hurdle.

Your website works on three levels – we’ve talked about it before – firstly you need to get the core functionality and usability of the site right, making sure it is fit for purpose. The next level is ensuring the site supports and promotes your key marketing messages.

The third level – and the one where most businesses who fail to make the most of the web fall down – is using your website as a marketing tool.

Like this nursery, you can have the best design in the world, a compelling marketing message and a carefully planned out strategy – but if you don’t check emails you will lose business.

Your website is a tool, it’s there to be used – by you, not just by clients. You need to understand what tasks the site is meant to be supporting, but you have to do some of those tasks yourself.

If the site is meant to bring in enquiries, make sure you answer those enquiries promptly. If it’s meant to raise your profile online, make sure you are active on the site and in the wider web community – it is you who will make the links and create the community of users, not the site on its own.

Tantrum over – think I’ll have a lie-down and a glass of warm milk.

Website Hierarchy of Needs

At the initial web requirements stage of any development, we often find it helpful to slice a website into three different layers in order for the client to understand what they need to be thinking about when planning their website. We need to understand what the core functionality will be, what marketing messages the site needs to reflect and how the website will work as a marketing tool for the client (i.e. how does it fit with their overall marketing strategy). We call this a website hierarchy of needs.


Core functionality and usability

As part of a thorough requirements analysis, we will begin to plot out what the site areas, or sections are. The core functionality (or functional requirements) inform the web design company what user processes the site needs to support from within each section.

Usability and proven web conventions play their part at this stage, because core functionality must always be user-focussed, ie do users need this functionality in order to fulfil their objectives on your site?

Marketing Messages

Your website communicates marketing messages to a targeted audience. What are your key marketing messages, how are you differentiating yourself from your competition for instance? The design, content and information architecture of the site need to support and reinforce your marketing communications.

How you will use your site

The final layer is thinking about how your site will work as a marketing tool for your business. Your site will only work as part of your overall marketing strategy, it is a tool and any tool will only work well if it is used well. So how does your website support your marketing and work as part of your overall marketing strategy?

Does your website support the sales conversation by acting as a referral via search?. Do you point people to your site to reinforce your proposal? Does it reflect your creditability and market position?

Think how you will actually be using your site, how it can function as a tool for your organisation and what you need it be doing to work at its best for you.

The “3 Ps” (Purpose of your website, Profile of your target audience and the Processes your website needs to support) work on every layer and need to be your starting point for any web strategy.

Why results-driven matters

At Tickbox we define ourselves by the results we deliver for clients. A great example of what we mean by “results-driven” can be seen in our work to create a business-focussed web marketing project for a local authority in the South West.

The local authority in question has just had its Organisation Inspection report for 2009 – the Government’s performance audit for local authorities.

Facing challenging times, the council’s report was heavily critical of performance for the year, giving the lowest possible ratings in almost all areas – Managing Finances, Managing Resources and Governing the Business.

The one area where it received praise was for Managing Performance – and the web marketing project we helped create for them was singled out as an important reason for this.

The report stated: “supporting people and businesses through the recession is one of the Council’s goals and it does well at this. Its new website contains useful local information, promotes business events and shows commercial properties which are available to rent.”

It is gratifying to see our work with the council in helping them support business has been recognised – and the council’s willingness to engage in business support through the web, backed by a coherent strategy, is delivering benefits not just for the council but most importantly for the businesses it supports.

Results-driven means that when we work with a client we establish measurable goals and then drive their web strategy to meet those goals. In this case, we’re delighted to see those results measured, and approved, by rigorous third-party inspection.