Websites – an integral part of business

Integrating your website with all the other areas of your business as well as Sales and Marketing, can reap real benefits for all concerned.

Collectively we use the web in so many different ways that it is impossible to know where its tentacles don’t reach and for what purpose people are using it for. Marketers can lose sight of the fact that a business has many audiences apart from its customers. Each audience has its own interests and needs which means that a holistic approach to website design entails understanding and addressing a very wide spectrum of potential visitors.

A valuable conduit

Integrating the multiple facets of a business into a single communication channel is made easier – possible even – if the business has a clear understanding of what it is and where it’s going.  Its Unique Sales Proposition (USP), Value Proposition, the Mission and Vision Statements are all helpful in defining a company’s understanding of what it is all about. If a company’s website is to be a valuable conduit for these beliefs, values and ambitions it can only attempt such a Herculean task if the client team as well as the design team agree the full scope of the challenge ahead of them.  This should be carefully specified in a detailed brief with realistic budgets and sensible timelines.

It’s not all down to the client

If a website is intended – as with the majority of ‘brochure’ sites – to represent a company as a digital version of itself it’s up to the design agency to explain to the client the full scope of what this entails.  What the client will need to do is probably far more than they anticipated and what their agency will need to do is probably more than they would like to do. A clear and simple brief is the unrealistic ideal of the lazy agency: do the job, tick the boxes and send in the bill. A good brief of necessity is often complicated and intricate and it is usually only arrived at sometime after the work has been commissioned.

Incremental delivery

This makes exact pricing for the job difficult, if not impossible.  The key is to identify the milestones and their associated costs, timeframes and deliverables and, using the principles of Agile development, to keep delivering incrementally.  By doing so everyone is aware of progress and the agency has the comfort of regular client sign offs which confirms that they are staying on track.

Part the reward for the agency comes in the form of a long term investment because a good website is never actually ‘finished’. Even client controlled content managed sites need spring cleaning and polishing which is best done by the team of agency ‘outsiders’ who worked closely on it from its inception.

A live organogram

A shared understanding of the corporate body as a whole is one thing but the special requirements of individual departments must be addressed one by one. Each may have their own ‘customers’ from HR keen to attract top graduate interns to Finance attempting to reconcile conflicting payment terms with suppliers and customers.  Well integrated organisations will realise their website acts like a live organogram with its various component parts tied together symbiotically.

An important group of visitors will be the organisation’s own staff.  It may be the one place where you can find out the name and expertise of the person in charge of R&D you want to contact with your Great Idea for improvement or who to talk to with your concerns about Health & Safety. If the company website is the place to find the staff newsletter there is an incentive for staff to keep returning and staying tuned into the body corporate. And if the news is good – and it usually is – then anybody else, whoever they are, taking a peak feels the warmth and humanity of the people behind the brand.

Sales and Marketing will probably understand what they want to say to customers old and yet-to-be-found but if the entire staff share their understanding and passion for what’s on offer too, the message is going to be reinforced with compound interest.

It’s all about people

If you think pride in your job and in the company you work for sounds like a quaint, old fashioned notion that has no place in the digital world you are wrong. Companies and organisations of whatever size and shape are only as good as the people who run them and the unrelenting way the digital world is developing is not about technology, it is in fact all about people. Websites and the social media platforms run on human interaction – nothing more and nothing less. To be cold, confused, confusing and mechanistic is no way to make friends and influence people – whoever they may be.

Being social

A lot of soul searching is going on about how businesses can lever profit out of their social networking investment. Armies of people are employed to monitor what customers are saying on Twitter et al about brands with the prime intention of countering any adverse comment.  Isn’t this the wrong approach?

Your finger on the pulse

What your customers say about your brand on the social sites should inform you about what you are doing right but also – even more importantly – what you are doing wrong. That’s not something to brush under the carpet, it’s something that must be passed up the line and addressed at the highest level. Having your finger on the pulse of your clients is a wonderful opportunity that seems to have been forgotten by the big corporates whose boardrooms are far removed from the shop floor.

And if all this sounds too grand for your small and simple website project it is not. The same principles apply whatever the size of the website and the organisation commissioning it and the intricacy of the integration required is the same. Not least of which is the integrated thinking of the client and their agency.