Too many people (you perhaps?) incorrectly assume that building and maintaining a website is only a technical endeavor. Because PHP, CSS, Java, and HTML (scared yet?) are literally considered other languages, its easy to assume that the translator – your IT team – is your website’s most important asset. They’re the ones who can make it work, after all. So IT ends up at the forefront of your web strategy decisions.
But the reality is that your website is not just a technical tool. Your website is first and foremost a marketing tool. After all, what use is a translator without a message to translate?
There’s no replacing a great IT team when it comes to developing and maintaining your dream website. However, they may not be the ones best equipped to drive your overarching web strategy or make all the decisions for your site.
Here are six things you need to keep in mind when putting together your website marketing team.
#1 Your Website is First and Foremost a Marketing Tool
Most importantly, your organization’s website is a marketing tool. It is the face of your business online. In needs to attract the right audience, effectively convey your brand’s message, and drive your visitors to take action. Here are several questions, for starters, you should be asking about your website:
- What is the purpose of my website?
- Who am I trying to target with it? How do they think? What do they want?
- What do I want visitors to do on my website?
- How does the website support my business strategy and message?
- How does the website impact my organization’s bottom line?
- What makes my organization or products unique?
The decision-maker in charge of your website needs to have a clear understanding of your business, audience, and marketing goals, in addition to what is technically possible.
#2 Marketing is the Message. Not the Code.
Your audience doesn’t care if your website is built in WordPress or Magento, custom-coded, or uses an ancient version of Microsoft Frontpage. They do care that what you have to offer meets their needs in some unique way. Your brand message is conveyed through headlines and copy, graphics and layout, and calls to action. And that’s marketing.
Do keep in mind that coding can also send a message about your brand. Poor code that is broken or clunky detracts from credibility and frustrates visitors. One of your IT team’s most important contributions to your website is crafting a fully-functional, seamless experience. And that’s a critical and difficult job.
But your website team needs to be led by someone who understands your core marketing message and how it can be implemented most effectively on the web.
#3 Functionality is NOT the Same as Usability
One of your basic needs is a website that functions properly. Every page element in its proper place, links that work, servers that don’t time out, pages that load quickly, shopping carts that function. However, just because it’s functional technically doesn’t mean it’s easy for an end-user to, well, use.
Add to Cart buttons that work properly won’t get the sale if they are in the wrong location, are the wrong color, are sized poorly, or are competing with other buttons. A menu that works is useless if the content isn’t intuitively organized and labeled. And that’s just the beginning.
It’s important to have someone influencing your team who is knowledgable in usability and understands proven website conventions (yes, links really should always be underlined and blue).
#4 Content is King on the Web
Years before content marketing was even a thing, we were touting the phrase “content is king”; meaning that fresh, quality content is your website’s most valuable asset for marketing to users (and search engines). It is also the single-most difficult thing for organizations to develop and maintain.
A person who knows your brand, audience, message, and products AND can write AND is motivated to do it regularly is one of the most valuable members of your team – and typically the most difficult to find.
#5 Coding Is No Longer (Completely) Specialized Knowledge
Ever heard of WordPress? Joomla? Drupal? These internet-based website platforms, and others like them, make it easy for just about any moderately computer savvy person to build, update, and maintain a basic website. Shell out $100 for annual hosting with a script to install the platform, find an inexpensive design theme you like, and you are well on your way to creating a basic site yourself. Gone are the days of using clunky software like FrontPage or Dreamweaver or having to pay exorbitant amounts for custom websites you can’t manage yourself.
Web technology today is much more accessible, which means the people who excel in your marketing strategy can participate in managing the website more easily as well.
#6 Better Utilize IT’s Strengths
Code is invisible, unless it’s not working. And especially then will you be very glad to have a great IT team in your corner. Even with a user-friendly tool like WordPress, there still is no substitute for great programmers who can do things above and beyond what you get out-of-the-box. Or who can come to the rescue when something stops working.
Your website needs a smart, savvy IT team who excels at building clean code, knows what is and isn’t possible in your platform, gets excited to try new things, solves problems, and fixes what breaks. Nobody is better at translating your marketing vision into a working website – and enjoying it.
Just be sure that someone with a great grasp of your business and marketing is the driving force behind your website strategy.
Flickr Photo Credit: Infusionsoft. Used with permission via Creative Commons.