You’ve built a beautiful new website. Now what?February 20, 2020
10 common mistakes some marketers make when launching a new website.
Your shiny new website has launched. Now, you can check that one off your list and get back to other stuff, right? Not exactly. Just because you built it and you and your team are excited, it doesn’t mean they will come.
Here are 10 common mistakes some marketers make when launching a website:
- They didn’t create clearly defined goals. Therefore, you don’t know if it’s a success or not. Were your post-launch goals well defined in advance? Are you achieving those goals? Examples: Generate X # of leads; Drive X% of new visitors to download area/# of site; Increase overall traffic by X% to site for branding/thought leadership.
- They don’t have a plan to drive new and sustained traffic to the site. A well thought out website can look great and provide a great user experience but what are you doing to drive traffic to it?
- They don’t have a content plan for the next 12-18 months. ‘Content is King’ isn’t just a neat little catchphrase. Why content marketing is critically important to a website’s relevancy and stickiness.
- They didn’t incorporate components to keep people coming back to their site. Unique features provide helpful tools and great reasons to encourage repeat visitors.
- They thought of social media only as a footnote. Think of your website as a two way communication device to encourage active participation with your target markets.
- They don’t utilize their best customers. Using customer testimonials – written and in video – can be a powerful endorsement tool. Use them.
- They don’t create client portals. Every business – no matter what industry – should utilize portals to get customers coming back to their website for internal documents, white papers and other useful downloadables. And when they’re on your site, subtly provide information about your other products or services – keeping your company top of mind.
- They don’t have a public relations strategy to support the site. PR doesn’t just mean a press release stating “hey, come look at our shiny new object at www dot”…it’s a comprehensive plan to talk about the benefits of your new site.
- They try to do everything by themselves. Even those who have great goals, a plan to achieve them and intentions to follow through, often don’t have the time or manpower to get everything done. And that means something is going to fall through the cracks. Utilize internal champions to help. Partner with an outside firm (we may know someone who can help.
- They don’t report successes to their management team. We are all busy and guilty of this one. Share. Celebrate. Brag a little.
There’s a lot of overlap with the other information and ideas contained in this paper. And that’s intentional. Ideas, content and messaging NEEDS to be overlapping and intertwined. With that being said, let’s go deeper on our top 10 list.
1 – They didn’t create clearly defined goals
It’s common sense but many of us fail at this important task. How will you know if your new website can be called a success or not?
Clearly defined goals are critical to being able to judge your success. And they have to be measurable.
Examples of poorly defined website goals:
- Increase website traffic over last year
- Generate more qualified leads
- Enhance online presence
These goals are not really goals because they aren’t measurable. How will you know if you are successful with any of these goals? What’s the specific measurement criteria? As marketers, we need to be able to provide a simple statistical analysis – showing the increase in traffic, leads, and other key performance indicators. Our management team demands that we show metrics – and you should too.
Using these same goals, here’s an easy way to make them measurable:
- Increase website traffic by 200% over last year
- Generate a 150% increase in qualified leads (‘qualified’ also needs to be defined)
- Enhance online presence by improving our Google rankings and appearing on the first page of search results for terms x, y and z.
Goals need to be specific and measurable. Just make sure they also align with your business.
2 – They don’t have a plan to drive new and sustained traffic to the site
A well thought out website can look great and provide a great user experience, but what are you doing to drive traffic to it? Your marketing strategy should come first, even before the first meeting to discuss your new website. However, if the need for a new website was urgent and you find yourself a bit behind schedule, don’t worry. There’s plenty you can do now.
How to retro-fit a marketing strategy to your website launch:
- Get in a room with a white board. Ideally, invite a marketing partner to help brainstorm.
- Let’s say your two main website goals were to: (1) Generate a 150% increase in qualified leads and (2)Increase overall website traffic by 200%
- Write your website goals on the white board
Now identify all the possible things you can do to accomplish these newly-found goals. At this stage, don’t worry about budget or cost. The point is to get your ideas flowing and documented.
Now cross off all the out-of-bounds ideas that just won’t fly. For example, billboards can be great brand awareness but maybe they aren’t at the top of your list for the purpose of driving leads for white paper downloads. Same with public relations or any number of other ideas you came up with—great ideas and an important part of your overall integrated marketing mix, but for these specific website goals, winnow it down.
Let’s say you and your partner have narrowed down the list and settled on the following ways to generate a 150% increase in qualified leads:
- Pay-per-click campaign driving people to a new series of white papers
- SEO and content marketing campaigns for well structured content pages and a constant flow of fresh information
- Geo-targeting niche audiences and serving up relevant content to them, encouraging downloads
- Email marketing campaigns focused on announcing the availability of new white papers and other newsworthy items on your site – again encouraging website downloads
And these additional tactics to help increase overall website traffic by 200%:
- LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook ads announcing new information now available on your website.
- A webinar series based on the new white papers you’ve created.
- Coordinated employee postings (crafted by you) on social media channels, in emails, etc. driving contacts to new content.
The goals and their corresponding tactics, while different, are interconnected but it’s important to keep them separate for tracking purposes.
Now determine how you plan to pay for your plan to generate leads and increase traffic. Did you budget for this? If not…what if you had a plan to present to your management team, could you get it approved?
A marketing partner can really help in this area. Ask them to put together a plan that outlines each of these initiatives, how it would work, the reporting mechanisms, and what they would cost. Let them do this work for you and even ask them to help you present it to your management team.
Divide and conquer
Not many companies have the luxury of being able to do everything in house. You either don’t have the expertise or the time. Who is going to do what? Utilize your partner for their expertise and keep the stuff you really want to work on. Working together with a partner and divvying up the workload may appear to cost more on the surface, but the results could significantly dwarf any additional cost.
3 – They don’t have a content plan for the next 12-18 months
Content is King isn’t just a neat little catchphrase. While there are differing schools of thought on whether Google prefers “fresh” content for ranking, the bottom line is that your audience will always prefer content that is updated and relevant to their business. Help them out with tips, training, detailed information and “top 10 this or that” – much like how this paper was organized. People love helpful information and tools that help them shine in their companies.
Think value above volume. Overselling and over promoting are easily sniffed out by consumers. Write (or film) things that are meaningful to your market and help give them ideas and practical advice to get through their problems…for free.
Why is it important to plan out your content ideas for the 12-18 months post launch? Here are just a few reasons:
- If you don’t, it will surely slip to the backburner. The next thing you know, six months have gone by with only minimal updates to your site
- You’ll have disjointed content and messaging on your site that likely won’t match the messaging in other areas (PR, email marketing, sales scripts, trade shows, etc).
- The type of content you add to your site for the next year and a half should mirror the path where your business is going. You create business and marketing plans, right? This is a similar approach with content and messaging.
- Constantly adding new and valuable content gives you great material for email marketing, webinars, presentation topics and more—all to generate leads and interest in your company. One piece of good, relevant content should be used in multiple ways.
4 – They didn’t incorporate components to keep people coming back to their site.
Providing “sticky” content that keeps viewers on your site is critical. Otherwise, you’ll spend countless hours and marketing dollars getting them there, only to lose them. In addition to a well thought out content plan, marketing execs must provide unique tools for people to use, share, and consume.
Some examples on what keeps people engaged (a “sticky” website) and coming back for more:
- Simple navigation. Sounds like common sense (because it is) but also you want to be sure not to over-complicate the user experience. Less is more with navigation.
- Free useful resources (with download form for lead generation)
- Create a freshly updated blog with insightful perspectives and helpful content and be committed to regular updates.
- Build in interactive features like calculators
- Create quick, instant gratification quizzes or polls. People like chiming in and instantly seeing what the majority of people are thinking.
- Incorporate infographics to explain complicated processes or explanations. People love to share these with colleagues and on social media.
- Utilize social sharing features. This works best with valuable content that isn’t self-serving.
There’s no perfect plan for creating a site that people bookmark and visit over and over. It’s an art which includes trial and error, but creating unique web assets needs to be part of your regular routine. If you leave your site unattended, it will wither and die.
5 – They thought of social media only as a footnote.
Many marketers make the mistake of thinking of social media as an afterthought and only incorporating icons in the header or footer of their website. If that’s the case with your site, you’re missing out on utilizing social media as an engagement tool.
So, how do you take full advantage of social media? Here are two ideas:
Video done right. With the continuing addiction to cell phones and bite-sized bits of content, our society is becoming less and less interested in lengthy copy (surprised you made it this far!). We are becoming more visual creatures by the day. Videos enhance the user experience by showing your audience something helpful or interesting about your business or industry.
Of course, video needs to be used properly. Don’t have someone recite marketing copy in a talking head format – that’s not useful at all. Like everything we do as marketers, focus on the benefits. What will the end user gain or learn from watching your video? Could you have accomplished the same thing in other mediums or is video the best way to show your audience? Do you have a product or service that would help with training or a step by step instructions? How about something your company built or created? If your end product or service is something visual, then video is perfect.
If you commit to doing video, go all in. Create a video schedule and plan out 12-18 months of content (which should match your overall content and marketing strategies). Create a video library and have them indexed and organized by type, content, and more – making them easy for users to find.
If you don’t have the capabilities in house for professional videography and editing, then partner with an expert. Hosting services such as YouTube and Vimeo make embedding and subscribing to video channels easy, so you won’t have to worry about that side. The hard part is to create professional-looking videos around helpful, benefit-oriented content while showing your audience something is extremely beneficial.
Embed Social Media Channels. Our designer friends always cringe when someone suggests this approach. It doesn’t look great within a beautifully-designed website, but embedding social media channels has this one main benefit: It keeps your audience on your site a bit longer. Of course, you don’t want all of your social media channels embedded on your site. Choose the one platform that best suits your audience and web user experience.
Worst case, you can use the standard social media icons in headers or footers but make sure a click on any of them opens a new page – so your website is still active on your visitor’s browser tabs.
These are just two ideas on how to think differently about social media within a website experience. Your site is unique. How can you/should you make social media a bigger part of your site?
6 – They don’t utilize their best customers
If there’s one sure-fire way to effectively promote your company and what it sells, customer testimonials could be it. Especially in today’s climate, we want to know what others think about a restaurant, dental practice, airline or anything in between. We use others’ opinions to help shape our own. So, why don’t all marketers take advantage of promoting what their best customers think and feel about them?
You in? Here’s how to get your customers to provide you with complimentary words about your company.
One of the most economical and easy ways to get client quotes is through surveys. After successful launches, purchases, engagements, etc. Whatever you are in the business of doing, send surveys to your customers and ask them for their feedback.
Tips on a good survey:
- Don’t make it too long! 10 questions max and make as many of them “rate us” type questions where they simply need to select a number
- Be sure to ask a few open ended questions where “yes” or “no” won’t be a valid response
- Try to phrase all questions in a way where you can use the data in your marketing efforts. For example, if you want the quotes and data to support your company’s unique selling proposition of “5 star customer service”, make sure most of the questions revolve around customer service
- Make the questions required – especially if you are offering an incentive to complete it.
- Make sure it’s clear that you might be using their quotes on your website and in other channels, and ask for permission. This is critical. “Can we use your comments as customer testimonials on our website and in other materials? _ Yes _ No”
- Also be clear that you may edit quotes for grammar and brevity.
There are a couple of ways to implement a survey process. Send one to each customer at the end of a sale or engagement. Or, you could send at certain milestones like the yearly anniversary of each client or if you simply want to survey your entire customer base yearly. If you are sending a survey to a large group of people, consider offering an incentive ($10 gift card). Participation will increase dramatically for a free gift.
The end result is that these surveys are a treasure trove of good client quotes and should also provide valuable feedback in several ways: they will help your client success teams repair any customer issues; provide ideas for new products or services; give your team a number of new ideas for messaging and marketing campaigns.
Testimonial format & scheduling
Video is the best medium for testimonials. Your potential clients can see and hear a real customer say good things about you. That’s a very powerful endorsement when they can put a face and voice to someone who supports your company. Video testimonials, while more costly than other methods like creating graphics with client quotes, are far more effective. If you are concerned about how to get your testimonial customers together so you can record them on the same day, consider hiring a videographer and plan your video session around an industry event or trade show where most of your testimonial candidates will be. This cuts down dramatically on costs as you, the videographer and your handful of selected testimonial clients are all in the same place at the same time. Shoot the video all in the same day. Roll out the edited versions over time according to your schedule.
Maybe video testimonials are just not in the budget or you can’t get people to agree to be in front of the camera. Not a problem. Incorporating testimonials, in any form, far exceed not using them at all. Happy customers are the best marketing tool you have. Use them.
7- They don’t create client portals
Every business – no matter what industry – should utilize portals to get customers coming back to their website for internal documents, white papers and other useful downloadables. This simple technique to get your customers coming back to your site is greatly underutilized as a marketing tool.
Client portals keep customers coming back.
Portals can be used to:
- Share documents between you and your clients (user manuals, training, meeting notes, etc)
- Collect payment. Even if your company doesn’t allow for online payments, you could carve out a section of your client portal to download the latest invoices.
Don’t miss out on these opportunities by creating a client portal to:
- Promote other products/services that each client isn’t taking advantage of
- Showcase white papers or other content that could be of interest to your client
- Create share links for clients to easily share valuable content
- Promote relevant events
- Announce client referral programs and other news
Client portals can be utilized as an important client marketing tool for all companies in most industries. And perhaps the most compelling reason to focus more efforts on retaining your best customers: it’s more cost effective.
According to Harvard Business Review: “…depending on which study you believe, and what industry you’re in, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. The bottom line: keeping the right customers is valuable.”
Are you doing all you can with your customer base? Could they benefit from other products or services you offer? Tell them all about it on your new client portal.
8 – They don’t have a public relations strategy to support the site
Public Relations doesn’t just mean creating a press release stating “hey, come look at our shiny new object at www dot” or “our website now actually looks good on mobile!” These are expected deliverables and nothing to announce by themselves. A good PR campaign is a comprehensive plan to secure coverage about the benefits of your new site and the value it can deliver.
If you have newsworthy features or functions of your new site, you’re doing a disservice to your target markets by keeping quiet about it. Think of it this way: your website is the destination where great new content resides. And everyone in your market should know about it.
Does your site have lots of great content that will help people with their jobs?
Do you have a cool and unique feature that sets you apart from other companies in your space? (See Mistake #4 above)
The answers to these questions will help you define your PR strategy and where to focus your efforts.
Be seen as an industry leader
An effective PR campaign positions your company, along with your new website chock full of useful tools and content, as industry leaders. PR pros can get your voice heard through blogs, trade journals, influencer social media channels, webinars, and other places where your new website (or more importantly, the new features contained within) should be appearing for your target audience to check out. PR also has the added benefit of being trusted more than advertising – because your website’s features are essentially being endorsed by the person or company where its appearing.
You’ve invested a lot in your new website, it’s content, and features. PR can, and should, be a big part of your website promotional strategy. One obvious note here: if you have a new website that looks more professional or has been rebranded, but you don’t have anything newsworthy to actively promote (new downloadable content, features, etc), don’t worry. It’s NEVER too late to add great content or new tools. Get your marketing team in a room with a whiteboard and get started today!
9 – They try to do everything by themselves
Even those who have clearly defined goals, a plan to achieve them and intentions to follow through, often don’t have the time or manpower to get everything done. And that means something is going to fall through the cracks. And that looks bad on the marketing team.
Here are some tips on dividing and conquering your marketing projects to accomplish all of your goals:
- Take your website marketing plan and map out all of the individual projects you will undertake
- Do an honest analysis of your skills and time. In what areas are you personally strong? How much time do you really have for these projects (above and beyond your other responsibilities)?
- Do the same exercise with your team. There will be obvious areas where they will help achieve your goals (designers, writers, project managers), but there are other areas where you just aren’t equipped to take on.
- Color code what you and your team plan to take on as “internal” projects
- What’s left on your list that isn’t marked internal? How will you get those initiatives accomplished?
After doing this thorough analysis, it will likely be clear that you need help. You’ll utilize your marketing team and other internal champions as much as possible, but that’s usually not enough. If your company is in growth mode, you’ll want to partner with an outside firm who truly wants to form a long term relationship and grow with your company. A relationship with a thoughtful, creative, and strategic firm can bring new ideas, expertise, and manpower to the partnership and more than pay for their fees – in results. And then you look like a hero to your management team. Win/win!
10 – They don’t report successes to their management team
Speaking of looking like a hero. Most of us don’t pat ourselves on the back. Ever. Sure, some of you reading this don’t fit into that category and are good about sharing your team’s successes. That’s great – high five to you! But the majority of us don’t take credit for what we accomplish as marketers and that can lead to big problems.
Risks of not sharing successes (and being honest about missteps):
- Your senior leadership team and/or Board are always wondering “what does our marketing team do, anyway?” Ouch.
- Your budgets will suffer if your CFO and other C-level folks don’t clearly know the impact you are having on the organization
- You can’t grow your team or get additional funds for external partners or initiatives, further increasing the challenges in achieving your goals
- You lose your impact with management as a key member of the company’s strategic vision
Here’s what you should do:
Brag, brag, brag about your successes! Tailor your bragging approach according to the audience. For example:
CFOs, CEOs, and other execs want to see metrics. What you spent, the ROI, number of new leads, sales, website visitors, etc. Whatever the key performance indicators are – show them the increases that YOU were responsible for. Every executive wants to see a chart that goes up and to the right. If you are successful, you’ve got those plenty of those to share.
The general employee population may also want to see numbers but share some anecdotal stories with this group and include others in your praise: “through our marketing campaign last quarter, we secured these three fortune 500 companies as clients…thank you to saleswoman x for closing these deals!”. Feel good vibes abound. This is great content for all-company meetings and newsletters.
Transparency about failure is just as important
As much as we all want to be perfect, it’s clearly not possible. Especially in marketing. With careful monitoring, a tuned-in marketing expert will see when a marketing program isn’t achieving its goals and either make changes on the fly or pull the plug entirely. Of course, changing direction at a moment’s notice applies to digital but not anything that falls into the “old school” marketing categories of direct marketing, print ads, outdoor, etc. In any case, be direct and forthcoming with your manager about any marketing shortcomings as they happen and what you’ve done to improve the situation. Business leaders don’t like surprises. Be honest. Be transparent.
Not the End All, Be All
The 10 steps above merely scratch the surface of what’s possible when launching a new site. We didn’t talk about geo-targeting, social influencer marketing, and any number of other marketing tactics. This paper was meant to get your ideas flowing.
Sadly, most of the ‘marketing’ and ‘content’ aspects surrounding a website launch are thought of as an afterthought and are severely hampered when your team attempts to retro-fit marketing initiatives into your new site. The urgency for a new site is understandable – you just want to get it done so prospects and customers are seeing your shiny new online experience. But the ideal time to think about promoting your site was during those initial conversations about website development. Goals, challenges, branding, new market segments and other important factors are discussed early on. Add “marketing” to your critical list of initiatives. You’re putting a lot of time and resources into your site – an integrated and well thought out marketing plan goes a long way to ensure that your site will not only look good, but produce results.