Why Your Website May Fail as a Sales Tool

An Unexpected Parallel

I often joke that I will pull up YouTube to research a topic and before I know it I’m 8 clicks deep and watching videos about alien abductions. It’s a guilty pleasure but one that unearths surprisingly useful chestnuts such as the story of the Glass Bank.

The story of the Glass Bank is a sad yet fascinating parable how creativity, human nature, design + construction can end up in disaster when they are not aligned.

When my clients ask me questions I often use examples or stories to drive home the most important elements of the answer- or as I like to say “the so what?”

Little did I know how the story of the Glass Bank would relate to a question about responsive design…

The Glass Bank + Responsive Website Design- Who Knew?

An Intriguing Discussion 

We recently met with one of our clients in order to discuss how their corporate website tied in with their new business + customer continuity objectives.

A few hours later, after researching about responsive design, the client sent me a very thought-provoking email.

Here’s an excerpt from the email:

“Yesterday, we discussed formatting each page for desktop, tablet and smartphone.
See the first link, below, re: Big Pictures on Small Screens…
As you can see, some sites get it wrong and some sites get it right. One would have thought some of the larger companies should have done it right, yet they did not.
Why would that be?”

Obligatory Disclaimer

I do my best to go into all situations with no predisposition or prejudice. The opinions I’m sharing with you are formulated over years and are based on the blend of experiences.

My feedback on this particular issue is based on my experience seeing the practical application of marketing strategies juxtaposed with the varying degrees of organizational misalignments I’ve witnessed across clients and prospects.

Speaking of that…

 

Website Design Is Not the Issue

The responsive design choices (and implementation) that my client was concerned about are just a symptom—one of many.

There is an underlying disease which is much larger than “Why do companies fail when it comes to responsive?”

The underlying disease is organizational misalignment.

After growing to a certain size, all companies suffer from this disease on one level or another, in one form or another.

Based on my experience, organizational misalignment causes a handful of issues that undermine customer acquisition + retention strategies as a whole, not just the company website.

This article is an overview of these issues.

The “Too Big To Fail” Syndrome

“Too Big to Fail” relates to situations where the brand equity of an organization can be so large in the marketplace that they are guaranteed to have a seat at the table for new business, regardless of how their website is structured. These organizations are oftentimes so large that their sales organization acquires customers simply based on their exposure or brand recognition.

I have worked with such companies in the past and I’ve come to understand that, when their websites are lagging behind, it’s not because of lack of internal resources or insight. It’s because the company website is still viewed as a branding hub instead of a load-bearing customer acquisition + retention platform.

The “too big to fail” companies don’t (yet) need to ring the rag tightly on their marketing and website content. Their brand is so established and their sales organization is so established, that they haven’t felt the pain of spending marketing dollars in vain.

That said; more of these companies are adopting a customer-centric approach to drive the user experience strategies for their web properties. Still, some of the largest organizations are struggling to make this much-needed change. Why and how could this be?

Fragmented Marketing

Another issue that is causing misalignment within the organization is the fragmented marketing approach.

I have witnessed, especially with companies that have scaled quickly, that rapid growth begets marketing fragmentation.

An example:

A previously unified Marketing Department evolves into Digital, Sales Enablement, Internal Agency and (the most problematic) Content.

As more and more new departments spring up in a growing company, strategic goals diverge and focus shifts to different outcomes. They become organizations within the organization and it’s nearly impossible to align all of the people in these sub-organizations because everyone works in their own isolated silo.

To make matters worse, in most of these companies the implementation of marketing changes to the corporate website falls to the IT group. In some cases, IT organizations employ either proprietary backend systems or other platforms built on technology familiar to the internal staff. As a result, Marketing might be unable to implement changes to their systems in a timely fashion, or at all, leading to a significant proportion of failed marketing strategies.

Vendors Don’t Hit the Mark

I can remember many times when I have been presented with a piece of creative that I found myself saying:

“What in the world is this and how does it relate to my client’s business?”

In most cases the creative is supposed to be some kind of a metaphor. While original and well done, these pieces often leave way too much to the imagination when it comes to the intuitive connection to the goals of the campaign/strategy, etc.

These are all too common examples of the disconnect between creative and practical implementation of creative intended to generate business results. Each time this situation would present itself I would leave the meeting thinking that these vendors had only worked with clients who could afford to waste their marketing budget. Fortunately or unfortunately (for me) I was never in that situation. My clients (big or small) needed to make every dollar count.

This issue isn’t limited to the subjective nature of creative…

It extends to implementation vendors and the strategies which orbit a company’s website. 

User Experience (UX), Creative, Branding, Website Design, Frontend/Backend Website Development—all of these (believe it or not) have evolved into separate career tracks.

This trend of specialization is problematic for both companies which are looking for true supplementation to their marketing strategy and vendors who strive to deliver a service but are under tremendous strain due to the costs associated with retaining specialized talent.

Long story short?

  • A company leverages a vendor because they do not have the skills/bandwidth internally or the budget/inclination to source these specialized roles long-term.
  • A vendor providing that service struggles to maintain the expertise they are contracted for because they are up against the same dynamics the company faces.
  • A marketplace that is a constantly-evolving, fertile ground for ever-multiplying tools + tactics which require skills and training to operate + execute. It is a full-time job to remain current with even one tool or tactic.

What you get is an untenable situation for the company and the vendor.

To Be Continued...

Keep Reading! 
Why Your Website May Fail as a Sales Tool, Part ll 


In Part ll, discover how to effectively design your website to acquire the right customers. 

Change is inevitable. Progress is a choice.
Have the Courage to Prioritize Progress.