“We need a website.” Every day, countless managers and executives utter that thought in one way or another, to themselves or in board rooms when discussing marketing strategy. And the statement is true. In today’s digital age, your target audience spends a large amount of their time online, both for personal pleasure and researching services like yours.
And yet, the statement is also misleading. You don’t need a website. You need a comprehensive marketing strategy. While your website should be an integral part of that strategy, it should not be your only focus.
Yes, You Need a Website
As of 2015, 85% of Americans use the internet. The majority of those who don’t are above 65 years old, earn less than $30,000 annually, and/or have less than a high school degree. In other words, your target audience is invariably online.
Of course, just how their spend their time online matters as well. As smartphones have become increasingly ubiquitous, the share of users who access apps rather than their internet browser has increased along with it. But a website remains crucial, acting as the focal point of your marketing efforts.
You Don’t Just Need a Website: Going Beyond the Need
Looking at the above two paragraphs in isolation, though, is misleading. In 2016, you need a website. But so does everyone else, meaning that especially in competitive, online-based industries like SaaS, simply having a website won’t make you stand out.
Let’s stay with the SaaS example for a minute. If you offer a software solution to a business audience, chances are they expect that solution to be comprehensive in fulfilling their need. Naturally, they will only subscribe to a provider they perceive to be an expert in its field, and that fields happens to be technology – which means they expect the digital infrastructure surrounding the software itself to be flawless as well. A simple, informative website that lists product features is not enough to convince them to subscribe.
Instead, your customers look to be catered to. Rather than looking simply for a website that gives them some product features or information about your services, they expect a comprehensive marketing strategy that develops a relationship with your company before they even become customers. And the only way to achieve that is to look at your website not as an end on its own, but as an important step to achieving your goal of attracting customers.
The Website as Central Marketing Hub
The rising popularity of inbound marketing illustrates this point. In inbound marketing, your website acts as the center of your digital marketing efforts, but it cannot stand on its own. You need credible, high-value content to attract potential customers, along with a comprehensive strategy of how you will let your audience know that this content actually exists.
Depending on your industry, that strategy should include search engine optimization, social media marketing, SEO-focused blogging, and more. Each of them is geared toward driving traffic to your website, but each of them should be approach strategically and as a separate need
In addition, you need to consider what happens after your visitors arrive on your site. Where does your website guide them? What do they seek to learn once they arrive on your home page, and how do they get there? Most importantly, do you have a reliable lead generation strategy in place?
Your website should never be the endpoint of your interaction with potential customers. Instead, it should be your biggest convincing tool, a perfect intermediary between attracting initial attention and generating leads. And once these leads are in your database, you can begin with the next step.
The Importance of Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing can make the difference between a successful sale and a missed opportunity. We’ve discussed the topic at length in a recent blog post, so we won’t repeat ourselves here. But it’s important to reiterate that even if your website functions great in attracting traffic and generating leads, you may be unsuccessful in closing the deal without a lead nurturing system in place. It’s yet another example of why a website, on its own, cannot be responsible for your success.
Plenty of studies and statistics bear out this fact. 73% of all B2B leads are not sales-ready, and 79% of them never convert into customers as a result. On the other hand, according to the Online Marketing Institute, businesses that engage in Marketing Automation (probably the most common lead nurturing tool) see a 451% increase in the number of qualified leads. And most importantly, organizations that nurture their lead experience a 45% higher ROI.
Without a strategy in place to nurture your leads, even the best lead-generating website will not succeed. With such a strategy, however, you can ensure that the effort you put into creating that website will contribute significantly to your success.
Adopting a Conversion Optimization Mindset
Still, it’s difficult to get away from the “we need a website” approach. To help you get there, try to adopt a conversion optimization mindset.
As a marketer, chances are that you are reporting out regular statistics about the success of your efforts. But how much do these statistics truly say about the success of your efforts? If you are introducing a new website, metrics like visitors, traffic sources, and bounce rate certainly matter. But without any correlation to what happens after your visitors come to your site, they may not be as crucial as you think.
Adopting a conversion optimization involves moving away from ‘vanity’ metrics that involve total amounts, and toward averages and rates as they relate to ‘follow-throughs.’ On average, how many of your visitors turn into leads? What percentage of these leads actually become customers? Once you can answer these questions, you can begin to make improvements to your marketing strategy to optimize it for your end goal.
Of course, such a drastic shift in focus can be difficult at first. It’s tempting to see a spike in visitors, and immediately consider your website a success. But if a high number of these new visitors bounce, or a low number turns into customers, that visitor spike may not matter as much as it seems.
If you consider your website an end on its own, these ‘vanity’ metrics will be your measure of success. But once you realize that it’s only a part of your marketing strategy, you realize that conversions – and what happens after the conversion – is a core part of making your marketing successful and helping your company succeed.
As it turns out, the statement “you need a website” is true – but incredibly misleading. Websites are and should be at the center of your digital marketing efforts, but without the surrounding infrastructure to drive visitors, leads, and customers, they will do little in helping you gain customers and grow your business.
Only a comprehensive and consistent strategy that considers the entirety of your audience’s buyers journey can help you reliably achieve success in the marketing and sales process.
Such a strategy may be difficult to implement at first, and it certainly involves more than simply building a website and hoping for the best. But once you begin to see the tangible difference that this shift in mindset can make, you will appreciate the fact that you don’t need a website. You need a comprehensive marketing strategy, with your website at its core.