Marketers Need to Control Their Content
Why my website is at the center of my marketing strategy
It wasn’t that long ago when I was responsible for all digital marketing but had no input, control, or access to the primary digital presence—the website.
I always felt frustrated about the fact that as a “digital marketer” I couldn’t leverage the digital channel that had the most reach, impact, and effect to it’s fullest extent. For whatever reason, early on, marketers were not entrusted with the keys to the car. We were expected to wash it, maintain it, improve it, but we couldn’t drive it. I’d get questions like,
- Why don’t we have more traffic to page A?
- Why can’t users get from page A to page B?
- Why don’t we have more leads/conversions?
and all the while the answers I could give felt like “my best guess.” The answers were always based on intuition, assumptions, and trying to tie data to a hypothesis, but I couldn’t give an answer that I felt strongly about because I didn’t have input on the strategy or creation, I didn’t design it, or build it. I can’t make a Ferrari out of a Gremlin, but that felt like the expectation.
Marketing as an industry has not only embraced digital technology, but it has also seen it disrupt the practice more than I think was ever expected. It’s to the point now where there are some marketers who will only do digital. There was a transition about 6 years ago where marketers - even ones who still didn’t understand how the technology worked - started to embrace the power of the online world. In large part, this was because of the reporting and visibility into the success of a marketing effort.
"As I look to optimize established marketing tactics, and plan new marketing strategies I place my website in the middle of my campaign cycle."
This meant that B2B and B2C companies started to adopt social media marketing by creating Facebook pages, starting SEM/PPC campaigns via Google Adwords, and starting Email Marketing Campaigns to improve direct communication with their consumers. Now, marketers might be one of the most digitally obsessed groups of people always looking for the “new,” great technology that will give them an edge. (Side note: I’ve heard several marketers and marketing agencies over the past few years who have claimed they will not do any “traditional marketing campaigns,” that is, non-digital marketing ever again. I think this is a bad stance, but that is a different topic.)
However, even though there was a major adoption of digital technologies in our profession, one of the channels in our arena that still seemed to not be included as a part of our marketing strategies was the “website.”
There are a lot of factors that restrict marketers from incorporating the company website into the overall strategy, and I believe that this is because it feels like you have to know how it works to control it, unlike Facebook. Marketers pushing for the ability to control websites and drive the visual and functional direction has lead to the rise in the Content Management System (CMS) driven website platforms like Drupal and Wordpress. Marketers are, all the same, we love having our websites built on platforms that we can control the functionality of, easily implement changes, add new content, create landing pages, update the visuals and improve our SEO and brand position. As a group, we are also impatient so we don’t want to have to wait on IT to change things because it will take too long, and we’ll probably want to change it again by the time IT gets around to it.
One of the other traits that we marketers share is that we’re all control freaks. And, really, rightfully so. Our jobs, careers, and ultimately our reputation are on the line if our campaigns don’t perform. It is still common place to get an annual directive of a budget and growth target, and if you don’t grow the company by the determined amount in the specified timeframe and within your budget you can start looking for a new job.
It used to be that a website was something that only a few major brands or the "dotcom” companies had. Then it became something that everyone had, but was viewed as something you created once and that was it - like a monument honoring your company. Now it has gone beyond that and in a lot of cases, IS THE BRAND.
Here is an example: Recently, I was talking to a VP of Marketing who has been part of a brand that was a digital first company (i.e. had launched their product with only a web presence) and they were about to launch their first brick and mortar location. Their primary concern was that their physical storefront had to look and feel like their website.
Why is that?
The fact is, their website, like ours, has become the cornerstone of their brand because it is the most public facing element of a business.
"More people see your website everyday than you will talk to in a year."
In any industry, a website is the first thing that a consumer, of any generation, will look for first. Which means that more people see our website than our office, meet our president - Greg Bear, not Potus - connect with one of our developers, or even talk to our clients. This is the case daily, and even hourly.
As marketers, we build a messaging framework, a ladder, have voice & tone guidelines, and think endlessly about the right copy that is going to sink its teeth in our target market, or at least, catch them from the right angle.
Social channels, ads, all are domains you don't own and all come with strong limitations - character length, look and feel, etc -- they might have an audience on social, but you can only play by their rules - which limits their effectiveness. Nothing is stronger than your own domain for managing the message. Which is why every ad campaign we run, social media post we publish, or event we attend has the aim of driving traffic to our website.
Why would anything else be the nexus of a strong marketing strategy?
A website, beautiful and highly functional, is no longer a business element that is nice to have, or a way of keeping up with the jones’ - it will make or break your company. It is your identity.