I often have introductory calls with potential clients who are building the case for addressing their digital woes and struggling to convince upper management that a digital transformation initiative makes sense. For many of you, I’m sure that battle is all too familiar.
There are many reasons why an organization should revamp their digital presence. Some reasons are tangible and analytical; others are simply opinion-based, such as aesthetics or preferences. But the one angle that always works when discussing a project with ownership is the value conversation.
Ultimately, value drives decisions. I have never met a client who isn’t willing to invest to see value returned. Return on investment (ROI) is a concept that is universal to all decision makers when it comes to top-of-mind business concerns.
But for many marketing managers and CMOs, the challenge exists in having an actual, effective conversation about the value that a digital overhaul can produce.
Every company is different and values things in a unique way. For some companies, just having an outdated look and feel is something that irks management—they want to be brought up to date with a new look and an energizing experience for their website visitors. But even in that case, how do you put a monetary value on design?
Typically, management simply doesn’t know what they don’t know. The digital production side of things is historically undervalued by most old-school executives who don’t understand how the medium plays into their business. After all, many of them have been running their business for decades—why worry about something as mundane as an informational website now?
With all of this in mind, I’ve assembled some ammunition to help you navigate a value conversation with your own upper management.
The Value of Credibility
I’m going to harp first on credibility, which is a term that I admit is gray in definition and varies from person to person. What one individual judges as “credible” can be deemed untrustworthy by another. But on the Web, there is a level of credibility that is easy to determine by the plurality of web visitors. It’s a general look and feel in combination with other factors, such as user reviews, social media engagement, and content freshness.
Basically, it’s the entire digital package that your company offers to users.
The best way to approach a credibility conversation is to compare your own company’s digital presence against that of your competitors. This instant litmus test will either reinforce your fears or create new ones if you have been ignoring your digital footprint. If your website is dated, the content is stale, you have no social activity, or the site itself loads slowly and inconsistently, you could be scaring away business.
But how do you assign value to this for your higher-ups?
I routinely see companies come to us with revenue numbers in the tens of millions or higher whose websites appear to be from the era of flip phones. It boggles the mind. To wrap our heads around this, let’s do a simple math exercise.
If you have $20M in revenue, what is your average customer size? For some B2B companies, this could be a substantial number. What is the lost value, then, when just a single customer works with your competitor instead of you? This rudimentary calculation should provide more than enough of a value proposition for rethinking your digital ecosystem.
Sometimes, upper management just wants to remind us that they are just that: management. They made it this far, the company is doing well, yada yada yada. But it’s important to remember that these days, your website is actually viewed as a preview of what it’s like to work with your company. It should reflect your commitment to being a leader in your space. Your social media should show your personality and approachability. And your content must provide insight into your knowledge and capabilities. Without those key elements, you can’t move forward, no matter how long you’ve made it without them.
I’ll dig into this a bit deeper in my next point, but your web presence is the always-available resource to reinforce to your potential customers, partners, and employees the value of your service or offerings. On the flip side, it’s also a place where you can take a positive impression and turn it upside down if you aren’t careful.
The scariest part? You can discourage a visitor from working with you in mere seconds…
By the way, a company with $20M in revenue should, in theory, be spending about 7.5% of their income on marketing, according to Deloitte. In some industries, it’s much higher. At 7.5%, that represents a marketing budget of $1.5M. Is it really that outlandish to put 5% or even .375% of your overall revenue toward renovating the digital face of your company? Is it really feasible to say that this is a poor investment?
Your Best Sales Person
I have a challenge for upper management. Post a job listing and look for a salesperson you can hire who works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They take no vacation, they have no need for fringe benefits, and they never call in sick.
What is the value of this individual if you could hire them?
That above description is what your website is all about. It’s always there, always selling (when you let it). What is the value of such an employee?
I often see business owners who are so fast to hire as many people as they can, especially in the sales arena. They set these salespeople out to pound pavement, only to then leave them with no destination to send potential customers to. When your salesperson leaves a customer visit, sure, maybe they drop a business card or some other marketing collateral. But what’s the end destination of those materials? No one wants to use the phone, and everyone wants to do due diligence before doing business with you. So where do they go for that research and to verify your legitimacy?
The answer is online. And that’s why your website is another essential link in the chain of the sales mechanism you have in place.
I am not going to embellish and say that your website will close sales for you. You have to have a sales process in place and have a great value proposition for your customers. But your website can definitely derail your chances when it’s not helping them.
If you know anything about me, you know that I’m a golf addict. There is a saying on the PGA Tour: You can’t win a tournament on the first day, but you can definitely lose one. This principle carries into the digital world—you have to make sure this essential piece is representing your company well, or you will immediately lose.
The idea of lost opportunity brings about the fear of missing out, or FOMO. You hear a lot about this in the investment world. In the digital space, it happens literally around the clock. If your website is not doing a great job representing your business and the benefits of doing business with you, you are missing out.
You can trust me on this point, or you can look at analytics. Check out your metrics across some categories such as bounce rate, time on site, or exit percentages. Those numbers should send absolute shivers across your organization, as each one is a missed opportunity. If your bounce rates are through the roof, you have to be concerned about just how much business is leaving you to visit your competitors. Most visitors to a B2B website are in some way interested in engaging your company, either as a customer, employee, or vendor. Each visitor is important, and each is an opportunity lost when they bounce off your site.
Take potential employees as an example. If you are hiring quickly to expand, the very first place an employee will go is your website. They will want to make sure the company they’re applying to is legitimate and that it’s an environment in which they want to work. There is a lot at stake, as the quality of your employees, in many ways, determines the quality of your company and offerings. So when they go running the other way…well, it’s not a great sign.
When you look at the statistics, you start to realize just how important your website is. It’s the centerpiece of so much that you do, it’s the easily accessible starting point for anyone that wants to learn about your business. What is the value of that to you and management?
Put Value in Perspective
I had a customer years ago that had an impressive conference room. I mean, it was top-shelf. There were giant terracotta warrior sculptures over 5 feet tall, impressive lighting, and the table was some sort of glass that seemed quite luxurious. I asked what the room cost to put together—I’m never ashamed to ask these types of questions, and most people willing to spend that much money are usually quick to tell you—they said something in the area of $100,000.
Then, I kid you not, they proceeded to tell us how our $20,000 bid for their new website was outrageous and that they didn’t see the value in it.
To put this in perspective (without going into too much detail), I can tell you that their website traffic hovered in the area of 2,500 visits per month. The bounce rates were out of control. The branding was awful. The site was many years old. It was a disaster.
How many people do you think rotated in and out of that conference room in a day? A month? A year?! Sometimes, I wonder where common sense has gone when a client spends 5x on a conference room in a leased building that they do not own and takes their eye off the prize when it comes to their website. At 30,000 visitors per year and a homepage bounce rate of nearly 65%, that was almost 19,5000 people who said goodbye at first glance. That hurts.
By the way, this has happened to me many, many times. Don’t forget the CMO who wanted us to work for free, as an example, hoping we’d figure out all of his woes in a couple of days for nothing. But my favorite was the reality TV celebrity who reneged on a contract, didn’t pay their bill, yelled “Don’t you know who I am!”, and then proceeded to build his website on Wix.
As the kids say these days: SMH. You get what you pay for.
The Value of Flexibility
I think the value of having the ability to actually implement change is something overlooked all too often by management, and everyone else, really.
The role of the marketer today is part data scientist, part technologist, and part content maven. It isn’t enough to have a flashy website; you need to be able to actually manage and amend it in response to a variety of factors. Corporate restructuring, new sales initiatives, and other things that require your attention and pop up from areas out of your control need to be addressed.
Today, there is a value to being able to respond first and fast. And to do that, you need to convince upper management to empower the marketing team with tools that can help measure, create, and distribute content and offers to end users efficiently. Management needs to understand the value of being first in a marketplace that is global and instant. After all, no one wants to be last to the party, and having systems and tools in place that empower marketing and sales teams is essential for long-term success.
Your Website Matters
This is the thought I want to end this post with. Your website matters, even if management may not necessarily see it that way. It is important to reinforce the value a website delivers on a daily basis, how it influences your potential customers and employees, and how it affects your bottom line.
At its worst, your website may not gain you any business; in fact, it can definitely scare business away. But at its best, I’d venture to say the most common outcome is a positive digital experience that will help convert visitors to leads, and leads into customers, which is where the true value lies for upper management and the organization at large.