Escaping the “We Need a New Site” Hamster Wheel

Your boss doesn’t like how the website looks. Colleagues continually point out your competitors’ digital presence is on the bleeding edge (whatever that means). And the CEO won’t stop demanding a new site that “does SEO” and “is social.”

So you begin gathering site requirements, scheduling calls with web agencies, and tinkering with your budget. While this approach seems logical and familiar, it perpetuates the never-ending “new site cycle.” The cycle is some variation of:

  1. A new site project is scoped then drastically reduced to accommodate a pressing need. The smaller site launches with zero project budget remaining.
  2. The next urgent initiative snags the ongoing maintenance funds you’d hoped for. That’s OK, you reassure yourself, because the site is just six months old.
  3. A few years pass without any investment beyond content updates and the occasional CMS (content management system) upgrade.
  4. Watercooler chatter of “When’s marketing ever going to do anything to the site? It’s looked that way for three years” emerges.
  5. Your boss doesn’t like how the site looks…

We’re so accustomed to the new site cycle it’s become the norm. Yet this approach is out of sync with today’s expectations. The world has adapted to continuous improvement and iterative releases. Your company’s website—its largest piece of owned media—should be no different. Following these steps can help end the new site cycle, delivering greater value to your company, prospects, and customers.

Create a story focused on a digital investment essential to revenue generation and cost reduction. A new site with a “modern look and feel” is a means to an end. The end should be a digital experience that significantly increases conversions, generates highly qualified leads, reduces customer support calls, and enables self-service. If you can incorporate eCommerce, all the better.

These may not seem like marketing functions, yet they’re all fundamental to modern retention marketing. An exceptional marketing leader brings teams together to serve existing customers and entice prospects. Thinking big picture shows you’re focused on what’s best for the business, not just your team. You’re now positioning the request as an opportunity to transform your website from a sporadically overhauled cost center to a properly funded revenue generator. And that different approach is sure to be noticed by Finance.

Build the business case for a multi-year capex and earmark a portion of your ongoing operating budget. Speaking of Finance, you’ll still likely need to complete a CFR (capital funds request). Your departmental budget can’t foot the bill. (If it can, revisit your scope to ensure it hasn’t been reduced.) Rather than submitting a one-year funds request, draft a proposed budget covering three fiscal years. Fair warning: this isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. The exercise forces you to consider what you’re really planning to accomplish and when. A trusted agency or consultant with credible marketing technology (“martech”) experience can help build your case.

On top of what’s covered in the three-year CFR, allocate a portion of your yearly budget toward the site. Shoot to set aside at least 10% of the first-year budget annually to keep your site relevant. This budget can cover items Finance may reject for the capex, such as retaining agencies for SEO or content strategy that are traditionally considered operating expenses.

Embrace a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. While you’re confident building a transformative website with a continuous improvement plan is the best path, several colleagues are thinking (or saying), “We don’t have two years to wait for a site.” You’re both right. The company must take its digital strategy seriously, but waiting for perfection will compromise revenue goals.

The good news is your three-year CFR clearly illustrates this is an iterative approach. Beyond that, insist on an agile project management methodology. Don’t release subpar work, but don’t make customers—internal and external—wait for every bell and whistle. Ensure new methods for lead generation are covered in the first phase alongside a multi-year enhancement plan. Without the latter, you risk a “good enough” response that jeopardizes your funding and buy-in.

Do the hard work for incorporating the right platforms, integrations, and personalization. Wouldn’t you love a site that:

  • recognizes a customer,
  • personalizes the experience with messaging and offers tailored to their behavior, and
  • presents their contract, purchase history, and upsell options in one location?

This future state is entirely possible if you make the commitment to building the back-end now. A marketing automation platform, CRM, ERP, and DMP (data management platform) are usually needed to achieve this functionality. The integrations between all these systems are not easy or cheap. The benefits, though, are undeniable.

In The Amazon Way, John Rossman recounts the painstaking work Amazon underwent to create its scalable systems and automation. Keeping many processes manual and staffing relatively cheap labor to handle administrative tasks was tempting. But Jeff Bezos put customer experience first and insisted on doing the hard work. Amazon’s $178 billion in revenue achieved in under 25 years speaks for itself.

Do the user experience research. We’ve come a long way without one mention of what your customers and prospects have indicated they want. Failing to make user experience a top priority plagues many marketing organizations and warrants its own blog post. Ensure your first year includes input from current customers and your target market. Mining your web analytics and CRM for insights is a must. You can also conduct or commission focus groups, surveys, and UX testing.

Make your website a top team priority. After all the work you’re putting into the site, a combination of your team, agencies, and consultants should regularly:

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  • launch new content tied to a content strategy and product launch calendar,
  • test new offers and conversion methods, and
  • monitor site performance through tools such as Google Analytics.

You’ll also need a web leader. Someone to manage the project, monitor web and industry trends, and focus on the site’s evolution. This can be a great opportunity for a team member looking to stretch, or you may need to work with HR on a requisition. Either way, you can’t do it alone.

Imagine how much more productive you’ll be in three years when finishing a new site iteration, not starting a whole new site project. Of course, no web technology or methodology is completely future proof. But breaking the new site cycle puts the odds heavily in your favor.

Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Jesse Butts
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