It's fundamental - focus on your website.
You thought this Blog post was going to tell you that you're missing the boat because your company is not on Twitter or blogging. Wrong. Maybe the problem is that you have not created an iPhone app yet, or that you don't even know if there is a Facebook page set-up for the brands, products and services that you sell. Wrong again.
All of the attention you think you should be spending on online marketing in the many digital channels and platforms will bring your company zero return if you don't have a website that is not only nice and easy-to-use, but findable through all of the search engines (yes, that includes Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!).
It's time to get back to basics. It's almost laughable to think that some companies don't have a serious, robust and up-to-date website in 2009. No matter what you do - and this include business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) - everyone, at every level of any organization, always goes online to see just who they are doing business with. This could be potential customers, clients, vendors, consultants and more. As each day passes, we're seeing just how significant a website is to the overall business strategy of all companies.
Here's a scenario: you're having lunch with a business colleague who recommends a new laptop for you to check out. Do you run down to Best Buy? Do you call your IT department and have them fax you over a spec sheet? No and no.
You do what everyone does: you check it out online.
You do a quick search, look for some reviews and empower yourself with more knowledge than any retail clerk at any major electronics retailer could ever have. In fact, when you finally do hit the stores, you are so informed about the product and features that your more advanced questions send the clerk to the exact same spot that you used: the Internet and the manufacturer's website.
Your website is becoming the primary and first connection that most people have with your company and brand.
Remember the old saying "You never get a second chance to make a first impression?" Every day, hundreds (maybe thousands) of people are thinking about your company, researching it online and checking out your website. What does your website really say to that person if it is the first impression?
Here's the good news: fixing up your website is probably one of the most cost-effective marketing solutions to multiple business challenges.
Your online presence is no longer just an interactive brochure (that's so 1998). Now, more than ever, your corporate website is the gateway to your business. It's far too easy to get caught up in the latest shiny object to come along, but never let that distract you from taking a good, serious and hard look at what everyone sees when they come to your online home. "It's not that important for us. It really isn't that big of a deal. Real people with real business opportunities are going to do more due diligence, and they're going to connect with us in person." That's the most common rebuttal to the "get your website fixed ASAP" argument. It's simple arrogance. It also demonstrates a true lack of understanding the realities of the new business landscape.
I've connected with many venture-capital types, and heard their constant refrain about how they had got interested in a particular business - be it from an investment or potential partnership - only to have the bets go off once they went to their website (or discovered there wasn't one). The simple conclusion: How could these companies make a wise investment if they can't even get a simple website together?
The big idea here is to take a step back. Analyze what your current website looks like. Use one of the many free Web analytics tools (Google Analytics or Yahoo Web Analytics) to monitor how many people are coming to your website every day, how they found you - what keywords did they use in the search engines or what links.
Once you know that, you can start building your site around what matters most to your users. You can write copy in their language (not with your business jargon) and make the site flow better. Make sure that your site is built and programmed with "clean" language that is friendly for the search engines. Review your website, frequently. Buy some friends some pizza and ask them for their candid feedback on what you're doing online.
Remember, even if your website is not perfect, great design and content will make up for shortcomings. Having a clean and well structured website will drive traffic from the search engines as well. Believe it or not, potential customers are looking for you right now. What are they finding? You or your competition?
How do you feel about the overall state of corporate websites?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here: