The eternal question. Where does your web team fit in? Are they in the IT, Marketing or Sales department? Should the IT team be driving the site (considering their usual lack of marketing and sales) or should the Marketing team be driving it (considering their usual lack of technology know-how and apprehension to get too close to the sales people)?
It's a toughie.
The reality is that you need to identify key drivers in each of those departments who have enough competencies to bring the company's brand, promise and beliefs to the online world. Why is that so critical?
How many times do you go to a store or service provider, then to the online environment and discovered that they don't match. Not the best of corporate strategies. The reality is this: for your online to work, your company has to have a core understanding of the following:
- What do your customers want to do when they come to your website?
- How easy is it for them to get what they want and leave without any bottlenecks, errors or frustration?
- What are you doing to engage them with new messaging that encourages them to be loyal, buy from you and tell everyone else about the experience?
- How are you analyzing their current experience and improving your site around real users and real needs?
- How frequently do you update your website? - the pretty pictures count but the content is king.
- What are you doing to keep them coming back... and to buy or give you more information?
- How does online advertising, search engines, e-mail, Blogs, RSS feeds, webinars and wireless play into your marketing mix?
- Behind the scenes, how do usability, analytics and your site statistics drive the further development of your online experience?
- How many people dismiss working with you by simply checking out your site - without you even knowing about it? (this is a big and important psychological question you have to ask yourself - because the truth is: you have no idea).
- Do you see your website cost as one "big invoice" or do you actually track your investment based off of amortizing the experience over a 3-5 year period?
Why are these questions important? Because web design is not your website. Web development is not your website. Technology is not your website. Buying keywords and waiting for the Google phone to ring is not your website. Putting your brochure in bullet-points online is not your website.
Your website is one of the first branding and touchpoints experiences that people will have of you and you don't even know about it. If you don't believe that you only get one chance to make a first impression, go and buy Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Blink. Then when you're done that, read Kevin Robert's Lovemarks and then start planning by reading Seth Godin's Purple Cow.
Sounds like a lot of work? Compare that to how much business you many not even know you're leaving at the table simply because people are clicking on your site (or maybe they can't even find it?!?) and then leaving for another company that truly "speaks" to them.
This is the stuff that keeps me up at night.
I once attended a leadership development session. After the speaker finished I asked what I could do now, considering I felt so overwhelmed by the amount of information he had given out. His answer: "why should I be the only one awake at night staring at the wall?"