I go to the website of what I know to be a great, integral company and find a sad, hollowed-out experience that couldn’t be farther from the mark. I’d ask “what happened here?” but I know what happened here because I remember the billboards, which were the key tell.
It’s a vexing question, but with a straightforward answer: A website is not a campaign.
There are a lot of ways to approach the process of building an organization’s website. In our experience, one of the most expensive and disposable is to take that organization’s website and remake it into a bit player in a larger sales or marketing campaign.
The temptation is there. The energy to reinvent the messaging is palpable. The budget is generous. It had better be, because the “aha” at the big unveil is going to be splashed across billboards and print and television and radio and digital ads and, oh yeah, the website.
Here’s the problem: Your website is not a campaign. It’s a permanent fixture of your business. It should introduce, and inform, and transact, and support. Its design and functionality should be a window into your organization’s core purpose and (yes we go there) enduring soul. You know, the kind of thing that will outlast any single campaign.
Should your website play a role in any campaign? Absolutely. Should it be conceived or totally remade at the behest of one? Absolutely not. Your website’s raison d’être should derive from your core business purpose, value and function, not a billboard on the interstate.
Here’s the kicker no one seems to plan for: When the campaign is exhausted and the money spent, the website is exhausted along with it… except it’s still sitting there, confused and purposeless and full of content gaps, yet still serving up thousands of impressions of your business each day. It’s the equivalent of repainting your entire restaurant kelly green to promote St. Patrick’s Day, then leaving it that way for the rest of the year. It’s a helluva hangover.
A good marketing agency (digital or otherwise) can be invaluable, but it plays a specific role. A marketing agency’s skillset is optimized for creating and executing campaigns that often also integrate with your website. However, the skills that make that website itself outstanding and enduring — an evolutionary strategy, an inspiring and implementable design system, deep front-end and back-end development expertise, and the devops chops to deliver scalable hosting and 24/7 support — are a different thing entirely.
(P.S. For the record, if a website is not a campaign, an application is really not a campaign. There are enough problems there for a whole other post.)