We Don’t Need an Impressive Website.

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We’ve been discussing the design and development of a new website with a boutique professional services firm. The firm has been around for more than 20 years and enjoys an excellent reputation throughout the region. It has never had to formally market itself as its reputation has done the lion’s share of the work. That’s why its partners were stunned when they lost a piece of significant business they sincerely believed was a lock.

As the firm’s founder reported to us, “All things being equal, we didn’t get the business due to the ‘underwhelming’ presentation of our business.” He continued, “Not necessarily because of our core capabilities or performance. We didn’t get the business because, and I still can’t believe it, our website. We were told that, relative to our competitors, it didn’t represent our understanding or appreciation of the role that technology plays…”

Believe it. It happens every day.

What’s remarkable to us is that the loss didn’t immediately affect their thinking regarding the website. “We’re still not 100% sure that we need to throw that kind of money at a website,” the founder said. “That was an isolated incident and not representative of our normal course of business.  The web is not what drives our sales. We’ve come this far without it and our website is probably good enough.”

Probably good enough? Is that a risk worth taking? We believe that our friends have gone as far as they’re going to go with their last generation logic.

Costly Logic

We had made a strong case that their website shouldn’t be considered as an afterthought or expense. Rather, one of the most important investments the firm can make. Particularly for a firm that just lost a significant piece of business due to its lack of a positive web presence. We argued that their logic is likely costing the firm revenue in lost opportunities. We know about the loss of this specific business. We don’t know what other business was lost before the sales process even started.

So, as an experiment, they allowed us to set up Google Analytics and track their website’s performance over the course of a month. Much to their surprise, the website had more than 300 unique visitors. Much to their chagrin, more than 85% of users dropped off at their homepage. Coupled with the recent lost business for not representing their technology acumen, they realized that there is interest in their firm that they were unaware of. Common sense indicated that, just as they thought, their reputation is preceding them. It also indicated that their website is, literally, turning prospects away.  Upon looking at the data, their logic shifted and we are currently developing their new website.

The Point

Our friends above are not alone. Many small- and mid-size companies are clinging to last generation logic because that’s what’s worked in the past. And with ever-present capital constraints, they still view web development as a pure expense – not affordable yesterday, today or likely tomorrow. The irony, as witnessed above, is that the cost of not developing an impressive website is far greater than developing it. A shift in logic is critical. When the cost of lost opportunity is greater than the cost of development, development is clearly an investment with tangible returns.

In this day and age, all of this seems obvious. To many, however, it’s not. No matter the industry in which a company resides, a website is most often the first point of meaningful interaction a company has with a prospect. Whether driven by reputation, referral or simple search, prospects will seek validation and information by reviewing a company’s website. We could spend days discussing, in deep detail, the importance of effective brand and digital strategy, but that’s well beyond the issue at hand. For small- and mid-size companies that have relied solely on reputation and referrals or a substantial salesforce, an impressive website is, without question, one of their most important investments they can make.

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