Recently, I was interviewed by the MasterCard Small Business Management Series for a podcast to be featured on the MasterCard website.
The topic I was asked to speak about was, "How to ensure your web designer is trustworthy".
As I dutifully responded to the reporters story angle (unscrupulous or negligent web designers and how to avoid them), my inner marketer kept screaming inside my head to address the larger, and vastly more important issue, "Why would a business person consider their website as a separate, stand alone "thing" rather than the cornerstone of an integrated marketing strategy?" If a business person is considering a hired gun, spiffy web designer to place flashy bells and whistles along with the company logo on the Internet, the company surely must have a well researched web strategy integrated with a comprehensive marketing communications plan, right? Based solely on the MasterCard reporters story angle, apparently not.
So why is this such a big deal, anyway? Every interaction is a brand transaction, and in particular, your website is probably the most frequently used vehicle of stakeholder interaction a business could have.
Today, the business or corporate website has taken the place of traditional customer communication such as brochures and literature.
In fact, email has virtually replaced phone conversations and even face-to-face meetings with customers (I actually have a client in New Jersey going on a two year relationship that I have never met!).
In many instances, investor relations, vendor relations, media relations, banking relationships and employee relations are all conducted through websites.
Don't believe me? Count the number and quality of job applicants you receive from an ad in your local paper.
Now compare it to the response from on-line career search sites.
Could you possibly imagine you could conduct business today and not be on-line? A company website is today's essential business tool.
It is the first (and unfortunately sometimes the last) place anyone interested in more information about your company will go, including customers, prospects, vendors and suppliers, potential new employees and current associates.
It represents your brand, your reputation, your stability as a business, your potential as an employer.
In short, it represents your future.
Your website, no matter how large and robust, or modest in size and features, must occupy center stage in your marketing communications strategy.
Hiring a web designer or boutique that doesn't delve deeply into your core business goals and objectives, and then seeks to integrate this web strategy into your marketing plan is a very costly mistake.
It is a mistake so fundamental to the success of your business, the lost opportunity will never really be measurable.
You may never be able to identify the hiring candidate who thought your company not a good option and moved on, the investor who came away thinking their money would be better spent with a more progressive company, or the customer who drifted away because they found it so much easier to deal with a competitor on-line.
That's the Big deal.