Another way for your online marketing to fail: when your site is not run by the people who commissioned it

For some reason, most companies see the setting up of a new website as a major event: and rightly so! – this is after all the way that the vast majority of customers or potential new staff or corporate partners will find out about them after all.

There are a large number of meetings amongst senior staff, and in the more enlightened companies the view of the rank and file might also be sought.  A great deal of the most valuable and scare commodity in any company – that is management time and thought – is spent getting the site right.  The information architecture is agonised over: new photography is commissioned; copywriters labour over every paragraph; the IT department hunches over their keyboards to get the back-office technology just right.

Then with much fanfare the site is launched – and the management team goes onto their next new big project, and the running of the site is handed over to a “manager”.  Never a “Director” or a “Partner” – just a “Manager”.

This means that the site will suffer from two massive problems immediately it is launched:

  • it is not run by the people who commissioned it in the first place
  • the people who do run it have all of the responsibility for making it work but none of the authority.

Big companies like to run on projects with fixed delivery dates and easily measured success criteria.  “Getting the site live by date X” fulfills all of these requirements: it is a set deliverable by a set date.  The senior management can get on board, work like crazy, deliver the site and then declare success – and then move on.

Suddenly the person who is running the site on a day to day basis (if that person even exists!) is perceived as being by definition of lower status because they were not on the team that set up the site.  Inevitably, running and maintaining the site and making it achieve the businesses objectives are seen as less important and less glamorous than setting it up in the first place.  The hard work seems to have been done: now it is time to hand it over to an exec or manager for the trivial task of keeping it updated.

This person will almost definitely have none of the authority to effect any change that is needed, because they are not sufficiently senior: they will be a classic victim of the authority – responsibility mismatch I have seen so many times in online marketing teams.  They will see what needs changing but when they propose the changes be made they will be met with barriers and “well – the MD said it should be this way so we don’t want to bother him about changing it.”

This is one of the reasons that large organisations seem to go through a two year cycle of huge revamps of their sites, announced with huge fanfare, between which the site seems to languish as a backwater and does not get the resources needed to become successful or effective.

And no web design agency will ever tell you that this is a bad way of working – not when they get a regular supply of new work for doing the same job for the same customer!

What is needed is an online marketing director with the authority to make whatever changes are needed – up to and including a revamp if that is what is needed.  However, what is usually far more effective is frequent, rapid, iterative changes that are tested with the target audience of the site to gauge effectiveness, as well as frequent updates with compelling content, usability testing, successful social media implementation.

Your website is too important to only receive the attention of senior management once per revamp cycle: the person in charge of it should be at Board level because it is THAT critical to your organisations success.

And I do not think that online and offline marketing should be under the control of one person: they are so very different that true expertise can be gained in one field and not in both.

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