Virtual front door

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

Is your website a marketing money pit?

I imagine you have recently received an e-mail asking whether your website is providing you the leads you need. It’s a lead-up to telling you that you are doing something wrong (again), and you need to pay the sender to make your life livable. You have walked this road before. The sender is the same guy that wanted to sell you a domain name in the ‘90s, e-mail blasts in the ‘90s, spam blockers and web redesigns in the 2000s and portals and landing pages throughout. He said you needed his services to go global, and now he says you need Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and a dozen other “social” media, with others added by the day. Left to its own devices, the internet will keep you so busy being social you will have time to neither sell nor take a shower. (Yes, your “smart” phone can be waterproofed.)

Each of those proposals has some merit, depending on your expectations, but, as with anything sold by the marginally employed, they are suspect. You buy cutlery and legal insurance from your living-at-home nephew at your own risk.

 Let’s take a look at your website. As we all know, “you gotta have one.”

OK. We all have one. But at what cost? A survey two years ago in the States found that, across all companies, managers spent about 25 percent of their promotional (marketing) budget on traditional advertising. The remaining 75 percent of promotional money was spent on “other,” to include trade shows, sponsorships, seminars, other events, the internet and so on. However, of the 75 percent designated as “other,” over 50 percent went to the company’s own website.

The “sender” identified above assumes your website is not returning the investment you had hoped. For that matter, so do I. It is rare to find somebody that is happy with the company’s website. Some, such as the one that recommended it, will claim some returns based on hits, unique visitors or online sales, but the percentage drops rapidly when you are talking to the one that pays for the redesigns, errors and maintenance.

By now, I think we all have been lured by the Pied Piper of free sales leads and digital kick-butt. The idea of sticking a price and a product in cyberspace and seeing the world beat a pathway to our doors is too alluring. But beauty is only skin deep, they say, and Grandma Knudsen always cautioned me that pretty is as pretty does. And the internet is not pretty.

What if your website never had a snowball’s chance of being a marketing coup? What if it’s a marketing nothing? What if the website is not functionally a marketing tool, but functions as a virtual front door to your company? People knock, go in and are met by reception. Some are there to drop off job applications, some are there to sell you something and some are there to buy. There is even a repairman or two.

If that is true, then the costs of the site should legitimately be assigned to infrastructure and admin. For many of you, that is simply a shell game. However, for others that depend on budgets from the home base, it is a strong argument to show your marketing budget is being eaten up by the equivalent of utility costs, and cannot reasonably be expected to provide the same ROI as can an effective marketing campaign.

Asked the other way, what if you are wasting half of your marketing resources? What if buying new jerseys for the local kids’ teams will get you 10 times the ROI as your internet spend, and the net investment would be 10 percent of current expenses?

Obviously, we all need an internet site. However, the way we pay for it is important. The way we execute it is even more important. We can wait another year before we paint or redecorate. Waiting a year on valid marketing means immediate lost revenues.

Oh, yeah. The guy that’s telling you your life is all wrong? Tell him he’s right, thanks for the information and you are making a change today, starting with putting him on your spam filter. It’s one of those few pleasures left in life that is free.

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