new website

Before you pay an Agency $5 million for a Brand new Website…

Just like the floating feather at the start of Forrest Gump, a story too good, too poignant, too raw to ignore, fell in my lap – on the hotel shuttle leaving Content Marketing World on Thursday.

A few millennial marketers crowded around each other in the aisle, dishing out some talk about what they learned, what they yawned at, and what’s going on in their organizations.

“It just makes me want to cry… It’s a joke!” said the exasperated young man sitting next to me. He explained how his leaders paid a digital agency as much as $5 million dollars (his words) to design and launch a brand new website. (Gosh – I do hope that is an exaggeration!)

Another young woman who runs Facebook campaigns for her company leaned in to ask what the site is. She immediately pulled it up on her smart phone. And here’s the combination of problems, according to these two:

  • Not mobile responsive
  • No images
  • Looks like just a product list
  • There’s no suggested or recommended products for the visitor
  • It demolished the original site’s domain authority

Apparently, the B2B company invested heavily in this new site with the intention of building an ecommerce site – but for products and services in the healthcare industry. They have all of the technology platforms they need. Marketing automation. Customer relationship management. All of the integrations. They have a sizeable marketing arm with all the right tools.

What went wrong here?

Essentially, this sounds like a lack of due diligence and understanding of essentials when it comes to rebranding a website. In one fell HiPPO-inspired swoop – Bam! – the launch of a new website. And a shocking lack of data to support all of the changes.

What should have happened?

Research. Identifying specific problems. Getting buy in from organizational stakeholders. Challenging and testing assumptions with experimentation and hard data.

There are many factors that should be considered when overhauling a major website, to ensure any large money investments are actually needed – and if the changes actually address true problems or just perceived ones.

Here are some things – at a fundamental level – that any marketing leadership should understand. Of course, there is a much bigger list than this, but these things came to mind when I heard this story:

  • Identify what the true problems are in performance
  • Mobile-first design
  • Testing the website and some changes before making deep investment
  • Estimate impacts a massive change could make; what currently connects to links on your site? What breaks? What do I need to retain for rankings?
  • If the goal is to get people to buy quicker, what content would people respond to better?
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • The content distribution strategy
  • Current design standards
  • Approach to personalization
  • Site analytics
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Domain authority
  • Calls to action
  • Brand consistency

In a nutshell

This case sounds like a rush job that failed to gather adequate input and expertise to guide a costly web effort. While the agency might have been a trusted entity, marketing organizations like this should step back and apply some science to a major project like this.

A web optimization program could have helped this organization come up with a more effective solution before spending millions of dollars. They could have set up test versions of the website to steer some traffic to the beta sites – to observe visitor behavior and see if the changes produce better business results.

So let this be a lesson. Speak up. Do your homework (or share your insight if you’re not part of the leadership). Reserve big money for marketing projects that bring you more leads, conversions, and revenue. And you might just save some face within your organization.

About Denise Douglas

Denise Douglas
Denise is a product marketer. She writes about customer experience management, marketing technology, and web optimization.

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