WEB MARKETING: Build it and they’ll come – Not on your Life!

Caution Readers: This perspective of web site is not from a web expert, but rather a marketing strategist who uses web as one platform of many in integrated campaign execution. The contents of this post are not meant to minimize the importance of a web site or the expertise needed to build and maintain a top-notch web site. No web sites were harmed in the writing of this blog post 🙂

Web marketing has been evolving at a rapid pace, even just in the 20 years that I’ve been a practitioner. From the outside looking in, it seems as if the 1990’s it was about having a website, buying domain names, and making the site “look good.” In the 2000’s it progressed to making the website work well, building dynamic content, investing in content management systems (CMS), and gleaning insights from “web data”.  This decade, the focus seems to have matured to responsive web design (RWD), personalization of experience, lead-generation, and full-blown web analytics.

When talking about business to business and business to government marketing the “end-goal” for many companies has been to drive traffic to their web site. Many executives and technical experts believe that if they put their content (aka thought leadership, offerings, capabilities) on their web site that the customer will do the rest.  While e-Commerce may have made this true for a spell in the business to consumer (b2C) world, and even in the commodities world of business to business (b2B) and business to government (b2G); it is no longer that simple in any market sector.  Even with the best search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) plans, companies cannot rely on “build it they will come.” Even “pull marketing” doesn’t work like it used to, with all the clutter and technology in the marketplace. Our customers (across sectors) have gotten quite savvy. Modern marketers need to raise the bar yet again… we need to 

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What does THAT mean? It means that modern marketers need to develop content that can be shared and accessed on channels beyond our own web sites. I know what you are thinking… “I’ve been using other channels to get my message out for years.” I would challenge you on that (because I’ve been using tactics like pay-per-click (PPC), banner advertising, and social media for a decade or more too. However, I can tell you, that I’ve largely been broadcasting messages that are trying to drive traffic back to my company’s web site. Let’s be truthful, haven’t we all?

So, where do we go from here? We have to let our content live elsewhere. Let’s focus on engaging with members of our target audience and “starting the conversation”. Certainly if we want to do that, it is best to “meet the client where they are” and not expect that they will seek us out or flock like lemmings to our magnificent web sites and content.

After we engage them with meaningful and relevant content, and establish a rapport, only then can we hope that we have created enough value and credibility that they will come to our site to interact further with our content.

True, we may not be able to track activity (impressions, clicks, downloads) like we can on our own site. But certainly we can find new marketing metrics to capture and leverage as part of our return on investment story. Also, as modern marketers have learned in the past few years, the first interactions with prospects should not be “gated” (we should not be asking them to fill out registration forms to initially engage with our content.) Only after we’ve connected with them, can we as marketers expect our prospective clients to share their contact information with us and begin to truly engage with our brand.

Not only have marketing strategy and marketing technology progressed, but also our buyers / consumers have evolved as well. Marketers who are still operating in a “build it they will come” mode, will only have marginal success – it will truly be progressive marketers who “meet the client where they are” who will truly maximize the power of their marketing reach.

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