A website serves as an integral part of any business’ marketing efforts. In some cases the website is the actual business but most of the time it exists as a foundational element of the company’s effort to promote its products or services.
The smallest organizations may utilize is it as an online brochure or enhanced address listing showing location and contact information. These websites are not updated often and likely not viewed as prime business or lead generators themselves. Larger business websites likely see a great deal more maintenance as they play a more active role in the organization’s marketing efforts. Updates to product and service information, SEO implementation, lead generation and other pursuits are necessary to optimize the site and ensure its best potential is reached.
Regardless of where a website sits within this range, its purpose does extend beyond, acting as the center for all of an organization’s marketing endeavors. In other words, it serves as the hub of the entire marketing ecosystem, both online and offline. This status is best demonstrated through its connection to other marketing and advertising efforts. Many digital mediums have direct links to the website but there are other, less obvious relationships that are equally significant.
Here are nine examples of how any business website serves as the hub for an organization’s marketing ecosystem:
Digital Ad Destination
Digital media ads ultimately serve to drive traffic to a website making this the most obvious of the hub examples. Social media ads and certain posts also serve the same purpose as they funnel new users through an entry point into the website.
It’s important to note that both sides of this connection play an equally important role to ensure success. Digital ads need to target the right kind of audience and provide a compelling reason to click through to find more information. The landing page of the website must meet the expectations of the user that has arrived by providing the promised information as well as offering easy to follow next steps to encourage movement closer to a final conversion.
Often practised as a means to boost Search Engine Optimization results, content linking can be derived from many sources including those that reside outside of one’s own marketing efforts. Compelling or definitive content found on the website can be linked to or by other sites as a reference or to enhance content found offsite. This type of content linking supports SEO by increasing content relevance and boosting page and site rankings for particular keywords and topics.
Public relations efforts often center around providing announcements to interested publications and press. Done correctly, these PR releases include a link to the organization website and appropriate landing page creating yet another series of content related links. These are likely to be more temporary in nature compared to the more traditional content link but do provide similar benefits to SEO.
The website’s support of PR efforts as a source and link destination are what truly stand out as an example of its status as a marketing ecosystem hub. Public relations efforts have a related but separate set of objectives from a website but the importance and benefit of the interconnectedness shown here is clear.
Promotional Campaign Hub
Not long ago, promotions were often viewed as being either online or offline but this distinction really no longer exists. Any promotion will have at least some mention online and the company website or campaign microsite (stand alone, temporary website) will often provide that support.
A promotional campaign will seek to build awareness, drive sales, bring customers through the door and/or drive online traffic, amongst other things. While some of these might only involve offline locations and activities, they all benefit from involving the website whether it be directly or in a supporting role. Links to pages providing offer or contest details, forms and other information are integral. Even promotions that exist completely offline benefit from providing website urls so that customers interacting with the materials have a place to go to follow up from any introduction a consumer may have been exposed to.
Social Content Repository
Social media is a broad medium with numerous channels featuring numerous content development and distribution methodologies. A marketing ecosystem would likely include several different social media options featuring their own, unique content to engage with customers.
The website can take advantage of and utilize much of the content generated through social media whether it be articles, videos or customer testimonials. In addition, it can serve as a unifying link/destination for the diverse set of social content but also as a repository for all of this content.
This content is valuable and can maintain this value for long periods if not indefinitely. The problem is that an organization’s social media “space” is not owned and is at risk (even if minimally) from being blocked or lost. The website can provide an “owned” space where all of this content can be cataloged and stored if not used outright within the site.
Bridge to Broadcast and Print Ads
Providing a link to offline marketing efforts was already mentioned with the website’s role in promotional campaigns. Taking a broader look, one can see that the website serves as a bridge to all offline marketing and media as a follow up/research destination for consumers after engaging with an advertisement.
When consumers interact or view a broadcast or print ad, immediate engagement or action is not usually possible. Also, these types of ads do not often offer a complete set of information from which a customer can move to conversion (location and URL details notwithstanding). However, they do spur awareness and the logical next step for a potential customer would be to research further online following their introduction from a TV ad or magazine insert.
The vast majority of research by consumers occurs online and the organization website stands as the best resource to find additional information on the company and its products and services. It is in this manner that the website acts as that bridge between offline marketing efforts providing a strong example of its role as the marketing ecosystem hub.
Similar to the connection presented with broadcast and print ads, offline events lean on the organization website to bridge offline awareness with consumer’s online research efforts. Sizeable events can look to an array of both offline and online advertising to promote attendance but these will ultimately drive consumers to the site for further details.
The website serves as a searchable resource for event information and supplements those event promotion efforts as its own online ad platform. In addition, keeping a complete schedule of all events on the website ensures targeted attendees can reference the needed information and learn of other events as well.
More importantly, with the changes brought upon by COVID, many traditional offline events have been replaced with digital versions that stream content and/or offer video conferencing options. The proliferation of these types of events are likely here to stay to some degree adding a new element to many business website offerings.
1st Party Data Source
Some of the biggest news in the digital media space centers on the pending removal of access to 3rd party tracking data. Many advertisers rely on the data to target their messages to various consumer segments and its absence will create a significant disruption in targeted consumer marketing.
1st party data, collected from the organization’s own website and other properties will become crucial. While potentially lacking in scope compared to the offerings from 3rd party providers, this 1st party data collected from website visitors will remain usable and is also likely to be a more accurate set of targeting data.
Regardless, this coming shift in data collection will elevate the importance of visitor information and increase the website’s role as a hub of marketing activity.
Business websites can serve in a variety of roles and offer a range of functions and options for potential customers to engage with. Larger organizations or ecommerce focused businesses are likely to emulate this resulting in complex structures featuring expansive user experiences. However, they also share a function similar to websites supporting the smallest of businesses: that of the 24/7 salesman.
Online research prior to consumer action or conversion is as common as ever in 2021. In the absence of more extensive marketing capabilities, it is the website that stands to answer product and service questions for the potential customer. Whether the site offers a range of engaging functionality or merely serves as an online brochure, it is one of the first places a consumer might go to learn of a business’ offerings and where first impressions for that consumer are made.
Marketing does not focus only on customer acquisition. It is also involved in retention and customer service plays a key role. Again, the website serves a pivotal role as a supplement to or in lieu of the more traditional phone option. As with events, it acts as a resource for contact information as well as a repository of answers to many of the more frequently asked questions.
The website supports customer service in the same way as it does with offline events and advertising. It also impacts consumers’ impression of overall customer service through its
own navigation and user experience. Making information and functionality easier to locate and engage with can go a long way toward enhancement of a consumers perception of customer service giving the website a pivotal role in an organization’s retention focused marketing efforts.
Marketers and business owners have employed websites as a key consumer engagement tool for some time. They are a go-to option for businesses of all sizes providing a broad range of customer engagement options.
What these nine examples illustrate is that these websites can be better viewed as integral hubs for all marketing activity regardless of the scope or level of complexity involved. Whether they are intricate consumer ecommerce sites or straightforward B2B online brochures, each offers opportunities to interconnect with other marketing efforts both online and off.
The interconnectedness of a marketing ecosystem, bridged between online/digital and offline/traditional efforts can offer a great deal of additional value, especially with a well-designed, updated website at its center.