What's in this article?
Coronavirus has changed everything.
It’s a rare crisis in that it has touched every human on the planet and altered every aspect of our lives – how we live, work, and play.
It’s hard to say what change will be the most significant, but in my world of web design and development and lead generation, the website is already seeing a big transformation.
That’s what I want to explore today.
Sparked by reading Mckinsey’s The future is not what it used to be: Thoughts on the Shape of the Next Normal, I want to take some of these assumptions, blended with my own observations, to envision future website and lead generation projects.
What current conditions and behaviors will become persistent?
Let’s start with behaviors that have already changed. As we audit some of these observations, I’ll try to predict which will persist.
People are working from home
Nearly overnight the majority of our workforce transitioned to WFH (Work From Home). Remote work is no longer an occasional perk or convenience, it is the default work environment.
What began as a temporary condition seems to be settling in as the future assumption on how much of our workforce will operate. Employees are establishing permanent at home workplaces and employers are beginning to shift budgets and resources from office spaces and fixtures to equipping their WFH employees.
Workforces are only connected by digital tools and environments
Companies and businesses still need to function as a cohesive enterprise.
This is mandating rapid innovation in how organizations are designed and operated. Enterprises are being deconstructed and reconstructed in a matter of weeks. These organizations are shifting from internal, closed networks to and external, distributed network of executives, managers, and employees.
This transformation is necessitating the implementation of immediately available tools like Slack, Zoom, and Google Docs. At the same time, gaps (opportunities) are becoming apparent in rewiring the enterprise for efficiency and resilience that will be required for success post-Coronavirus and economic recovery.
Most people are not fully-employed
With 6.6 million Americans un-employed you can assume most people are unemployed, under-employed, or nervous about becoming one or the other.
My guess is that this will create a similar response to what I saw in the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Workers will begin to hedge and side-hustle their way to financial security. This will once again create a robust and talented pool of independent contractors, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.
This is likely to be the fuel for rapid and sustainable economic recovery. Traditional contact-required small businesses will be pivoted or replaced by digital, contact-free small businesses. These digital businesses are likely to be more profitable and more easily scaled.
Our economy is currently “contact-free”
I can’t see how an increasingly “contact-free” economy doesn’t become the standard going forward. In addition to its role in mitigating the spread of disease, it’s simply more convenient and efficient in many contexts.
Much of this shift was already occurring. Online shopping followed by packages and food near-instantly being delivered to my door stoop was already becoming the preference.
The government, not the private enterprise is driving our economy
As will most crises, the government becomes the safety net. However, in this crisis, the government came in bigger and bolder than ever before. It’s yet to be determined if that’s a good or bad thing.
The only real consideration here is to keep your eye on what the government thinks is important and where private enterprise begins to exert their resources and attention.
Short-term changes to websites and digital marketing
Given some of these altered behaviors, several things have already changed. Again, we need to think about which of these new circumstances are temporary and which are likely to become permanent parts of the future.
Companies will scramble to make up lost, traditionally offline, revenue
Revenue is life for any business.
Quarantine has choked off a significant amount of that life source for many businesses. Customers can’t visit the office to discuss their insurance, mortgage, and financial planning needs and concerns. Sales folks and account managers can’t visit their clients to assess needs and future strategies. People can’t hit the gym, enjoy happy hour, or drop the kids (or pets) off at daycare.
All of these very typical pre-Coronavirus face-to-face activities generated most of the revenue for many businesses.
These same businesses are now scrambling to move these sales online. Virtual (Zoom) consultations, check-ins, workout programs, and online learning and enrichment programs. Serving current customers through their website and beginning to acquire new clients from competitors that can’t pivot fast enough.
We will struggle to connect and inform customers in a more proactive way
Humans are social creatures. Most of us prefer face-to-face interaction.
Communicating through video, email, and social media has primarily been the purview of marketing types. Even in our marketing departments, we’ve tended towards broadcast or impersonal connections and interactions – TV, radio, Google Ads, SEO, and generalized content. Customer databases and loyalty programs are often non-existent or neglected.
This condition left many companies in a lurch when the Coronavirus hit.
We couldn’t quickly update our website to address the crisis. Awkward red banners and hastily cobbled together pages listing what we hoped to do was the common move. We couldn’t actually implement new experiences or online features for weeks.
Even worse, we couldn’t proactively reach out to our affected customers and offer our assistance. We didn’t have their email addresses (or they were neglected and inaccurate, aged obsolete). We didn’t have the technology or permission to serve our customers via text message. Meanwhile, our call centers were crushed because there was no online option. This created a frustrating, anxiety-inducing experience as customers were forced into the most inefficient means of serving a surge of largely simple and homogenous service needs.
Websites and social media platforms become THE customer experience
Because buildings, offices, service centers, and retail spaces are all closed your online presence IS your business. How is that presenting?
Many executives haven’t looked at their website and social media in months, maybe years? Websites are often left behind as business and sales adjust to the normal ebb and flow of changing market conditions.
However, this time the change is radically different and pushes all your customers’ attention towards your website and social media platforms. Companies are still scrambling to understand what customers are seeing.
Many are presenting an online brand and corporate identity that is lost in the previous world. This is unsettling to customers – customers that are already unsettled by current events and hoping to find stability from their service providers.
Survey your online presence. It might not be as awe-inspiring as your glassy office fortress and glossy sales folders.
We’ll struggle to serve customers and employees because our websites are static and impossible for businesses to use
Companies are having these kinds of conversations:
- Who “owns” the website?
- How do we update it? Can we update it? Who designed and built it? Do we need them to help update it? How do we contact them?
- Can we iterate through our current web platform or do we have to do a complete redesign?
- Were do those contact form submissions go? Are the phone numbers and emails right? Where do they ring and who gets the emails.
- Do we have a Facebook Page? Can we use Twitter to get information out?
- Why is that stuff on our Facebook feed? We haven’t posted since 2018? Who has access?
Is this you? As you can imagine from the tenor of these conversations – this is what is blocking a rapid and smooth pivot to online revenue.
Long-term changes that you might start thinking about
Finally, I want to bake in my assumptions as to what conditions and consumer behaviors will become the next normal and craft my perspective on future web design and lead generation programs.
Websites will become the new corporate headquarters. Websites will become tools for customers and workforces
I can’t imagine that this doesn’t become the next normal. The question is: How do our glassy fortresses migrate and transition to digital?
My current sense is that the customer experience will lead.
What has traditionally been predominately a marketing and sales customer experience will add heavy doses of customer service, support, and loyalty elements.
Customers will be directed to company websites to get assistance, attend meetings, schedule consultations, and do account reviews. Agents, consultants, and account managers will be tightly integrated into these website service centers.
Next up will inevitably be the internal corporate experience.
Employees will go to the website to collaborate with their team(s), do one-on-ones with managers, provision online tools and subscriptions, and access templates, documents, and sales collateral.
Websites will transition from static content and marketing journeys to interactive and responsive content and tools – for customers and employees.
Companies will shift budgets and resources into digital-first strategies
This is probably the biggest shift that’s about to take place.
Prior to the pandemic most marketing budgets still reflected a largely offline mentality. Even though we know that every consumer searches for our brand and visits our website at least once before they buy, website budgets were a tiny fraction of our annual spending. Sure, occasionally we’ll spring for a big redesign. However, year-over-year the website line item is essentially non-existent in the business’ operating budget, and minuscule even the marketing operations budget.
In the future, it will be the primary source of customer experience and consequently revenue. If you neglect it in your budget it will reflect in your revenue.
Digital marketing will become exponentially more competitive
All of this shift to digital is going to make digital marketing a blood sport.
Advertising platforms are designed to support a small fraction of consumer demand generation. When brands realize this is the only place to consistently reach their audience will the inventory be insufficient? What will that do to the cost of these increasingly crowded and competitive impressions and clicks?
Then the follow-on question is what will that do to customers’ online experiences? Will Google, Facebook, Youtube, and streaming video and audio services have to cram in more ads to meet the demand or will the cost of that inventory skyrocket?
Either way, agencies, creatives, and media buyers are going to have to get a lot smarter in the next six months.
Companies will become more sophisticated about gathering and serving audiences and customers online
Our customer databases and customer loyalty will become everything – our primary source of revenue. That’s going to naturally necessitate you to pick up your sales and marketing automation.
The web is still a messy place. Taking a visitor to your website from browsing to inquiring is still a big step.
Filling out web forms can be cumbersome and making a call from the web is often clumsy. Too often we forget to create relevant calls to action on content pages. Expediency and laziness in design or development leave us with ubiquitous and generalized CTAs, which fade away into the background for most visitors.
If your website is going to become your primary place of business you’re going to need to design an engagement that works. People are going to have to feel like you want to talk to them.
If you buy into this goal, you’re going to need to spend more creative and operational time and investment in developing:
- Inline, relevant, and intuitive form experiences. Single-step, triggering questions that kick off a helpful discussion with a visitor that doubles as a qualifying lead form
- Phone numbers that are obvious, click-to-call enabled and tracked
- Chat that is highly optimized and leads to real customer service or salespeople. The experience must go beyond your FAQ and really solve problems and deliver solutions
All of these customer acquisitions and onboarding paths (journeys) must all lead to your CRM. Remember your customer database is going to be your most valuable asset.
Make sure that all of your technical plumbing is flawlessly connected to your CRM and tracks and tags from where each of these new opportunities and customers came.
The next step is to continue as personal a conversation as possible with each person – forever. The requires creativity, technical skill, scaleable systems, and raw effort.
First, creativity is necessary to map the multitude of use cases and scenarios by which customers come to you looking for answers. Then each of those scenarios needs to be addressed with call scripts and email copy that provides value and assistance and ideally continues the buying process.
Technical skills and scaleable systems come back to automation. The majority of the people in your database are going to be unresponsive. Often we interrupt that for a lack of interest or need of our product. This is generally not the case. It simply means the timing or season is not right for your product or service to be the priority. At the same time, you certainly don’t want your high-cost sales folks hammering on people that aren’t in a position or mindset to buy. This is where automation comes into play.
Wire together, over time, systems that look for triggering events and behaviors in your database in response to subsequent web visits and inquiries, lead magnet downloads, emails, text messages, and calls that zoom those fresh expressions of intent to the top of your sales queues.
Finally, addressing the need for nurturing forever. This is the missing mindset that leaves so much revenue opportunity neglected in your database.
Leads never die. Sales and marketing teams simply give up on them.
This lack of follow up allows those inquiries to forget about you and then when they are ready to buy they’re forced to restart their search for a solution or provider. Many times this process doesn’t lead back to you or you waste money reacquiring a person that you already have in your database but stopped nurturing.
A solid lead nurturing program will dramatically drive down the cost of your marketing efforts and exponentially lift your ROAS (Return on Acquisition Spend).
What’s your next move?
I can guarantee that your website needs adjustment. But, where do you start?
I recommend the following exercise. It’s a part of the discovery process that we use with every new client – web design and development or lead generation engagement.
- Document your business goals and objectives – these should be the core goals and objectives of the business, not limited to what you think can be accomplished via the web.
- Audit your current web experiences – Identify points of friction and opportunities to better serve the current visitors (check your Google Analytics to better understand this).
- Access the gap between business objectives and website participation and contribution to those goals and objectives.
- Envision new ways to serve your new visitors and existing customers online and map those web experience innovations back to your core business objectives.
- Create a roadmap to close those gaps. Document what’s possible immediately, but don’t lose those problems that you want and need to solve in the future. Websites, like organizations, should be thought of as living, evolving things that should adapt to changes in the business and the market.
This is a lot to think about. If you need some help, my agency Kaleidico would love to get you started or guide you through the full journey.
The next step is simply scheduling a free discovery call.
We’ll ask you to complete a brief background questionnaire that our team will review before the call, then we’ll go through an abbreviated version of our business objectives and website experience gap analysis. From this discussion, we’ll see if there’s a fit to move forward with a project or engagement.
Schedule your call. It costs nothing and is guaranteed to return a ton of value.
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash