In this day and age, websites are everywhere. But do we still NEED them? Almost every business has one, together with a plethora of individuals. And the reasons of why do we need a website extend from “because it’s fun” to “because it’s absolutely crucial to what we do”.
But technologies change. PCs have moved over to smart-phone technology, quantum computers are not far off, and there have been phenomenal shifts in our thinking introduced through the concepts of block-chain and cryptocurrency. And just because something worked in the past that doesn’t mean it will be a safe bet for the future. So, are websites still relevant? Do we really need one? Have they been superseded? Because if they have we could certainly save ourselves time, finance and energy by focusing our efforts on what really will work best.
The context of all we do
Fused into the concept of business is the principle of marketing. Without a doubt, having an outstanding product, service, or ministry is only part of the equation. Without being able to reach out and connect to others, there would be no point to our work. After all, work without a context is meaningless, and our context is people.
When our words get dirty
But sometimes the word marketing can seem like a dirty word. Perhaps it’s because building authentic connection with integrity is no mean feat. Not that it’s hard to do – just that we need to have the heart and patience for it. And in the realm of business, we do like to go fast. There can be so many unethical ways to speedily lure people into a marketing funnel, so many ways to tempt people without integrity and beyond their means. So many ways to manipulate. So many ways to con.
But the true purpose of marketing is the promotion of how we can help. Marketing is at the heart of every mission, every ministry and every charity – even though it might be called by another name. We might be promoting a different kind of service, or working with a different framework for giving, but our outreach and evangelism is all about connecting with the ones who most need what we have to give.
Likewise, the true purpose of business is to help one another in a sustainable way. Depending on the circles you keep, business can feel like another dirty word. It can allude to greed and selfishness and injustice. Admittedly there are times when our intention really isn’t to serve or to help or to empower – but to build ourselves up out of fear that nobody else would. And sometimes we do focus on the gold and silver in our pockets more than we ought. But the business-mindset can be most inspiring and beautiful when it finds its true self – to equip, restore, heal and beautify the lives of others. And it’s pragmatically wise when grounded on the principles of sustainability and growth. After all, isn’t that the principle of good stewardship and the calling of a greater Kingdom?
Sign of the times - we don't want to appear dead
Throughout our history, we have reached out to one another. From word of mouth, to meetings and gatherings, scribbles on a cave wall, to flyers and leaflets and posters and print, to media and radio waves, email and post. To website technology and social media marketing. And no doubt – virtual reality in the future ahead. The what and the how might evolve but our need to connect and story-tell remains unaltered.
But if we ignore the times we are in, we and our mission can appear irrelevant or dead. And with social media being such a force, it is wise to consider if it has in fact superseded things of the past. After all, through social media we can have real-time interactions with almost anybody, anywhere in the world. And as the number of platforms grow – from YouTube to Instagram, from Twitter to Reddit, from Pinterest to Vine – it’s worth noting that the most dominating platform Facebook, already connects over 2 billion people in one place. This is unprecedented. And with the potential for contact 24-7, LIVE streaming and the ability to reveal the things we adore to the things that frustrate us and drive us barmy – it is possible to build a knowledge of (and authentic connection to) one another so that trust can be fostered. And without trust there is no business.
Social media – beauty and the beast
But for all the lure of social media, it is a unique sort of beast. Like an ever-changing landscape, it’s as unpredictable as we are – and scarily vast and limitless. No wonder many get the heebie-jeebies. And although it can be highly interactive and engaging, it can be extremely hard to keep track of any important information from its never-ending flow. Like an open doorway, we can be flooded and overwhelmed with its constant comings and goings. And it can be hard for us to intentionally search out information that in no time can be buried beneath an avalanche of other happenings.
And although social media has a moral obligation to monitor, to keep things safe with policies we will all have to abide by – some changes made to the platform won’t be to our liking. And should the powers-that-be decide ‘for or against’ a certain thing, we all must conform. Which often isn’t an issue – until it is.
And even though social media can present a wealth of information – it’s not unbiased or unfiltered. There are some things that are crucial for a business or ministry to say even when they might seem mundane or boring. Sadly, that is the antithesis of social media. It might just be the high fact-finders amongst us that find our privacy policies or terms of service, intriguing – but all organisations must present this information and ensure it is accessible to everybody.
Despite being able to reach a huge number of people organically – to truly make the most of any media platform, it is prudent to invest in paid marketing to target and extend your reach. If done wisely and with strategy, this can be extremely efficient. But if this is done without due consideration or insight, it can be a shockingly costly approach.
So, might we still need a website to market and promote our mission and work? I really do believe we do. Because there are some crazy perks to having a website.
The crazy perks of a website
When time is limited it’s handy to find what you want fast
Connection is a two-way endeavour. It takes ‘us’ to step out for the sake of others, and for ‘others’ to search the world for us to help and serve them. Loaded with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), meta-data, title tags, ALT text – anybody can find any site even without knowing it’s exact URL. And if we have a decent page load time, we can be just a few seconds and a couple of clicks, away from getting our pain-point resolved. And unlike social media platforms, print and leafleting, or email marketing – a website is a place where people can find extremely specific information fast. Housing all our most relevant information in one place, it’s efficient and comprehensive. And through its structuring of menus, sub-menus and links, navigating through vast quantities can be so simple.
A place to call your own
Compared to social media, we are much freer to replicate our brand identity on a website. We can invest in our own unique domain name and not only manipulate the text and graphics of our content as in social media, but we can go further and adjust its placement and aesthetics without having big brother overshadow us. There is greater creative freedom – and should you ever feel nervous about your hosting company, you can switch digital landlords without changing your address or losing your content.
A place where the small print can live
Whatever we do, there will always be legalities and considerations. And a website is a place where you can state the more mundane aspects of your business or approach without fear. Although small and sometimes tedious – our small print can be extremely important. And although not often considered the most exciting read by most, safeguarding the boundaries of our responsibilities and agreeing to our terms of service, are invaluable for keeping the peace and negotiating through any hiccups.
When it’s prudent to count the pennies
Although the cost of a website can range from the cost of its hosting, to many thousands for the big gamers – a website can be an extremely savvy investment.
You get to decide on the level of your investment and once it’s up – it has extremely reasonable running costs. Many hosting companies charge around £10/month. But start-up plans can begin from as little as £2.75/month. In the history of marketing that is impressively affordable. And often with the potential of attracting tens of thousands of unique visitors per month, is there any other marketing strategy that can compare? Perhaps the only other strategy that would seem to, would be social media. Although free to set-up and with the lure of gaining organic unpaid for traffic to your profile – marketing through social media organically does have a snag. The process is extremely slow. And to really target and reach the people who might need you most, you will need to invest in paid marketing in the region of £10 per day. So, if you need to be prudent and relevant in this digital age, then your website could be your greatest and most sustainable long-term investment.
The things ‘only a website’ can do
Finally, there are things that only a website can really do. Social media can open a pathway for people – calling them to action – to enquire, contact, purchase and learn more. But it still relies heavily on another realm. The realm of websites. This is because there is more to marketing than building connection – we need follow-through where a problem can be connected to its solution in a clear and simple way. Website technology is great at creating a clear path where an enquirer can become a partner. And because of this, social media (and email marketing) will almost always eventually lead people to a site.
Only a website can join up all the dots. Even if you have a brick and mortar establishment, there will be some dots that are best connected in the digital world because it’s the age we live in. Where else can you declare your message, present testimonials and social proof, portfolio your work/venue/team, entice people with a promotion, build an email list, link all your social media, broadcast your awards/certificates/associations, state your boundaries, give the world clear directions to your door, carry a conversation through your blogs, and lead people through a call to action so strangers can become colleagues? Your website – that’s where. And whether you consider yourself a business or a ministry, these principles apply.
Unless we connect to others, there is no service, no help gained and no value added. We must step out into the world and reach out. So, whatever your mission – whether it’s to serve, facilitate, provide, beautify or guide – an intentionally crafted website is one of your most strategic assets. Even in this day and age, it honestly is.