James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Imagine you’re visiting a new business and you can’t find the front door. When you finally do, it swings open to reveal multiple corridors, none of them marked. Piles of debris cover the floors. How anxious are you to venture in?

Such is the case for many corporate websites that serve as the “front door” for most first-time visitors. And such was the case of the website of an agricultural company that asked me to provide a formal audit and recommend fixes. I’ve performed thousands of audits over the years – as well as facelifts, cleanups, redesigns, overhauls, and start-from-scratch builds – but the journey on this one may benefit other companies and agencies that have ignored their own entryways over the years. Here’s what I found.

They knew something was wrong. Most companies do, but few companies have the expertise to plot out corrective action, and even fewer have the manpower to execute changes. In this case there were people assigned to create content, but no one minding the global web presence. As is often the case, it was a pet project or assignment for an already overworked marketing department. That left these key pages somewhat outdated.

Their competitors were aggressive. Rooster put together three different support packages ranging from a one-time audit to ongoing website management, but it all starts with a comprehensive review that includes what competitors are doing. And in this case, the competitors hadn’t been standing still. Not only were their sites newer and easier to navigate, the language had been “translated” into customer-speak, as opposed to corporate jargon or technical language. A deeper dive suggested that they hadn’t done as good a job using the language consistently in social media and digital advertising, which is a mistake that many companies make – and an opportunity for my client. Taking a honest look at your and your competitors’ presence on the web is always helpful whether you’re planning to make changes or not. It lets you see what potential prospects are seeing – as well as what they’re not seeing on your page

We pulled in all the stakeholders. This step is critical because it’s about ownership and direction. In many companies – including this one – senior management believes that the web is simply an advertising medium that the marketing department owns, and if necessary, should fix. This is wrong. Your company website is an extension of your company. It’s the first stop for potential customers – as well as current customers, investors, job seekers, partners, suppliers, and interested bystanders. It’s important that all relevant stakeholders agree on two important pieces: the audiences for the website and the importance of each. Knowing who you want to visit your site will help determine the tools and information that you need to make available. Ranking the audiences in terms of priority will help you decide where to put these tools, as opposed to jamming them all on the home page – cluttering up your front door.

We created a roadmap with milestones. Once we knew what the competitors were offering and we had a good feel for whom we wanted to reach and what we wanted them to do on the site, we made a list of necessary assets. Some of the tools and information already existed but needed to be updated or moved to a more visible location (or renamed); many of the tools and information had to be created. Part of the roadmap is identifying who will provide and create the needed pieces and the timeframes. Due to the size and scope of this job we gave ourselves a full year to complete the recommended changes.

Comfortable, confident, and in control. With the list of prioritized items and a realistic timeline in hand, my client is ready to turn the work over to their partners. Which leads to a good question: Why didn’t they go straight to their partners rather than pulling me in for counsel? That’s easy. Their partners knows the web really well but not agriculture; my client wanted to get an idea of what was needed to close the gap with their key ag competitors before they engaged their partners. Now they know, and they’re ready to walk into the project with confidence on how best to execute their plans.

You simply can’t skimp on the web. It’s often the first place a person interacts with your company and it’s painfully hard to recover from a bad first impression. If you’re interested in getting a professional and unbiased view of your company’s front door, a comprehensive audit is the best place to start. Give me a call and let’s start a discussion.

Note: This case study is representative of multiple projects and should not be ascribed to any one partnership or brand. It is the culmination of years of experience with various situations.