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« Back Post Date: Thursday, October 19, 2006
Re-Launching a Revitalized Website
Once you have put the effort into rebuilding your website what actions can you take to re-launch it successfully?

Re-Launching a Revitalized Website - By Dr. William D. Ivers, CEO, Clubessential

In a recent newsletter: "Revitalizing a Website," I pointed out that the lifespan of a website design  is  typically only three years before it becomes stale and dated. But once a website is re-designed using the latest technology, the site still needs to be  “re-launched.”  A website, no matter how beautiful or functional, is worthless without traffic, so the re-launch must be designed to jump-start the traffic.

There are two kinds of traffic – anonymous visits to the public side of the website, and visits by members to the private side of the website.  Since the actions required to increase public traffic are completely different from those to increase private traffic, I will cover public traffic in a subsequent mailing and focus today on boosting private traffic by members.

If We Build It Why Don’t They Come?

Club managers have many reasons to want a high traffic website.  It gives them an inexpensive method of communicating about events and services, serves to increase participation at the club,  and improves efficiency in a variety of ways, for example, by reducing the number of phone calls and the amount of physical mail expense.  Yet, it is fairly common for a General Manager to invest in a nice website but then fail to draw a crowd.  Often this is because the club management is viewing the website as a tool to help management instead of a tool to help the members.

This reminds me of the failure of Clubessential’s first Customer  Relationship Management System” (“CRM”).  We spent a lot of time designing a database and reporting system about our prospects, clients and sales efforts.  We thought up dozens of ways that the CRM would help management gain control over our organization.  We spent thousands of hours developing the “perfect” system.  And then a funny thing happened: the sales staff, who were supposed to enter all the information about what was going on, never found time to do it,  no matter how hard we pushed them.  After much frustration, it finally dawned on us that if we wanted heavy participation from the sales staff, we had to deliver value to the sales staff, not just to management.   In our second design we focused on making the system easy for the sales staff and on providing information that would help them do their jobs.  The results were spectacular – we now have a huge library of information about the club marketplace and most of this information was collected by our sales staff.  Management’s objectives were met as a byproduct of helping the sales staff.

Just as the CRM only worked if the sales staff entered the data, the website only works if the members take the time to visit it.  So the General  Manager’s focus needs to be on using the website to serve the members rather than to serve club management.  Here’s a handy rule of thumb for managing a website: Focus on the needs of members – the staff’s needs will take care of themselves.

As an example let’s imagine we have just had a successful event where many pictures were taken.  Clearly your staff can generate website traffic and improve member participation by posting a photo collage.  But a much deeper member need will be met if your staff takes the time to include captions with the names of the members in each picture.  This will allow members to identify each other more easily, will lead to new friendships and thereby enhance the community of  friendships that are the most important value of the club. 

Traffic Roadblocks

So for a moment, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a member – what roadblocks keep them from habitually visiting the website?  Here are the most common:

  1. They don’t remember the name of the website or their username and password.  Stop and think about this – a member who does not know their password is effectively cut out of your Internet communication channel.  It is your job, not just to tell them their password, but to force them to use their password over and over until they know it as well as their phone number.  This requires a planned campaign.
  2. You don’t know their current email address so they never get any emails from you.  Email addresses change, so solving this problem requires an ongoing never-ending process whereby your staff keeps the email address list up to date.  It’s not really that much work, but it requires attention.
  3. You have their email address, but they don’t open your emails.  Here you need to think about making your emails of such value to the member that they will get into the habit of opening them.  For example, a non-card playing member who keeps receiving emails about your poker nights could decide that opening your emails is a waste of time.  You need to target your emails so that every email a member receives is perceived as valuable to them personally.
  4. Members don’t even realize the website is there, or don’t know how valuable it could be, or simply forgot about it.  Notice that populating the website with better content would have no impact on such a member because they will never know about it.  To jump-start website traffic you need to use other channels to reach your member at first.  Once they start coming to the website, you can shift your focus to website communication.
  5. They don’t use a computer.  Two years ago, quite a few members were computerless.  Fortunately this problem is diminishing rapidly, with the fastest computer usage growth in the older segments of the population.  All you need to do to solve this problem is wait a little while.

Re-Launch Actions

So given these roadblocks, what should you do to re-launch your revitalized website?

  • No club website achieves a high level of traffic without complementary email communication.  Your first step, months before the re-launch, should be to check your email addresses and take the steps necessary to maximize the percent of the membership you can reach.  Then set up a monthly process to monitor and maintain the list.
  • Next, create an email communication plan.  What emails will you send weekly or monthly?  What emails will support your events?  Will you email members on their birthdays or anniversaries?  It doesn’t take long to set this plan up and assign the work.
  • Now that you know what emails you will send, think about how to organize them to force members to go to the website (so they learn their password).  Include links in every email that go back to the website.  Leave some of the important information only on the website.  If you can, add features to the website that require visits, such as member statement displays, online payment of statements, tee time reservations, event registration, etc.  By providing member services on the website, you are catering to the members’ needs and they will give you the gift of their traffic. 
  • Be careful to target your mailings to the subsets of the membership who want the information in question.  This requires that you start building up a database of marketing information about your members so you can distinguish one sub-group from another.  Such marketing information can’t be collected all at once – it must be a priority over a long time and then you will gradually discover important things about your members.  Be like an elephant: have big ears and don’t forget anything.
  • As you proceed, monitor how well you are doing.  For example, you can track whether a member actually received an email (or that you have a bad address) and you can track whether they opened the email – if too many don’t, you need to find out why not and take corrective action.  You can also track how many members are signing in and their actual path through the website.  This will tell you which items have the most interest and which pages are hard for members to find.
  • Use other media to jump-start traffic.  Put the website address on every staff member’s business card, on the scorecard, on every brochure and every newsletter and every flier – the website address should be in as many places as your club’s phone number.  Send out postcards giving reasons why members should sign in. 

Rolling Thunder

Eighteen months ago, when we first started offering high-end graphical redesigns to our clients, we thought of the re-launch as a one-time event.  We imagined that we would work with the club staff to get the website perfected, and then after a “big bang” announcement, perhaps associated with a launch event, the new website would be launched, traffic would zoom and a newly strengthened communication channel would be born.  Unfortunately members are stubborn and their memories aren’t so good, either.

After a while we realized that our task, to ingrain a new habit in the members, is not something that can be done with a “big bang.”   Instead it requires repetition.  So now instead of a Big Bang re-launch, we recommend a “Rolling Thunder” re-launch:

  • Start with the minimum number of pages, but with the beautiful new graphics.  Announce the site through all the channels described above.  Get as many members as possible to sign in to see the new website.  You might even want to call those members who didn’t sign in to ask them why they didn’t.
  • Then unhide another section of the website – perhaps the tennis section.  Do another round of emails and so forth.  Try to get as many members as possible to sign in (again).  Maybe this time they will write the password down somewhere they can find it.
  • Then unhide another section and do it all again.  One nice part of this approach is that the staff can spread out the preparatory work over a longer period.
  • Maybe the next section to be announced will be a collage of pictures from the lobster fest (“Lobstrocity 2007”).  Or maybe you will announce online tee times or online statement displays or online bill payment.  The key is to keep the thunder rolling over a whole series of announcements until finally the members make it a habit to check into the website now and then.  To do this you need to “keep your powder dry” by saving some things to announce next week and the week after.
  • Gradually your Rolling Thunder will turn into the continuous launch of new fresh content.  Your staff will have learned to make the most of new content in terms of driving traffic.  The result will be a vibrant new website with heavy traffic.  To see some samples of the new generation of highly artistic designer websites, click: Designer Websites.


Don’t Break Your Budget

It just doesn’t make sense to pay to host an old website and pay your staff to keep it up, if it doesn’t generate traffic because it looks dated. You could completely revitalize your website for less than it would cost for a fancy brochure. Call us at 800-448-1475 to receive a review of your current website and a cost estimate to revitalize it with new graphics and features.

455 Delta Ave  · Floor 4  · Cincinnati, OH 45226  ·  800 - 448 - 1475