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 RoadblocksSo 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:
Re-Launch ActionsSo given these roadblocks, what should you do to re-launch your revitalized website?
Rolling ThunderEighteen 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:
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.