“Our company needs a new website.”
We hear it all the time. And most of the time, after a few follow-up questions, it’s clear that the problems stem from a deeper issue: the brand, or lack thereof.
So why the focus on websites? Well, short answer: because it’s the most convenient, short-term (and often misguided) solution. Long answer…read on.
I realize that many people don’t fully understand the business of branding and marketing (here’s a quick reference). We are usually put into the category of “marketing” or “ad agency” And I get it, brand is somewhat of a nebulous concept. It’s almost entirely intangible and often difficult to measure.
But a website, on the other hand, is like the universal language of marketing. You know what it is, and you know you probably need one. It’s the go-to focus for every company’s marketing department because it’s something that, after you throw a bunch of money at it, in the end you have a product that you can see, understand and measure with data. But regardless of how much money and time you put into your website, without a brand it’s a sunk cost.
Your company’s brand is the core of everything you do, every strategic decision you make: the who you are, what you you do, and most importantly, why your customers choose you over your competitors. It’s the intrinsic value. The story. To develop, design, or sell anything without taking the time to build the brand is a common, and critical, misstep.
You wouldn’t start a company without putting together a business plan would you? Same idea.
The brand needs to come first because it’s what dictates everything from your differentiation in the marketplace to the content on your blog or social channels, to the design of your sales collateral. It defines your audience, how your company plans to grow, what kind of people you want to employ, and the internal culture you create. And yes, the website.
So why is brand so often overlooked or ignored? Sometimes it’s because the concept of brand is just too difficult to grasp. And sometimes it’s because the value of anything associated with brand, marketing, design, etc. is often terribly misunderstood, or flat out rejected.
It’s understandable. Especially in startups, or companies going through turmoil. Spending your energy on the brand can feel like a distraction. You need to grow! You need to make money! But we already know that avoiding the brand is a major mistake. For you data and numbers enthusiasts out there, there’s plenty of research to back up why a strong brand equals a strong, valuable high-growth company.
Building a brand, or addressing the nuances of your brand's foundation, takes time and energy. Like anything else of value, it’s an investment. That investment ensures success and sustainability for the future. I could support this by adding a bunch of inspirational quotes like “there are no shortcuts to any place worth going”. But you get the idea. The point is, you can’t skip the brand. And a website is not a cure-all.
So forget about the website for now and take the time to understand and focus on the brand. When it comes time to finally build out your new website, it will be done strategically with more thought and most importantly, with purpose.