Stakeholder alignment—it’s certainly easier said than done. When it comes to creating a new website and advocating for funds and allocating time, not everyone may be on the same page. While the need for a website redesign may be as clear as day to you, some of your colleagues and higher-ups may be completely in the dark. Marketing directors and leaders are often fighting an uphill battle when it comes to necessary updates in website design and functionality. If your stakeholders are asking “Why do we need a new website?” they might also be putting the kibosh on your project by either not approving your requested budget, or worse: not approving or supporting the project at all.
In an ideal world, we’d never have to write this blog. But (you’re reading this and) it’s not; a lot of internal teams need a little help to maintain interoffice peace while making updates that will benefit the company and brand. So: to help you clear up the bottleneck, and kick off your website redesign, we’re sharing a few things we’ve found have helped our clients involve stakeholders in a meaningful way and gain the alignment they need:
- Conduct Interviews: Most people love to talk about themselves. Stakeholders love to talk a lot about what they think will best benefit the company. Get their opinions. Obtain the vital information to generate your best decision-making. Allow their voices to be heard. A variety of input gives you the full picture of what success could look like. Want to “stay out of it” and keep peace in the office? Hire a neutral third party (say, a web design agency) to conduct the interviews.
Interviews will allow each stakeholder (without the marketing lead present) to share their unique viewpoint on questions such as:
- Why do clients choose to work with your company?
- Why do potential clients choose a competitor instead?
- What are your company’s differentiators?
- What is your team’s / are your customers’ pain points on the website?
These interviews allow space and time for stakeholders to present problems and voice honest opinions from the start. With plenty of data on hand to show what’s currently working (and what’s not) those opinions can be proven true, or a better path will magically appear, showing that, for example, you should start providing specs on your product descriptions! When you’re able to show the interviewees “what’s going on under the hood” of the current website you can say goodbye to the way you’ve always done it. You can do this. You can sell a new website to your higher-ups, or convince lateral colleagues (hi, IT!) that this redesign could actually make things easier for them. Speaking of data…
- Bring the Data: Let the numbers talk, too. SEO research often shows that one section of your site (perhaps a particular product category) is not getting the visits you expected, or is simply underperforming compared to similar webpages. It’s illogical to argue with numbers and data; you can cut out the gut reactions and the volatility of opinions by simply reviewing results with others. Look through Google Analytics for conversion rates, page views, and page visits, and sort by channels and/or sources. Take a look at the marketing efforts (paid search, paid social, blog content) that bring valuable traffic to your business. This is where the rubber meets the road. Marketing contributes to sales, and you’re all pulling for the same team! Most importantly, take the time to walk others through this and include time for their questions and feedback.
Analyze the Competition: Have you ever wanted to snap, clap, and train your stakeholders’ eyes onto your competitors’ websites so they can see what you’re talking about? Maybe they’re looking in the right direction, but they’re not seeing what you’re seeing. Bring some SEO perspective. Display the design of the site. Allow the site architecture to be front and center. Show and tell your stakeholders how far your company may have fallen behind by presenting your competitors’ site next to your own. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” should no longer be in the vocabulary or vernacular of any of your stakeholders, when they see the way the competition has raced ahead. Instead, there should be a revelation of sorts, especially if you’ve felt like you’re lagging behind in your niche. Comparison is the thief of joy? Not here—it’s the harbinger of action. (Maybe now’s a good time to bring up the ecommerce pages you need.)
Find the right words: Here’s the situation. Your product team wants to write the descriptions, but they don’t know that a headline shouldn’t be four lines long; or, they just have too much to share that isn’t useful in the website’s key pages. Again: find your “Switzerland” to step in and help. Having a third party can help keep the precious (and oft-precarious) peace in the office, and allow you to craft the message alongside them. This neutral party will present messaging best practices, thereby supporting the marketing department. (We both know that the form fill to request a demo shouldn’t have 25 fill-in-the-blanks.) Edits and feedback go to the third party, and emotions are checked at the door. Win-win!
Get Aligned: Goals. Objectives. Scope. Keeping each of these consistent with what you want (and what stakeholders signed off on) is key. Sure, surprises are fun, but they have zero place in a website redesign. Keep the happy accidents to a minimum and maintain focus on the North Star you’ve created for your company—keep those goals visible and top-of-mind, and hold steady to the objectives and scope. Whatever you’ve determined will be best for the business, whether it’s an increase in online conversions (yay!) or more form fills (woohoo!) must remain solid. If the scope of work gets ignored, you run the risk of losing money and time. In order to keep everyone in alignment, be sure to share the signed-off scope of work with stakeholders, give them a high-level timeline, and show them explicitly where and when they can get involved. Find the middle ground between free-for-all and total exclusion.
As much as we’d like to imagine that every company has perfect stakeholder alignment with budgets that can stretch and teams that are completely in sync, we know that’s not always the case. Maintaining (or improving) communication, keeping an eye on the competition, running the numbers, and having a neutral third party to assist with content and interviews will help you get your website redesign project up and running. A website should be a distinct representation of your brand, with everyone getting a chance to contribute to the company’s success. So instead of being asked “why are we doing this?” you can expect questions like “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” Lucky you!