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It’s estimated that more than 218 million Americans will shop online this year. Countless more will research products and services, engage with brands and start their customer journey on a company website, even if they end up purchasing offline. For marketers, it’s never been more urgent to be able to leverage the website to fill lead pipelines and convert them to customers.
And yet so many struggle to implement the elements they need to do so — digital campaign assets or tool integrations, A/B tests of digital strategies or even new product pages or content. Our recent survey of marketing and IT leaders revealed that two-thirds of all website changes take more than a month to implement, and a quarter of all changes can take more than four months. Imagine waiting four months to launch a business-critical campaign.
While websites have become a central communication and commerce tool for brands, the way we create and manage them has not kept up with business needs. In fact, our survey revealed that collaboration among web teams is by far the biggest obstacle to a website’s performance, and the spate of recent team reductions and budget cuts haven’t helped.
But even in well-resourced environments, the reality is that today’s decentralized workplaces are making it harder for marketing and IT teams to work together. A website’s success depends on a group of passionate, cross-functional champions who can get the right things done fast. In this economic environment, collaboration has truly become the new success lever.
As a chief marketing officer, a big part of my role is facilitating web collaboration to optimize website performance and align it with business goals. Here’s how I do it.
1. Look for the website champions
When I come into a new organization, I have a short list of priorities I aim to tackle in my first 30 days. One of them is to assess the web strategy and determine whether it’s delivering business results. As I meet with people across the organization — in marketing, IT, sales and any other business areas that have a stake in the website — my goal is to identify who feels ownership of this critical asset.
We already know from our survey that ownership is often claimed equally by marketing and IT. But I like to go further and identify specific team members who really champion the website. Those are the people I know I can tap into. I prefer this distributed model of accountability because I’ve seen impressive results come from cross-functional teams that own their respective strategies, priorities, goals and even their own definitions of “website performance.”
Using this multiplier effect ultimately means that the more people who are invested in the success of the site, the more opportunities there are to boost its performance. Because when they’re working well together, cross-functional teams can break down silos, increase efficiencies and innovation and collectively advance an organization’s goals.
2. Encourage performance-based iteration
I recently found myself in a room full of CMOs who were discussing website changes they had made in light of the economic downturn. One after another, they all described a virtually identical playbook: changing their pricing pages. This approach sparked my curiosity and I asked them whether their pricing pages were among the most visited pages on their respective sites. To my surprise, no one actually knew.
Now, I’m a firm believer in agility and iteration — and optimizing your pricing page can absolutely result in more conversions. But as a performance marketer, I also believe that changes need to be backed up with data. After all, if you’re going to invest time and resources in updating the website, you want to make sure you’re iterating on the right elements.
Building a culture of agility and iteration means dedicating resources to testing, measuring and understanding what’s working — and what isn’t. And that requires the right tech stack and the right processes. But it’s also about empowering people to build an evidence-based understanding of what needs to change — and to feel comfortable calling it out.
3. Lead with empathy and empowerment
Optimizing marketing assets means making changes to work or processes that may be close to someone’s heart. Frankly, any change can be tough to swallow — especially when it’s delivered via a bitter pill. So whenever I find myself being more salty than sweet, I think back to one of my daughter’s childhood basketball coaches. This woman had an amazing way of pulling the kids aside whenever they made the right move,and praising them for it in the moment. Sure, she delivered constructive criticism too, but she made sure it was always positively sandwiched.
Fostering effective collaboration requires a similar combination of empathy, encouragement and honesty. And while I lean heavily on martech and workflows to facilitate and automate collaborative processes, I also believe that creating a positive, caring culture is important in bringing people together to work toward a common goal.
Ultimately, we’re all humans building websites for other humans. And to get the best results for everyone involved — including our employees — we need to make our internal experience of working together one that is as rewarding and as frictionless as our customer experience. In today’s competitive digital environment, we simply can’t afford not to collaborate effectively.