According to some trend watchers, a little research, and a few live examples, the corporate website as we know it may be ready for some disruptive evolution.
To put it more plainly, the corporate website may be dying a slow and painful death.
Corporate website visits for most large brands are declining. Your best content is lost among too much product promotion. And more attention is being stolen away by more progressive brands who have started acting like publishers and displaying content that your customers actually want to consume.
This is not just headline bait. There appears to be a growing consensus that the corporate website as an online brochure displaying “About Us,” “Our Products,” “Latest News About Us,” and “Speak To A Representative” isn’t working.
There is some convincing research to support this:
- According to Webtrends, nearly 70% of Fortune 100 corporate websites experienced declines in traffic, with an average drop of 23%.
- 90% of website traffic comes from just 10% of the content and more than 50% of the traffic is from just 0.5% of the content. ~ InboundWriter
- 60-70% of B2B marketing content goes unused. ~ Sirius Decision
- 60% of the buyer journey is complete before prospects reach out to vendors. ~ CEB
I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise. We’re all watching the slow death of the newspaper industry. We’ve heard a lot of talk about how brands need to act like publishers. We’ve seen major advertisers talk about how their advertising is evolving into something more closely resembling content marketing.
Now that there is a steady drum beat decrying the death of the corporate website, I sought to get to the bottom of this to see if we’re actually going to see some real change. And after reviewing some of the research and reading up on the evidence, I think there just might be something to this trend.
Why Your Corporate Website Should Die
In early 2011, Forbes Contributor Christine Crandell wrote that the customer experience for most buyers is inconsistent and disconnected.
She pointed at the corporate website as a “traditional marketing vehicle” (ouch!) that companies should abandon due to the overwhelming evidence that most visitors scan the page and leave because they are not looking for information about your products. She believes corporate website visitors are looking for useful information such as best practices tips, human stories and the ability to interact with real people.
Her guidance to corporate website owners:
Rather than boring your customers to death, there is a clear opportunity to put the dull corporate website to rest. Then resurrect it as a platform for true community engagement that functions as a hub for interaction.
Corporate Websites Should Facilitate Moments of Authentic Interaction
All the way back in January, 2010, Brand Consultant Simon Mainwaring penned “The death of corporate websites” blog. He declares that “the online presence of a brand will increasingly become the sum of its social exchanges across the web and not the website that many currently call home.”
He also defines a massive change in the role of the brand manager to become one of a “social officer, facilitating as many moments of authentic interaction with consumers each day as possible.”
Four years on Mainwaring contends that “this shift is largely complete as we see brands shifting their media weight from traditional to social media, sharing stories across multiple channels and responding in real time, and training their employees to become social media brand advocates. So while the corporate website persists, it has now been reframed as a point of departure for customer engagement, rather than a destination.”
Content Is King And The Corporate Website Is Dead
A few brands are getting into this game and they are not looking back. In November, 2012 the Coca-Cola company declared the death of its own corporate website. They re-launched their website under the tagline of “The Coca-Cola Journey. Refreshing The World, One Story At A Time” which featured content driven by their “Unbottled” blog.
I had met their super-sharp Group Director of Digital Communications and Social Media, Ashley Brown a few months before this announcement and was just blown away by what they were doing.
Even more important, is that they paused 6 weeks in, looked at the data and realized that what they thought would resonate with their audience wasn’t working.
They endured their way through an “editorial scramble” based on hard data and implemented a new design and content strategy based almost completely on the kinds of stories their audience wants. According to Ashley:
Replacing a transactional corporate website with a digital magazine upended how we work
The corporate website is dead and “press release PR” is on its way out.
Michele Mehl agreed that the corporate website is dead when she talked about how Coke successfully turned their website into an online news channel in her article on Geekwire.
Brand Publishing Is Not Just For Consumer Brands
I know what you’re thinking. Coke is not a B2B Marketer. But I believe the evidence they pointed to, the cultural shift they implemented and the approach they took to make content their main product are all just as relevant to B2B marketing professionals.
Maybe even more so. The B2B decision process is harder, longer and more complex. Delivering effective information and telling stories that build trust are still the cornerstone of effective B2B marketing.
Luckily, just in time for my research on this article, Sam Fiorella at Sensei Marketing published “Why Build a Corporate Blog Instead of a Corporate Website?” According to Sam:
Our goal is not to promote ourselves but our thinking; our website is not a sales tool but an educational one.
They realize that the main goal of their site is to build relationships and trust. Not to promote their products. And they also realize that this is a gamble. I think they are onto something. And I wish them luck!
I realize this nearly 1,000 words is a lot to take in. Thank you if you made it this far! Now, please share your thoughts in the comments below. And please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.