Is Your Web Site Getting the Credit It Deserves?, Part 2

My last column on how to justify your Web efforts offered ways to calculate the direct value of your Web site. But direct value measurements — sales, lead generation, and customer service efficiencies — are only half the story. Time now to focus on the indirect value a site can add and how to claim credit where credit’s due.

Granted, charting indirect value means focusing on visitor behaviors that are harder to track, value, and quantify. Many site owners don’t even try. They often tell me, “Oh, we don’t sell products on our site, so we can’t really come up with a dollar value for our Web site.” Or they do sell online, but only take credit for the direct revenue dollars they generate, never mind the influence they likely had on purchases made via other channels.

They’re short-changing themselves. If direct value is the only valid value, what’s the point of all those glossy automotive sites? They don’t sell cars, they only display them. Bettycrocker.com doesn’t sell Hamburger Helper. Pampers.com doesn’t sell diapers, but it does generate high value in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world. Even when you’re not selling or capturing leads online you can still quantify your site’s indirect value. Here are three ways to start:

  • Referrals. Many organizations use their sites to steer referrals to partners or resellers who will handle the ultimate transaction. (That, by the way, is what all those automotive sites are up to.) Are you getting credit? Site managers often tell me, “Our site is there to educate potential customers about our products and answer any questions.” On further examination, the site’s real role is to propel people to partner sites.

    Track this action through redirects, count handoffs to partner sites, then work with those partners to learn what percentage of those leads end up buying. That’s revenue driven by your site.

  • Offline sales. People regularly use Web sites to research products or services, whether they buy them online or not. (I work in one particular industry that conducts fewer than 3 percent of sales online but estimates over 30 percent of new customers conduct online research before making a purchase.) A persuasive Web site obviously helps your enterprise well beyond the Web silo. Your job is to find out how much. Ways to track your site’s true influence:
    • Dedicated email. Perhaps you promote email contact in numerous channels, including collateral and advertising. The address you provide on your Web site shouldn’t appear anywhere else. That separates Web leads from the pack.

    • Dedicated phone number. Same tactic. Consider offering a special toll-free number on your site. That, too, breaks out Web leads. Our clients are often shocked at how many phone leads really originated online.
    • Web-only offer codes or coupons. Give customers an exclusive, nominal premium offer, and see how often it’s redeemed in other channels.

  • Customer satisfaction. A good Web site can help improve overall satisfaction with your organization. A bad one can throw satisfaction scores into a nosedive. If you regularly conduct customer satisfaction surveys after the sale, add a couple of Web site specific queries. Consider running surveys or questionnaires on the site itself, though the data won’t be as accurate with self-selected respondents.

Combined with the direct-value metrics offered last time, these simple tactics should help you to add up the real, total value of your Web channel.

Shoot me an email and share your own success stories. I’ll base the next column or two on what appears in the mailbag.

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