Reasons You Should Involve Stakeholders in Your Web Development Activities

Frank Cowell

Successful brands are not built in a vacuum. Neither are successful websites.

As the VP or Director of Marketing for your company, you’re the leader of the department most likely responsible for the care and feeding of your company’s website. You may not be responsible for all of the technical aspects—surely IT or an outside firm has a hand in that—but you are accountable for the website’s ability to convert traffic, drive sales, integrate with operations, and boost brand awareness. Your team is probably also the first in line when someone has a complaint or an inquiry about something they’ve seen (or not seen) on the website.

For you, getting the website right and keeping it that way is critical.

  • Does it connect with and engage your target audience in a meaningful way?
  • Does the website’s look, feel, and content align with your brand?
  • Can visitors access the information or products they want with ease?
  • Is your website a help or a hindrance to your daily business activities?

Of course, Marketing can’t be expected to think through every potential aspect of the website—its content, the user experience, and even how it dovetails with operations and customer service. After all, it takes a village to run an organization; so, too, should it take a village to build a well-rounded website. Trying to go it alone is foolish . . . and risky.

That’s where involving stakeholders—those inside as well as outside the organization—comes into play.

Program vs. Project

Before I go any further, I want to make a distinction between a website project and a web program. The terms may sound alike, but they differ significantly.

  • A web program coordinates all of your website, social media, and other online/digital marketing activities with your traditional marketing in a comprehensive program.
  • A website project is just that—a website that gets built, put online, and then is generally forgotten until something breaks or goes out of date.

If you are reading this article, it’s because you’re a serious marketer responsible for how people experience your brand not only online, but in-person, over the phone, through the media, and every other way they might interact with your organization. It’s time you looked at your web activities in the broader sense of an overall program . . . and it’s time you got others involved.

Who Are Your Stakeholders?

Your stakeholders are those people inside your organization and outside who have a direct effect on your business. They are critical to the initial and ongoing success of your web program, but they often get overlooked:

  • Internally, stakeholders often are your senior leaders, managers, employees, board members, trustees, and even volunteers.
  • External stakeholders are most often your customers, community members, vendors and suppliers, and even government officials or regulators.

Why Involve Stakeholders?

It’s simple really: employees like to provide input and make their opinions known. A website is an important aspect of your organization’s public identity, plus it’s likely to impact on operations and processes within the organization. Those likely to be most affected by the website want to make sure their concerns are heard so that problems are avoided and the website is implemented efficiently.

As marketing leader, you should want to hear from your internal stakeholders. If you genuinely want to “build a better mousetrap,” then you should have an all-hands-on-deck mentality to elicit and consider input from all levels of the organization.

As for your external stakeholders—especially your customers—their opinions are critical to the success of any endeavor you undertake. After all, you are in business to provide them with a product or service that they choose to get from you instead of a competitor. Imagine how powerful feedback straight from the mouths of your customers (or prospective customers) can be. Additionally, your vendors and suppliers may identify areas you either weren’t aware of or hadn’t considered. Likewise, local and state regulators may have important input and feedback, especially if you operate in a highly-regulated field.

Getting Buy-In

Engaging all types of stakeholders builds consensus and generates buy-in for your web project right from the beginning. At a minimum, you will want to share with your stakeholders:

  • An overview of the challenge at hand
  • A visual depicting the website’s position within your overall marketing program
  • A description your website’s role (informational, ecommerce, social media, etc.)
  • Your willingness to listen and consider new, fresh ideas and varying perspectives.

With a sincere effort to involve stakeholders, you will find that instead of working at odds with them, you will be working together because everyone will have “skin in the game.”

You don’t have to adopt every idea you hear, nor should you, but the simple act of listening to and including your stakeholders in the process will help build enduring trust. You might even be surprised to find that those you thought might present the biggest challenge are actually your biggest supporters.

 

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