B2B marketers: take back your website!
Here’s a question guaranteed to start some fights: in a B2B company, who should own the website?
I know a lot of different people need to be responsible for it, but who should actually own it?
Here’s my vote: marketing should own the website (or at least a big chunk of it).
If you listed the website goals for most B2B companies, the top three would involve marketing. Also the next three.
Yes, they’re also for recruitment and customer service and tech support and product—and those teams should own those sections. But a B2B website today is primarily a marketing channel. And if it fails at that, it will hurt all the other departments. It will hurt the whole company.
So this is what I don’t get: for a huge proportion of B2B companies, the marketing team does NOT own the website. Something called the Web Team owns the website.
For many, many B2B companies, marketing can’t even post anything to the website at all. Or, if they can, they need to get in a queue and wait for a slot. Or maybe they get access to the blog but nothing else.
This, to me, is institutional insanity (a form of crazy created by the dysfunctional relationships of otherwise highly sane and intelligent people).
Marketers need to be able to market. The website is our single most important channel.
We need to be able to create all kinds of web-based content. Not just landing pages pushing PDFs. Not just blog posts.
We need to be able to do it fast. (In, like, minutes not in, like, days or (FFS) weeks).
We can’t stop doing our jobs just because a web gatekeeper is busy. (Legitimately busy, without doubt).
Yes, I get that a website is a technical thing and non-technical people often break technical things.
And I get that a broken website is a BIG DEAL for any company but an ENORMOUS DEAL for a B2B tech or SaaS company that prides itself on things like security, reliability, availability and user experience.
I do get that. We cannot let some flat-white-slurping marketing intern with nine days’ experience hop in and crash the family car.
I really do get that.
But the response to this very real risk surely CANNOT be (am I shouting? Sorry.) cannot be (nope, preferred the shout) CANNOT be to lock up the website and hide the keys and make marketers beg for quarterly access just so they can post stuff; or kiss dev-butt just to get the ability to support italics or embed gifs or (god forbid) do a bit of parallax scrolling.
This can’t be the best compromise between security/reliability/UX and marketing.
In fact, there shouldn’t really be a fight here. A marketer who doesn’t understand the importance of security/reliability/UX should not be a marketer. And a ‘webmaster’ that doesn’t understand what the site is actually for shouldn’t be on the web team.
Surely the answer is Enlightened Governance.
Enlightened Governance means the web team is still responsible for things like website reliability, availability, usability and security. But the way they exercise that responsibility isn’t to lock down the entire site and become a bottleneck. It’s to:
• Set up systems to prevent marketers and editors and writers from doing bad things.
• Develop a back end that lets marketers do 80-90% of the things they need to do, safely and without supervision.
• Create guidelines and training for marketers so they use the site properly and can onboard new marketers.
• Work with the marketing team to design approval flows that prevent bad shit hitting a production server or a customer.
• Review these processes regularly to make sure they’re working.
Enlightened Governance is way, way better for everyone. For the web team. For marketers. For customers. For the company.
It’s a sensible response to any agenda-clash challenge.
And it’s infinitely better than simply saying, “Nope. We’ll control the website. You come to us and we’ll do things for you. When we can. If we want. (And if we don’t want, we reserve the right to blind you with science to explain why the thing you want can’t be done.)
Okay, that last bit was a cheap shot. Virtually every web team I’ve met has been made up of smart, responsible, super-professional people doing a hard job under a lot of pressure. (With maybe one in a hundred is an obstructionist troll with a chip on every shoulder).
Let’s fix this.
The web was invented thirty years ago.
This really shouldn’t still be going on.
What B2B marketing teams need are strong leaders who can sit down with their web colleagues and hammer out a sensible, enlightened way to maximize the impact of the website while minimizing the risks.
We need to come to an agreement here. If we do, B2B websites can be the dynamic, agile, experimental, exciting, surprising, always-changing places that need to be.
If we don’t, we get static brochureware and a marketing team trying to juggle chain-saws wearing handcuffs and blindfolds.
Bumper sticker version: B2B Marketers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your PDFs.
[BTW – To all our lovely clients: this is NOT about you. Well, it might be, but it’s definitely not about just you. Almost all of our clients, past and present suffer from some form of web marketing prevention. We’re on your side. We feel your pain. Let’s fix this. We can help.]