Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why a Mediocre Website Is So Dangerous for Associations & NonProfits

A Twitter buddy (@RobbTrost) shared this column (http://nyti.ms/thij4A) from today’s New York Times. While the column focuses on a forprofit company, the concepts apply to associations and other nonprofit organizations.

In doing communications audits and other consulting for associations and nonprofits over the last two years, I’ve seen some really bad association websites!

Most are simple “electronic brochures.” Few post anything new between conferences, if then.

So, I shouldn’t be surprised at the responses to my questions on electronic surveys I have conducted for 12 associations in 2011.

The question: “Thinking about the professional associations you belong to, how often do you look at the association website(s)?” The answer options were: never, occasionally, several times a month.” (On new surveys, I’ve started to add “several times a week.”)

The answers: Nearly three-fourths (72.2%) say never or only occasionally! 

What does this tell us about our association and nonprofit websites?
• We don’t see our website as an important communications or marketing tool?
• We don’t care that so few are paying attention to our website?
• We don’t see our website as part of an overall association engagement strategy?

Can change make a difference?    

Here’s a before & after look at how one association moved from a (#1) static website that included (#2) “brochures” (with no links) and a (#3) “request form” that had to be completed and faxed to the office.

As you can see on the left, the new website (www.ayponline.org) is interactive and includes links to an eNewsletter, news and its blog, an interactive member directory and a whole lot more.

“People had no reason to visit our old website," 
says AYP Executive Director and CEO Donna French Dunn, CAE. "It was completely static.  “Unless you wanted to know which chapter you were in, or who was on the board, there was nothing there you needed to see. Now we have all of our weekly e-tips and monthly newsletters, along with everything we post to Facebook and LinkedIn. People have it as a resource. We also do all of our registrations for our events through our site -- driving more people to visit.”

By the way, Donna says they are already moving forward with plans for another web update ... to make it more pleasing to the eye!

Where does your organization’s website stand?

As you read this New York Times column (http://nyti.ms/thij4A) (which is focused on a company’s website and an online contest designed to boost traffic to its website, please substitute your association or nonprofit “products and services” for this company’s objectives.

A couple of comments in the column seem noteworthy for your consideration:
• When selling online, there are three things you have to do: make people want to buy your product, create a level of trust so people will be willing to buy from you and make the buying process as simple and intuitive as possible.
• A website and its marketing and promotion are a reflection of the brand behind the site.
• “The big problem is there is nothing on the home page that says this item is for sale. The site looks like a brochure and not an e-commerce site. There needs to be something on the front page that tells the visitors, ‘we sell great bags and you can BUY THEM NOW.’ Right now it just says ‘we make great bags’.”

Wonder what your members/donors would say about your website and other social media efforts?

If you want to know, I’ll send you a link for the survey (which you can email to your members/donors) and will give you the results (compared with the other associations) along with an analysis.

Interested? Just email me at steve@scdgroup.net.  

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