Hey Industrial Company - Your Web Site Design Forces Your Online Marketing Plan

For almost two decades I've planned, designed, created, and deployed hundreds of web sites.

Many, because of my background, are for industrial distributors, reps, and manufacturers. One of the more "interesting" aspects of this process is the "forced marketing plan" that comes out of the web design process.

By "forced marketing plan" I mean the physical documentation, visual structure (i.e. the web site), and mental awareness of the business's unique position in the marketplace, competitive advantage, and core competencies.

Think about it. Many small industrial businesses were started by an Entrepreneur who wanted to leave their "factory job" and strike out on their own. An opportunity for a new territory or product arose and the entrepreneur jumped on it - pretty much "ready-fire-aim." Market planning wasn't something these Founders cared much about (or even knew much about). Product Lines + Customers = Orders - that's the only formula the Entrepreneur needed.

Through the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's these businesses flourished. Sales increased, more employees were hired, and new buildings were bought - signs of success for the hard work and dedication of the Founder.

Along comes the 2000's and this thing called the Internet really takes off.  The Entrepreneur is told they need a web site, so they hire a techie without any understanding of the business or market. The Founder ends up directing the design and content with an eye for what they've always done. As a result, the new web site turns out to be an online "line card".

No thought about viewer appeal. No thought about message. No thought about market. No thought about strategic or competitive advantage. No value proposition. No consideration for brand. No mission statement. Pretty much just a list of manufacturers they represent or products they sell.

A proper web design project must consider, identify and address these criteria first. But unfortunately, that's where the blank expressions and confused looks begin with many Entrepreneur-led companies.

Today, a web site is a business's number one marketing asset. As such, it needs to define the core business virtues. The emphasis on content marketing underscores this. Businesses must "tell their story" in a way that defines the business and provides visitors with a clear, honest, and easy way to know what the business does. Its imperative.

A good web development team will sort those items out in the beginning. Even if it means taking the extra time consulting, and even"forcing", the entrepreneur to confront and identify the uniqueness of their company and finally realize that marketing counts, more so now than ever before.

The Double Edged Sword of Very Popular Open Source Software

I've been involved with content management systems (CMS) now for 16 years. I've been through all the "proprietary" vs "open-source" arguments. I've argued and defended the case of open vs. proprietary with countless clients and competitors.

My stand has always been that, if the software product does exactly what you want it to do, and you have the support of an excellent vendor, and the core components (database, CSS, HTML) are freely available and widely used, then platform is secondary and shouldn't be ruled out because its not open source.

And back in December 2014 something happened that supports my position against "just because it's open and big its a safe bet".

Wordpress is the biggest player in the content management space today with 70 million web sites running on their platform had a major vulnerability discovered.

Its another case of "the bigger you are, the larger the bulls-eye on your back."

In December a "Russian malware called SoakSoak" infected 100,000 Wordpress sites. It's reported that a slideshow plug-in  opened the vulnerability. More on the issue here.

So, what's my point. Don't always buy into the argument that large, open source software is better than smaller, proprietary platforms. Consider this before you decide:

  • Does the product do what you need it to do?
  • Do you see value  - technical, budgetary, experience, or market - in the vendor?
  • Is the code sitting on top of a widely used database and have a large pool of knowledgable coders?

If the answers to all three of these are "yes", then I wouldn't let the "I must have open source" argument drive your decision. There are many excellent, smaller platforms out there today - and in some ways - they are more immune from attack by virtue of their being under the radar.