Trade publishers have to work consistently on audience development while avoiding losing the loyal audience they already have. This involves walking a fine line between preservation and change, and it involves a united effort on the part of your company.
A website redesign plan that’s simply handed down from the executive suite with no explanation risks catastrophic failure. Before making changes designed to develop a new audience, your entire company should be on board with the changes. That doesn’t mean that every single employee is happy about the changes, but it does mean that everyone understands why changes are made and what the desired outcome is.
What Not to Do
Here are a few things that don’t work when it comes to website changes designed to improve a company’s outreach.
- Springing the Redesign on Everyone Unannounced – Have you ever visited a favorite website and discovered that it had been completely redesigned with no warning whatsoever? This can be alarming. You may wonder if the site was bought out, and you may wonder if the site owners even care about faithful audience members like yourself. It can take a lot of extra time and effort to smooth ruffled feathers that result from an unannounced major redesign.
- Pushing Forward With the Plan Regardless of Feedback – When you make changes to your website you will get feedback, and not all of it will be positive. While you shouldn’t give in to a few grumblers who hate change of any sort, you should acknowledge feedback and do your best to communicate to your audience why you’re making changes.
- Going Live Without any Instruction or Information about the New Interface – If navigation or use of your website is going to change significantly, it’s important to warn your audience of the changes that are coming. Some companies make a “beta” version of the new site for selected users to try out. Implementing major changes without testing them out thoroughly can be disastrous and drive away faithful followers.
How Savvy Panda Expanded Its Web Audience Without Alienating Its Core
Milwaukee web design, SEO, and inbound marketing company Savvy Panda took a three-pronged approach to expanding its audience in 2012, which included:
- Starting a blog
- Adding a premium content download section
- Adopting a new SEO strategy
These changes weren’t so much a revamping as the addition of new features to the site. Of the three tactics Savvy Panda tried, the riskiest was the new SEO strategy. If your company interviews SEO experts for help developing a new SEO strategy, you can dismiss those that don’t place high quality content as the cornerstone of the SEO plan. Creating content for search engines may work on a short term basis, but if there’s no value to the content, you won’t attract new traffic, and you’ll turn off your core audience too.
Magic Software: Established Company Undergoes Major Rebranding Effort
Established multinational company Magic Software undertook an 18-month rebranding effort that began in 2011. The change was major, and involved redesigning the logo, corporate look, and website. The effort consisted of six major steps:
- Step 1: Workshopping redesign ideas with internal decision makers. This involved working with branch and regional managers to define where the company was headed, what customers needed, and what core company values were.
- Step 2: Interviewing key external resources. By reaching out to analysts, key customers, and partners, the company was able to perform a “reality check” about how the company was viewed and how external players would react to the rebranding strategy.
- Step 3: Continual discussion with both internal and external stakeholders. Rather than plowing through with the plans without input, the company continued discussions in order to fine-tune the rebranding message.
- Step 4: Choosing rebranded design elements and polishing the new content strategy. The company worked with analysts from Forrester and Gartner to polish the message while minimizing the risk of alienating the audience.
- Step 5: Exposing key customers, employees, and analysts to the new branding before the formal launch.
- Step 6: In the time immediately surrounding the launch, Magic Software emphasized the content and purpose of the changes rather than just the new look.
The results speak for themselves. Since the launch of the re-branding effort in June 2012, Magic Software increased web traffic by 20%, increased blog traffic by 10%, increased Facebook fans by 1,000%, and increased YouTube subscribers by 70%.
Expect Some Grumbling
No matter what you do to your website, some people will complain. If the complaints are mostly about different things, then you can be confident that you’re not alienating (too many) core audience members. If, however, you get repeated complaints about one or two key aspects of your outreach, you should investigate and find out why people are reacting negatively and make adjustments if necessary.
Transparency Is the Key to Success
Success in reaching out to a larger audience depends on transparency within your company, and with your current web audience. The factors that led to success with Savvy Panda and Magic Software were all about maintaining and improving communication with customers and the web audience. Your audience development plan should never make people feel like you’re making changes without any concern for their wants and needs.