Results. Return On Investment. Value. How do you measure these things in a website? There's one thing you can easily measure -- cost. Or at least the amount you actually spend to build and maintain a site. The others are far more troublesome to measure.
How do you know what role your web site played in generating business for you? How do you know whether it made a difference in somebody walking in your store, or picking up the phone, or sending you an email? You could look at your sales figures before a web site change and after, and possibly see a change, but when you compare two different time periods, there are so many other factors at play that might affect those sales -- including the steady shift of your potential customers to tablets and greater dependence on the Internet in general.
The simple answer is, you can't really know these things for certain. There's no really good way to put a number on the value of your web site, unless your entire business IS your web site.
There are things you can measure, but most of the value of your web site is probably intangible, as part of your brand. On the Wikipedia Brand page, one of the elements of a brand is Customer relationship management, how you interact with your customers.
Not to get too touchy-feely, but I think a big part of the value of a web site is how it makes you feel. How does it make your customers feel? How does it make your staff feel? How does it make you feel? Do customers feel like they can go to your web site and have a conversation with you? Find what they need to know to decide to hire your services? Get help when things go wrong?
Businesses have a huge range of need when it comes to web sites. Some just need to make it easy to find a phone number or an address. For more and more, the web site can help them provide answers 24x7, be an always-on place for customers to go to get help. It can be a sales person who never sleeps, an admin assistant who keeps a case file always available, a store that never closes. But I think the best sites provide resources and information, while facilitating communication between people.
Ok. Enough touchy feely. Let's get down to some things you can measure, can use to help decide what value a web site might have to your business. And, of course, why you want a Drupal site...
First off, it most likely should be some percentage of your potential business revenue. If any part of the goal of your web site is to help your business generate revenue, the fundamental value it provides is the sum total future revenue it generates for you.
That's kind of like a stock value, come to think of it...
So to come up with this value, you'll need your business plan and some financial projections. Then take into account all the other activities that also generate revenue, and figure out what portion you can attribute to your web site.
You can ask your customers how many of them visited your web site before deciding to do business with you, and that can give you some idea.
But also think about how much more business you can attract and manage, if you build your site with those goals in mind.
New Customer Acquisition
This is the realm of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) people -- getting more people to visit your site. We think SEO is a short-term game -- what people seek out is better content, not sales pitches. We think a content marketing strategy is a much better long-term way to build business. Search Engines constantly update their algorithms to fight the SEO tactics and reward better content -- if you provide good content, you don't have to keep fighting short term battles to stay on top but will get rewarded over time.
So much of the value of your web site, for customer acquisition, is the content you provide. You need a content management system (CMS) to make it easy to add new content and keep people coming back to your site.
If you sell products or services online, E-commerce is an easy one to measure, you'll have sales figures straight on your web site. You can experiment to see what kinds of changes lead to more sales and get the results with immediate feedback.
Some of the biggest opportunities for potential additional sales might just be to solicit stories from customers about your products, and embed them with opportunities to buy from you. There are plenty of different shopping cart platforms, and lots of different CMSs out there, but none provide a better, more seamless integration allowing you to treat products as content (and content as products) as well as Drupal with Drupal Commerce.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Over time, people have become far more choosy about service. There are plenty of people who will go to your competitor if you don't treat them right. As your business grows, maintaining a high level of service with a growing staff and a growing customer base can be a huge challenge -- you need a way to keep track of which of your customers need attention. This is where CRM can help -- organize your customer contacts. When a customer calls, can the person who answers the phone see a history of contacts, and what the customer is thinking about buying? Or does the customer need to tell their story over again?
Support desks, ticket tracking, sales management, follow-up reminders, these things can all be built into your Drupal web site. Even live chat systems, and video introductions.
A key challenge of marketing is getting people to think about your business often, so when they need something you sell, you're at the top of their mind. Do your customers want more interaction? Some products have become extremely successful by letting their customers interact with each other. A classic example is Bike Friday, a folding bicycle manufacturer that has a forum for their users, a web calendar for people to organize events, a mailing list open for customers to talk to each other, and more. By giving their customers a way to engage with each other, they in many ways let their best customers become sales people, and drive more business their way.
Building a system
For several years I've participated in an online coaching program called the 100 Day Challenge, by Gary Ryan Blair. Blair has slowly, steadily, built a complete program around goal planning and gaining results, and it relies heavily on a carefully built system that sends daily emails, opens up access to one daily video at a time, and provides a bunch of tools for its members to help them succeed. He's probably spent several hundred thousand dollars on his web site and associated tools. Last week he shared with us that he's making over $10M a year on the program. His entire business is his web site, with most of the value coming from its content but the systems he has built delivers that content in a very specific way.
What could your web site be worth?
Chances are, if you put more into your web site, you could make it worth a lot more than it is today. It might drive more business to you, sell more products and services, help you manage more customers, help your customers become evangalists to sell on your behalf, and build systems that are worth far more than the individual parts.
When I talk about results, these are the kinds of results I have in mind. When we talk about value, we think about the potential increase in business having better systems might facilitate, if executed right. When you look at cost, keep in mind what results you might gain by investing in better systems.
It starts with a vision of what you think the web site could do for you. Then plan out how you can get there. And if you're looking for a partner to help you create and navigate a technical roadmap, we'd love to help!