How to Know if You Really Need a New Website (3 Questions to Ask)

by | Web Design

In 1966, Abraham Maslow wrote:

“I remember seeing an elaborate and complicated automatic washing machine for automobiles that did a beautiful job of washing them. But it could do only that, and everything else that got into its clutches was treated as if it were an automobile to be washed. I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

This is commonly referred to as Maslow’s Hammer or “The Law of the Instrument.”

It’s easy to see how many web design companies fall into this. If you go to a web design company and ask for a website, they are going to sell you one!

The fact is, though, a website might not be what you need.

And here’s the ultimate catch-22 I face as a business owner:

  1. Customers generally want to work with specialists (say, website specialists)
  2. But specialists may not be, ironically, serving the customer’s actual need

At NorthMac, we have the creative freedom to question whether or not you really need a website at all.

Maybe the website is just fine and you just need more people to see it? Websites don’t solve traffic problems on their own.

So while we’d love to work with you to create the website of your dreams, we also want to make sure the website of your dreams is the problem your business has.

In this post, I want to give you three things to think through that will help determine where you should start when it comes to leveling up your digital marketing efforts.

The 3 Types of Customer

On this blog, I often talk about the 3 types of customer. These are:

  1. Repeats. These are customers who’ve done business with you in the past and need to be reminded they should do business with you again.
  2. Referrals. These are customers who come to you through word of mouth (WOM) marketing and need to be pushed over the edge to work with you.
  3. Researchers. These are customers looking for a solution to the problem you solve, but are not yet aware that you are the solution to it.

This is great news because it means there are only so many marketing messages you need to craft in order to speak to the right people.

A website is not likely to move the needle on a repeat customer. So we can rule that out. (Unless you have an e-commerce website with lots of products that change quite often. That would be an exception.)

A website will help with both referrals and researchers, but they will be looking for two different things.

Referrals will want to make sure others have seen the same success that the person who referred them has, while researchers will want to make sure you know your stuff.

There might be some overlap between those as well, but in general, one is looking to be reassured and the other is looking to be persuaded.

The question now becomes, how does building a new website serve those purposes? Here’s where our three questions come in.

Question 1: Where’s the leak in our marketing funnel?

When you engage a provider for a new website, almost certainly you desire a more business-focused result—likely, more customers or more leads.

If that’s not you, and you truly want to have a prettier website, that is fine! It’s your business. But you must go into it knowing that the result, then, is a prettier website.

It may or may not translate into a business result that moves the bottom line, which you should be aware of going into the investment.

If you want a business result, that means your current system is not providing the business result you want. In turn, this means you have a leaky marketing funnel.

The next question to ask is whether you have a lead acquisition problem or a customer conversion problem. A new website has the potential to help with both, but the primary aim has to be measurable.

Question 2: Do we have an information problem or a persuasion problem?

If leads are the problem, 9 times out of 10 you have an information problem.

If conversions are the issue, then it’s likely you have a persuasion problem.

Here’s the catch: Will a brand new website fix either of those? It could.

But only if it has been built with the intention of solving those problems! And those are marketing problems, not design problems.

This may even create faulty expectations around what you should expect to pay and what you will receive as a result.

In our opinion, this is the problem with hiring a designer to do a marketing job. Nothing wrong with great designers. We have them on our team.

But they work in the context of a company focused on producing a business result via marketing. And that makes all the difference.

If you have a leads problem, a great design will not create more leads. You need to serve up information to people who need the solution your product or service offers, so they can raise their hand to let you know they have a problem.

If you have a conversion problem, a great design could aid in converting more customers. But visuals tend to do just that—aid conversions, not produce them. Words sell. This is the “Tale as Old as Time” of marketing and it remains true today.

Question 3: Can user experience be significantly improved by upgrading the website?

Up to this point, it might sound like I’ve been trying to talk you out of a website. Make no mistake, most of what we do is build websites!

The fact is, though, there are really only two reasons you need a website:

  1. You don’t currently have one. (Yes, you probably still need one.)
  2. Your current website is significantly out of date and the user experience suffers as a result.

On projects where design plays a significant role, we excel in what we’ve termed “Functional Design.” That is, design that serves the customer behavior our clients desire to take place.

If you truly need a new website, we will work with you to create a website that gives your clients or customers a fantastic experience and serves your marketing goals in the process.

Ok, so maybe I don’t need a website… what now?

To summarize up to this point, here’s what you’ve learned:

  1. Websites can only help capture referral business and customers researching a solution to their problem
  2. If you have a lead acquisition problem, an upgraded website alone will not solve it
  3. If you have a conversion problem, an updated website could solve that, as long as the design is completed in a marketing context where words matter
  4. If your website is nonexistent or provides a subpar user experience, it needs a functional designer who designs for a marketing result

If you’ve read this far, there are obvious “gaps” in the above where you might fit:

  • Your website looks great, but you’re still not converting new customers
  • You’re not bringing in new leads from your website at all
  • You’re not seeing previous customers buy again
  • Your website exists and looks great but can’t be found online
  • Your website looks great but you’re lacking customer reviews and testimonials to help convert referrals
  • Your website is functionally designed well but still isn’t converting customers, indicating a “words” problem

If you find yourself in one of these positions, I have great news. There are solutions and you probably don’t need a new website.

Instead, you need to find the right solution for your problem and execute on it. This will save you lots of time and money.

We would love to examine your business and determine a path to move forward with your marketing.

If interested, please consider booking a complimentary discovery call with us and we would be happy to point you in the right direction.


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