Benefit vs Branding

This article on “The little-known secret to choosing a web designer” inspired me enough to blow the cobwebs off this site and write something. A quote:

Designers who don’t understand that websites are business assets which must achieve specific business objectives, which in turn are tied to revenue goalsare not actually designers at all. They are artists. Giving them your money is not an investment in creating a business asset

Read it. Love it. Slap anyone who drones platitudes in fuzzy saccharine tones about unmeasurable qualities that are likely to be completely coincidental to your businesses success.

That sort of touchy-feely ‘GO TEAM!’ nonsense is total cargo cult. Let’s take a ridiculous example: A hypothetical business owner, Bob, goes out on his morning walk to buy a coffee. When he gets back to the office, he checks his online sales report and sees that he’s sold three units. The next day, he comes back with his regular cup o’ joe and finds that he’s sold 5 units. He puzzles his good fortune, wondering what caused this jump in sales… and realizes – he’s wearing red socks! Awesome. He sends an office-wide memo to make sure everyone in the company wears red socks at all times, and begins browsing the website of the local Porsche dealership.

Crazy? Maybe… except back in the time of chimpanzees I worked for a ‘Bob’. All the positive-trending metrics and analytics in the world didn’t matter, because to Bob the site ‘just looked wrong’. It didn’t matter that the people we were selling to weren’t Bob, didn’t think like Bob, and didn’t like the same sorts of things Bob liked. It didn’t matter that under empirical measurement more people visited the site. It didn’t matter that the changes we made ensured more of these visiting people told us they were interested in our products and wanted to write us cheques. It just mattered that it ‘didn’t feel right’.

That right there my friends is a fantastic barometer for incompetence. If you work somewhere that can deny people trying to give them money because they’re more interested in the branding/passion/making-a-difference than rock-solid metrics, you’re better off leaving them to it.

Two more very simple questions one can ask to see if you’re screwed. The absolute basics:

  1. How much does it cost to attract and sign a new customer?
  2. How much will we make from a customer over their lifetime of using our products?

The answer to these should be a ballpark range, or a solid number, or at least an indication that they know what they hell you’re talking about even if they tell you to mind your own damn business. If you ask and there’s an uncomfortable silence, they get a confused look in their eye like their breakfast burrito is going to repeat on them, or they start off into a long nebulous rant about ‘potential’ / ‘building a presence’ / ‘pushing the envelope’… well, at least you have time to start working on a side project before they run out of cash.

If you’re smart, know your way around technology, and care about what you do – everyone everywhere is looking to hire you right about now.

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