Brand & Website

Brand strategy and your website: go fast or go far

by Shachar Meron

Developing a website doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes knowing your audience and brand strategy, managing speed and cost, aligning roles and teams. Hear what Ben Swartz, CEO of Marcel Digital, says about some realities and personalities involved with shaping a digital presence.

We’re interviewing digital leaders about the role brand strategy plays in web building. We believe you want a solid brand foundation before building a site, if you want to seize opportunities and avoid the dreaded do-over. And we wanted to hear the developer perspective.

(Our first talk with Andy Crestodina covered risks of building your site on a shaking foundation. Our second talk with John Geletka flipped the brand-before-web dynamic, going all-in on speed and iteration.)

In our third and final conversation, Ben Swartz has us looking at brand and web engagements both inside and out, especially around the tension between strategy and speed. Here’s what he focused on.

Like brand strategy, web building starts with knowing your customer

As brand strategists, we know the strongest brands start building with customer research, which serves up insights you’ll find no where else. It’s so worth the time to clarify customer needs, their perception of your business, and also find that special sauce that underpins a killer positioning statement. 

Ben says Marcel brings the same approach to their work. “Take the time to clarify the perspective of the business, the target audience personas, the messaging, how to go to market, their value proposition, and differentiator.”

That starts with going deep into customer needs, and building a rich psychographic profile. 

“If you know your customers, then you know it not just about price. What stresses them out, keeps them up at night? What do they really need and why? And what questions do they have on a daily basis? When you have this full view, when you know what is truly on their mind, you can build a website that caters to your prospect’s needs well beyond just price.”

And when you don’t? “As website developers, we see the inefficiencies that are created when a company doesn’t know their market or their target personas. UX and design work becomes inefficient and the basis for all future decisions is shaky. You don’t want to figure all this out six months after launch.”

voice of customer research
How do you know what your customers want? Ask them! VOC research serves up insights you’ll find nowhere else.

Speed and cost often define a successful launch (but they shouldn't)

The decision to build a website typically comes from some problem in the organization that needs fixing, or a market opportunity to seize. In both cases, companies tend to want to act fast.

“Organizations reward speed, shortcuts, and finding a good price,” said Ben. “That makes perfect sense on some fronts…but if you rush the website before you’ve done the due diligence you risk all sorts of unintended consequences.”

Often this happens if leadership fails to understand the value and opportunity of a website done right, built on a solid business and brand strategy. 

“Clients spend five, six even seven figures a month on Google to drive traffic to their website. Doesn’t it makes sense to invest the time necessary to ensure a positive experience once they land on your site? To make sure you are communicating clearly with your audiences?

“Leadership should emphasize that the goal is not speed or spending the least amount of money. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a budget,” said Ben. But you may need to “push back on ‘faster faster faster’ mindset, so you aren’t rethinking your website six months after launch.”

If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

John Wooden

Fail fast? Yes for campaigns, no for web development

Marcel Digital focuses on both website development services and integrated digital marketing services. As a result, Ben’s POV on a “fail fast” approach depends on the nature of the work. 

“‘Fail fast’ is an approach to marketing as we test different campaigns,” said Ben. “But a ‘fail fast’ mentality is the wrong methodology for building a brand and a website.”

But sometimes you have no choice and must launch quickly. In those situations, go in with a proper plan and the mindset and budget for future evolution.

“Understand it will be an iterative process. Use data to learn. Put the best analytics in place, tag all the traffic properly, look at the attribution between all the traffic, look at the user behavior…then modify. If that’s the plan and we understood going in, we can very quickly.”

Aligning sales and marketing: when to accelerate vs pump the breaks

Ben was realistic about the relationship between sales and marketing with initiatives like web development. “Many B2B firms are sales driven. This can be a challenge for strategic marketers, when sales people are seen as the rock stars of the organization,” especially as many CEOs are entrepreneurial and favor a fast approach. 

“Marketing often sees the value of planning, asking questions, analyzing data. This can be perceived of as pumping the brakes when really it’s all about doing things right the first time.”  

But there are ways of bringing these worlds together. “Great CMOs understand how to work with sales and have the respect of sales,” said Ben. They understand “sales people drive revenue. So they work to uncover insights that can open new markets, find opportunities, better qualify leads that don’t waste time. That often means spending the time to figure these things out: who we are, who our customer is, what our differentiators are, what our messaging is.”

B2B marketing strategy
Today’s brand and marketing leaders need to be customer-centric yet data-driven. They want time to think and the ability to go bolder.

Where’s the CEO in all this? Ideally they’re involved early in setting things in motion—building alignment around roles and goals, mission and vision—then stepping back and letting the team do their work.

“I have been wildly impressed when a CEO truly hands over the reins and doesn’t have to be the final decision maker at each step along the way,” said Ben. “The best leaders challenge their teams to be great and then trust them enough to get out of their way.” Teams perform better. Conversations are more rigorous. But it takes incredible faith in your team and courage given the importance of your website.”

* * *

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to move fast. Going to market quickly can win you the first-mover advantage, and can allow you to iterate in real time. But like brand strategy, web development is best when speed is balanced by internal alignment and thoughtful direction. It’s hard to get there fast if you don't know where you’re going.

For other perspectives on brand strategy and web development, see our two interviews: 

Bluegreen Branding provides brand strategy consulting with a focus on B2B tech and financial companies. From rapid deployments to long-range missions, we help ambitious brand and marketing leaders articulate their vision, craft communications, and launch impactful campaigns. And we like moving fast too, but not when it means doing things over.

Brand & Website

by Shachar Meron


Love your brand

©2024 Bluegreen Branding, Inc

Bluegreen provides brand strategy consulting for ambitious B2B brand marketing leaders, specializing in tech and finance. Together with our network of expert partners, we’re engaged for branding, rebranding, brand identity and naming, brand messaging and communications strategy, corporate narratives and writing, logo design, marketing plans and launch campaigns, sales tools and training, digital strategy and website design, creative ideation and thought leadership.

As serial entrepreneurs and senior execs, we love building excitement around worthy brands and teaching people new things.

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