In this post, I’m talking to anyone who is thinking about getting any website. I want you to listen to these problems and think to yourself, “Is this the problem that I'm trying to solve with my website right now?” Because if you are, there's actually another solution to your problem. And a website may not be the first thing on your list, it might need to move down the line. There are certain things that your website just can't fix. Let's get down to business.

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Hosted By
Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

6 Problems Your Website Can’t Fix

My first introduction to building websites was actually when I was in high school, back in the 90s — for some of you, that's gonna make me seem really old, and for the rest of you, it's going to make me feel like some type of spring chicken — but that was my first adventure into it, and I have been building websites ever since.

That's how we got our start at MayeCreate, through building websites and really understanding how to build something that could both connect with an audience is easy for our clients to use. 

Having said that, I am a website girl, I love solving problems through websites, solving problems online, solving communication problems through technology. But there are some problems that your website just can't fix. 

In this post, I’m talking to anyone who is thinking about getting any website. I want you to listen to these problems and think to yourself, “Is this the problem that I'm trying to solve with my website right now?” Because if you are, there's actually another solution to your problem. And a website may not be the first thing on your list, it might need to move down the line.

So here's a crazy auxiliary example illustrate this point:

My husband and I just spoke with a home remodeler because we want to remodel the main level of our house, and our plan was to start with our master bathroom. 

We get this guy in our house and he starts walking around and says, “You know what? I don't think you need to start with your master bathroom. I know that's what you want to do because you want a new master bathroom, you want something that's shiny and pretty and awesome. But your other main bathroom upstairs has a leak in it, so you can't use it at all. When we tear apart your master bathroom, you won't have a bathroom anymore, which means you won't have any place where everybody can all go get clean. You're kind of quite literally going to be hosed, like hosed off in the yard. So while you want the shiny, pretty thing — that master bathroom — what you have to do first is remodel the bathroom upstairs, or at the very least fix it, because you’ll have to use it while your master bathroom is being redone, not to mention it's leaking and could ruin the entire ceiling or other parts of your house.”

Your website's a lot like that master bedroom remodel. You look at it, and it's the shiny, pretty object you think is going to solve the problem. You might think it’s going to help you better market your organization and bring in donors, it's going to connect with people.

But there are certain things that your website just can't fix. And we're going to talk about them today. Let's get down to business. 

1. A Disconnect between Development and Marketing

6 problems a website won't fix - disconnect

I know what you're thinking: “I would know if there was a disconnect between development and marketing.”

I am both development and marketing, I do it all. But here's the deal. You need to actually look at the words and content you're saying and using in your marketing, everything down to the photos you use and the way you ask. Then look at the way you talk about your organization — think about the words you physically say to donors, look at the things that are on your website, and ask yourself, “Do they match the things you talk about in your social media? Do they match the conversation that development has with potential donors?” It all has to match.

It is so easy to have a disconnect between your marketing and development. Quite often, your marketing will be, “Hey, we're having an event, come hang out with us!” or “Look at all these awesome things we're doing right now!” while your development is saying is, “We need your help. We need you to volunteer. We need you to make donations because we're short on funds.”

The way I think of our sales and marketing team is, I am the marketing team support for my salesperson. Everything I tell you right now should be cohesive with what she tells you in the future. Our stories have to be the same, our advice has to be the same. It needs to be a comprehensive message so that every time you come in contact with my organization, you're getting the same tonality, the same attitude, the same servitude you got the very first time you came in contact with us. 

2. Lack of Vision 

When I say lack of vision, I mean a non-existent marketing plan. 

Your website is a part of your marketing plan, it is not your marketing machine. It's not just suddenly going to go live and have people running to it and contacting you and making donations. It’s not going to bring you more donations just by existing, you have to have a solid plan behind it as well as people working to push that energy into your website and get your audience to take the actions you need them to take. 

I get very, very scared when people come to me and ask me to build them a website, and they have no marketing plan whatsoever to promote their service, their organization or their website. I don't want to build their website for them, because I would just be taking their money. There's no way a website can be successful if you don't have a way to drive traffic to it. 

You’ve got to have a vision, you need to have a marketing plan. Adding a donation form to a page on a website just won’t cut it, friends.

6 problems a website won't fix - marketing message

3. A Wishy-Washy Marketing Message

Believe it or not, some of the most wishy-washy stories and marketing messages come from the people who've been around for a really long time. They may have had an amazing champion who was once the Executive Director or in charge of fundraising or development for them. And that person built up all of the energy for this organization that’s enabled them to ride on the coattails of that energy ever since. And when that energy starts to dip, they think, “Well, we must need a new website.” 

But if you are not in tune with your donors, your volunteers, and your target markets, then you can't connect with them with your website. It doesn't matter how beautiful I make your website if you're not telling people what they need to hear to connect with you. 

One clear sign of a wishy-washy message is if you ask a volunteer, the person who answers your phones, and the Director of Development what your organization does, and all three of them give you different answers, you have an inconsistent message.

You have to have the same story told throughout, which is right in line with that first example I gave, when marketing and development are not on the same page. It can also funnel throughout your entire organization. And if your marketing message is not fine-tuned, and you haven't worked on it to really connect with the people you need to talk to, a beautiful website won’t matter.

Go back and figure out who you’re really talking to before building your new site to ensure it’ll work for actually connecting with your audience. Then go back and educate all those different people who are points of contact in your organization, and share with them how you want to project your energy and what your message is now so it's consistent across the board.

4. Poor Processes

When you’re living within the processes, it's not always easy to identify the things that aren't working. But processes within an organization or within a business are all of those interactions you have with the individuals you serve, how you reach out to and thank your donors, how you work through your marketing processes, the way you interact with your board — everything down to the way you answer the phone and take phone messages. These are all different processes. 

Sometimes things get bumpy, and you don't realize that it's actually processes within your organization that are broken and not your website. Like I said, that website, it's like the master bath. It's like the shiny, pretty quick-fix. But it can't fix the things that are not working within your organization. 

Here’s a business example from personal experience:

I was looking for a place to board my dogs last summer one weekend, and I call this person at a local facility to check for availability. This person was very personable. I could tell she really cares about the animals she works with. She says that she's got a place for my dogs to stay, so we make the arrangements. 

I've never seen the facility, and her website was pretty good — it was the best I’d seen so far for businesses like hers — so I was excited. I thought that I had a great place I could go to over and over again. 

I pull up to this place and was immediately perplexed. The website showed a nice facility, and what I pulled up to was a house. I walk up, a kid comes out of the house — I have no idea who he is — and he’s asking me if my dogs are staying there. He asks for my name, looks through various registration books and doesn’t find anything. Then he says, “Well, I mean, if she said your dogs are staying here, then they're saying here.” He charges me a different price than what she quoted. He rolls with it and then asks if I have a check. I, of course, assumed I could pay with a card, but apparently they don't take cards. I ask, “How am I going to pay you then?” to which he replies, “Oh, don't worry about it, she'll probably just ambush you. It's no big deal.”

My husband looks at me and says, “So you're gonna leave the dogs here?” Sadly, we were on a time crunch so I didn’t have much of a choice. We left the dogs there in hopes hopes they’d be alive and well when we got back.

When we returned, the same guy tried to give me back the wrong dogs. 

My point? This company has a great website and a great person answering the phone. Then what happened? The process just blew up. It was a disaster — clearly not what I expected. I will never leave my dogs there again, not even if you paid me. 

And you know what? That lady never sent me an invoice, and I mailed her a check. She could have never even gotten paid. 

Those are the same things that can be going on in any business or any organization. So before you think I need to have a great website, ask yourself if it could be a process that's actually holding you back within your organization

5. An Inability to Change

Right now, especially right now, there are just so many changes that we are being forced to make. And your website is not going to fix an inability for you to adjust. If you have to change the way that you communicate back and forth with your target market. And with your audience, a website may certainly be part of that adjustment. But it is not the whole thing.

I don't know if ever again nonprofits are going to be able to be completely dependent on event marketing. We're going to have to find different things. We're going to have to find solutions to communicate back and forth, and they're not all on a website.

You've got to be capable of adjusting to the new momentum rather than depending on a new website to fix this problem for you. It goes back to those processes and all the things around it.

Now, I don't want to jump down a rabbit hole here, but there are a lot of things that people get emotionally tied to within their organizations, even in their marketing. Sometimes it's things like a name that never made any sense to begin with, a tagline that doesn't match up or have a clear message. It could be your logo that is completely nuts and doesn't make any sense with what you're doing. I mean, my kids love their blankets unconditionally. And some people love their logos unconditionally, no matter how frayed or discolored they are. I'm not suggesting you go out and you change your logo just to change your logo, because rebranding your organization is a whole other bag of worms.

What I'm suggesting is that as an organization, it's your responsibility to take an adult look at what you're holding onto with an emotional attachment that could be holding you back. Because just jumping on Facebook isn't going to suddenly reach a millennial audience, but shedding outdated beliefs about how your organization should run and interact with those you serve.

There are certainly times with clients that I realized if they can get this website sorted and get it done, that they will have enough trust in me that I can move them on to the other things that are also holding them back. I just don't want to dive into all those other things yet before they have enough trust in me to move them forward. And I know I can give them the experience they need building this website with us and facilitate the next step in our relationship, which might be a complete overhaul in their marketing or their brand or their logo, which, heaven forbid...

If you've got a sticky board and you know you need to start doing more online communications with your audience but they won't budge, and the only thing that they'll let you start doing is a website, then, by heavens, start with that website. Just know it's not going to fix an inability to change, but it can be a step in the right direction.

6 problems a website won't fix - no energy

6. Cultural Bankruptcy

People who work in a cultural vacuum know exactly what I'm talking about. It's like your office mates, your boss, even the work itself, is like an energy vampire that sucks the life out of you. You don't even remember why you started or what your purpose is, it is just yucky. 

There are so many prescriptions for cultural problems within a company. None of them are quick, nothing is easy, and they're certainly not included in your website development. So if you and the people you work with don't believe in what you're doing or have a passion for what you’re doing and a respect for each other, it's not going to get fixed. It’s poison that seeps out into everything you do, and no one is going to want to jump on board with your organization and contribute or volunteer because it shines through.

You have to fix that first, before you even move into anything else. I hope that you're not in that spot. I hope that you are not trying to fix any of these things with your website. I hope that you have an amazing organization with a steadfast marketing plan with processes that you continually evaluate and absolutely work for you.

No one ever said life was easy.

I thought this was an important topic to cover in case you were thinking about getting a website to try to fix something that's actually totally unfixable with a website. I wish you the best on your website journey, and in the journey that you're going through with your organization!

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