How to protect your budget
Governments may be riding to the rescue of the banks, but what arguments will persuade company leaders to keep up support for their websites? Here are seven to make the case, says David Bowen.
|Internet World Stats|
I don’t know how many people who run corporate websites have been wondering recently about the future of their budgets, but I’d guess it would run into a few dozen per cent. They probably haven’t heard anything yet – and maybe they never will – but it seems sensible to jot down a few ideas in case the boss demands to know why this immeasurable, marginal medium should keep its share of the budget. Here are some thoughts to transfer to the back of your envelope.
1] The web is the ultimate low cost communication medium
You need to keep communicating during a slowdown – with customers, shareholders, journalists, even people looking for jobs if you’re still hiring. No other medium costs as little as the web. Given you already have a website, the cost is simply that of the time it takes to update. Maybe you need to upgrade or overhaul it? Not expensive compared with almost anything to do with traditional media.
2] The internet has turned out as important as the prophets of the Dotcom bubble said it would
Any Questions, a BBC radio programme, asked its panel of worthies last week what the most important positive development of the past 60 years was. Two said the end of the Cold War, the other two said the internet. One of these was Shirley Williams, a distinguished politician in her late 70s – so it’s not just a young person thing.
3] The web is a mass medium in the developed world
Internet penetration has just sneaked past 90 per cent in The Netherlands, according to Internet World Stats, with the UK and Switzerland on 69 per cent, and Germany and Spain on 64 per cent. Central Europe is catching up: the Czech Republic has hit 50 per cent and (always nice to have an odd one to keep the boss awake), Belarus is on 66 per cent. The US is at 72 per cent, though head north-east and you find that 92 per cent of Greenlanders are online. Look at internetworldstats.com for evidence to suit your case.
4] The web is part of something bigger
Penetration is much lower in the developing world but growth is phenomenal (1,000 per cent growth in India and China since 2000). As important, the more thoughtful companies see mobile web and messaging as a natural extension of the web in areas such as rural China. You shouldn’t view them as separate; they should be managed together.
5] The corporate website is the prime reputation management tool
Oil companies and the like have realised for years that it is essential for crisis management – a noticeboard where updates can be posted immediately. Central banks have realised the same thing in the past few months: where will journalists, or anyone else. turn to learn more when they hear that there may be troubles? As I said in last time’s newsletter (1 October), the US Federal Reserve banks in particular have been putting crisis-related information online with increasing rapidity. You get more reputation problems during a downturn – you must – so it makes sense to prepare the website to fend off attacks.
6] It’s more important than ever
This is one for the more sophisticated boss. Does the corporate website matter any more, now that the real reputation destroyers are out there on the blogs? It matters more, because it is the one place you can state your case in your own words. You can be out there trying to get your point across, of course, but the more people who click back to your site to read what you have to say, the better you are controlling the message.
7] The corporate website is not immeasurable
Siemens measures its site’s return, and says it is generating several hundred thousand euros a month. That is a powerful argument when facing the stern-faced finance director and their slide rule. Where does this number come from? Well, Siemens keeps the details close to its chest but a combination of opportunity costs (what would it cost to do something another way) and actual cost savings produce figures that are good enough to convince the frowners at its Munich headquarters. Bowen Craggs is busy refining a methodology for general use. Happy to discuss it, of course.
First published on 15 October, 2008