Saturday, February 14, 2009

Your Website—Five Pillars of Peak Performance, Cont’d.

Part 2 of 2

Previously we wrote about the need for winning athletes to maximize their fitness in each of the five performance pillars: Cardio. Strength. Speed. Flexibility. Nutrition and rest. And we introduced the idea that winning websites have peak performance pillars as well.

  • Technical Design
  • Human Design
  • Branding
  • Strategy
  • ROI

Technical design and human design were covered in our previous blog, Your Website—Five Pillars of Peak Performance, Part 1. Today’s blog will continue to explore website fitness by examining the remaining performance pillars, starting with Number 3. Branding.

3. Branding

Is your branding strong? Does your online brand profile match your offline brand? The image? The personality? The brand experience? A peak performing website creates or reinforces the key elements of your branding. Test your site for peak performance by giving it a brand audit.

First, what is a brand, anyway?

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a, “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

But a brand is much more than this. A brand is a promise, say some. An expectation, say others. Better. Because a brand lives beyond the symbols. A brand lives in the minds of its consumers and stands on the relationships it builds with its audience—creating an emotional bond. As with us humans, the more passionate the relationship, the stronger the brand connection.

The process of branding is all about delivering on the essence of your brand everywhere people contact it. From the product itself to packaging to your media efforts. And of course, your website. Branding fitness breaks down into two key performance factors—design and, an emotive component, heart.


From a brand design perspective ask the following. Is your brand imagery strong?

  • Logos, fonts, color schemes, and other design elements used properly, prominently and consistently in the layout of your site?
  • Same with your brand symbols? If you’re Pillsbury, is your ever-ticklish Pillsbury Doughboy present? For one tire-seller, your Michelin man?
  • Does your voice—the language you use—follow brand guidelines consistently. For instance, Visa understands what it means to its customers well. Promotional offers are never “free,” they’re offered, “with our compliments.”
  • Are your brand taglines and messages incorporated as essential components?
  • Are your pages CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) template-based to ensure that key brand design, navigation and content are consistent, especially as revisions occur and new pages are added?


Winning athletes are highly competitive people. No mountain too high. No breakaway unchallenged. When the world’s best step up in the face of stiff competition and tough conditions, we say that they have heart. Soul. Emotion. Same with branding your website.

  • Can your customers grasp your brand essence—the guiding vision of your brand—from your website.
  • Is your personality well represented? Are you serious? Playful? Trustworthy? It should show. And be consistent.
  • Does your brand value come through?

Test your website’s branding fitness and see if you’re up the challenge.

4. Strategy

Why is your business on the web? Because your competition is? To generate awareness? Clickthroughs? Traffic? Leads? Sales?

Achieving peak performance requires that you set and periodically measure your website against your objectives. And just as athletes set goals, achieve them, then set new, higher goals, so should your web strategy.

Four questions:

  • What are your objectives for your website?
  • Are your web objectives strategically linked to your business goals?
  • Are you measuring what matters most—on a regular basis?
  • Is your web marketing integrated with your other media efforts?


When it comes to measuring what matters most—make sure you establish a clearly defined set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Start with your business goals and then relate them to areas where the web can deliver. Don’t be satisfied with surface attributes. Go deeper. Like quality leads generated, not just raw leads. Most valuable customers acquired or lost, not just all customers. Like profitable sales, not just sales.

What other value measures matter to you strategically? Perhaps you need to establish a leadership position. Or pave the way for sales calls by providing useful information in the form of white papers and reports. Perhaps you want to increase customer interaction. Perhaps you want to involve your customers or a wider group of employees in product design so you can go to market faster with better products.

Marketing integration

Integrating your web marketing with your advertising, promotion, PR and social media efforts is another way peak performers set themselves up to win. You may have to break down internal silos to get all your departments and agency partners working toward the same goal. But the impact can be well worth it.

According to New York Times article, “Making Every Second, or $100,000, Count,” Superbowl advertisers General Electric, E*Trade and others, sought “more bang for their buck” by integrating $3 million per 30-second TV spots with online efforts. “It’s more than a 30-second spot,” said Nick Utton, chief marketing officer at E*Trade in New York. “The Super Bowl is part of a total plan.”

Sadly too many marketers still miss this important strategy. "Only Two in Three Bowl Brands Ran Integrated Online Campaigns," according to Promo Magazine. The article quotes Reprise Media, the search and social media subsidiary of the Interpublic Group, that only about two-thirds of the brands that ran spots during the Superbowl bought pay-per-click search ads against either their brands or their specific products.” Consider it opportunity missed. Potential performance gains squandered.

5. ROI

Do you know the value your website is contributing to your business—your Return on Investment? Too many marketers don’t.

In a recent Conference Board MarketingCharts report, “Marketing Execs Struggle to Show ROI,” half the companies surveyed report measuring ROI for less than two years. More than one-third still report making no efforts to measure ROI at all. Reasons include lack of resources, lack of connection with performance objectives and inadequate focus.

For a competitive athlete, winning has clear measures. Cross the finish line first. Jump the highest. Or longest. Have the fastest time. Score the most points, goals, runs, touchdowns, bullseyes. Take the fewest strokes. KO your opponent.

If you’ve done your pillar 4. Strategy homework and set clear objectives based on your business goals, your measures should be clearer and more meaningful as well.

Calculating ROI for an e-commerce website can be straightforward. Take the revenue generated, look at the lifetime value of that customer, factor in costs and compute. Go deeper and refine your information by analyzing offers and customer segments to find those that deliver the highest combination of revenue, profit and share of wallet.

If you provide business services, your objective may be to attract new customers using a knowledge leadership strategy. You might measure white paper downloads and track them against qualified sales leads and customers acquired. Go deeper by tracking leads with your partners against conversion rates and average sales value and profit to see where the best leads are coming from.

About costs

ROI needs to consider what it costs build in website functionality and to maintain it. Then compares those costs with what that functionality would cost to provide if done by the business elsewhere.

Returning to the white paper example, how much would it cost to print those papers, inventory them and fulfill requests by conventional mail? What it would cost for UPS to track a package via a call center vs. online?

Be careful though, just because you can shift some services to the web doesn’t mean they’re valued equally by your customers. Airlines were able to reduce ticketing and staffing costs by providing self-service functionality and e-tickets via the web. Some airline customers are huge fans. Others frustrated.

Web analytics services that help you determine ROI costs range from free (as with Google Analytics) on up. The key to success is basing your measurements on sound objectives—whether they’re easily quantifiable like a cost savings or more qualitative, like brand image perceptions.

Understanding your ROI is a start, not a finish. Knowing your ROI helps you make better decisions. Like a winning athlete, your goal should be to benchmark and improve.

It isn’t how much it costs to make improvements, it’s what kind of return you get on your investment—as it delivers on your objectives. If it costs $1/2-million to upgrade your website, that’s big money. If you have the ROI numbers that show your $1/2-million investment can generate $3 million in additional profit, you’re on your way.

Use the five pillars and test your site's fitness

Our goal with the Five Pillars of Peak Performance is to help you realize that a winning website is based on a combination of factors that are unique to your business.

Just as an athlete must achieve their goals in each of the five pillars of athletic performance, your website needs to excel in technical design, human design, branding, strategy and ROI in order to deliver winning performance for your business.

Photos: ©2008 Paul J. Hydzik ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Michelin Man, courtesy of Michelin Tire.

Bicycling images were made during stage three of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California as some of the world’s best professional racers were completing the tough Category 1 climb up Sierra Road en route from Modesto to the San Jose, California finish. The 2009 tour begins today. Follow America's premier bicycle race here:


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

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