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Make Sure Your Website Drives Revenues, Develops Relationships

A good website should make a difference to your credit union. It should drive revenues, strengthen relationships, save costs, and increase member satisfaction. Here are key issues to consider when selecting a vendor to redo your site: people, processes, technology, design, support, and pricing.

Hire the right people: Website development vendors come in many different flavors: agencies, designers, consultants, and web development companies. Agencies generally focus on branding and marketing. Designers create the design and image of your site. Consultants will do a variety of jobs-but you'll have to manage them yourself and you'll probably have to pay them hourly. A web development company will act as the general contractor-freeing up your time.

Processes: Your vendor should bring proven processes to your project. Most projects fail because of poor requirements and scope definition. Look for a vendor who has documented processes. The vendor should be able to demonstrate how it will gather requirements, build consensus, and deliver on its promise.

Technology: You shouldn't have to develop anything from scratch. Every feature and functionality you can imagine has already been developed and tested. The vendor's job is to select and integrate the best-of-breed technologies for your project. Some to consider: Content Management System (CMS,) E-Mail Marketing Engine, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System, and Web Analytics.

CMS: With a CMS, you can login to your website and make changes at any time while saving previous versions.

CMS sites can be designed to be search-engine friendly and allow for easy search engine optimization. You can create hidden landing pages for special member groups and use them to distribute newsletters, updates, and alerts. A CMS will give your members a repository of online forms, and a way to submit and route applications electronically. A good CMS system will let you easily integrate with third-party tools such branch/ATM locators, calculators, helpdesk and FAQ systems.

A good CMS system is modular and allows you to easily integrate with other technology components. Your vendor should not only help you select a good CMS system, but also provide training for you and be your backup if and when you need help. There are many good CMS systems available for free.

E-Mail Marketing Engine: E-mail marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to communicate with your existing members and prospects. When integrated with your website, it allows you to build segmented lists of members and prospects. The engine should allow people to unsubscribe themselves and should manage bounces automatically. Some engines will let you track e-mail views and click-through rates as well. Your vendor should help you select this component and help you design a "CAN-SPAM" legally compliant e-mail template.

Salim Lakhani heads up Initsoft Web Solutions and can be reached at sl<at>initsoft.com.

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Subscribers to the Credit Union Journal can get an enhanced version of the advice shared here by Salim Lakhani by going to www.cujournal.com and typing "Salim Lakhani" in the search engine.

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