Launching a new website can be one of the biggest projects your department has undertaken, not to mention one of your school’s biggest investments in recent years. There can be a lot of unknowns along the way, but one thing is certain: support from your administration and colleagues is a necessity.
One of the most critical steps in launching a new website happens before implementation: first, you have to pitch your new site to key stakeholders. Knowing what to say and how to say it -- as well as anticipating what questions they’ll have -- could be the difference between getting a green light or failing to even start.
Each of your stakeholders will have different wants, needs, goals, pain points, and visions for the website. It’s important to look for patterns in certain needs or goals, and let the meetings be a source of inspiration.
In this blog, we’ll help you make the case for pitching to:
Expect to hear, “Let’s talk offline” or “Can we walk and talk?”
With a packed schedule, your head of school’s time will be short, but you’ll need their support no matter what. Your website will be a major instrument in helping your head present their vision and mission for the school, and since they will ultimately have the final say, they’ll be the most important one you need to convince. With any luck, your head will be an involved partner; hopefully they’ll be your biggest cheerleader. But, without the support of your head, you won’t go very far.
So perfect your elevator pitch, or find a time to sit down with your head and talk about what they envision for a new website. Be prepared to explain why your school’s digital presence needs a change, and try to anticipate some of the issues on their mind as well. What might be their frustrations or concerns about your current site? How do they find its functionality? How can you help them achieve their goals?
Your leadership’s top considerations:
How will the website represent the school?
Much like your school’s leadership, your website will serve as your face and voice of your community. When meeting with your leadership, it’ll be important to bring some examples of other school websites you admire — including those from competition — along with an analysis of current metrics for your own school website that describe how the website is being used.
How will the website affect the school community?
Your head will not only have the consideration of the external community, but also the best interest of current parents, faculty, and staff. There’s a big internal component of launching a new website, one that considers the daily functions of staff and parents (think behind the scenes—log-ins, portals, attendance, updating calendars, athletic rosters, etc.). Knowing how those day-to-day operations will be affected by a new site will be weighed by your head of school.
How will leadership be represented on the website?
Whitgift School gets creative with their senior leadership page and introduces their headmaster and executive team with a campus map-like feature, presenting their bios in an original and engaging way. Rather than present a typical directory or list of names, it’s a creative approach to celebrate and acknowledge the strong leadership of the school.
Whether it's your head or yourself eventually presenting your new website to the Board, make sure to communicate early how a new site will support the mission, values, and each individual department’s goals.
Expect to hear, “Do we really need this?“
It’s no secret that a new website will require a substantial amount of resources involving time, effort, and, yes, budget. So, at some point your chief financial officer and/or business office will need to review the proposed budget, as well as any contracts and work orders carefully.
Your Business Office’s Top Considerations:
How much is this going to cost?
They’ll want to know how much everything will cost, when it’s due, and what the terms of the contract are. Having a sense of that information before meeting can help paint a clearer picture and set expectations.
What is the ROI?
Whether in the form of anecdotal or qualitative data, your business office will want an understanding of the school’s return on investment. It’s important to consider the lens of success through which they might be looking and bring stories of ROI to your business office.
Some helpful ways to provide ROI include:
- Sharing a case study of a school who increased inquiry or enrollment traffic, increased donations, or a noteworthy savings of time and resources. Ask your potential website vendors if they have available case studies or references your business office can meet with.
- Showing a competitor’s new website, alongside their rank in search engines and social media engagement.
- Data-backed predictions as to how this investment can save money after its initial investment
How much work is this going to be?
Your business office will also want an understanding of what will be needed to launch a new website:
- Which departments will be invested?
- What is the timeline?
- What resource allocations will be directed toward the launch? A temporary shift in responsibilities may require some additional planning, so it’s good to be realistic about your office’s manpower and ability to manage time.
- How much help will the website vendor provide? Website providers (like Finalsite) have the ability to help carry the workload throughout the website rollout and beyond. Share information from your proposed website provider about their website redesign assistance.
Expect to hear: “(Insert the most technical phase you’ve ever heard)”
The IT department will need to know the ins-and-outs of all the technical aspects of a new website.
Your IT department’s Top Considerations:
Is the hosting safe and secure?
Our friends in tech will also have a vested interest in security, like who owns the SSL certificate, is the site backed up, which are protocols are being used, HTTP or HTTPS or even better, HTTP3?
You’re going to want to have a document prepared in advance that covers:
- Site speed (Load times)
- Attack history/DDoS mitigation (if any)
- Uptime/Downtime information
- Data privacy
- Hosting and security
Ask your proposed website provider for information on these resources to help you build your case!
What data integrations are available?
Integrations with other systems and data security are big considerations too, so if you think you’ll be integrating other systems, you’ll want to bring them into the conversation to discuss how that integration will take place and what to expect.
To help answer IT’s questions in advance, bring a list of all other software partners that your proposed website vendor works with, as well as details on those integrations. If possible, connect your IT department with a member of the vendor’s team who knows the ins and outs of integrations. For example, at Finalsite, we have an entire integration team that is happy to hop on a call and answer the questions your IT team may have about how our software can work seamlessly with what you already have in place.
Expect to hear, “How will this attract more families?”
As your school’s most powerful marketing tool, your new website will be a critical online space for families to engage with your community, and in particular, your admissions office. First impressions matter (visitors will make a subconscious decision about your site in about three to seven seconds), and since your admission page is a critical entry point for families, having the support of your admissions office is imperative.
Your admission team’s top considerations:
How will a new site help us boost inquiry and enrollment traffic?
Admissions will be focused on how the site can help meet and exceed their enrollment benchmarks, so involve your admissions office in the early conversations—listen, take notes, bring candy, and stir up some excitement! You’ll want to bring any case studies and ROI data you have from your website provider about similar schools’ successes.
Will we have a role in content creation?
Your website matters to your admissions team, and a website redesign is a strategic opportunity to consider new ways to entice your families with specific content.
While admissions cares about data, if you want to win the pitch, you’ll need to:
- Take the time to talk to them about what they feel sets the school apart. They are going to want to feel involved!
- Share ideas and inspiration from other schools about how a new site can better tell the school’s story.
- Tell them you want to be on the same page. If your admissions and marketing team have a history of clashing ideas, now is the time to show you can work together to accomplish something great!
Expect to hear, “How will this increase donor relations?“
At its heart, your website is a tool for storytelling. A large part of how your Development/ Advancement Office engages with its donors is what story you tell, and how well you tell it. You’ll want your Development Office to understand that a new website can help with those efforts and build its relationships with current donors, but also inspire new donors to support the school.
Your development team’s top considerations:
How could a new website help boost donor engagement?
If making a gift to your school is a challenging or confusing process, you’ll want to show your Development Office how easy it can be to support the school with simple forms, thank you pages, campaign progress meters—tools that can not only help facilitate the giving process, but build better donor relations.
How can we bring more attention to fundraising?
Creating a website that celebrates and supports the giving efforts will be a big factor in gaining support from your Development Office, whether it’s a landing page for your Giving Tuesday efforts or a microsite for your next capital campaign.
In both cases, to help craft the perfect pitch, you’ll want to:
- Share any case studies from similar schools who boosted donations with a new website
- Share examples of beautiful giving pages that get them excited about their own website section
- Propose ideas for how they can be involved in content creation, and ask how they want to be involved
The look, feel, and functionality of your digital campus is more important than ever these days—it will be the biggest tool that can help you and your team achieve its goals. But unless all of your stakeholders agree, you’ll have a hard time getting started.
The pitches you’ll need to make to your team members and stakeholders will vary. Before meeting with each team, take the time to consider what’s important to them, and arm yourself with resources from your proposed website vendor that can help you ease any questions or concerns before they arise.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mia is a creative and passionate school marketing thought-leader. Since joining the Finalsite team in 2013, Mia has produced hundreds of pieces of content with one goal in mind: helping private, public, and international schools improve their online presence. In her current role as director of demand generation, Mia focuses on full-funnel inbound marketing strategies. She's also a co-host on The School Marketing Show, a frequent blogger, e-book author, Expert Course consultant and webinar host. She loves putting storytelling at the heart of all communications — and before joining the Finalsite team, Mia was a TV and radio broadcaster, wedding cinematographer, and author for various online magazines. She is an army wife, mom, and rookie photographer currently living in southern Georgia.