These days, we often take it for granted that any organisation will be found on the internet. We’ve become accustomed to that expectation, from banking, eBay’ing for car spares, booking holidays or finding directions. Having an internet presence of a good quality website has no longer become an option, it’s now a necessity. Here we look at not just why a club website is important, but why you need a professionally crafted website to stay ahead of your competition, to meet the expectations of your visitors and members, and to understand that your website is the best sales person for your club that you will ever have.
Finding information …. 20 years ago
Just 20 years ago, I inherited my first classic car. Finding the club to join was a process that took me several months. I bought a classic car magazine, checked the adverts (there were none in that issue) but found the events diary and went to the next major classic car show looking for the same model. I found an owner, got the details from their window sticker and applied to join. It was a long drawn out process where I had to make a tremendous personal effort to find the club. However, back then it was worth it. I had a car but I didn’t know how to obtain spares, I had no manuals, no access to technical information, no like-minded friends and I had no-one to call if I had problems. On the whole, it was worth the effort.
Finding information today
Roll on 20 years to present day and we are surrounded by the internet in a world that has changed considerably. In our classic car world, almost everything we could ever need is online:
- Suppliers have websites with full catalogues – and we can buy online
- Forums (either club owned or not) are full of like minded enthusiasts keen to help each other to solve their problems
- eBay and other auction sites provide a source of spares
- Social media brings communities of people together
So in a world that is almost living and breathing online – why would we be persuaded to join a club that either doesn’t have a website, or doesn’t have a good website?
What makes a good Classic Car Club Website?
There are many factors that would apply to ‘what makes a good classic car club website, but let’s just focus on some of the important ones.
- Is it better than your competition?
- Is your membership increasing?
- Are a significant percentage of your new members saying that they first found you ‘because of your website’?
- Does it work well on a smart phone?
- Is it up to date – has it been refreshed within the last 5 years?
- Is it simple to navigate for a new visitor?
- Is your home page enticing your visitors to click deeper into your website?
If the answer is “no” to any one of these questions, then it’s probably time to start thinking about upgrading. Lets look at each of these in turn.
Is it better than your competition?
Almost all clubs have competition in some form or other. In fact with the rise of the internet we’ve also witnessed a number of ‘internet based’ clubs formed that can increase the competition further.
But think about this. Your club and that of your competition are going to be found by the same search engines when a potential new members searches for “XXXX owners club” and they will be clicking all links given to them to check out all options. If your competition has a good professionally built website that is much better than yours, which club do you think they’re likely to join?
Is your membership increasing?
There are many reasons why membership may not appear to be increasing. We have seen from data presented by the FBHVC at their AGM that the overall trend in the industry appears to be on a downward turn, but that really means you just have to try harder to improve the services delivered to members.
One of the best ways to ensure you attract new members is through your website and the services you offer through it. People are more fickle today than they were 20 years ago. Back then members needed the club for essential services. Today, many of the services that they need can be found on the internet for free, they belong to clubs because they want to belong. When there is such a plethora of information freely available on the internet, you need to make sure that your club is full and centre in that information hub.
A well thought out website can soon pay for itself with the increased membership that it will bring you.
Do new members find you first via your website?
Being in an internet led age, and new members likely to find you online, are you collecting valuable metrics about them such as ‘where did you first hear about us?’ If you’re not, it might be worth phoning some of them to do a straw poll. In my personal experience I would be very disappointed if the total number of online new members was less than 50%, so if it’s anything less, then perhaps your website needs to be upgraded.
Does it work well on a smart phone?
It should come as no surprise that the smart phone and the tablet computer have revolutionised how we as consumers use the internet. According to Ofcom, two thirds of us own a smart phone and use it for 2 hours per day to surf the internet. The smart phone has taken over the top spot from laptops/desktops for the first time in 2015. It is therefore of paramount importance that your website looks good on whatever device your visitor is using, it must adapt its display accordingly and make the user experience a good one.
Many organisations’ websites today are still playing catch-up with this relatively new requirement, even the BBC only went properly mobile friendly in 2015. What probably accelerated this revolution in ‘responsive’ website design was Google changing their search algorithm to give greater importance to those websites that pass their ‘mobile friendly’ test. All of the websites offered by Wire Wheels Webbers pass the Google mobile friendly test so you can be assured that your website will look good whatever device your visitors are using, and help you in your quest to become higher up the rankings on that all important first page of search results.
Is your website up to date?
If your website hasn’t been updated then it will almost certainly not be mobile friendly and therefore you will be giving a poor experience to half of your visitors. Additionally, your not making use of the changes in technology that have occurred over that time period and as a result, your site will look dated and an upgrade does need to be planned.
Is it simple to navigate?
If you’ve organised your website such that it isn’t simple to navigate for new visitors, then you’ve probably made your site too complex. Your menu structure should be short and no more than two levels deep. Finding information must be quick and simple, or it will never be found.
Browsing websites by new visitors is not one that is done by meticulously exploring. If the relevant information is not found within the first few seconds, your visitor is almost certain to leave and look for their information elsewhere. Websites need to be developed for the new and/or casual visitor as well as your established membership.
Click throughs from your home page
We will all get visitors who come to us for the briefest of visits, but our goal is to reduce this number. We call it the bounce rate – where a visitor comes, reads one page, and then leaves. The home page is the most linked and shared page, and the page that will most likely be the highest in the search engine page. The information it contains and the links and articles on it must whet the appetite of your visitors to read deeper.
All our websites come with a dynamic home page ready to be filled with engaging content to actively encourage your visitors to click through your website, reduce your bounce rate and give your visitors the impression that you are a club with your finger on the pulse, technically informed, outgoing and successful.
In an internet based world which never sleeps, your website is the most used and biggest draw of new visitors to your club. It is probably the most worthwhile investment you can ever make to entice visitors to take a closer look at what you stand for, and what you have to offer.
Many people regard their website as their ‘shop window’ displaying their wares, and to some extent that is a good analogy. A poorly dressed shop window on the high street will not get many visitors. But an up to date display, visually engaging and pulling the visitor into the store is a completely different story. A well dressed shop window increases foot-fall and therefore sales. For your club, it can have exactly the same effect, with increased membership, and make a return on your investment in a very short time-frame.
The return on investment from our methods has been shown to great effect, read the testimonial from the Rover P6 Club who have embraced a modern website and our methods and tools to great effect.
What do you think about the importance of classic car club websites? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.