the website you are sending people to does not work.

This morning, while getting the kids ready fro school, a toothpaste commercial came on the TV, advertising free samples if you just went to their website.  This sounded interesting, so I went to the website in question.  However, if you click on the “Try it free for a week” button, the link just sends you back to the same page ad infinitum, even after clearing the cache and all those other good things.  Likewise, when going to the “contact us” page, I found a mash of some poorly designed pull down menus, and a “submit” button that gave no indication that the comment was actually received.  Being a web girl, I waited and called the company to tell them about this problem and let them know their website wasn’t working for the offer extended, nor for the “submit comment” feature.

While the gentleman on the phone took my information and said they would be mailing me a coupon to make things “right” for me as a consumer, the thing that was more concerning to me was how much money was being wasted.  An expensive TV advert was driving potential customers to a website that could not engage visitors as promised.  Visitors, and potential customers that the client is paying plenty to reach.  This doesn’t help the consumer’s opinion or trust of the brand, and from a technical point of view, it may be something as simple as a broken link.  Not only that, the Client may end up getting a skewed view of results of the campaign and engagement of customers/respondents, because it’s unlikely every person will take the time I did to call the company and let them know the links are broken.

I am sure that I am likely overly engaged here.  But my call, and any others they might get reporting broken links, could very well end up saving the company money, political capital with its new customers, and may even end up getting the web guy in charge of this in some hot water.

As we continue to urge clients and companies to link offline, traditional marketing strategies with online portals, we also need to make sure that all those online portals work as perfectly as possible.  I have no idea what the media buy the toothpaste company made, nor how much they spent to put their website together, but if, in the end, the site does not allow for conversion and collection of consumer data, it’s largely been a pointless waste.  Otherwise, the old fashioned slipping of samples into the Sunday paper, in store trials and samples in random mailboxes may be more cost effective, even if it doesn’t allow the all-important data collection feature.  And if those of us advising companies on web-based strategies can’t make them deliver any better than traditional campaigns because of something as simple as a broken link, we are doing our clients and the whole web-based consumer engagement ecosystem a disservice.

What do you think?