A lot of the conversation about the value for web properties centers around e-commerce sites. Advancements in technology and analytical tools have given marketers more depth and insight about the online behavior of their customers, and the construct around tying online and offline behavior continues to mature. However, a gap remains in quantifying the economic value of a web site for service businesses. The need for a web presence is apparent and obvious, but marketing should do a better job of understanding the true enterprise value of the web, even when the buying cycle doesn't end in a click.
According the World Fact Book (housed by the CIA...who knew), almost 78% of the U.S. GDP is in services. That means 3 out of every 4 dollars in the U.S. comes from a service transaction. From accounting and legal to healthcare and staffing, the service economy drives the U.S. and several other countries. That's why is amazing that most service providers can't quantify how the web is helping their business move ahead. They may know traffic numbers, newsletter signups and social media likes, but those don't really help you understand how and where you should invest to maximize your return.
To judge economic value of a web site for a service business, you have to look at your site from two perspectives. One is where is it helping you make money and working to quantify that (even though it's really hard). That largely centers on content marketing these days - how many articles are read, how many videos are viewed and how many brochures are downloaded - but marketers can do a better job of knowing how those items are impacting the sales funnel by creating a dollar value for each of those conversion points and assessing their impact on the buying cycle. The other is where it is saving you money. Would having a chat function save customer service time and resources? Would having forms filled out prior to entering the office improve productivity and customer satisfaction? Again there is always the theoretical yes but the more you can assign monetary value to these items the more holistic the impact of the web can be viewed.
This is hard work as most of the financial information required to get there can at times be an educated guess at best. The creation of dollar based goal values for any conversion or transaction that happens on the web has some stretch to it, but my recommendation is just get started with something and modify it over time as your business matures. Starting the measurement and valuation process is difficult and if you don't start somewhere you'll end up nowhere.
I think this is a largely unexplored topic. As tools get better more data and visibility into the true economic value of websites my hope is that we'll have better insight into the economic impact of the web on the service economy...and if we want those budgets for web initiatives to keep going up, this kind of understanding is imperative.