Too often companies consider their website as an after-thought. They try and bolt on their website to their existing marketing as a separate entity. But then they get disgruntled when the web site is not the success they hoped for
The reason the website does not perform to expectations is often because of a lack of planning. And there are tough questions that they may not have answers for right away.
This article will explain some of the reasons why identifying and documenting your business objectives at the beginning of any website design/re-design project is essential. It will also explore some of the more common examples as case scenarios.
Start with Why. Why do you have a website in the first place?
Often the answer is “Because everyone does” or “We need to be found on Google.”
If the answer to why you want a website is not as sexy, or even professional, as you think it should be, get it down on paper anyway. Then ask why again, and again, and again.
For example, a common reason to want a website is to be found on Google. Why is this important?
- So you can have more leads.
Why do you want more leads?
- Because we want to be more selective about the work we take on
Why do you want to be more selective about the work we take on?
- Because we are sick of dealing with low budget projects.
- Because we want to do more meaningful and exciting work and make a difference.
So we can see here that what started as wanting to be found on Google ended up a much clearer picture of the heart of the business.
This is a simplified example and you may have a number of business objectives. Those objectives may include: increasing profits, getting better clients, getting better projects, growing to a size you can employ more people, or scaling down so you can work less but with the same level of profit.
Whatever these objectives are they are critical to be written down on paper and exposed to the light of day.
You don’t know what you don’t know
If you can get down exactly what you do know then you can start a dialogue with others that may have some insights that you don’t.
For example, going back to our “wanting to be found on Google” objective, the reality is that ranking high on organic search results (the results you don’t pay Google for) for competitive keywords is a huge project. It requires a large budget and a long time to get results.
In this example we are putting the solution of being found on Google before the problem of needing more sales. The objective is to get higher profits, better clients, better projects, etc. Unless there is a vanity objective for ranking high on Google search, who cares where you rank on Google? The important thing is you achieve your sales objectives.
And there may be a multitude of other ways to achieve these objectives that will bring a much quicker return on investment. But until you get your objectives documented in a website strategy no one is capable to fully assist you with their expertise.
You don’t need all the answers
Documenting your business objectives does not require you to have all the answers on how to achieve them. In fact it would be useful to pretend (just for a few minutes) that you don’t have all the answers.
What business objectives do you “suspect” could be solved by a website strategy?
What are your business objectives that you don’t think can be solved by a website strategy? (You might be surprised)
What specific reasons do you have for owning a website?
Getting back to why you want a website in the first place, I will throw a few brainstorming ideas out there for you.
- A place to refer clients to view your portfolio
- Generate leads
- Actively convert sales
- Build an audience
- Show your expertise in a specific niche
- Documentation resource for current clients
- Documentation resource for potential clients
- Guide potential clients through a sales funnel.
What would life look like if you didn’t have a website?
For some, they might not be able to imagine life without a website. It is crucial to their business model. For others a website may be “nice to have”. If you have a small niche and/or specialise in large contracts that are mostly by referral from the same sources then a website might not be for you. In any case, it is worth the question, if for nothing else but to rate the importance of a website to your company. This importance should be proportional to the investment you make on your website strategy.
What % of leads are generated from your website?
What % of income is generated from the site?
Your answers are more than likely based on a guess. None the less it is still important to get you thinking of the value of your website to your company.
Important is the difference between % of leads and % of revenue. If they are markedly different it is worth looking at why. Say you have 50% of your leads come from your website, but only 25% of revenue then this reflects a low conversion rate. We need to address how the branding and positioning are failing so as to produce low quality leads.
If improvements were made to your website, what increase in these percentages could you expect?
If you have identified a number of holes in your strategy then you may feel there is room for improvement. This is only a guess on your behalf, but it’s an educated guess based on your intimate knowledge of your business and target market.
What does a successful website look like to you?
Previously I said you only had to pretend you didn’t have all the answers for a few minutes. Well that time is up and you can go back to what you think is possible and reasonable. Just keep in mind you may be off the mark in a few areas.
What % of income is generated from the site?
Compare yourself to a home owner designing their dream home. They have a lot of information about their lifestyle and needs and may be well researched in the architecture they are interested in. Their input is invaluable but will not always be technically correct and an architect will be able to steer them to achieve their goals.
Imagine you are this client and express your needs clearly, and with an open mind. Your input will be an invaluable resource to the web professional that sees it.
Some scenarios to get you thinking
Do you just want a simple brochure website that simply presents your business in a professional and accurate way? There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to make this clear from the beginning. There is no use investing in functionality that you will never use.
Or do you want something that acts as an informational resource that you can refer clients to? If so, do you have these resources ready to go? If not they are going to take time or money to create, and probably both. Do you have the budget for this and what sort of resources would your leads and customers find interesting and useful?
Do you want to go one step further and engage in a dialogue that your website is the hub for creating interesting blog posts that your target market will comment on and generate a series of conversations?
Or do you want to go all out and follow the media approach, where your company becomes a media producer. This has been very successful for a number of companies, most famously Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Libraries TV.
I hope I have given you enough ideas without overwhelming you. All this is in vain if you don’t take action and dedicate 10 minutes to identifying the top 3 business objectives for your site.