May 7, 2009
It surprises me how many companies underestimate the marketing value of their website. In many cases, design and content development are left to the IT department with little to no input from the marketing channels other than logo and color scheme. The websites are put up too fast, without enough consideration of fundamental elements such as traffic sources, conversation to sales and design. A website represents the company behind it and the effectiveness of a website signals the quality one would receive from that company. It is important that business owners answer the following five questions before tackling a new website.
1. What is the website’s purpose or mission?
Sounds simple right? Defining your site’s purpose is the single most important step you should take prior to new website construction. For most, the purpose will be as simple as “produce quality leads for our sales teams” or “sell our products online”. Once the mission of your site is defined, incorporate that goal in every aspect of designing and developing your site. Ask yourself, “how does this feature help the website visitor complete the site’s mission?” It’s important not to lose focus and get caught up in ‘bling’ at the cost of realizing your mission.
2. What am I going to need in order to get this website launched?
It’s important to have reasonable expectations of time lines. Most business owners budget enough time for the website to be presented in “rough draft” but forget that testing is an important part of the process. This can take much longer than anticipated. While your development team will provide their best estimation of the time it will take, as a rule of thumb, add 50% to the completion time a developer tells you to allow for anything unforeseen.
Cost is an important factor in the web developing process. Budget a little extra money over the agreed amount to allow for small enhancements to the project that were not originally specified. Unexpected enhancements costs are a really good reason to have a very detailed project description before you begin. It’s not uncommon for technology based projects to come in slightly over budget and by having extra money at your disposal, you’ll be able to keep the project moving forward.
Have all your resources, such as having an assistant to help with planning or a graphic designer to help incorporate your company’s brand into the site, on board prior to starting. You may also need to bring in outside help, like programmers, internet marketing companies, social media marketing agencies and copy writers. Budget these resources into the total cost of your project and include them in the initial planning since having a seasoned professional working with you from the start will pay huge dividends upon completion.
3. How will I bring qualified visitors to my site?
Surprisingly, most small businesses have a website just to have a website with no strategy or plan on how they are going to bring qualified visitors to the site. It’s like having a billboard in the middle of the Sahara Desert – pretty but not bringing in customers. If you cannot hire an internet marketing company, you should tap into the many online resources geared towards small business internet marketing. At a minimum, you should invest into a properly managed Pay Per Click (PPC) Marketing Campaign. Unlike Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the effects of PPC are immediate and can be controlled. I would also recommend working with a SEO professional to lay down the groundwork that will rank you high on the search engines.
Remember offline marketing as well. Your website should be part of your brand – put it everywhere! It should be on all letterhead, business cards, company vehicles, print and TV advertisements. Holding a contest that directs people to your websites is a popular and effective way to acquire a large number of back links to your site, which helps with search engine rankings.
4. How will I track my website’s ROI or gauge effectiveness?
Once your site is up and running, you’ll need to know if your marketing efforts (both “on-site” and “off-site”) are working. Remember your site’s purpose or mission? That now becomes what is known as a “conversion”. A conversion is the action taken by a website visitor that fulfills the site’s purpose. In most cases, this is either entering a sales lead into your site or buying an item. Other conversions could be downloading an “e-book” or signing up for a newsletter. Whatever the conversion is, everything done both on and off the site must be to lead people towards that completing a conversion.
To track your website and marketing effectiveness you need a reliable analytics program installed on your site. I am a big fan of Google Analytics because it’s very user friendly, easy to setup and free! By defining the desired conversion in your analytics program (PPC accounts as well) you will see which marketing efforts produce the highest number of conversions. Keep in mind that you may have a scenario where you get reduced site traffic but more conversions – but this is a good thing! You should review your analytics each month to track if your marketing campaigns are increasing or decreasing your conversions. Internet marketing company can do this for you and suggest ways to increase your conversions
5. How will I use design and technology to enhance my website?
Websites should be clean, clear and clutter free. Ensure your designers are familiar with your brand and how your company is graphically represented by giving the web designer a copy of your logo and any promotional material. The site must be developed around your existing brand not the brand designed to fit the website. If you are a new company, take the time to develop a rich corporate identity before having your website designed and developed.
As you can see, a clear and thought out action plan will greatly increase the effectiveness of your site. Don’t underestimate the power of a well designed, conversion optimized website since this can mean many dollars added to your bottom line. Good Luck!
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