So, you already have a web site that you’re interested in marketing to the world. Well, I may have some bad news for you because you may have missed a critical part of the marketing process and you may need to take a step back and fix things or even start from scratch. Well, it may not be all that grim but read on and see if you’ve truly set out on the right path to success.
In the old days it was acceptable to take all your existing company literature, and email it to your web development company along with a few pictures, a map, and tell them to do their magic & put your phone number and email address on the site. Well, this is a nice first step but now that the web is becoming a viable and ever competitive media, it has become very important to take the planning of your site to the next level.
When you are ready to develop a web site you need to realize that there are four main parts to the equation and those same four parts need to be considered from the start. They are objectives, target markets, products/services, and evaluation of your competition.
First, you need to define your objectives. By objectives I mean the sole purpose of your site — what is your ultimate goal? Are you interested in simply providing more information about your business? Do you want to drive more foot traffic through your doors? Do you want to drive traffic to your site so that you can justify selling advertising on the site? Maybe your ultimate goal is to sell more products, services or to just strengthen your brand identity. Regardless of your reason, every element of your web site should have the same purpose — to support and further your core objectives.
Now, this may sound like common sense but think about it for a minute? Did you really sit down and think about what you want your web site to do for you? Did you have a brainstorming session or even look at what your competition is doing on their web site? A good rule of thumb is that you should spend just as much time within your organization in the planning stage as it takes to actually develop your site. By doing so you’ll be sure that you’ve covered all the bases and that you are secure in your decisions and objectives as you move forward.
Some examples of objectives might be:
- Establishing brand awareness
- Establishing a consistent corporate identity
- Providing corporate or product information To sell more products
- To provide better and more affordable customer service
- To make more money
Some examples of secondary objectives to consider:
- Designing your site to be search engine friendly or friendly to a specific engine
- Design features that will encourage repeat traffic
- Develop features so others can use your site to encourage other visitors
- Include elements to leverage your sales force
- Develop a way to communicate with your clients and customers on a regular basis
- Develop customer loyalty
Successful web site marketing is not a simple undertaking for sure. It is a full time job to do it right. I sometimes laugh with clients when I tell them that the actual marketing of the site is the real job in the web development process. I am constantly surprised when they look at me and say “Really”?
All this whining aside, you need to first realize that your success in marketing starts with first deciding on your objectives and what you ultimately want to accomplish. The entire web site development process and marketing of your finished site will revolve around this decision.
Second, you need to consider your target markets
This could also be considered common sense but for a moment spend some time thinking about it — or even better — spend some money on some quality research. You might find that your target market is nowhere near what you thought! If you are running a successful business you will already have this information handy and it will show your customers needs, their wants and their expectations. You should address these issues prominently on your site, in your site design and in your overall tone.
If your business caters to different segments of the market depending on the product/service that you offer, make sure you deal with this on your site with individual and unique analysis of their needs, wants and expectations. Again, hopefully you have already done this.
During the design phase there are many issues that need to be addressed regarding your target markets. What colors and imagery will you use to appeal to them? Will your audience be old or young? This might affect the size of the type you use. Will the visitors in your target market be technologically savvy to utilize the latest site feature or will they need a more simple interface? What type of bandwidth will the typically have? Making the wrong decision could be very bad. Spend the time and do the research and make this an important part of your brainstorming and research sessions.
Products and Services
Consider this… If you offer a tire store, what will you offer online? Will you sell tires online? Probably not because tires are expensive to ship. This is an example of a business that doesn’t translate well to the web. Maybe you own an art store. Can you sell and ship your entire inventory online? Probably — and you can no doubt be very successful doing it. The big question is whether you are going to offer all the framing options, mat colors, double mats, fancy bevel cuts and glass options. This is where site design gets complicated and where most web site owners start to draw lines in the sand where they go no further due to development costs, complexity, the potential for customer confusion, etc. This is the perspective you need to take when planning to take your business online. What level do you dive in at?
On that same note, your web site is able to do things you can’t do in a brick and mortar store. Consider what is possible and how you can use the web to further your mission. For example, it is much easier to collect and store information from customers on a web site. Use this to your advantage. Another example is the ability that a maker of accounting software has to offer a downloadable demo of their software. This service is provided to customers immediately and at very low cost to the company providing the software — a service that would not be possible in a retail store. Furniture companies could offer downloadable brochures, swatches, etc. and a wine company might offer an email reminder service to remind past customers to send gifts during the holiday or special occasions!
You get the idea. Talk to you developer and brainstorm with them to leverage the web to it’s full potential — and oh, what a potential it has. But at the same time make sure your business will translate to the web. Without proper planning you might discover costly hurdles or even unmanageable problems once you are neck deep. Plan, plan and plan some more.
Use your competition
Lie, cheat, steal and well… ok, maybe not but you can borrow the best ideas from your competition via their web site. The best part is that you don’t have to step through their doors, you can spy in total secrecy. You always want to stay on a level playing field with your competitors and hopefully, eventually take your site above and beyond.
The other reason you need to get to know your competition is simply to know who they are. Once you know who they are, you can figure out what they are doing to be successful.
The most important piece of that puzzle is getting to know what they are doing to rank well in the search engines — an essential part of the marketing process. We won’t get into this right now but an essential first step is to spend some time narrowing down your competition to 5-6 sites. My company 168MG will handle this marketing research for you if we’re hired to develop and market your site. But if you are handling your site marketing on your own go to work analyzing your competition and try to figure out what makes them your top competition.
Once you’ve done your research, share this list with your web developer or even brainstorm over it with friends and it will surely prove to be highly valuable. You should be able to gauge ease of navigation and why it works well, visual appeal, content depth, search engine friendliness, stickiness, etc.
If search engines are your primary target it might be a good idea to hire a professional SEO company like 168 but regardless, doing proper research on your primary competition will provide you and your developer with endlessly valuable information. If you know your primary objectives, your target markets and you understand how to effectively evaluate your services and your competition, your web site will take you far. Guaranteed.Powered by Sidelines