Web Site Marketing Strategy Made Simple
Developing a web site without a Web Site Strategy is like trying to run a business without a business plan. Having a web site strategy and evaluating the results of your strategy will make sure you are meeting or exceeding your goals and help insure your web site's success.
A quick search with Google, Yahoo! or any of the search engines will reveal millions of web sites, the majority of which were created with a focus on publishing content about a business or product, with little thought of how practical the web site really is or what the site is supposed to do.
Wants vs. Needs
It's important to distinguish between wants and needs and to focus on functionality necessary to reach specific business goals with your web site. Developing a marketing strategy is not just limited to your web site goals, but your overall marketing plan and what advertising, marketing and customer service goals are best suited for your web site.
More often than not, a web site is treated as an afterthought without a specific purpose beyond offering basic company information and an e- mail form. We view a web site as an interactive extension of a company, with few limitations.
Setting Web Site Goals
The first step is to list all the specific tasks you want your web site to accomplish. Besides offering a potential customer information about your company, what should your web site "do?" Should your web site help you to accomplish E-commerce? Serve as a lead source? Distribute information to your customers? Offer customer service? Should your web site be used as a recruitment tool? A customer survey tool? Or for advertising and promotion?
Creating a list of priorities
As you list what you want your site to do, prioritize the list into three categories: 1) Primary, "must do" goals, 2) Secondary, "it would be nice if . . ." and 3) Back Burner, "if we have to postpone this, it wouldn't hurt us."
When grouping your web site goals, keep in mind the one overwhelming reason for having a web site in the first place and compare it to each of the goals as you prioritize them.
After establishing clearly what a client's stated web site goals should be, we compare these goals with a client's expectations regarding their web site, current Internet technology and their marketing and advertising plan.
Separating wants and needs. The final step in creating an E-Strategy is to separate wants from needs. It's easy to want capabilities you have seen elsewhere on the Internet, but hard sometimes to determine if certain functionality will really help your business.
Do you really need a chat room or a message board on your site? Perhaps it would be more important to know who is using your web site and how often they are coming back.
Ordering Web Site Priorities
Having your priorities outlined and your goals detailed will help you to determine what you really need. Go through your priority list and measure it against your web site goals. If a web site feature you want will help you to accomplish a specific task then include it as long as it utilizes Internet technology or browser technology that is widely supported by today's browsers.
If you have items on your list that don't match your web site goals well, it's probably a good idea to hold off implementing them. Finally, having a priority list will make it easier to decide what to include or exclude in your web site when working within a limited web site budget.
10 Tips for a Great Web Site
1) Making great first impressions is important and your web site may be the first exposure to your company a potential customer experiences. Strike a balance between content and design.
2) Avoid focusing exclusively on graphic design rather than making the web site useful. Give your web site visitors a reason to visit your site often.
3) Create simple navigation. Design your site so your users can go from one page to any other page. Avoid navigation schemes that rely on the user having to search for a secondary navigation menu or having to use their browser's "back" button in order to navigate.
4) Distribute your web site information on several pages so the user does not have to scroll often. By distributing your photographs and graphics over several pages, your pages will load faster.
5) Know who is coming to your site and how your site is being used on a monthly or quarterly basis. This information will be invaluable for updating or refocusing your site to better serve your target market or customers.
6) Update your site frequently and create a reason for your web site users to keep coming back. Repeat visits give you an opportunity to repeat your marketing message.
7) Capture information with your web site. Use forms, offers, surveys and promotions to get your web site users to tell you who they are and what they are interested in. Not only will this help you to design a more useful web site, collecting e-mail addresses can allow you to notify customers and potential customers about new products or services.
8) Avoid bells and whistles. With the web, today's fad is tomorrow's eyesore. Invest in good graphic design and compelling content. If you must use animations, have them stop after a few cycles so they don't become obnoxious.
9) Review your web site goals quarterly. As the Internet evolves and as new technology becomes mainstream, it is good to review the purpose of your site and the usefulness of new tools and implement these new tools when they make sense.
10) Avoid "do-it-yourself web site design." Yes, there are programs that let you build your own web site. If you don't have experience in graphic design or producing professional web sites, hire a web development company with proven abilities to help you.
About the Author: Vann Baker is the president of Design-First, a marketing company specializing in corporate identity and collateral development. Vann has been helping small businesses and Fortune 500 companies to create brochures, newsletters, catalogs, websites and more for over 20 years. www.design-first.com