Business owners and directors come to me time and again saying their website doesn't work. I can just see 'em on the other end of the line pointing their finger at their monitor in disgust. Oh, how I'm dying to tell them three more fingers are pointing back at them. I refrain and go with a more sensitive reply, such as:
What would you like your website to do for your business?
(Radio silence.) Hello? You still there?
Okay, let's work together on this. The site's a miserable failure. Clearly, it's a stupid site and it needs to be replaced. We have work to do.
Let's try to make a smart site.
Or better yet, let's recognize those of us who will create this thing need to own the challenge and take a smart approach. Remember, the definition of crazy is to make the same mistakes over and over.
If we are to have a successful site this time around, we need to start by defining "success." Apparently, it's a tricky thing to understand and do. I say this because it's usually left undone.
So let's vow to slay this task right here and now.
Document the objective of your site.
Got a writing instrument in hand? Super. Write your site's objective down.
Still thinking? Try this...
My new website is working when it _____________________________ .
Nothing? How about this...
I want the person who visits my site to __________________________ .
We're ready to create the killer site now.
I really wanted to quote the preciously ridiculous Yogi with his "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
But let's move on. If you have a clear goal, you have my permission to get to work. I'm glad to help. We'll be making all kinds of decisions about what goes on your site, what it says, and how it's constructed and designed. And now we can make these decisions smart ones.
However, maybe you're saying "not so fast." Those blanks above are still blank.
Can't a good copywriter fill them in? I want to say no. You should expect your copywriter to help you achieve your objectives, not create them. It's your site and potentially an enormously powerful online marketing tool to help your company achieve its business goals.
That said, I'm going to try to be as helpful as I can and nominate a few likely candidates.
Truth be told, almost all sites share a common objective.
I believe a nearly universal objective for business websites is to find out WHO came to visit, to collect a business card, if you will. I'll expand on this by listing the top three useful website strategies.
- Get visitors. This is a soft objective and perhaps an obvious one, but vital nonetheless. However, millions of anonymous visitors amounts to nothing, so you want to learn who visited and bigger things may come.
- Get leads. For good reason, this is strategy numero uno in B2B marketing. It's realistic and practical. You not only collect a name and contact information, you collect information about your visitor's business challenges. You learn WHY they came. If you can deliver what they seek, you have a lead, one you can nurture, one you can close.
- Get sales. Here's the grand prize of a website objective: the visitor becomes a paying customer. However, the majority of sites do not sell off the page, so achieving this objective might involve additional strategies and additional interactions.
There are other valuable things your site may achieve.
- Newsletter subscribers-Newsletters provide the classic lead nurturing tactic for B2B marketing and a loyalty building tactic for B2C.
- Blog subscribers-A powerful form of permission-based marketing, loyal readers can learn from the content you share and better understand your perspectives.
- Comments-Getting a visitor to interact with your site means engagement, which may open the door to forging trusting relationships.
- Reviews-Among the many benefits of allowing customers to review your company's solutions, enabling on-site reviews demonstrates you believe in your product and care what consumers have to say about it.
- Answers-Customers want to be heard. As a supplier, you'll do well to listen.
- Word of mouse-Social media has made content sharing a form of currency.
- Community building-Forums and online events can bring customers together, which is a meaningful goal.
- Authority-Though I will agree brand awareness can be a website objective, establishing credibility is an even stronger outcome.
Give your website a job description and prepare to succeed.
To conclude, you can have no reasons, bad reasons or good reasons to redo your site or create your first one. "I don't like it" or "It's not as good as our competitors" and "We just need one" are bad reasons. Good reasons trace to an objective, a conversion of some sort. And an objective creates a solid foundation for the decisions you make going forward regarding every element on every page.
So there you go. Give your site a job description and take ownership of it. The site itself can't be stupid, but it is painfully dim-witted to have a site with no clear objective.
Do you agree with me? Please share your thoughts.