Your website is an investment in your business and it should support the marketing and sales goals you have set. With the right design and content your website can become your business’ best and most complete marketing tool. Your advertising or your press releases may be missed, but your website is always available. People view the Web as a gigantic library containing all the information that has ever been published. They love the idea that from the comfort of their home or office they can access information from anywhere in the world and find exactly what they are looking for. Now imagine that your website has the exact information that person needs but your website is just one article or book in that gigantic library. How will your potential customer find your website amongst the billions of others?
Planning Your Website
The best way to help people find your website is to plan your website to meet both your and your customers’ needs. When we talk about planning we aren’t talking about sketching out a layout design for your website, instead we are talking about targeting your website to your specific customers. Without a plan/direction/goal your website could become another piece of flotsam and jetsam floating around in cyberspace with no-one finding it. 85% of websites are never seen by people searching the web for a similar product or service. So how can you create a website that will meet both yours and your customers needs? You can do this by asking yourself, your current and your prospective customers a few questions. If you already have a website you can ask these questions to see how your site stacks up.
The 3 most important questions to ask about your business
- What does your brand represent?
- What do you want to achieve with your website?
- What do you want your customer to know about your business?
1. What does your brand represent? As part of your marketing you need to know your business identity, your brand colours and what you stand for. Whilst your business brand may not be as big as the major brands it is important that your brand clearly shows your trustworthiness, reliability and image. The design of your website and its content will go a long way towards expressing this to your customers.
2. What do you want to achieve with your website?
Are you looking to:
- Promote your business online to prospective customers (like an online advert, brochure or flyer)
- Seek new customer enquiries
- Seek customer feedback and interaction regarding your product or services
- Provide a customer service portal
- Provide answers to customers commonly asked questions
- Keep current/new customers up-to-date with promotions/events
- Create online sales, affiliates or commissions
3. What do you want your customer to know about your business?
- Contact information – crucial
- Location – if you have business premises
- Your trustworthiness & reliability
- Product range or services
Think like your customer
What does your customer want from your website? Unfortunately in the rush to have a website business’s often fail to ask this crucial question. The planning stage (or redevelopment stage if you already have a website) is the perfect time to think like your customer and give them what they need.
Find the answers to these 11 questions about your customers
- Who are your target customers?
- What age bracket are they in?
- What geographical locations do you need to target to reach them?
- What keywords or phrases will your customer think of to help them solve a problem, find an answer or find a product or service that your business offers?
- What do they want to know about your business or receive from your business?
- What answers or solutions can you provide to your customers?
- How can you make it easy for them to find and understand your information?
- Do they have special design needs? (eg colour blindness – watch your colour choice, blindness make your site text-to-speech software friendly.)
- What type of content do they prefer or engage with most?
- What websites, social media or chat rooms to they use on the web?
- How do they access the web? (smartphone, tablet, desktop)
You need to know all this information about your customers so you can plan your website to meet your customers needs in a way that is accessible to them. If you are in an established business hopefully you will already know much of this information. If you are a start-up business you will have to do some research to find these answers. Either way if you’re not sure of the answers ask your customers, they will generally be happy to help when you explain why you are interested in the answers.
The Benefits of Planning Your Website
It’s important to remember you are not creating a website just because your friends business or your competition has one; you are creating a website to provide information, a product or service to your potential customers and to represent your brand. Recent studies show that 7 out of 10 people who are planning on making a purchase or organising travel itinerary search the internet for information before they make their decisions. When you plan your website to meet your potential customers needs they will stay longer and feel more comfortable doing business with you all of which directly benefits your business.
The Next Step
Once your planning is done you will have a clear idea of your website requirements to take to your website development team. Because you have identified both yours and your customers needs your content creator will be able to create the right content for your site. Your planning will also benefit your web designer as they will understand your customers needs and how best to present your information/content to meet those needs. Giving your website development team clear information upfront will mean less redesigns which may also mean reduced costs to you. You will end up with a website you are excited to refer your customers to and which achieves your marketing goals. In a future blog post we will look at the different types of content used in websites and how to create content for your website. In the meantime if you want some more information about websites visit our Catalyst for Growth website or read our 9 Reasons to have a Website for your Business blog post.