In the first article of this series, “How to Write a Web Site Marketing Plan”, I discussed the elements of a marketing plan – objective, strategies, and tactics. In this and the remaining two articles in the series, I will take a closer look at your website’s objectives, strategies, and tactics you can consider for your website.
In this article, I discuss the Web site objective, or the “big picture”. In general terms, the objective answers the question “How can I use the site to overcome my business’s main Internet related challenge?” or “What is the purpose of my site?”.
Customer Stages: Awareness, Interest, Trial, Repeat
When setting your objective, it may help to think in terms of awareness, interest, trial, and repeat. These concepts are often used in marketing to explain the stages a new customer (or site visitor, in this case) goes through on the path to becoming loyal to your business. The potential visitor must first become *aware* of your site. Once aware, you must spark an *interest* with the potential visitor, motivating her/him to *trial* – responding to a call to action on your site. After (s)he visits your site, that person becomes *loyal* by revisiting in the future.
You may be able to most effectively build your business by focusing on one or two of awareness, interest, trial, or repeat visits, then changing your focus over time. If your site is brand new or known to very few people, for example, your plan is likely to concentrate on ways to increase awareness and interest. A focus on interest and trial may be in order, however, if you get an above-average number of “window shoppers” – visitors who never purchase (or do not respond to some other call to action). Alternately, for example, if you sell multiple products or a product that needs replenishing, focus on repeat purchases may be more effective.
Business Building Models
Some of the most known Web site objectives relate to e- commerce or other types of direct revenue from the site. That is, the objective is to establish a direct source of revenue from either orders or advertising space. There are different e-commerce options, or models, to consider if your site objective is direct revenue.
There are other valuable ways, beyond direct revenue, a Web site can enhance your business:
Build Brand Image.
A long-term objective for your site could be to improve sales by building an image for your product, brand, and/or company. Increasingly, this is an explicit goal for large companies with ample budgets. Small-budget companies can follow suit on a more affordable scale by building an image during the natural course of marketing. You can do this by consistently presenting similar design elements and “personality” at each point of contact with the world – whether that contact be virtual or physical.
Enhance Customer Service.
Your site can increase revenue indirectly by improving customer service. When customers are more satisfied, they tend to spread the word about your products as well as buy more often themselves. Another way your site can indirectly increase sales through enhanced customer service is by supporting sales through other channels. Customers often do product research on a Web site then later place orders via catalogue, telephone, sales representatives, a physical retail store, mail, and/or fax. In all of these cases, a Web site indirectly contributes to building the business.
Lower Operating Costs.
A Web site can help your business by lowering costs. Automated customer service functions – Web-based FAQ, order status reports, product specifications, etc. – can lower the number of customer service calls, reducing customer service labor costs.
A Web presence can also lower operating costs by streamlining communication with your business partners. Business-to-business companies can create secure Web space to communicate and collaborate with customers. It is even possible to have individual, private sites for major clients. A central “meeting place” that archives communications and other customer-specific information can cut down on administrative costs related to “phone tag”, inquiries, and/or the need to consciously keep all players “in the loop”. On the supply side, you could reduce costly business disruptions by giving key vendors Web-based access to your inventory or other real-time information.
Setting Your Website’s Objectives
While there are different approaches to setting objectives, my preference is to develop a single objective for a site, which may encompass more than one approach to business building. In the plan, I include separate strategies and tactics to address each approach. I also like to include, in the objective, both the customer stage(s) and business building model(s) I will focus on in the plan. This way, it is more apparent which strategies are appropriate.
Another approach is to address the customer stages separately from your objective in a summary or write-up. With either approach, you should view your plan as evolving over time. As the business environment and situation change, your focus should change as well. Once you get past the launch stage of a new site, for example, you are in a better position to evaluate site traffic, so your plan may shift from focusing on awareness and interest to building trial and loyalty. Similarly, a better understanding of site visitors may lead you to adjust your business model to more closely address your company’s and Web customers’ needs.
Recommended Books on Establishing Your Website’s Objectives and Purpose:
- Million Dollar Websites: Build a Better Website Using Best Practices of the Web Elite in E-Business, Design, SEO, Usability, Social, Mobile and Conversion
- Website Owner’s Manual
- E-commerce Get It Right! Essential Step-by-Step Guide for Selling & Marketing Products Online. Insider Secrets, Key Strategies & Practical Tips – Simplified for Start-Ups & Small Businesses
- 42 Rules for a Web Presence That Wins (2nd Edition): Essential Business Strategy for Website and Social Media Success
- Engage!: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web
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