We get a lot of questions from people asking about what they should be doing with their website. The specific suggestions we provide them are naturally only really of value in their specific situations but there is one underlying message in our response. If your website's purpose is merely to help you keep up with your competitors, then you might want to consider getting rid of it altogether. That's because at this level, if its not costing you in keeping it up to date, its probably costing you in terms of credibility.
If your plan is to get more business via the web, then you'll likely want to be thinking about your answers to the following two questions.
- What do you want from your website?
- What will you do next?
These two distinct questions form the basis of understanding what your website will do. The challenge for many people seems to reside in "deciding" the answers to the questions. We're not sure why some find them such difficult questions to answer. Maybe its because they try to answer them both at the same time.
Know what you want, before doing what you need to do
The key is to focus on only one question at a time. First decide what you want from your website and then decide what to do next. That's because it doesn't make sense to do anything in business without a clear objective. Once you have decided on what you want, the next steps are usually straightforward for anyone who has had a fair amount of experience with commercial websites already.
So, how do you decide what you want from your website?
Start by asking yourself the question "What do I need in my business right now?". There is a very good chance that you, like me and many others, would probably find your answers begin to reduce themselves down to a few core themes:
- Increased Revenue
Whether it's selling direct to customers through your website, taking bookings & orders or providing download forms to fill-in and fax back with payment details. Your website must be helping your business generate revenue.
- Increased Exposure
By having a website you are increasing your business reach. If your website doesn't have a strong presence that clearly targets 'real' customers, then its quite possible that it is having a negative impact (perhaps even to your credibility). All the experts agree; you must know who your customers are, what they want and make sure all your marketing messages speak directly to them - Websites included.
- More Customers
Counting is essential for getting more customers. Only by measuring when, who and how customers are coming to your website, will you discover how many people are interested in your business as it's currently being promoted. To get more customers you need to count and watch the impact every change you make to your website has. In this way your customers will show you the way to get more customers.
- More Time
In business there are things a person needs to do (like make phone calls, attend meetings and come up with the business strategies needed to grow a multi-million dollar empire), and then there are things a computer should do (like answer the same questions over & over again and do the boring & repeative tasks that are a waste of your time). Your website must do the boring repeative things - like answering the common questions your customers always ask, sending out additional information when customers ask for it, provide all your forms and brochures and the many other things that unnecessarily tie up your time.
- Working ON Your Business
A website needs to be quick and easy for you or your 'web guy' to change. As a strategic business owner you can't afford to wait to for your website to catch up when there are always new opportunities and joint ventures to be taken advantage of. With the new breed of websites (with Web 2.0), speed and flexibility have become common place, so it's even easier to be agile and experiment with new business ideas.
Once you have the answer to the first question, you'll find answering the second question "What will you do next?" more straight forward.
For some it will mean revisiting their website and getting a lot more information up on pages, for some it might just mean getting processes written down and find a Virtual Assistant to do the end step that the website can't, like answering emails or making phone calls, and for others it could mean a whole new website.
The greatest challenge as a Business Owner is in being able to eliminate the options that aren't going to work early and quickly - preferably by learning from the mistakes of others rather than those of your own.
If it does mean you need a whole new website, then consider these 4 ingredients for having a successful website.
Four Ingredients to Successful Websites
When talking about websites today, a really effective one really needs to offer, as a bare minimum, the following functionality if it is to earn it's way in your business:
- It has to incorporate a Landing page(s) that is linked to a marketing campaign that you can measure the success of and directly gives you new semi-qualified leads and prospects;
- Provide you with a way to conduct low-cost market analysis and customer satisfaction evaluations for testing speculative and future products, projects or services;
- Enable you or anyone without technical expertise, with a few instructions, to easily add, up-date, change or delete information from any part of the website; and
- Have a leads database where each contact that has expressed a desire to know more about something you offer is stored.
If you have anything less than this then you might well be short-changing yourself, because there are many small businesses who are generating real revenue from their websites by just having these four things in place.
Just as the Internet is a great channel to sell through, it is also a great source of software and web services that businesses can make use of. As it has become much, much simpler to bring together different software and make them work in any business, the number of options available to businesses is constantly growing.
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