When you begin planning your new website, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself to be sure that your website truly reflects your brand image and is getting the job done.  Unfortunately, when it comes time to begin the process this doesn’t always happen.  Often, an organization will rush through the process without asking the proper questions only doing the minimum of the steps below:

  1. Find some design trends that vaguely match your business and make it look “pretty.”
  2. Put up a slider with some product photos or some stock photography on the home page.
  3. Add any information about your company that you can think of without thinking of if this is what your customer is looking for and if it’s organized how your customer wants to see it.
  4. Publish Site.
  5. Do Nothing.

Great, now you’re on the web!  Now what?

Crafting Effective Web Communications

Sure, you got your website up and running pretty smoothly doing the above.  But, have you really put in the time to think out if this your output is an effective form of communications for your business or organization?

Your customers are increasingly going to the web to make buying decisions and get product info and even to buy your products.  This is a growing trend, as projections show that online sales will grow by 62% between now and 2016.  Statistics also show that 84% of U.S. Adults now use the web daily.  Are you properly crafting your online communications to reach these people?

Questions to Ask Yourself

What is a “win” on this website?

Ask yourself and those in your organization what you would consider to be winning when it comes to your website?  What do you want to accomplish with it?  If you don’t know the answer to this, perhaps you aren’t ready to put your website online.  Just as with any business decision, you need to know why you are taking this on and what will be the best possible outcome of this decision.  When you find that answer, that will guide the rest of your decisions when it comes to your website and web presence.  Your “win” could be to convert a certain amount of a single product, to increase sales by a certain percentage, or to capture and convert on X number of leads generated by your website each month.

Who is your customer?

You need to do research on your customers.  Now, you may be thinking about insanely expensive customer research surveys and studies that big corporations put on and how you can’t afford to do customer research.  There, however, is a much simpler way to do this…  Talk to your customers!  You see or talk with them daily about other things.  In your conversations ask  about how your business is doing and if there are things that can be improved, especially when it comes to the web.  You’ll be surprised at the things you will find out.  All of it won’t be actionable, but all can be insightful.  Then, when crafting your message for the web and working it into your website you can profile your typical customer.  Look at their demographics:  age, employment, geographic location, etc.  Use this information to craft your message exactly for the type of person that is looking for your product.

How does your customer interact with you, your product, and your website?

Interaction between you and your customers happens on a daily basis and it’s beneficial to both of you that this is a hassle free process.  You want to break down any barriers that hinder that interaction online and off.  To be sure that your website and web presence work for your customer, you need to know your customer and how they interact with your product and website.  Think about their “touchpoints” or each time they interact with your business and product and how they communicate with you.  When you find their ways of interaction, look for all possible ways to break down the barriers that are there.  You want it to be as easy as possible for your customer to do business with you, especially when they are used to the conveniences of the web.

What is your four-word story?

In the simplest fashion possible, describe your effort.  Use only four words to describe your business value.  This article by James Buckhouse does a great job of laying out this process step-by-step and further describing the value in this method.  You may think this is too little to describe all the things you do, but breaking it down to this level of simplicity has it’s values.  As the article describes: “If you write a longer story, the door cracks open to ambiguity; you can start to hedge your bets, get vague or abstract. Stick with four. It means you must identify a subject, an object, a verb and maybe one descriptor or refining notion.”  This will allow you to be sure you reflect that view in your website.

Is this helping me achieve that “win?”

As you make decisions regarding your website and web presence, keep this question in mind.  It’s the most important question of them all, because if something has no value in achieving the “win” for you, then is it really worth the money and resources you are putting in to it?  Perhaps, you have someone suggest you need a new flashy feature on your site because it “looks cool.”  You have look deep and think if this really will help convert on your “win.”  It may make your website look flashy and you may be able to show it off to everyone, but will it really sell more of your products or generate more leads?

That’s Not The End!

Do you remember #5 on the list of typical things done when creating a website above?  It was “Do Nothing,” which immediately followed the publishing of your new website.  One of the most important things to do after crafting your web communications and bringing it out onto your website is to keep working.  For the most effective experience, this is an ongoing process and does not stop with a one-time shot. Take a regular inventory, including the following points to maintain your effectiveness.

  • Track your conversions.  Be sure to have a method for tracking how many leads or sales are made through your website.  You defined your “win” now you need to know if you are actually getting it.
  • Keep talking to your customers.  Keep asking them about how you are doing and how they are interacting with your website.  Ask them if things aren’t working or if they think something could be better.
  • Keep changing.  Don’t think that because something works now, that it will work forever. Things change, your customers change, you change, technology changes, and your business environment changes.  You need to be agile in your approach and change your web communications as circumstances change  

The web is a powerful tool for any organization, but can fall short if you don’t properly evaluate the effectiveness of your web communications.  Be sure to know what you want to accomplish or what is your “win,” who your customers are, and to keep changing and adapting with your unique business environment.  This can guarantee you stay on top of an effective web presence.