The website is not the business, it is merely an extension of the business, therefore a business must have a strategy in place that can be applied to the website. Here are my 6 top tips for the business strategies I would recommend you implement before you have a website built and the marketing strategies once your website has been launched:
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A lack of planning often leads to failure, it is important your objectives and strategies are reflected through your website.
You want to create a plan or a strategy for not just your website, but your business to avoid failure. Within that you want to put a series of objectives and strategies into a business plan and these have to be reflected through the website itself.
A good example of this: one of my clients who runs a flower shop, they came into my office and they had grand plans for creating an ecommerce website and had all sorts of bells, whistles and widgets that they wanted on the website. We drilled down into their business strategy and flowers are very seasonal, but they hadn't incorperated this in as features into their website. Thinking about and aligning your business strategy with your website strategy is important.
This is a great method to ensure that tasks happen in the right order and the business is scalable.
Everybody wants magical bells and whistles and when I tell them how much that costs they say 'How much?' You want break it down into something that is much more manageable. Most businesses, to get the ball rolling, don't need all those bells and whistles.
What we do is we take a phased approach and say start with getting a brochure style version of your website up first, then build it into an ecommerce website, and then you start to create lead generation, a layer on top of that and start to build your marketing strategy.
What this means is that it can break the task up into much smaller chunks and then they start to happen in the right order. In addition, you get a sense of achievement every time you achieve one of those tasks and something goes live on the website, you can only pat yourself on the back and you're off and running.
It also ensures the business is scalable, you don'want to spend 6 months developing a massive application to then find that half the features your clients don't want and you wasted an awful lot of time and money. Getting feedback at an earlier stage from your clients is critical to ensuring scalability in business, it means you can pivot sooner and drop out features clients don't want and put in features which they do want.
This helps you gain trust with Google in their search rankings. Google is the biggest search engine in the world and in the UK. It takes 90% + of search engines and traffic, and it is all based upon trust.
I suggest to my clients if they don't have a website, get a holding page up immediately because it start to build up the level of trust within Google and you start to build up your organic search engine page rank.
Put a holding page up which is nicely branded, it says who you are, what you do, what products and what services you offer and it allows you to put announcements up so you can start to announce to potential customers when the website is going to be up and what special offers you might have on – “now we've got a Twitter account” for example.
This allows you to iron out any issues that occur through gaining important feedback and gauging the interest in your products.
As an example, there was a software company who wanted to build a website to launch their software with. They didn't have the software at the time, they were in the process of developing and I said: rather than building a complicated website that's going to be explaining all the features, that they put a holding page about their software, drive some traffic to it and see if they can generate some registrations of interest.
What ended up happening is they got an awful amount of traffic to their website, a lot of people said they were interested in the piece of software that was being developed, but 98% of people said they weren't prepared to pay for it. What they ended doing is building out a lightweight version of the software, putting in an open source platform, having a very lightweight website as a result of it and running it through GitHub. They didn't spend as much money as they were planning, saved a huge amount of money and also a huge amount of time. They ironed out any issues and problems that they were going to have before they actually occurred.
It allowed them to gauge the interest and they realized that there wasn't a sufficient interest in people to pay for that piece of software and they got some important feedback.
If there is something you are not confident or an expert in, hire a professional that is.
If you're not an expert in a specific field and there's something which you're desperate to do, then hire a professional who is an expert in that field. Their expertise is going to save you time and money. It might seem that they're expensive, but the time that they're going to save and the extra value they can add to your level of service is going to speak volumes about your business to your clients.
Where you don't have that level of expertise, outsource it.
The average life cycle for a web site is 2-3 years which demonstrates how technology is constantly evolving. Make sure you are prepared for the inevitable change
Brand and technology is constantly moving forward and you've got to keep up with the changes as best as you can. Make sure that the money that you're investing now and the website that you're building is flexible enough that should you go through a rebranding process over the next 2 to 3 years, that you are prepared.