No matter what industry your business is in, there is without question a need for an online presence. For every business this means something different. Some businesses require an online portal for customers to communicate; others may only need a basic brochure website. Regardless of the business you are in – the business’ online presence and how it is perceived by web users searching is becoming essential for survival in today’s economy.
Before deciding to take on a large web initiative you should ask yourself the questions posed in my previous post: “Start with the end in mind.” These questions range from: “How do you want users to communicate with you?” to “What is the desired action do you want a user to take?”
By answering these basic questions before starting your web project you will be on your way to creating a strategy. A web strategy for a business needs to go way beyond the boundaries of a website. Businesses that integrate branding, traditional marketing, social media, and web assets are succeeding at a much higher rate than businesses that are trying to patch these pieces together on needs basis.
After you have answered the questions about how users will react with you online and what you are looking to ultimately achieve; you are ready to sit down at the drawing board and get started.
First, you must clearly define what you want to accomplish. For example, if you are a local hair salon owner, you will be looking to provide web visitors a site to find you easily, contact you to make appointments and get directions to your location. Other things a small service business like this may consider while in the strategy phase is what online community platforms are relevant for the business to be associated with. Great examples of these types of sites are: Yelp!, FaceBook and Groupon.
On the other side of the spectrum if you are a larger business with an existing client base, you may be in need of a cleaner way to communicate with your customers rather than traditional (expensive) mailers. An online portal for customer invoicing or customer service can mean big dollars saved. Sometimes adding something as simple as a FAQ section to a website can minimize unnecessary expenses on internal resources – not to mention unneeded headaches. Every business has a few questions that all people ask, by clearly stating these answers on the web you can negate hours of work.
The underlying principles behind any successful online strategy are to understand the goals, requirements, and functionality needed before starting. That’s right – functionality.
Defining functionality required early-on will ultimately lead to the implementation of your strategy but don’t let functionality requirements destroy creativity. When creating a strategy, be sure to remember what our kindergarten teachers used to tell us: “there is no such thing as a bad idea.” If you allow yourself to think creatively and generate fresh ideas, then you’re already on the way to success.