This evergreen post was originally published in 2012. We continually update it to keep it fresh and applicable.
Your business website can be completed on-time and on budget, but only if you are clear about the website’s goals. You and your planning team must be able to tell the website developers what you want the customer’s experience to be and what outcomes you expect the website to deliver.
Poor business website planning, confusing coordination make waste
In 2012 the FBI unveiled their new computer file system, Sentinel — far past its due date and with significant cost overruns.
We can postulate on the reasons for such terrible cost-overruns and missed deadlines—poor planning, plain and simple. Many people focus on the final result and expect a website to magically appear, when in reality, the finished product, a fully-functioning website, is the result of many hours of observation, conversation, strategy and finally, design and coding. Many business websites are designed by committee, rather than a team that is close to the customer/user. The very best business websites come from absolute clarity about customer needs and business goals.
Business website strategy first
There is a great amount of strategy behind a good website. Very few products or services are sold upon first look or first visit. Those that are, are generally consumables. Know how long it takes a customers to make a purchasing decision.
During your product’s life-cycle, your customer seeks information about the care of their product or they seek advice to evaluate options and purchase a replacement when the product they possess wears out or passes it’s useful life. Understand this path to purchase and you can map out the kinds of content needed on your website.
Plan your conversions now. For example, a brand new customer may want to watch a video on how the product works. A customer who purchased a product two years ago might like information about how to maintain the product or how to get the most value out of it. Someone whose needs have expanded might be looking for the next generation of their current product or they might be making a dramatic shift leading them in a new direction. Expansions or changes lead to new requirements. When you comprehend the life of your product and the needs of your consumer, you can develop content and materials to bring them to your site. Your company becomes the authority about the issue they are trying to solve.
If you ask them, they will tell you
You must to speak with your customers to understand their purchasing path in order to have the most useful website. And you must have insight from the sales team who hears every day what customers say is most valuable to them. And don’t forget to speak with the customer service team. They have highly useful advice for your business website planning team. Their customer insight will make your website better.
As web designers and developers, we frequently hear from customers who have no idea what they can spend on their website’s development, yet have a wish list that is miles long. It is better to proactively budget what your firm can afford, and prioritize your must haves; nice to haves; and next phase items so your web designer / developer can help you achieve your goals and provide the most for your money.
Realize that a business website that generate leads, moves customers toward purchases and helps customers find information is a very important investment. Built correctly, your business website is a valuable asset. Planned and built poorly, it’s a money pit that does nothing to help your business grow.
After the planning team has charted out what the website requirements are, then it’s time to meet with a website designer. Provide the findings and requirements to the website designer. This is where the collaborative work of building your business website begins.
Business website planning tips:
- Know who your business website customers are.
- Understand what “triggers” send them to the Web for information, products and insights.
- Know the “fit” your products and services have with customer needs and triggers.
- Know the life-cycle of your product and the decision path customers take to reach the decision to purchase. For example, if you sell a product that normally wears out after three years, you must create website content that feeds customers’ need for care information for the product and information that helps them make a buying decision.
- Know your “sales funnel” and the discrete steps your website users will normally take to convert to a sale.
- Plot each step you want your customers to take as they advance towards a purchase. For example, a.) visit site b.) view video c.) request information d.) review product specs e.) purchase product
- Know common customer frustrations and most frequent reasons customers call your service staff. Develop services in the website that address these needs. For example, if your product requires assembly, and customers frequently request additional assistance on how items fit together, you can create videos showing exactly how items are assembled, lessening customer frustration and decreasing call volume.
- Have a budget and priorities in place.
- Enter the web design and development process as a collaboration between you and your web developer.
- Invest in your business website, your online business asset. Very few “get a website tonight” products will help you achieve exactly the look, feel, function and results your company needs.
If you want to get started planning your business website, you may find our business website planning survey helpful. You may download it here.
And if you need help planning your website, we would be glad to work with your company and team. Contact us.