What is web strategy and why should you care?
No longer a secondary location, your website is often the primary location for your business to interact with new customers and prospects. As such, it must be a unified, coherent system. One with specific objectives and goals. One that is in alignment with the needs of your business and your customers. One that is current and communicates the right messages both explicitly and implicitly.
A web strategy helps you know how to design the site, what functionality to include, what messages to place on the site in what format, and how to measure the results. For site redesigns the goal is often to create a “new beginning”, strategically. Most sites that have been around for a while have grown organically at best and randomly at worst. Like a poorly tended garden, a website can evolve over time, sometimes resembling a patchwork of design and functionality. Implementing a new strategy will breathe life into a stagnant website.
Specifically, web strategy involves figuring out the purpose for your website. Determining criteria for success and figuring out how to measure and evaluate success. Figuring out the best way to position your website and create your online presence, given your business objectives, target audience, organizational structure and use of technology. Figuring out how to know if your website is working or if it is not. Aligning your website and online communication with the needs of your online customers.
A good web strategy keeps the focus on what’s best for the customer.
A web strategy helps you make decisions when organizational change occurs and competing priorities exist.
In many businesses, the website is a collaboration between management, marketing, operations and IT. In small businesses it might be a collaboration between the business owner and the staff person responsible for maintaining the website. Often the various parties involved with the website have competing interests that have to be worked out. This can negatively impact the effectiveness of the website in meeting the needs of your online customers.
Rather than creating a web presence that is the result of COMPROMISES, with a web strategy in place you get one that is based on agreements, principles and has the best interest of the customer in mind. With a web strategy in place, the website doesn’t belong to any one part of the organization. It belongs to the whole organization. This is a radically different perspective/paradigm for most organizations.
How is a web strategy created?
Developing a web strategy requires an understanding of business systems, marketing, technology, communications, critical thinking and creative problem solving abilities. My background in Philosophy and experience as a business owner and entrepreneur helps me to quickly gain understanding and adapt my services to the specific needs of my client. Web professionals coming from a design background frequently do not have same understanding of basic business principles and the ability to quickly understand business systems as they relate to your online presence. We look at the big picture when it comes to getting your business online.
I have a strategy, now what?
After a web strategy is in place we can look at the available tools for implementing the strategy. This can be a combination of things we can do on your website or elsewhere online. We look at what specific tools would be useful in what combinations in order to get the job done. We look at how to maximize the impact of each tool, whether it’s SEO, html emails or contact forms, etc.
We are not going to spend months doing competitor research and talking about abstract concepts before acting. You know what needs to be done immediately. We get something happening quickly and then adapt/evolve. We are not carving in stone. The web is a shifting landscape and we need to be able to act quickly and change direction when needed. However, with clear strategic objectives as the foundation, it is easier to figure out what to do.
The focus is on leveraging time and resources for greatest impact. We use website analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of our work.
Example: A new client wanted a website redesign. Their goal was for more engagement with their current customers. After looking at the big picture, we recommended a monthly email program instead of the website redesign. We created an email program and it immediately started showing results. Inactive customers began to re-engage regularly. The emails are now a integral part of their communications with their customers. (We eventually did the website redesign, but when it made sense to do it. Not before.)