Effective Websites: 01 Strategy

If your website isn’t selling your business, it’s likely that you launched it without a strategy. This isn’t your fault. Chances are that no one told you that you needed a strategy, they just told you that you needed a website.

You put up a website for your business because you knew that you had to have one. Everyone knows that. So, like every other business owner, you found a web designer or your next-door neighbor’s nephew (who’s really good at the internets).

You gave them your logo, your contact information, a couple of pictures, a few paragraphs of copy for your about page, and a couple thousand dollars. After a couple of weeks, you had a website.

Maybe it was pretty and you were pretty proud of it. You showed it off to friends and family and felt good that you were officially “on the web”.

But as it sat there doing nothing but eating hosting fees you started to realize – it stank.

It stank because it didn’t sell… because your online strategy stank… because it didn’t exist. The difference between online strategy and tactics.

A strategy defines your long-term goals and your plan to achieve them. Tactics are concrete steps to getting there.

Where strategy is a map, tactics are legs of the trip.

Strategy and tactics have to work in tandem to achieve a goal. Strategy comes first and tactics support the strategy.

Strategy takes a deep and overarching look at the problem, gives it a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and an action plan. Tactics are the steps in executing your plan.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. – Sun Tzu

Creating a marketing strategy involves knowing yourself, knowing your audience, and knowing which channels you will use to connect with your audience. Radio, television, print advertisement, billboards, sandwich boards, and the side of a blimp? Maybe. It all depends on your audience. Who are they, where are they, and what resonates with them? (More about knowing your target market below)

Your online strategy might be to position your company as the clear experts in your field. Or it may be that you want to sell 30% more widgets online. Your website is a marketing tactic that needs to support your strategy. It may not resemble other tactics like direct mail, a radio advertisement, or a car wrap, but it should serve the same purpose: growing your audience and generating new business.

Your targeting stinks because your strategy stinks. Many businesses don’t have a clue who their target market is. Even those that think they know their target audience can’t tell you why. It gets very hand-wavey and based on intuition or gut feeling. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to present the message of your business in a way that effectively communicates to your current and potential customers.

Your target market includes the following segmentations: geographic, demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and product-related. Getting to know and understand your target market across these categories will give you the tools that you need to connect with them. Explore each of these characteristics and build user stories from them, then use those user stories as you craft your message.

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself. — Peter Drucker

Your geographic market can be local, regional, national, or worldwide. Your demographic market narrows their age and gender as well as their level of education and income. Your target’s lifestyle, attitudes, beliefs, and values make up their psychographics. Behavioral segmentation is determining habits and loyalty by gathering data on the way your audience interacts with your company. Finally, product-related segmentation defines your audience by what they buy and the brands to which they are loyal.

Effective marketing through your website depends on you knowing at least something about your audience across each of these segments. The more you understand your audience, the better your chances for marketing to them successfully. Your CRM stinks. CRM stands for customer relationship management. It’s both the practice and technology you use to maintain and improve your relationship with your customers.

If you are a new or small company, you might use a spreadsheet or even a notebook to keep track of your customers. But collecting customer data is a full-time job in and of itself.

A good CRM will gather data at each touch point with your customer and provide reports and suggestions for building your relationship. It will improve your customer service, enhance your communications, help you get organized, and even automate some of your everyday tasks.

There are many options out there for any sized company, from mom and pop to enterprise level. We’ve found that Hubspot’s completely free CRM works well for most small to midsized businesses. It has good integration with gmail, great tutorials, and support, and will scale as your business grows. Larger organizations with teams assigned to customer support or marketing may need more and might be better served by the CRMs from Salesforce or Oracle.

Whichever you choose, spend time getting to know it. Go through the training and make a point to use it daily. It will pay off.

Bonus: The internet is not the Yellow Pages.

Back in the days when the Yellow Pages were a relevant thing, business owners made it a priority to get their name listed. The ambitious (or well funded) businesses bought ad space. And the cream of the crop had ads that were full-page and four-color. And that was glorious.

For many business owners, this was their primary or only marketing expense. Everyone received a fat new copy of the Yellow Pages once a year in a plastic bag on their driveway. And everyone used it. Without the internet, how else were you going to find a place that had take-out Mexican or a plumber that worked on Saturday?

The anatomy of an ad in the Yellow Pages was simple. The name of your business, your business hours, your address, and your phone number (preferably large and bold, maybe outlined). Throw some ornamental doodads in the corners and a starburst or two with a value proposition and you were set to do business.

Your online strategy stinks because the internet is not the Yellow Pages. Your website isn’t an ad or a brochure. It’s an interactive tool and the online face of your company. If you aren’t using it to interact, you’re leaving business on the table and missing a great marketing opportunity.

Furthermore, people found your nail salon in the Yellow Pages because it was listed with the other five nail salons under ‘Nail Salon’. It was easy. And if your nail salon had a bigger ad than the other nail salons listed, you got phone calls. Getting found on the internet takes time and effort. Remember that there are 1.2 billion sites out there. You can safely ignore the siren song of SEO spam about getting your site to the front page of search engines in a week. Search engines are smart and getting smarter. The key to good search engine positioning is well written, relevant, and original content.

Why your content stinks is next up in the series. Stay tuned!

Until next time, we love you! 💌