A “Design it and forget it” mind-set is the fast-lane to failure in Web marketing and Design. In fact, one of the most detrimental moves that many companies make is to build a website without understanding that the creation of the site is just the first step in an endless commitment. You have to constantly update, refresh and market your website.
Recent statistics from Forbes 500 shows that 80% of customers begin their buying research online, and to insure that your product or service shows up for these potential customers, you need to take some basic actions to keep your Web site current and performing, this includes frequent updates and publishing relevant content that showcases your company’s subject matter expertise.
What is the first step in an iterative Web strategy?
Start at your website. The basic requirements of being found at the top of the search results when people are looking for your product or service are:
- Relevancy to the topic they are searching for, and
- Freshness of content
Websites that are built with the correct structure to support relevancy and the flexibility to allow iterative changes are the essential core of a successful web strategy.
My best advice on how to start is to “build with the idea of refreshing your site three times a year minimum.” Really understand what you want from your website before you design or develop it, and be prepared to refine it. What are your goals for your website? What do you want your website to do?
- Generate leads
- Be used as a research tool where prospects can learn more about you
- Serve as an interactive tool for your existing customers
- Recruit employees
Your website goal, or prioritized iterative goals are more than one, let many of them be your guide. Make these goals the driving force and litmus test for all aesthetic and functionality considerations when creating your site.
Three things to be sure and have your web site integrated with are:
- A content management system (CMS)
- Analytics (Google analytics is free and can serve this need well)
- Integration with your CRM for tracking leads through to sales
These essential tools will help ensure that your website is built to be search-engine-optimization friendly, and friendly to your Web marketing needs in general, which are a moving target that you must benchmark test regularly. If it takes a programmer or developer to add web pages or affect a change to your website, then your web marketing is doomed before it begins. When you are forced to incur the time and expense of programming to achieve the ongoing needs of your Web marketing, you bog down your ability to quickly adjust to the dynamic nature of marketing. This costs not only time and money; it will cost you sales and competitive performance in your market. A CMS enables marketers to do your Web marketing. Analytics is a prerequisite to effective SEO and measurement. Integration to your CRM enables accurate tracking of the bottom line impact of your web investment. You can’t afford not to implement these tools and track the effectiveness of any web marketing campaigns even the user click paths on your website so you can further optimize for usability.
What do I do to develop a winning Web strategy?
A web strategy that wins contains an ongoing process of planning, executing, measuring and adjusting. Planning your Web strategy is often the most intense and most crucial exercise. Again, your website goals are your litmus test for identifying evaluating, and selecting the tactics you will use as well as how and when to measure their success. A great rule of thumb is to be readily able to answer:
- What goal you are furthering with a tactic?
- How it influences or causes this progress?
- What metric you are using to gauge it?
In addition to the core functionality and flexibility of your website that supports this iterative process, it is key to have talent on board that understands the balance and inter-dependencies of different Web marketing tactics. This allows you to best execute to achieve your goals.
When measuring your web marketing performance, focus on metrics that are tied to achieving your goals. An example of this is to look at not just the number of leads a tactic generates, but also the cost per lead, and the percentage that convert to proposals and sales. This perspective will keep you from getting lost in the metrics, which is easily done.
Regular analysis will guide the critical fine-tuning of your Web marketing mix. This is an ongoing effort, customized to your business and the evolving conditions of your marketplace. When done right, your Web strategy can be made of very different elements from one year to another, and for good reason. It needs to be a moving arrow locked onto your moving target.
Taking this disciplined approach to crafting your Web game plan is how the consistent best performers separate themselves from the competition.
A constant of the Internet world is change. Very often this is rapid change. Having your core and flexibility in synch puts you ahead of the game. From there, it is vital to put in place the processes and the people who are skilled and equipped to keep the strategic cycle of Web marketing in motion and delivering best results.