How To Optimize Your Website from a Marketing Perspective

First – It’s All About You!

What do you want to accomplish with your website? Sounds simple enough, right? Not always… Having a keen understanding of your company’s business objectives — the company’s mission as well as its short-and long-term goals such as increasing shareholder value, improving sales or gaining market share – and being able to incorporate that online is extremely important. As everyone has an opinion, and most are not afraid to share it with you, at some point your website will be under a microscope. How well you are able to justify its place in the marketing mix and support how well it is aligned with the company’s overarching business objectives will clearly win the respect of superiors and colleagues and support your marketing accountability. In looking at business objectives, be sure to take into account any short-term critical issues (challenges/hurdles), industry/market trends, and competitive factors which present a realistic illustration of the landscape.

In addition to your business objectives, you must clearly identify specific eBusiness objectives. In other words, what do you want to accomplish with the website? Do you want to easily communicate and/or support an ongoing dialog with your customers? Do you want to reinforce your brand? Do you want to generate response and/or collect data (i.e. customer contact info, feedback, etc.)? Are you looking to attract new customers, monetize those customers, and/or lock in customers for long-term relationships?

Be sure to limit your eBusiness objectives to the top 3 or 4 and write them down. Having too many will seem confusing to your end user. Here’s one example of a company’s objectives:

  • Business: Increase Sales and Gain Market Share
  • eBusiness: Drive Response (new sales leads and existing sales), reinforce the brand, and improve customer retention/loyalty
(Note – Each function of your website can be measured against its success for
contributing to one or several of these objectives.)

Satisfying Your Most Important Stakeholder – the Customer

How well do you know your customer and his/her needs? And, do you know specifically what they want when they visit your website? The answer is not always as clear as you might think. Even if you have been in your business for many years, you may not have all the answers. (for more on understanding your customers, refer to the June issue of Business Currents, “Who do you love?”)

When my company was asked to redesign a Fortune 500 intimate apparel company site several years ago, within our initial analysis we noticed a sophisticated bulletin board function. They (the marketing team and prior web development company) were certain that women ages 25 – 58 who visited the site regularly would naturally want to share information, develop a community, and maintain a peer-to-peer relationship within this format. Unfortunately, it received very little traffic and was not what customers wanted. Furthermore, it did not satisfy their existing objectives. After surveying customers and analyzing statistics and behaviors, it was clear that this company’s customers were interested in information on products, promotions, and shopping.

It’s not rocket science. Asking your customers and key stakeholders who visit the site what they want and expect to receive from your website is something that promises a good response and should not take much time to gather.

Customer Response – Direct Marketing’s Holy Grail

Online customers are a fickle group. They want what they want when they want it and are not afraid to find it from your competition. They seek stimulation from various sources and respond for various reasons. Some are impulsive whereas others seek information and reinforcement to support their response. Finding out what your customers respond to should not be difficult. Most of the time, this information can be located within your existing site statistics in the form of pages most/least visited, session length, user path, monthly trends (increase/decrease), response, and other customer activity.

Understanding what your customers respond to is crucial to accomplishing your objectives. Are your customers driven by incentives? Do they respond to promotions? Are they starved for information? What makes them decide to respond right then and there? Is it your well-known brand and/or your credible customer testimonials? Or is it your competitive pricing and customer service? Is it the communicated value of your product or service that absolutely puts them over the edge right then and there?

Whatever your online mojo is, when you lock into what your customers respond to, the potential is virtually limitless! A ski resort client of mine learned quickly that providing a giveaway online each quarter would lead to achieving their eBusiness objective: building a customer database of over 15,000 skiers and snowboarders within a 60 mile radius within a few short months. A university client fed B2B clients case studies and white papers on contemporary corporate educational learning to support consistent monthly sales leads online. And, that intimate apparel company’s customers responded in droves and repeatedly to frequent promotions, shopping and new product information on the home page to help them accomplish their objectives of building a database, stimulating sales and supporting new products online.

Get to know your customers intimately. What they respond to online might be completely different from what they respond to over the phone or in person.

Alignment, At Last!

Alright, so you’ve reviewed your company’s objectives and listed your eBusiness objectives. You’ve carefully surveyed online stakeholders and understand what they want and expect from a visit to your site. You’ve even analyzed site statistics and researched your audience to know what they respond to most.

Now, feeding your customers the information and/or functions for a successful response  should be the easy part. Doing this quickly and efficiently so the experience is a pleasant one is an additional consideration. The good news is that there are usually several sites out there that do certain things well that you may want to borrow from. For example, you may want to consider the following:

  • Prominently placing an 800 number with a strong call2action on each page of your website to stimulate sales and generate leads
  • Listing well-known client logos and/or testimonials to reinforce your brand and competitively support credibility
  • Offering a special incentive or contest via a pop-up or section on the home page  for customers who share their contact information with you
  • Changing up content on the home page regularly to create a ‘dynamic’ website that customers will need to visit regularly to receive regular updates.

Keep in mind that your website is a vital marketing tool that everyone has access to at all times. When it’s used effectively, it can generate significant results for you and your business. With those positive results, you will know that you’ve found your online mojo.

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