I have been involved in web design, development and large web solutions for business since the early days of the Internet (1995). Back then, 9kbps modems over copper, tiny images and long noisy dial-up time was the norm. Today we have so many rich media options and continuous highspeed connectivity, what a privilege.
One issue I often see with customers wanting a website is the lack of content. They don’t have content, nor do they know what content to populate their site with. They see other sites that they like, but they have not gone through the process of strategy and planning as an organisation. Some have relied on the technical developer or the creative designer to craft their site and hope that somebody finds it. While this can work, it is not the correct approach. The heart of the issue is strategy, planning and ownership ( note that this is neither a technical nor a creative problem). The issue is really a basic marketing requirement for any business or cause, no matter what medium you are promoting yourself on. It does not matter if you are a business, a club, a cause or a blogger, the marketing requirements all apply the same, while the goals may differ.
A strategy is a process of researching, planning and driving how to best achieve your goals. It can include the process of identifying or prioritising your goals. It includes measuring the effectiveness and performance of your executed plans. A key aspect of strategic planning is identifying what resources and limitations you have. For example, a small budget will require a very different strategy to a large budget. Having consulted to all types of organisations, from individuals to multi-national enterprises, from educational institutions to government departments, I always encourage ownership of the process. As a consultant, I can advise you and input significantly to your strategy process, but I should never own the process. Take your brand identity and culture as an example – I can’t tell you who you should be, but I can help you communicate or discover who you are.
Examples of common business goals would be increasing brand awareness and business profitability. Increased profitability is achieved by:
- selling higher margin products
- increased market reach or growth of the customer base
- increased sales to customers
- increased leads list
The research and strategy around this goal will look at all means of influence that would drive these metrics in the right direction.
I’ll expand on some marketing concepts in more detail in future articles. This is a very brief overview of the fundamental requirements to connect with your market. Below are the key questions that your marketing strategy should address:
- who are you (identity, brand, culture, flavour)
- what do you have to offer, or what do you do (products, services, pricing, causes, mission, passions)
- how does this benefit or add value to me (the viewer) or why should I be interested (benefits, vision, positioning, purpose, cause)
- how can I act or transact based on your offering or how can I connect with you (call to action, next steps, connection, transaction)
- where, when and what do you need to promote your offering across different channels (social media, print, traditional advertising etc.)
Each of these points must be broken down further so that the audience viewing your website can be hooked, informed, then motivated to transact with you. Research into your market is highly recommended. Unfortunately, many organisations fail to give this a priority. Knowing your market audience is critical. Who are you trying to reach? How is your audience motivated? What are their needs? These are all part of aligning your story, message or offering to your audience.
I haven’t forgotten about your website.
I would encourage you to sit down and determine your marketing objectives before building a website. This does not have to take a lot of time or be overworked. If you are an established business, most of this information should be at hand. You may have gone through this process in putting your business plan together. I’m all for minimalism, short and sweet communication, and the modern web design trends lend themselves to this today. A simple one-page site can be effective, however, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) requires authentic, structured content in order to rank your website. You will still need sufficient content on the website for a good ranking.
Write down what you want to say to your customers or viewers. Tell your story, but engage in a conversation, not a broadcast. Stand in a viewer’s shoes who does not know you – how would you engage them? Why would they care about who you are, or what you are saying? With your marketing 101 knowledge and plan in place, start your communication from the viewer’s position. You have a few seconds to catch their attention. You then need to inform the user and get them to transact in line with your strategic goals.
Below is a list of requirements you need for a basic website:
- A brief marketing plan
- Organisation branding and identity assets
- A detailed write-up explaining who you are – your About Us content
- Your key messages for the Home page of the site. This can be presented as a banner image and associated calls to action or statements. The core messages should lead to more detailed explanations of the message or offer.
- Product, service, cause or offering information. This again needs to be supported by any relevant images, videos etc.
- Contact information
- Social media account information
- For a blog, you should have a few articles or posts already written when you go live.
- For any shopping cart, monetisation or other e-commerce based sites, you will need to have merchant payment facilities (e.g. PayPal) set up.
Don’t panic if you don’t have any of this, or if you don’t know how to get it. I can help you. You will also need a ballpark budget. Yes, you should have a budget. A professional website can cost anywhere from R3 500 (US$ 250) to over R 350 000 (US$ 25 000) depending on your requirements. Being prepared and having all the requirements in place can save you time and reduce the cost. I have been involved in much larger enterprise systems with costing going into the 7 digit bracket. It all depends on what you need and what your budget is.
Below are some other functional websites I have been involved in:
- Online college with e-commerce. Courses are monetised individually and on a subscription basis for a curriculum.
- Membership restricted content websites
- Multi-national organisations with sub-sites per region
- E-commerce enabled stores with multi-variant products.
- Online directory portals with monetisation
- Talent portfolio gallery sites
- Event marketing e-commerce sites
There are so many options available to you. Once there is a strategic plan in place, I can manage the technical and creative process for you. From secure hosting to video production, I offer a full house solution. Contact me if you would like to discuss your needs.