In order to build a sustainable business, you must create a business plan. Ideally, this should be the first step in starting a business. If you got started without a solid plan, know this: while your intelligence, energy, reputation, and experience might get your business off to a good start with initial success, your sales will eventually plateau or decline without proper planning. There are thousands of stories of businesses that started well but quickly died because of a failure to plan. As Zig Ziglar once said, “I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.”
One of the most critical elements of a good business plan is the marketing plan. The marketing plan is essential because this is where you identify your ideal customer(s) and determine how to shape and communicate your product or service so that ideal customers are aware of it and find it attractive. A good marketing plan will outline in detail:
- Who – Who is your business trying to attract?
- What – What message(s) will get the attention of your audience?
- Where – Where do you need to deliver your messages?
- When – How often do you need to communicate these messages?
- Why – What is the expected outcome of this communication?
- How – What tactics or tools do you need to meet the goals outlined above? How much will it cost?
If you do not go through the process of answering the above questions, you run the risk of:
- Wasting time and resources on the bad prospects
- Being ignored by the ideal customers
- Being invisible to your ideal customer
- Annoying your ideal customer
- Not being able to identify success or failure in time to adjust as needed
- Spending money, time, and energy in the wrong place with little or no ROI
Do you know how cashiers learn to identify counterfeit money? They study real money, examining every detail. In the same way, you need to be intimately familiar with the key details that signal a prospect is able and likely to buy your product or service. In the marketing world, we call this a Buyer Persona. The Buyer Persona description will vary depending on your product or service offering, but generally it includes demographics (age, income, location, education, and profession), interests or hobbies, and/or behaviors. Often, there is more than one type of person who will buy from you. The key is to identify all the different types in as much detail as possible and prioritize they types by optimum reward (How much is each type likely to be worth?). Once you know these details you will be able to qualify prospects quickly, allowing you to target your resources more wisely with less waste. Lastly, remember your ideal customer’s details can change over time, so be sure to review them at least annually and adjust based on past customer experience.
The more you know the details of your ideal customer(s), the easier it is to write relevant messages. The more relevant a message is, the more likely your ideal customer will read it and respond. A detailed Persona Messaging plan outlines the key pain points of your ideal client, what motivates them to purchase your goods or services, and how your value propositions solves their need. For example, if you are a chiropractor, one ideal customer might be a man in a physically demanding job that is experiencing back pain. Knowing this, good message might be an advertisement of a man with a tool belt holding his lower back that talks about how chiropractic care can fix his back. This is more likely to get attention than the picture of a family and a message about general wellness. Why? The ad both presents and solves a personal need, delivering the right message to the right prospect.
No matter how well-written and compelling a message is, it won’t benefit your business if your ideal customer never sees it. For example, placing the working man lower back ad described above in woman’s magazine or website is not likely to garner a huge response. Likewise, you may have the best website ever created, but if it can’t be found on the first page of search results for topics/keywords relevant to your product or service offering, you are losing customers. A good marketing plan identifies what mediums and places your ideal customers frequent and places the right message in the right place.
You’ve heard it said timing is everything. This is especially true in marketing. Without proper planning, it’s easy to communicate so frequently ideal prospects are annoyed and avoid you or so infrequently they forget about you. Finding the right balance requires not only knowing your ideal customer, but planning ahead and scheduling all of your messages across all of the desired mediums at a frequency that keeps you top of mind to your prospects, without driving them crazy.
Without a detailed plan, marketing is often determined as successful or not by simply looking at sales numbers. If sales are up, it must be working or vice versa. With this type of general measurement, subtle shifts in market trends (warnings) are easy to miss and aren’t identified until a drastic change hits and the business starts to sink. A detailed plan identifies measurable outcomes for each type of marketing tactic used to support an overall goal. In a plan, each tactic is measured against a specific expected outcome and the sum of the outcomes determines if the goal is achieved. For example, writing an article for a newsletter is an SEO tactic. The expected outcome of the tactic is to create links to your website. More links should equal improvement your websites search engine rankings. Improved rankings increase traffic to your website, which increases awareness of your brand, which increases sales. By doing this type of detailed goals and measurement, it’s easy to know which tactics are contributing to the bottom line and which ones aren’t. You can then cut the ones that are not and put that money into ones that do. But most of all, when a tactic that has been working suddenly stops working as well, the ocean of possible causes is reduced to a small pond, increasing your chance of determining why dramatically.
If you take the time and create a detailed marketing plan, you will know who your customers are, where they choose to get informed, and what they want. Then you can target all of your marketing efforts to customers who are likely to want your product where and when they want to find out about it. On top of this, it will be clear to know when and when not to continue or adjust a given tactic. All of this leads to being able to use all of your resources (time, energy, and money) effectively. Best of all, effective use of resources almost always yields sustainable success.
Don’t let lack of planning impede your business. Contact us today for a free consultation. Often our work will pay for itself in cost savings by stopping what doesn’t work and/or increasing overall sales, assuming you have a good product or service people want. If you don’t have a good product or service, then the sooner you know, the sooner you can either adjust and fix it, or abandon the idea and move on. No matter the outcome, you will save money.
While most businesses would like to rank higher in internet searches, many most lack the time, skill or budget to invest in Search Optimization Strategies. Good news is there are a few simple SEO actions even a small business can take. Claiming your Google My Business Listing is one of them and it’s usually* a quick, effective and FREE step in the right direction.
Why You Should Claim Your Google My Business Listing
- According to Google, the average Google listing that has been well-maintained with Google My Business gets 5X more views than listings which haven’t been claimed by their owners.
- Customers are 2.7x more likely to consider a business reputable if they see a complete listing on Google Search and Maps. Businesses understand the importance of being found on Google, and this service brings them one step closer to getting discovered.
- Customers are 70% more likely to visit and are 50% more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with a complete listing.
How To Claim Your Google My Business Listing
- Go to Google Maps.
- Search for your business name. If your business listing appears, look for the link “Claim this business”.
- Follow the prompts to claim your business. Please note you’re going to need your business address and phone number handy. Note: Depending on the information already available on the internet, Google will request you verify ownership either by call your business number or sending a postcard to your business address. Phone verification is immediate and is available to businesses that already have their phone number listed in a verifiable business listing. If Google can’t find a verifiable listing for your business, you may wait up to a week for the postcard.
Some businesses aren’t eligible for a business listing. These include:
- Rental or for-sale properties such as vacation homes, model homes, or vacant apartments. Sales or leasing offices, however, are eligible for verification.
- An ongoing service, class, or meeting at a location that you don’t own or have the authority to represent.
- Brands, organizations, artists, and other online-only businesses.
* Some businesses have difficulty getting their listings approved and verified for several different reasons. If your business doesn’t appear after following the steps above, review the full Guidelines for representing your business on Google or contact us for further assistance.
Listings for local SEO
If you want to rank well in local search, you need consistent NAP data, website, hours, and more across all major listing directories. This is essential for search engines to validate you as a credible local business.
The more accurate and consistent data there is about your business across the web, the more search engines will trust the validity of the business. And the more the search engines trust the business, the higher they will rank in local SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).
According to Moz in their 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, 13% of professionals list citation signals as the most important element in Local Pack Ranking factor.
What’s in an online business listing?
The information contained in business listings can vary across verticals and directories—but some key pieces of information hold true across them all.
The most crucial data held in a business listing is the NAP data—name, address, and phone number information. NAP data is critical for the online visibility of any business, and every listing source contains this information for the businesses listed. Having correct NAP data ensures that not only will consumers find your business online, but that consumers will also have accurate, up-to-date information on how to contact you.
NAP data is also important for search engines like Google to display your business in geo-targeted searches. If someone is searching “good seafood” in the Boston area, the local Boston seafood places with correct NAP data will appear. Of course Google gives search ranking priority to business with correct NAP data—how else are they supposed to tell where you are, what you do, and if you’re even a legitimate business at all?
- 53%of mobile searchers are looking for directions
- 50% are looking for business addresses
Despite the importance of accurate NAP data, our data shows that many businesses are failing even at this basic step into the world of listings. Of the 140,000+ local businesses in our system,
- 86% of businesses have either missing or incorrect company name information listed across all listings sources
- 72% of businesses have either missing or incorrect address information listed across all listings sources
- 71% of businesses have either missing or incorrect phone number information listed across all listings sources
Hours of Operation
One of the most important details about your business to include besides NAP data is the hours of operation. When a consumer is searching for their business (or their goods/services), they have a high purchase intent and are likely searching for an immediate need.
The consumer will likely visit a business after the business is shown as “open” on their Google search.
If your business has no hours listed, the consumer would have to go out of their way to find out whether you’re open or closed from their website or a phone call. Or, worse yet, they drive to visit your business and find that you’re closed! Now they’re not only inconvenienced by not knowing your business hours, but they’re also upset for wasting their time. Let the negative reviews commence!
If your competitor has their business hours listed, they’ll likely capture that consumer. People just want their needs fulfilled—they’d be happy to spend their money at a business that has their hours correctly listed if they were coming in-store to make the purchase.
- 73% of purchases that result from mobile searches happen within the same day, and most (63%) within a few hours
- 76% of consumers report that they expected hours of operation information when conducting a search
- Over 60% of consumers find that knowing the business hours helps them make their purchase decision
Consumers are often looking to make purchases the same day that they’re searching, so make sure they know your store is open when they go looking!
Does your business have a central “hub” of information to direct users to online? Throw that website link into your business listings. Consumers will often travel from Google search into a business website to get a feel for the business and learn more about what they’re offering. So obviously, including a link to your website is important for their online presence.
- 93% of businesses have either missing or incorrect website information listed across all listings sources
- Only 7% of businesses have their website information correct across all listing sources
- Nearly half of small businesses don’t have a website (Clutch)
Website accuracy by industry
If a user can find your website, they’ll get a better impression of your business, and likely have a more positive experience. With nearly half of small businesses not having a website, you can make your business stand out on the SERP by including your website data in the listing information.
Other listing information to include
Depending on your business vertical, there may be other pieces of information important for you to include in their online business listings.
- Payment methods
- Holiday hours
- Social profiles
- And more!
The more information you include across all listing sources and directories, the easier it will be for consumers to find your business and purchase your products and/or services.
Choosing the right digital advertising metrics to track and measure is crucial to your campaign’s success. If you aren’t tracking advertising efforts correctly, you’ll never know what’s working and what channels to focus your advertising dollars on.
Determining your core ROI goals means you’ll be able to measure data that tells the story of how your target audience interacted with your ads.
Here are a few of the key metrics to track that will help you measure success and determine ROI:
CPA – Cost Per Acquisition
How much does it cost you to acquire a new lead on any given channel?
Knowing the cost to acquire a client for your business is the basis of your marketing budget, so it’s crucial data to add to your ROI analysis. Combined with other ad data, this will determine whether your business will make a profit.
Ideally, you’ll want to get a sense for which mix of ad channels (Search, Facebook, Display) work best for your business. Then you’ll be able to better optimize your ad budget going forward.
Here’s the formula for CPA:
CPA is a simple but valuable formula. Knowing how much it costs to acquire a new lead is key to understanding your ad ROI.
However, we still don’t know the actual value of your client’s customers. The next thing we’ll discuss is LTV, which is essential for further ROI analysis.
LTV – Lifetime Value
Do you know the lifetime value of your customers? You should!
Why? Because this will give you a number that represents an approximation of the revenue a new customer brings in, with all associated costs factored in.
If you know your LTV, you’ll be able to compare it directly to the cost of acquiring a new client through your digital ad campaign.
Here’s the formula you can use to determine your LTV.
CR – Campaign Revenue
Now that we understand how to calculate and analyze the lifetime value of your customers, we’ll be able to track the revenue generated by your digital advertising campaign. As you can see below, you just need to multiply your campaign’s conversions by LTV and closing ratio (50% would be .5).
Why include closing ratio? Obviously, every new lead you generate isn’t going to become a customer, so you’ll need to factor in how often you are able to close new leads to estimate campaign revenue correctly.
ROAS – Return on Advertising Spend
ROAS is an illuminating metric to use for ad campaigns, and a lot of marketers use it interchangeably with ROI itself. However, there are significant differences between the two. What is the difference between ROI and ROAS?
Tim Mayer, CMO of Trueffect explains:
“ROI measures the profit generated by ads relative to the cost of those ads. It’s a business-centric metric that is most effective at measuring how ads contribute to an organization’s bottom line. In contrast, ROAS measures gross revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising. It is an advertiser-centric metric that gauges the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns.”
So advertising ROAS is much more focused on the results from specific campaigns, while ROI incorporates the bigger picture relative to the business. This means that it’s much easier for you to be tracking and analyzing advertising efforts with ROAS! You know the cost and you can calculate the revenue.
Setting your own benchmarks and campaign goals based on past performance is the best way to proceed with your advertising efforts.
Want to skip all this confusing jargon and let the MyMVP, Inc. experts handle your digital advertising? Contact us today!
In recent years, we have seen traditional advertising take the backseat for modern technology. Traditional media companies are now switching their direction and adopting digital, but why? Because there is an extremely large market interested in digital advertising.
Digital advertising spend is set to grow from $83 billion this year to $129+ billion by 2021.
WOW! That’s a lot of money. Statistics like this show us just how high the demand is for digital advertising solutions; and just how successful digital advertising can be in terms of acquiring new customers for local businesses. Digital advertising is becoming a necessary addition to every local businesses toolkit!
So how can local businesses leverage digital advertising to acquire new customers, revenue and generate massive online engagement?
We have the foundation that every local business needs to succeed in the realm of digital advertising.
How Does Digital Advertising Help a Local Business?
Digital advertising increases awareness—it’s that simple. Digital advertising consists of a range of services, all of which work to promote a business online.
More and more businesses are increasing the amount that they spend on digital advertising, and experts like Jamie Turner suggest digital advertising on social platforms is well worth the spend.
“If I were to provide one tip to people who are using social media, it would be this — don’t be afraid of paying for social media reach and clicks.” – Jamie Turner, 60secondmarketer.com
The best part about digital advertising is that results can be easily monitored and ROI can be easily tracked. You probably don’t want to be spending lotsa money without some proof of performance right?
With traditional media channels, there is sometimes no way of tracking the effectiveness of an advertisement in terms of advanced data analytics. With digital advertising, companies like Google and Facebook allow users to access advanced analytics. This way local businesses know that their money is being well spent and that the digital advertisements are positively impacting their storefront.
When determining the success of an ad, the important factors will differ case by case. For the most part, the success of an ad lies in the indicators listed below.
ROI indicators/measures of a successful campaign:
- Impressions: the actual # of views on an advertisement
- Clicks: the actual # of direct clicks on the advertisement
- Engagements: Social & landing page clicks
- Results: In most cases, results come in the form of a phone call or a store visit.
The Best Places to Advertise
Through our team’s extensive work in the digital advertising space, we have come to the same conclusion as pretty much every digital advertising company. The best places to spend money on digital advertising are:
Google & Facebook
With digital advertising, not only is a local business visible online, but they are visible to the right people online. Platforms like Facebook and Google allow for advanced targeting, which puts a local business in front of consumers who are more likely to convert into a sale.
Plus, Google and Facebook accounted for roughly 60 percent of ad spend in 2017!
Reach: Google is the largest search network in the world, and consumers are using Google every single day to search for local businesses. Utilizing Google’s massive network capabilities, digital advertisers are able to find ideal prospects and get in front of users looking for their products/services.
In the age of digital, people are not looking at TV commercials or listening to radio ads to find a local business, they are searching for a service and then locating your business online.
With 3.5 Billion Google searches conducted every single day, customers are looking for local businesses and businesses should want to be on Google.
Flexibility: Google allows the local advertiser to spend whatever they want, whenever they want. With flexible options for ad spend, advertisers are able to test what works and what doesn’t work for a business. Spend a bit, wait to see how the campaign performs, and then reinvest in larger budgets for greater prospect reach.
Audience: The audience on Facebook includes 1.32 billion daily active users (DAUs) on average, at an increase of 17% year-over-year. As a local business, you simply cannot ignore the fact that Facebook is likely an intersection in which you can find prospective customers. If the daily average users stat doesn’t have you convinced then let’s talk about how often social media is being used. The average person spends nearly 35 minutes everyday JUST on Facebook, according to a recent study by Mediakix.
If there is one thing to take away it is that the audience on Facebook is MASSIVE, and they are on Facebook a LOT.
Targeting: Facebook Ad targeting is a marketer’s dream. Facebook allows the ability to focus on users so microscopically that you can basically become a bit of a digital stalker (in a good way?). Target users by their interests, behaviors, age, gender, location, and really anything that their Facebook profile may reveal about them including job title.
The Facebook algorithm has brought about changes to the local advertising landscape, but it remains one of the best environments for local businesses to get the word out about themselves!
By leveraging these 2 platforms, every local business can easily take their advertising game to the next level, and begin to rake in new revenue—with the data to back their investment.
Getting your first negative review can be shocking. Especially if it’s not constructive or is unjustified. Many businesses instinctively want to find a way to delete them. You’ll quickly find out most review platforms do not allow you to delete or remove negative reviews unless it is truly an unjust or irrelevant review that breaks the review platforms standards. In these cases, most review sites do have methods for reporting and requesting removal of these.
Generally, most negative reviews will remain even if you don’t agree with their point of view. Therefore it’s important that you respond to negative reviews quickly and effectively. How you respond impacts not only the reviewer but all the sets of eyes that come afterward. Seeing a business handle a particularly challenging review online suggests that management is proud of their business and willing to go the extra mile to maintain their reputation!
Make potential clients see the light with these four steps: apologize, promote, get offline, keep it simple.
How to respond to negative reviews
Apologize and sympathize
The first step towards fixing a problem is acknowledging that one occurred. Regardless of what happened, a simple apology and sympathy for your customer’s experience goes a long way.
So the famous crab cakes weren’t up to par the day this particular customer visited. If they’re what you are known for, why not reiterate that? “Our crab cakes are usually a hit, we’re sorry to hear that they weren’t up to par when you visited!”
Move the conversation offline
Don’t open a can of worms. Keep the lid on tight by offering the reviewer the chance to reach out via phone, email or both.
Keep it simple
Avoid specifics and don’t ask questions. Those conversations are much better served in a space away from the prying public.
One last pro tip: leave your business name, location and category out of this. You don’t want your negative reviews showing up in search!
Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? You can use software, like our Reputation Manager, to pull in your reviews from all over the web so you can be notified and respond quickly to all reviews, both positive and negative. And if you don’t have time, let our MyMVP pros do it for you. Not only do we guarantee expertise, we guarantee it in a hurry: we respond to reviews as soon as our software pulls them in!
Are you utilizing LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional internet network, to support your business or career? If not, then you are missing out on great opportunities to grow your business and your career. If you missed last month’s article on why to use LinkedIn, check out “Are You IN?” on my blog. While LinkedIn is also a great promotion tool, in this article, we will cover five ways that will help you effectively network on LinkedIn.
- Complete your profile and update it as needed.
You never known what prior experience or skill might catch a prospect or potential employer’s eye, so make sure you are presenting yourself accurately, completely and in the best light. Remember, your profile is your online resume and a great way for people to find out how talented and experienced you are. If it’s not completed, then you lose the opportunity to showcase your skills and talents. It’s also a good idea to include any volunteer experience you have. Not only does it show other skills you may possess, it testifies to your good character, which most prospects and employers find attractive.
- LinkedIn’s primary purpose is to stay in contact with people you know or want to know.
Keep this in mind when either accepting or sending an invitation to connect. When you receive an invitation, consider the following:
- Do you want them to be able to contact you?
- Do you want to contact them?
- Are you interested in seeing their posts?
If you don’t know the person, a good rule of thumb is to review their profile. If you met them at a social or networking event, would you give them your business card? If yes, accept away. If no, then decline or better yet, suggest they follow your business or employer’s company page.
- Send a personal message when inviting someone to connect.
When using social media, it’s tempting to connect with as many people as you possibly can. However, effective networking is more about quality than quantity. When sending an initiation to connect, avoid any “Connect” buttons not on the person’s profile as you won’t be able to send a personal message. Instead, click on the person’s profile and use the “Connect” button there. You’ll be able to send them a personal message along with your invitation. In your message, be warm and personable, as people connect with people, not robots. It is also helpful if you reference how you know them as they may not remember. If you don’t know them, be specific as to why you want to connect. For example, if someone is in the same field of work you do, you might want to be able to exchange tips and discuss latest industry trends from time to time. Joining groups and participating in group discussions is a great way to meet fellow professionals.
- Check and use LinkedIn frequently.
Again, remember tip #2 – LinkedIn is for staying in contact. If you don’t check your messages and notifications, you are not staying in contact and no one likes to wait a few weeks for a reply. Would you go a day without checking your email or phone? Probably not. A general rule of thumb is to spend at least 15 minutes each day contacting or responding to people. Reviewing your notifications is a good place to start – just be sure you read what you are being notified about and take a few minutes to make your message original and not the canned Linked In message. People can tell if you care or not, so take a few minutes to genuinely congratulate a colleague on their promotion or work anniversary. It’s very important to respond to any messages or invitations in a timely manner as well.
- Request recommendations
Third party endorsements are worth their weight in gold and greatly increase your online reputation. The more descriptive and relevant they are to your experience, the better. Unfortunately, many people either don’t respond to a recommendation request or, if they do, what they say is generic and non-specific. Here are some tips to get the recommendations you want:
- Determine what skill you want your recommendations to highlight. Review your experience and career goals. Make a list of what skills are most important for your career goals. Next write down any of those skills you think you have done well in the past. Review those skills and jot down names of people who you think would and could testify to those skills.
- Draft ideal recommendations. Thinking about each skill and person, draft a recommendation that sounds like something they would say and highlights the given skill.
Ex: “I really enjoyed working with Susie on Large Project Name. She managed the project effectively, keeping us well informed and promptly working through any issues. Her professionalism ensured we finished the project on time and on budget. I look forward to working with her again.”
- Ask for the recommendations nicely and clearly indicate what you want. For example, Susie is a project manager and Joe worked with her on a large complex project. Susie wants recommendations showcasing her project management skills. This is her email: “Hey Joe, thanks for all your help on the Large Project Name. I really enjoyed working with you and am proud of what the team accomplished. I’d like to highlight this project on my LinkedIn account. Would you be willing recommend me for project management based on this project? To save you some time, I’ve drafted an example recommendation below. Feel free to use it or say whatever you would like.”
Finally, if you can’t follow all of these tips today, start with the first one and work your way down the list. While LinkedIn is most effective when used regularly, a good profile and limited usage can still benefit you. Just make sure you check and respond to any personal messages you receive. You don’t want to miss that next great opportunity!
500 Million Reasons Why You Should Be
With 500 million members1, LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet. With that many members, if you are not currently on AND regularly interacting on LinkedIn, then you are missing out on great opportunities to grow your business and your career.
Think about it: How much would you pay to network with hundreds of professionals in your field, potential prospects, and potential employers/employees whenever it was convenient for you? Many professionals will tell you that the best benefit they get from going to a networking conference (which can cost anywhere from couple hundred dollars to several thousand) was getting to talk freely with other professionals and /or meeting new prospective customers and employers/employees.
On LinkedIn, you can do this all for free, at your own convenience, and with significantly more knowledge of who you are talking with. It’s like walking around at a business conference with every person’s resume displayed above their head and you have a GPS that can identify and locates the exact people you want to meet.
In summary, you can use LinkedIn to accomplish any of the following:
- Network with other professionals in your field
- Retain ability to contact previous co-workers, clients, and other people in your professional life even when they change jobs, emails, or phone numbers.
- Learn more about the professional abilities of people you know personally.
- Identify new people in your field that you would like to network with and connect with them via mutual connections or by paying for LinkedIn Premium.
- Identify potential clients, employers, or employees.
- Exchange ideas, build a reputation, and gain awareness yourself or your business via original articles on business topics or sharing relevant 3rd party articles.
- Discuss current professional challenges and topics with other professionals in LinkedIn groups.
Are you ready to join LinkedIn or start using it more effectively? Watch for next week’s article where we’ll discuss five key tips and actions you should take to get the most out of LinkedIn. For more tips on how to effectively market your business, follow this blog or follow me on social media.
1 Aslam, Salman “LinkedIn by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts” published January 1, 2018, on Omnicoreagency.com.
Are you thinking about creating a website for your business or re-doing your existing website? If so, consider the following BEFORE you interview web design vendors or task your all-star in-house team with the project.
- What is the overall purpose of the website?
- Do you have specific measurable goals?
- Who is your audience?
- How often do you need to update website information?
- What resources do you have available to create and maintain your website?
What is the overall purpose or business need for the website?
Are you trying to inform, sell, or both? If you don’t know then you need to stop imagining a beautiful, tech-savvy site and start thinking about your marketing or communication strategy. Contrary to popular belief, not every business needs a traditional website. With some businesses, a social presence is enough. A website is simply a marketing tactic that should be part of an overall Strategic Marketing or Communication Plan. This plan should outline:
- Who – Who does your business need to communicate with?
- What – What message(s) do you need to deliver to your audience?
- When – How often do you need to communicate these messages?
- Why – What is the expected outcome of this communication?
- How – What tactics or tools do you need to meet the goals outlined above?
If you don’t already have a plan, I highly recommend stepping back and creating the plan first and then proceed with building a website if it serves the goals outlined in your plan. If you do not have the expertise in-house, then hire a marketing consultant. Otherwise, you could end up with an expensive, pretty website which may or may not help your business.
Do you have measurable goals?
When setting a goal, you must set a goal that can actually be measured or else you will not know if you have achieved it. In terms of a website, the goals you set will depend on the overall purpose of the site. If you are selling your widgets online, then you can easily track how many orders are placed. However, if you have a service business or a more complex sales process, it’s not as simple. Success may be the number of inquiries, or leads, collected from the site. If your phone number is published, you may need a separate phone number or extension on the site different from any other publications so that you can track the number of phone calls generated by the website. If your main focus is to inform or brand awareness, then the number of visitors to the site is important.
Who are you trying to reach?
Are your core audience children, teens, adults? Are they professionals, managers, or executives? Are they single, married, parents? An audience can be defined in numerous ways, like demographics, industry, job type, technology habits, lifestyle, etc. but it must be defined. Once defined, every aspect of your website will need to be designed with the end user in mind to ensure your core audience gets the message you are trying to deliver and persuade them to take the actions you want taken.
What information do you need to keep updated and how often do you need to update it?
We have all come across a site with last year’s event still listed on it. While some messages are evergreen, invariably there is going to be some content that needs to be updated. Identifying what content needs to be updated regularly and what content is evergreen can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Why? Because many small businesses don’t have web administrators on staff and will need to rely on a vendor for updates. Websites can be designed with user-friendly sections for updating frequent content (i.e. blogs, events, etc.). However, more complex elements, which might be necessary for visual appeal or smooth navigation, can be more time intensive and require a higher level of skill to change.
What resources do you have to commit to the maintenance of your site?
When designing your site, it’s easy to be swayed by the latest technologically features and gadgets. However, the more complex your site is, generally the more expensive it is to maintain and update. If you determine upfront what personnel and budget you can commit to the maintenance of your site, then you can require your project manager or vendor to build a site that can be updated and managed within your resource constraints. If you don’t have the resources to maintain your site – think twice before building it. ALL websites require some form of maintenance.
Carefully considering all of the above will help ensure you create a website that supports your business goals, is attractive and user-friendly to your target audience is maintainable and within budget. Best of all, you’ll be able to measure the impact of your site to determine if it’s successfully meeting your goals. If it isn’t, you will be able to make measured adjustments until you are achieving your goals.