Do not skip this step!
In the early days of websites, the purpose of a website was to have a website. That was it. Unfortunately, the mentality behind a vast number of business websites for traditional businesses is still: We need a website because all businesses need websites.
The design caliber of websites has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, while for the most part website strategies and objectives remain underdeveloped.
The exception to this lagging trend are those businesses who actually need sophisticated money-making machines to do business. Business-savvy, early adopters have done their homework, and giant corporate sites demonstrate shiny new website possibilities.
However, creating your Website Business Plan doesn’t need to be complicated. You can get started right now with the 3 most important pieces that need to be included. And who knows, maybe you’ll find this task can be fun!
First: Define the Purpose of your Website
I have worked with a lot of low budget business owners on their website designs. Not only are they short in cash, they are also low in time, energy and effort. Even if a vaguely higher business purpose for designing a new website is originally established, this guiding light quickly fades during the humdrum of project work—and the purpose reverts to:
Not good enough! Don’t let this happen to you. On your next website redesign, create an overriding Website Purpose Statement and come back to it over and over again on every little decision to ensure you are faithful to it.
Here is an example:
One of my most successful client websites is for an Estates Paralegal. She already had a bustling business based on referrals and she didn’t even have a website. Her success dictated up leveling her marketing materials and her business purpose was brilliant:
I find that my clients actually talk out their website purpose during their discovery calls with me, which I record so that I can take random brainstormed thoughts and create an official “project overview summary” in my Project Brief. This helps keep the client and the web design team focused during the design phase.
List the Goals of your Website
Now that you have your Website Purpose written out into a clear statement, creating the goals is easier. Let’s continue with the Estates Paralegal website example above.
Goal 1: Write out my services, with descriptions and pricing. Review every 6 months and keep up to date.
Goal 2: Update business processes to replace handing out brochures with sending people to my website. Update all marketing materials to include my new website address.
Goal 3: Optimize my website for the search engines. Install Google Analytics tracking code on my website. Review website performance quarterly. Compare performance with my competitors. Review information 6 months after website launch and make improvements.
Goal 4: Actively request customer testimonials, organize this into a system so I can store and retrieve them quickly. Send the new reviews to my web designer quarterly to add to my website.
Goal 5: Ensure my contact info and a contact form is on my website, and that everything is continuously working. Respond to contact forms, emails and calls quickly.
Design your Customer Journey(s)
Knowing your target market and Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA) is essential, as is segmenting your audience into 3 different buckets: cold, warm and hot. Cold traffic consists of people who know nothing about you and landed on your site (due to a number of possibilities: referral, spontaneous ad clickthrough, organic search engine click, etc.). Warm leads may have been following you for a while and are probably on your mailing list. Hot traffic is generally your biggest fans and paying customers; they already know and love you and what you do. If you launch something new, they’re the first in line!
So who do you design your website for?
This is a trick question. You need to design your website for all 3 types of traffic and map out 3 different journeys.
But primarily, you should design your overall website for a brand new Cold Traffic visitors first. Map out your website customer journey and experience from the Point of View (POV) of a person who is unfamiliar with you and your products/services and this is the first time they’ve landed on your website. Be specific and plan out every detail. Perform user testing to ensure your assumptions are correct and that the website design and usability is intuitive. Get feedback. Improve, improve, improve. Until it’s right.
This is a really simple example of a “Contact” call to action getting out of control, but my point is that a lot of thought needs to go into this part of your Website Business Plan. You need to examine your customer journeys from all sides, and solicit external input, feedback and suggestions. You need to map out multiple possible paths and then systematically and scientifically narrow it down to the Perfect Website Strategy, carefully designed to deliver.
And that's a wrap!
Creating your Website Business Plan is critical to the success of your website and, arguably, the success of your business. This should be the first thing you do as you get ready for your website design project and figure out its requirements.
I believe that the 3 most important parts of your Website Plan include writing out your Website Purpose, Website Goals, and Customer Journey(s).
Did I miss anything? Contact me by email at email@example.com if you have something to be added to this list!