Is Your Website Purpose Driven?
Is Your Website Purpose Driven?
Is your website a purpose driven website? Sounds like a corny question from a self help book doesn’t it! But in realty many website today are “happenstance driven” websites versus purpose driven.
You website should have specific purpose(s) that can be measured. A website will inevitably serve your organization in many ways but it is critical to be able to clarify the purpose of your website so you can verify whether it meets that purpose.
What is a Happenstance Website?
A Happenstance website is a website that basically happened. For many organizations this began with someone in the organization who was the “tech” guy or gal who had the ability to build a website. I am sure if you think back to your companies first website the issue was not was the website any good – it was the fact it existed – period. And that immediately made your tech folks the web experts. Not by experience, not by formal training, not by marketing or sales background, but in many ways by default. Without being to demeaning the fact that someone could get a website online gave immediate certification to being a web guru with this title soon graduating to “Webmaster”.
I don’t know how many companies are still operating on “happenstance” with “Mikie” being the expert in this area – but my suspicion is both big and small companies both fit into this category. I use the name “Mikie” from the cute cereal commercial that would have “Mikie” eat the cereal first (ala alot of websites were built by folks who were the first people in the organization that could get a website up first). In general I am seeing more and more good websites out there but many organizations have their website in the technical operational expenses column only (and not sales and marketing). Happenstance was good in the first generation of websites. But I am glad to say that generation is well and truly over. A business can now have well defined goals and missions attached to their website and these should be set by business owners and directors.
Tech People Are generally NOT the Best Web Designers!
Welcome to internet age known as Web 2.0! What this really means is the world wide web is actually starting to make “more” sense. The Web 2.0 description is affectionately used for recognizing the second generation of the internet. In essence it signifies things are working better online and the first generation of dot com million dollar madness and the home brew websites are now a part of the past. Today it is actually possible to design and develop a website that has objectives that can measured.
Hopefully this doesn’t sound TOO ROBOTIC? I will be the first to say the possibilities of what a website could do was intoxicating in the Web 1.0. I was as bedazzled as the best of them. The bottom line is web 2.0 sees the web design craft developing and the steps involved in developing a website are much more refined . Part of the process in developing a purpose driven website is establishing what skill sets are required for the job. Tech people who have clearly held court in the past are not necessarily your best choice for future web development.
Most tech folks time and expertise is traditionally spent in software and hardware operations within an organizations. They tend to care whether it “works” or not – and within their work environments that has dictated their world. But websites are no longer about “just working” – they are about specifically performing for the business. The complexity of their results have now dictated a much more sophisticated development focus.
Keeping in mind that the tech persons background is usually very solid in the overall understanding of the web and they should definately be a key team member when it comes to your website but the optimium word here is “team member” working in unison with the business owners and the marketing and sales team. Today a good website development starts with a good development team working with a good web design company.
Helping to expand on the changes that are now happening in the web development world here are a few comparisons between Web 1.0 & Web 2.0…
|Web 1.0||Web 2.0|
Taking Over The World
Domain Name Speculation
Stickiness (Cut & Paste)
|–> Google Ad Sense|
–> Web Design Professionals
–> Realistic Demographic Targets
–> Search Engine Optimization
–> Cost Per Click
–> Web Analytics
–> Content Management Systems
–> RSS Syndication
–> Website Produces
In essence we have graduated to a better overall environment in Web 2.0. Some improvements are better pieces of software such as content management systems, some are better methods of sharing information such as syndication (RSS feeds) and some are just a greater understanding of the web environment best summarized in web analytics (versus the woeful statistic of HITS). We also have professional people who have grown into the industry (or grown up in the industry) that are far more qualified to produce results.
A Purpose Driven Website IT IS!
I think the formality of the word purpose really helps establish how your website should be operating. Your website should be a planned part of your business and the basis of just having a website without specific aims and measures probably has very little value to your organization. So let’s start with the basics to help get you focused on a website with purpose:
1. What is the primary mission of your website?
Your mission should be very much determined by your business plan and marketing models. Generally most companies are selling services or products. Your website will be a “participant” in that process. If you are selling Travel services then your websites primary mission might be to establish qualified travel prospects. If you are selling online retail your mission would be to sell products online. If you are promoting local tourism your mission might be to attract as many visitors as possible to your website so they can see the main attractions of your area. Your business really determines your mission and your website should be an extension of achieving that mission.
Your mission should include geography. Your mission is to sell your services and be a leader in defined demographic area. Unless you current business sells world wide (or even nationwide) looking for national and world wide sales thru your website may not be the best place to start. Your region may be Middle Tennessee or it maybe the South Eastern United States Region. It depends on your product and on your business plan.
A small retailer may sell a specialized product all over the world. Each company should set this boundary. The key point is you must identify a target demographic online. With SEO becoming such an important player in online marketing your keywords will very much be associated with your target demographic. Remember this is your primary demographic in your primary mission. It should be VERY SPECIFIC!
2. What is the primary measurement of your website?
I actually think measurement is sometimes much harder to establish than the mission. But a website without measurement has very little purpose and value for your organization. Your website has the capability of tracking unique visitors, repeat visitors, page impressions, advertising click thrus, (hits for those that are still confused), inquiries, and ultimately sales. Your website (like your business) comes with some intangibles that may not be as easy to identify. In the selling cycle a prospect may use your website to reinforce or ultimately help make the decision to go with your company. But keeping that in mind what black and white measurements do you select that can be checked periodically and can return a clear result.
3. What are secondary missions of your website?
Secondary missions are very important on a website. Because of the websites scope and capabilities you can have many additional missions that you can track and measure. Let’s say your primary mission is to provide services in Nashville and then your secondary mission is to provide those same services in 5 key cities outside of the city of Nashville. These missions may be very well established with the recognition that SEO is about keyword geography as much as it is about keyword services.
So in this case we focus our sales efforts on the five key cities that are just outside of our primary mission demographic. Many could argue since you are already covering the major areas with your primary mission wouldn’t it be logical for the people in five smaller cities to search the big cities first (as in Nashville in their keyword search) when looking for your service. My answer is YES and NO – THEY MAY or THEY MAY NOT. It isn’t about what is logical as much as it is about covering both scenarios. Being redundant here ensures that if that prospect searches for your services in the “big city” they search for your services in the “small city” you are represented both ways.
4. Who are the key players that will ALWAYS focus on your website?
OK we have the mission(s) of our website established and we have the demographics identified. This is good – you are currently ahead of most website owners if you are in this position. But now who are the key players that will help make and keep your website focused and mission based. When you develop a website a lot of energy and effort is given by both the web design firm and the client. It can be a ton of work and a significant project. The project is complete and the website launches. Your website was designed specifically to meet and grow your mission within your target demographic. But then everyone goes home and the last person out needs to turn the lights off…
NO NO NO – it ain’t over – ITS just beginning! And your decision on who is a key player on your website team could very well determine the long term success of your website. It would be great to think that the website by its “fabulous” design will simply take your company to the top but the reality is your websites needs key staff involvement. The content on a website generally does not stay the same to long.
SEO is teaching us that there needs to be an ongoing improvement process with content. (This will never end). Then you may have experts blogging within your team. Your team will want to ensure your website has expert content and will continue to supply expert content. This is a key ingredient for future success. Then there may be advertising programs (on your site and online such as google Adwords). Corporate Marketing campaigns are now coordinated with your website. And then you start to read your stats…
5. What reporting systems will you use to measure results?
Now that the A-Team has agreed to meet periodically to review the results of the website what are the key reports you need to review? The ones that are important to your companies identified units of measurement (which must be established in the design and development phase). It is irrelevant that people from all over the world visit your website when you are focused on selling widgets in the Middle Tennessee Area. Establishing your reporting system and then incorporating your reports into a periodical meeting will actually do more for your understanding of the website that any other event.
I must admit I LOVE meeting a with clients and reviewing their stats. One of the most challenging and rewarding things I get to do. Quite often we will see a statistic and I will ask the client to explain the result (not vice-versa) – and THEY CAN – because the statistic is a measurement of the business behavior and activity of their clients which they fully understand. And then a light bulb goes off as client begins to understand the full extent of their website and takes full ownership of the website (versus being completely dependant on their webmaster).
And ultimately we encourage (remind and bug our clients) about checking and reviewing their stats. This process should never end and you will be amazed after a year or two how in sync your website and your overall marketing plans become. It is initially some work and more than anything there is the education factor… “Why are we looking at these stats – We need to be out SELLING…” but the reality is your website is out selling every day. With care and nurture it will one day become your companies best salesman. Knowledge of your website results are where that nurturing begins…
A good way to finish off today’s blog is to take your current website and ask yourself our 5 starting questions about primary mission, measurement, secondary mission, key players and reporting systems. As you begin to ponder these questions you will inevitably look a lot closer at your website. When you do this recognize (no matter what the immediate pain) you are now heading towards a purpose driven website – and that is a really good place to be!
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the last 10 years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still a webmaster and this is “Interview with a Webmaster“.