Web strategy in one lesson

I recently did a bit of writing for Oliver and the great team at StartupSmart. The website launched less than a year ago and is quickly filling the much-needed niche of startup-related news and advice within Australia. The writing was for a 10-part email series, which will deliver a free, short course on how to build a better website. And yes there was a lot to cover and I had to keep it tech jargon free! I’ve republished lesson one below – sign up here to get the rest in your inbox.

Lesson One: Strategy

The word strategy is often widely misused and poorly understood. It’s no wonder businesses are reluctant to allocate time or finances toward developing communication around their direction internally or engage strategic consultants. Add digital to the matter and you’ve got something even more elusive. Digital strategy isn’t as complex and esoteric as it sounds though. If you’re reevaluating the state of your website, looking at your online presence in an in-depth manner ensures you’re focused on meeting your business goals.

Objectives

If you don’t understand the “why” behind your actions, you’ll have a tough time delivering on your site. Are you generating leads or concentrating on customer relationships? Building awareness of your brand, product or service? Is it about driving sales? Or is it even a microsite to help manage an event or gather market research? In the lean (and regularly scrappy) world of start-ups, it can be good to get something on paper. This isn’t about the 50-page business plan, rather a place for you and any employees to understand why you all get out of the bed in the morning to do what you do online. This is also where you’ll need to think about your budget. Sure, you might be able to get an information-oriented site up with an open source content management system (CMS) for a few thousand dollars, but you will need to add a zero on for a multi-user eCommerce enabled custom masterpiece.

Tools

PersonasGiving your users a name and identity can help you better understand their needs. Personas involve developing a small number of archetypal users to inform your goals – it’s similar to market segmentation but goes beyond the usual demo- and psycho-graphical data.

Competitive analysis

Your website not only competes with others on price and promotion elements, but also on its deep-seated experience and usability. It could be the location of one button that’s causing a user’s preference to a competitor’s product.Get groups of users to road test your site and get as much feedback as possible as to where the problem areas lie. Use tools such as Google Analytics to see which pages provoke users to leave your site.

Market research

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get caught up going with your gut instinct on most decisions. Conduct regular research to make sure your insights are factual. If you have an existing community on your site, surveys are an efficient way to get feedback. For more transparent and detailed information, organise in-person interviews and user testing on a regular basis.

Technical assessment

Is your site slow? Studies show users are getting increasingly fickle in relation to response times online. Have you run updates on your database or CMS lately? If you’re a non-technical founder, ask your tech team or agency to stay abreast of advancements.

Organisational and process management

Think of your website like a garden, in that it requires frequent attention and maintenance to prosper and grow as intended. If you need a community or content manager to keep it fresh, hire one. Or rework and empower other roles so they feel responsible for its wellbeing.

Marketing communications plan

Your digital strategy should also integrate with your broader marketing and communications plan. If you’re preparing a direct mail out or a magazine interview about your product, linkages with your website need to be factored in. It’s obvious, but businesses still make the rookie mistake of forgetting to tell a consumer the how.

The last word

There are many other items in the digital strategist’s toolbox – this list is far from exhaustive. The main thing to remember is to ensure your website doesn’t depart from your business goals and each action online attests to something meaningful.