Too many companies have put up a web site without a clear Internet
strategy. In some cases the web site was created in response to a
competitor having a web site. In other cases there simply was a vague
belief that these days you must have a web site. It is no surprise
then that many companies are disappointed with the results.
To maximise your Internet success, you need to develop a clear Internet
strategy as an integral part of your overall business plan before you
spend any more money on your web site. And to help you do this here are
twelve questions you should consider:
- Where are you now (in terms of the Internet) and where do you want
If you don't know where you are going, then any path will get you there.
Your web site should be an integral part of your business plan. If it
is not then it is much more likely to fail or at least not achieve its
potential. So before rushing off to a web developer and creating a
pretty web site, think about answering these questions. And don't be
frightened to ask for some independent expert advice. Not many web
developers are good marketing strategists and you should get your
strategy right before you spend any money on development.
Remember that development costs are often only 40-50% of the total
costs. Maintenance can be 40% of your web costs, with promotion of your
site being up to 20% of costs.
Many people find that a planned phased approach allows you to identify
where you want to go and develop checkpoints to assess your progress
along the way. You don't need, or it may not be appropriate, or you may
not be able to afford to put your ideal web site up at the beginning.
But you do need a plan as to what you want to do, when you should
publish each new version of your site, and how you are going to monitor
your progress along the Internet path.
- What are the goals of the web site?
Firstly you need to determine what you want your web site to do.
Is the purpose of your site to inform, educate, entertain or sell? Is
it supposed to enhance brand equity, lower costs or improve customer
intimacy? What transactions are appropriate or necessary, and when
should they be part of your web site. How important is it to provide a
personalised experience? What is the user's expected benefit or
- Who is the target audience?
Now that you have decided what you want your site to do, you need to
determine who will be the users of your site. (Sometimes identifying
the goals and target audience needs to be done at the same time). And
there can be more than one target audience.
What categorises your target audience, what are their needs, and can
you develop scenarios for them?
- What is happening in the marketplace?
You should not create your Internet strategy in a vacuum. What are your
competitors doing? What are the relevant industry and technological
trends? Can you identify best practice sites for benchmarking?
- What is the content and how should it be organised?
Now you can consider what types of content you want on the site and
what level of detail will be presented. What functions should people be
able to perform on your site? How should the information be structured
and what global and local navigation aids are you going to have?
Your web developer may be able to help you with structure and
navigation but you must have a big input, as you will know your
business and your customers better than the web developer.
- How are you going to maintain human relationships in the digital world?
The Internet can appear to be a very impersonal medium for conducting
business. So you need to make sure you consider how you are going to
create, maintain and enhance customer relationships on-line.
Therefore, think about how e-mail, chat rooms, discussion groups,
on-line communities and even information can be used. Do you have an
e-mail response policy to ensure appropriate responses to all e-mail?
- What do you want your site to look like?
Now, and only now, should you consider what your site should look like.
Users should know where they are on the site, where they have been, and
how to get to where they want to be.
Therefore, consider issues such as colour, branding, design and links.
What is your policy on the appropriateness of links? Who monitors
- Where is the site to be hosted?
Are you going to host it yourself or host it on an ISP? Do you have the
resources (especially ongoing resources) to host it yourself? What
services do you want your ISP to be able to provide? And remember that
your ISP does not have to be local. There is little difference for most
people in uploading files to an ISP in your city or one in another
- How is the site to be updated?
Remember that 30-40% of your site costs may be incurred by site
How often should content be changed? Who is going to make the changes?
Who is going to approve the changes? How are the content, software and
hardware going to be upgraded? How are you going to check for dead or
- How are you going to drive traffic to your site?
It is no good having the best site in the world if no one knows about
it. Some sites are spending up to 20% (and more) of their budget
promoting their site.
Options are many and include considering possible points of entry,
banner ads, keyword ads, PR, links, offline promotion, search engine
registration, articles in e-zines, and event or content sponsorship.
Many people get expert advice on how to promote web sites.
- What are the success criteria for your site?
Too many people simply put up their site and sometime down the track
wonder if their site is working or not. If you have not determined how
you are going to measure the success of your site in advance then it
can be difficult to be objective. Many people these days do not believe
that you can rely on hits alone as your only success measure.
So it is best to decide prior to the site going live how you will know
if your site is achieving your goals. This will require a mixture of
criteria which could include some of the following: page views, unique
users, time spent on the site, return visits, revenue, and reduced
However, it should also include measurable business criteria that are
critical to your business objectives. For example, number of new
customers, improved customer retention, quicker new product
development, better coordination between business partners, and
enhanced customer intimacy.
- Will any marketing strategies, business processes or systems need
to be modified to fit in with your Internet strategy?
Some organisations will need to transform their business in order to
thrive with the Internet.
Do you need to consider the impact on your organisational structure or
functions, your distribution channels, or your product range? Are there
any back-end databases or information that should be shared with
suppliers or customers?
In many companies these changes may not be appropriate yet, but if you
neglect to keep up with the rapidly evolving circumstances wrought by
the Internet then you are at real risk of being outwitted by a new or
existing competitor, or missing out on new opportunities.
So to maximise your Internet success, develop a clear Internet strategy
as an integral part of your overall business plan before you spend any
more money on your web site. Time and money spent on developing your
strategy will be well and truly rewarded!