How to Develop a Website Strategy: Part 1
“If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?”
By taking the time to define your goals at the beginning of your project, you’ll know exactly what you are working towards and ensure that the business objectives you wish to achieve with your website are clear.
We like to divide defining goals into two steps:
Step 1: Gather Information
To get started you will need to collect information from the people invested in the success of the project. For the purposes of this step, you’ll want to focus on the decision-makers. Depending on the organization this could be one or many people: Owners, investors, VPs, C-level execs, board and committee members, marketing, IT, or sales directors.
Talk about the business. Identify high-level business goals, sales team goals, marketing goals, and where the website fits in relation to these goals. If there is an existing website, discuss what has been worked on in the last six months and how things are moving. This is also an appropriate place to start getting a sense of what website assets and/or content is already available vs what will need to be created.
Below are a few examples of high-level goals. You may have heard of SMART goals (A SMART goal is defined as one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound). But, don’t worry too much about that right now. If these sort of specifics are forthcoming, great. If not, all that is required at this stage are general goals. Making sure your goals are SMART will come as you refine the information collected.
High-level goal examples:
- Decrease the cost of customer acquisition.
- Improve employee training.
- Increase customer lifetime value.
- Increase efficiency.
- Increase revenue.
- Provide better customer service.
- Reduce operational costs.
- Reduce carbon emissions.
- Recruit employees.
- Break into a new market.
- Build brand awareness.
- Capture a bigger market share.
- Enhance customer relationships.
- Increase the number of marketing qualified leads.
- Increase the number of sales qualified leads.
- Improve internal communications.
- Improve stakeholder relations.
- Launch new products or services.
- Improve retention.
- Increase close rates.
- Meet sales quotas.
In the course of these conversations, you’ll quickly realize there is a lot to cover and no shortage of potential rabbit holes. To keep the project flowing and organized while also making sure you touch on all the key areas, it is a good idea to use a set of prepared questions. Sometimes referred to as a goals questionnaire or project planner, this document can be filled in as a group during one or more meetings or sent to stakeholders to fill in at their leisure.
Feel free to use our project planner as an example. You are welcome to use it for your own project or take ideas from it to get the wheels turning.
As you work through the questions it is important to keep in mind the overall purpose of the exercise: Presented near the start of a project, the answers to these questions set the stage for the project and helps everyone understand what you are trying to accomplish. In addition, it will identify where the website fits into the larger picture of your business.
Step 2: Review and Refine
At this point, you should have a good amount of information to work with. However, it may be a bit unruly. This information needs to be refined down into a cohesive website vision statement that can be easily communicated and agreed upon by everyone involved. This statement should represent the 10,000-foot view of the world you are trying to create. It is an anchoring point that lets everyone know you are heading in the right direction with the project.
Here’s an example website vision statement:
“Acme teaches site visitors about health insurance, encourages them to provide the information we need to give them a quote, and then helps those users through the screening process. The website’s goal is to not only get the attention of potential customers but to also earn their trust. Once they apply, one of Acme’s agents guides them through the process.”
Writing a vision statement takes time. Don’t rush it but also don’t let perfection slow progress. You can always come back and refine it.
Once you are feeling good about your vision statement, it’s time to move on to your focus areas. Here you break the vision statement down to identify how you are going to accomplish the vision. Start by creating two to four focus areas. Each should take the form of a short paragraph or bulleted list that facilitates the high-level goals that came up as a result of the questionnaire. This is where you will be placing the majority of your time and energy. So, it’s important to choose focus areas that will have the biggest impact on your business.
Let’s stick with the Acme vision statement from the example above and create ourselves three focus areas:
- Publish a series of public articles that educate prospects about affordable health insurance and promote on social media.
- Develop a questionnaire to collect information needed to provide a real-time health insurance quote with an option to have an agent contact them and begin the screening process.
- Create a follow-up email series for potential customers that opted to not have an agent contact them. This series will continue to educate potential customers and provide additional encouragement to complete the screening process.
Once you have your focus areas outlined, the last piece of the puzzle is setting goal metrics. Goal metrics give you a way to quantify whether you are getting close to completing the focus areas. Another way to look at it: What do you need to measure to indicate you are moving in the right direction?
Goal metrics should be expressed in a range. The target is the bare minimum you fully believe you will hit by a set deadline (example: end of the year). At the other end is an aspirational or stretch goal. This is the pie in the sky goal that could possibly be hit by putting in the extra effort plus a bit of luck. Like the bullseye of a target, the stretch goal is where you want to aim.
Let’s look at some goal metric examples for Acme:
- By publishing a public educational series we are aiming to increase month over month unique visitors to the website by 15-80%
- We estimate the questionnaire will convert 3-35% of unique visitors into marketing qualified leads [MQL] (follow-up series) and 2-20% into sales qualified leads [SQL] (agent contact).
- Follow-up email series is estimated to encourage 5-35% of recipients to complete the screening process.
Once you have these three refinements complete (vision, focus areas, and goal metrics) they can be organized into a grid for easy communication:
|VISION:||Acme teaches site visitors about health insurance, encourages them to provide the information we need to give them a quote, and then helps those users through the screening process. The website’s goal is to not only get the attention of potential customers but to also earn their trust. Once they apply, one of Acme’s agents guides them through the process.|
|Educate prospects||Publish a series of public articles that educate prospects about affordable health insurance and promote on social media.||Unique visitors||15%||80%|
|Collect information||Develop a questionnaire to collect information needed to provide a real-time health insurance quote with an option to have an agent contact them and begin the screening process.||MQL
|Encourage screening completion||Create a follow-up email series for potential customers that opted to not have an agent contact them. This series will continue to educate and provide additional encouragement to complete the screening process.||MQL=>Customer||5%||35%|
We’ve found 1-year cycles to be the ideal interval for developing growth-driven websites. To avoid losing focus, give yourself no more than 12 months to hit your target numbers.
By following this process, your defined goals should naturally become SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timebound). As opposed to general goals, these SMART goals will acutely focus your efforts and increase the likelihood that you use your time and resources productively during your project.
And yes, we know. It’s a lot of work. But goal setting is critical to your success. These goals will serve as guideposts for everything here forward. They are more than the definition of your goals. They are the measurable definition of success for the project.
First, gather information. Consider using a project planner like this one. Next, review and refine the information collected in order to create your vision statement, focus areas, and goal metrics.
Once you have that done, organize these three items and share them with your stakeholders for approval. From there, you’ll be ready to move forward to the next step of our process: understanding your audience.