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The challenge of taking your business online – planning a website and online business strategy – II

Hey Everyone,

The last time we were on the subject of website planning we spoke about the need for website planning and its various aspects. I hope by now its clear why you need a strategic approach to your online presence. Even beforeyou start thinking about Internet marketing, SEO, SEM on google / yahoo, social media presence with Facebook, Twitter, linkedin etc or reaching out to your existing consumers with your website, you must think through and engage a professional organisation.

This will save you effort and time which ultimately translate into cost savings and allow you to focus your attention towards your business activities.

In the last post you read about how understanding the target audience was important. Now let’s look at the other aspects. You need to ask the following questions,

What will appeal to my Target Audience / prospects?
What differentiates my products from competition?
What products should I to promote online on my website?
What about content planning?

Alongwith these you need to define your objectives as clearly as you can.
Objective/s could be many like,

1. Business Promotion to a larger audience across markets (local, regional, national, international)
2. Increase business leads
3. To educate, inform and build trust
4. Improve customer satisfaction with product & service information
5. Lower the cost of sales by cutting down on print collaterals & travel expenses.
6. Build a database of potential customers for future marketing. Very important as Spam laws are going to be more stringent.
7. Direct Sales online – reduce the cost of middlemen and provide the cost benefit to consumers thereby increasing market share.

So what appeals to your target audience.

In the last post I wrote about how understanding your target audience will help you focus on making a better business website. Now let’s move a step further. Its time to clearly start working on what will please the visitor on your website. Audiences are segmented by demographics / psychographics and have different search and buying behaviours. Different age groups, genders, nationalities, regional diversities and much more exist and thus a correct approach needs to be chosen. This though difficult needs understanding of existing customers (yours and competition) and building upon the information to ensure better consumer experience on your website. What will appeal to them, how should the product/s be placed, should their be a video demonstration or just pictures would do, basically how will the offline perception of your business and brand be translated to fit the Internet. These are some basic questions you need to answer.

The next step is to create a content map. Yes, simply put you need you lay down what is it that you want to show the visitors to your website. This is also called the content planning stage. This can indeed lead to a long list and will need to be filtered a couple of times to arrive at a final content map. Once you have the content plan in place you need to categorise it as the most important to the least important from a consumers and product perspective. Planning which products and services are important for revenue and which are important to get more customers to the website, what kind of information needs to be made available, how much is enough, what will help the consumer decide, should you have comparison charts or expert reviews, what about testimonials and FAQ’s etc etc needs to be decided. The content map is critical to the success of your online presence and will impact on interactions on your website.

This done you now come to the most important part – Navigation and Usability. You now know your audience and what will appeal to them, now its time for you to guide your audience. Navigation is akin to creating a route map and usability is all about smart placement of links and content. A good website navigation and usability plan makes it easy for the user to move around the site quickly and reach a decision. Thus proper planning is very important. Think about a well laid out departmental store – remember how easy it is to move from one product to another and how smart placement of products along the way has lead to impluse purchases. That’s how the website has got to be. Its the user experience which will get you loyal customers and lead to free social media marketing.

An important aspect of being online is the ability to allow your customers to reach out to you. This could be for simple queries or complaints and suggestions. Though this may not be a part of your defined objectives this must be understood as a given for any website. This means you need to make it easier for the customer to reach you at all times. Loyalty comes from a health relationship and that means freedom to approach.

Basic hygiene demands that you have the following 7 pages on your website :

1. Home
2. Products / services
3. About us / about company
4. Privacy policy
5. Contact details (contact form + contact number or address)
6. Sitemap
7. Freqeuently Asked Questions

And finally now its time to reach the website design team. A professional internet marketing company would typically follow all the above mentioned processes before embarking on design. Once you are clear about your online business objectives, have defined your audience and their requirements, created a good content map and arrived at a feasible navigation and usability plan, all you need to do is put this all together and brief the design team and see your dream unfurl in colour and go live with some smart use of technology.

There will more on website design and content management systems in my posts to come. There is a lot of talk these days about how personal branding is taking shape with the help of the Internet. I will share my views on that soon.

Hope you enjoyed this post. See you soon.

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