Online success can be an elusive goal, even for well established businesses. The internet changes quickly, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The following three questions are intended to help you determine what is truly important, and provide a stable foundation for your web strategy. It is only a start, but by taking this first step you are already miles ahead of much of the competition.
What are the business objectives?
It is impossible to build a successful strategy without first establishing goals, and how they will be measured. What do you want your online efforts to do for your business? Reduce customer service calls? Increase online sales? How much? How soon?
Be specific, but resist the urge to prescribe solutions. Focus on the problem, and keep your business objectives goal oriented. For example:
- Bad Goal: Use Twitter to increase online sales
- Good Goal: Increase online sales
- Better Goal: Increase online sales by 20% in six months
Staying away from solutions, here, allows the next question to help reveal a strategy.
What are your users’ needs?
Even if you sell scarves, you are not selling to everyone with a neck. Some people prefer turtlenecks, or beards. Identify your users. Be specific. Learn what they want from you, and in what areas your business succeeds or fails to deliver.
This is not an easy task. The best user insights come from professional user research, and we highly encourage our clients to invest in it. However, the cost can be a barrier for some businesses. That said, there are still ways to get insights into your users.
Use website analytics to understand website usage. Seek user feedback, both on site, and through customer surveys. A word of caution, the data can be difficult to interpret. Users are great at indicating that a problem (or opportunity) exists, terrible at identifying it, and worse at suggesting a response.
Where is the intersection?
The answers to the first two questions are probably imperfect. Don’t let that stop you from building and testing a strategy. Find the place where user needs and business objectives overlap, and focus your efforts there.
Test, test, test. Use what you learn from the success or failure of your strategies to refine your goals, and gain further insight into your users. Then, test some more. Approaching your online efforts in this way may even reveal insights into how to improve your business offline.
Don’t let fear of failure stop you. The cost of online failure is far less than in other areas of marketing. Keep learning, and keep refining. With this policy, the only way to truly fail is through inaction.