Web Strategy: (Try to!) focus on the customer

On Tuesday I’m leading a workshop to develop the web strategy for our Demand Programs organisation – something which, to be honest, is completely DAUNTING.

In a large, complex organisation the web is also large and complex.  Each business unit has a vested interest in their own portion of the site, with different objectives and strategies.  The closest I came to finding a single strategy document was an architectural strategy and technical blueprint – god bless IBM and its engineering background!

With so many conflicting interests, the corporate website does start to represent what Jeremiah Owyang stated as:

“… an unbelievable collection of hyperbole, artificial branding, and pro-corporate content.”

In order to take a step back and approach the web with a fresh pair of eyes, I’m adopting the following approach:

1. Establishing a vision

I read a fantastic article by Jared Spool that explores three key questions teams should pose to deliver great user experiences, and I thought the first one would be a great way for the team to distance themself from the current quagmire of URLs:

“Describe what the user’s experience will be like in five years.”

Painting a vision of this experience as a narrative is a great technique for thinking about the web from a user’s perspective.  It stops people focusing on technological distractions like keyword selection, analytics, etc.  Of course these elements are important when it comes to implementing a strategy, but getting hung-up on the detail without a clear vision is like steering a ship without a compass.

2. Website objectives

What are we trying to achieve with this site?  What do we want visitors to do on the site?  Is it for thought leadership?  E-commerce?  Response generation?  And are our objectives SMART?

God knows that five letter acronym is a rarity when measurement systems have a singular focus on revenue in terms of leads and wins – neither of which is easy to track and attribute when complex B2B sales cycles can span years.  Teams tends to be in execution mode with little time left to determine strategies and plans, and even less time for post-campaign analysis.

I listened to a recent HubSpot webinar where they claimed a website had to be about conversions.  If you weren’t converting visitors on your site, you were throwing money down the drain.  It’s like owning a retail store with high footfall, and having people walking straight back out past the tills without buying anything.

In the early days of the web, this was the primary objective – i.e. it was a promotional vehicle.  However, now, with the rich collaborative opportunities on offer in the web 2.0 world, websites are increasingly about relationship-building and lead generation.

And I have to agree with Mike Volpe, corporate websites HAVE to be about conversions and response generation.

3. Target audience(s)

  • Who are the primary and secondary audiences we attract to the site?
  • How do we want to prioritise these in terms of our business objectives?
  • What kinds of information are they looking for?
  • What are their key decision drivers?
  • What’s appealing to them about our products/services?
  • What kinds of questions would each audience segment have that’s causing them to visit our site in terms of our products/services, their perception of IBM, and what their next steps should be?
  • Does our website currently provide that information?

4. Competitive assessment

What are the pros and cons of our competitors sites in terms of their home page layout, structure of information, calls to action, customer journey, etc.

5. Traffic sources

Where is our current traffic coming from today?  What growth metrics do we want to place on these current sources?  What new sources do we want to include?

6. Strategy & metrics

Against each of our web objectives, what strategies are we going to employ to help us achieve these, and how will we measure success?  e.g. search, eNurturing, social media, etc.

I’d love to hear what approach you’ve used and whether there are any key elements I’m missing.


2 thoughts on “Web Strategy: (Try to!) focus on the customer

  1. would like to add a couple more key elements that are associated with web strategy…
    1) Budget
    2) Communication Message
    3) Tracking/analyzing/reporting

    I believe 3rd one is the most important part while working on web as it helps you to track/judge your performance quickly.


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