Website Strategy vs Business Strategy (and why they are so similar)
Website strategy and business strategy are extremely closely tied to one another – you can’t have one without the other. Forbes knew what they were talking about when they described how to create a successful business strategy here.
I build websites, so I get asked for quotes a lot (well, duh). Unfortunately, the ‘website quote’ is often the starting point for a new business owner when they first have their new business idea.
While I understand the importance of knowing how much money you’re in for as early as possible, an accurate quote can only be compiled once a LOT of questions have been answered first.
In other words, you need a proper business strategy or plan in place FIRST, and know exactly how your business is going to operate, before you attempt to build a website for it.
People are sometimes annoyed that I can’t just give them a quote. Yes, I can ballpark it, but that isn’t going to be of much use to their budget if they decide halfway through that actually they’d like to ship internationally as well as locally, and also they’d like the website in two different languages. These kinds of strategic changes mean huge changes in the scope of the website AND the scope of the business.
This is why I believe business strategy and website strategy are so closely linked.
I have compiled a few questions to help you to decide on how your business (and therefore website) will work.
I believe it’s hugely important to be able to answer all these questions BEFORE you embark on a new business idea, and definitely before you get a website quote.
1. What problem are you solving for your customer?
Your business should solve a problem and then charge for it. It’s how we make money! So, I like to imagine that your customers arrive on your website with a question or concern in mind, and your website should immediately answer that question (and preferably then charge for it!).
Customer: “Help, I need to buy insurance! What do I do?”
Website: “We sell insurance for X and Y and Z. Click here to buy it now.”
2. What is the first decision a new visitor must make when landing on your website for the first time?
This is an interesting one… To answer this, you must know how your target market thinks, and how they should be strategically GUIDED around your website, so they eventually do what you want them to do (like buy a product). This is the very essence of website strategy – build a website that entices your customers to do what YOU want them to do.
To share an example: I recently worked on a website that offered both virtual and in-person classes, as well as private and semi-private appointments (also virtual or in-person). So how would a new visitor to the website sign up for such a service? Will they decide between virtual or in-person first, or will they decide between classes or appointments first?
While virtual or in-person is easy terminology for anyone to understand, will brand new visitors know the difference between classes and appointments without a clear explanation upfront? How should this website be laid out? Should visitors be offered virtual or in-person first, or should they be shown classes or appointments first? Or should there possibly be four buttons: virtual, in-person, group, or private? I don’t know the answer for your business, but you need to be able to answer for yourself.
This answer should also apply to how your business operates in real life. If someone calls you, what do they ask you first? How do you guide them through your sales process? Do you even have a specific sales process?
Which leads me to…
3. Can you write down the strategic process you’d like your customer to follow, on paper?
Ideally, this should be a roadmap for the path that your customer will follow when they come across your business for the first time. This will be built around your business strategy, which means that it will directly inform your website strategy – i.e. It translates to what your customer will do when they land on your website.
Example: If you sell courses, your visitors could choose their course first, then their time slot/s, and then their package or subscription. Or should they choose their course first, then their package and THEN their time slot/s? If you know your target market well enough, you should know how they think and therefore which process would work the best for them.
The real life experience should be similar to the website experience. A website is usually just a great way to automate the process for both you and your customer – it should make buying from you simpler, and cut down on your admin.
If you can’t write the step-by-step process down yourself, it’s not clear enough in your own mind to build into a business model, or a website.
4. Once you have your roadmap written down, how will your business (and therefore website strategy) service that path?
Example: If you sell products, there are many things to consider, both for your business strategy AND your website strategy… What countries will you sell to? Who will deliver for you? How much stock will you invest in, and where will you keep it? How much will you charge for delivery? Will you insure your products which they’re in transit and how will that impact your delivery charge?
These are business strategy questions but directly impact how your website will work. If you sell to various countries, do you need a site in different languages? What about if your product is large and heavy – do you have a courier who can automatically calculate shipping at checkout and, if not, how will you charge for shipping to various countries or local areas? If you don’t want to keep a lot of stock on hand, what delivery timeframe will you promise your customer? You can’t overnight an item if you don’t have it with you.
5. This last one is more about website strategy, but it speaks to the primary goal of your business too… What do you want people to do on your website?
Will they buy your product directly, or join your membership, or view your portfolio, or subscribe to your newsletter, or something else? You should be guiding your visitors around your website. The steps they should take must be laid out clearly, in easy-to-understand language, with clear calls to action.
Don’t make your customer work too hard to become your customer!
Dealing with you, whether over email, the phone, in-person, or on your website should be easy! The simpler you are to deal with, the more sales you’ll make.
A final thought…
The more automated the website, the more expensive it’s likely to be. Everyone wants ‘simple’ (both customers and business owners alike) but sometimes a simple front-end for a complicated back-end process can be an expensive beast to build. Please bear that in mind when budgeting for your business, AND your website.
If you’d like to have a look at some websites we have built, please look through our website design portfolio here.