Five Steps to a Healthy Web Strategy

web developmentEveryone hates going to the doctor, but it may be time to take your website in for a checkup. After all, a healthy website needs to be part of a larger web strategy that supports your business, marketing and customer goals. Heading into the New Year is a terrific time to take the temperature of your own online strategy. A little bit of strategic planning can go a long way to create and sustain success online in 2007 and beyond.

According to a new online survey conducted by The McKinsey Quarterly fewer than half of the executives who responded say that they are satisfied with their company's approach to planning strategy. Combine this with the fact that very few businesses have a web strategy in alignment with their overall business strategy, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Here at TSC, we routinely sit down with organizations to help them develop a web strategy. There are five key steps that will help you get the strategic building blocks in place and jump start your own planning process.

1. Business Goal Alignment
All too often, a web strategy is created by the web group and is not aligned with the overall business goals. Or conversely, a CEO will set specific mandates without ensuring the online tactics and programs being put in place are in alignment. Surprising as it sounds, many web strategies fail because folks do not organize their business goals and commit them to a plan. Before you embark on any web initiative, application or marketing campaign, ensure that it aligns with your overall organizational goals.

2. Measurement Audit & Planning
Most companies understand the value of measurement, but many still don't have a compressive measurement strategy to determine the effectiveness of their online initiatives. By knowing exactly which key performance indicators matter to your business, you can make data-driven decisions and create a culture of accountability and experimentation. If you do nothing else, ensure that you have measurement systems in place and, more importantly, the people in place to analyze and take action on the data. At the start of most of our client relationships, ISITE Design's web analytics consulting services help organizations set up measurement strategies and define success requirements for new initiatives.

3. Understand Your Audiences
It can be easy to get wrapped around your business goals and forget WHO you are designing your site for. Your customers, prospects, partners, media and key stakeholders all have specific reasons for engaging with your organization online. How well are you supporting their needs? A successful web strategy starts with defining your audience goals and mapping them to your business objectives. User research such as web surveys, interviews and user testing can quickly give you insight that can be used to formulate your web strategy.

4. Monetize Results
In order to understand the value of your website, it is critical to monetize key online activities. This is an easy task with commerce sites that have direct revenue from the online channel. However, how do you monetize the value of a lead generation site? By looking at each lead type, you can determine its eventual value to your organization as it moves through the sales cycle. For example 10% of your whitepaper downloads may turn into sales that have an average value of $1,000. You then know that each lead is worth approximately $100 to your business. Customer support sites can monetize the value of online interactions by the dollars it saves on traditional call center and offline activities. By monetizing all of your key online activities, you can then make better decisions about where to invest and how those investments impact your overall bottom line.

5. Goal Setting & Prioritization
There is never a shortage of ideas on what you could do online. The key is to prioritize your web initiatives based on the impact to your business, value to your customers and overall bottom line value to your organization. After you have your initiatives prioritized, set detailed goals of what you hope to achieve on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Revisit these goals regularly and make any adjustments along the way.

In Conclusion

Developing a web strategy may sound difficult, but starting with these five simple steps can have you on the way to a finely tuned web strategy that drives real value for your business. And remember to have a little fun with it along the way. The web offers a tremendous opportunity to experiment and test new ideas to reach, convert, retain and delight your customers online.