Do you have marketing objectives for your Web site? With objectives to help overcome your main online challenges you can work smarter, not harder.
Think of your Web site objective as the "big picture". It is the basis for a marketing plan and, in general terms, answers the questions:
"How can I use the site to overcome my business's main Internet related challenge?" and/or "What is the purpose of my site?" When setting marketing objectives, keep your site's business model and customers' decision-making stages in mind.
The business model defines how your Web site fits into your business - how it will help your company grow. Direct revenue is a popular Web site business model, but it is not the only one. Some business models include:
- Direct Revenue / e-Commerce
Some of the most known Web site objectives relate to e-commerce or other types of direct revenue from the site. That is, the objective is to establish a direct source of revenue from orders or advertising space.
- Build Brand Image
A long-term marketing objective for your site could be to improve sales by building an image for your product, brand, and/or company. Increasingly, this is an explicit goal for large companies with ample budgets.
Small-budget companies can follow suit on a more affordable scale by building an image during the natural course of marketing. You can do this by consistently presenting similar design elements and "personality" at each point of contact with the world - whether that contact be virtual or physical.
- Enhance Customer Service
Your site can increase revenue indirectly by improving customer service. When customers are more satisfied, they tend to spread the word about your products as well as buy more often themselves.
Customers often do product research on a Web site then later place orders via catalogue, telephone, sales representatives, a physical retail store, mail, and/or fax. In all of these cases, a Web site indirectly contributes to building the business.
- Lower Operating Costs
A Web site can help your business by lowering costs. Automated customer service functions - Web-based FAQ, order status reports, product specifications, etc. - can lower the number of customer service calls, reducing customer service labor costs.
A Web presence can also lower operating costs by streamlining communication with your business partners. Business-to-business companies can create secure Web space to communicate and collaborate with customers.
It is even possible to have individual, private sites for major clients. A central "meeting place" that archives communications and other customer-specific information can cut down on administrative costs related to "phone tag", inquiries, and/or the need to consciously keep all players "in the loop".
On the supply side, you could reduce costly business disruptions by giving key vendors Web-based access to your inventory or other real-time information.
Customer Stages: Awareness, Interest, Trial, and Repeat
When setting your marketing objectives, it may help to think in terms of awareness, interest, trial, and repeat. These concepts are often used in marketing to explain the stages a new customer (or site visitor, in this case) goes through on the path to becoming loyal to your business.
The potential visitor must first become aware of your site. Once aware, you must spark an interest with the potential visitor, motivating her/him to trial, or respond to a call to action on your site. After (s)he visits your site, that person becomes loyal by revisiting in the future.
You may be able to most effectively build your business by focusing on one or two of awareness, interest, trial, or repeat visits, then changing your focus over time. If your site is brand new or known to very few people, for example, your plan is likely to concentrate on ways to increase awareness and interest.
A focus on interest and trial may be in order, however, if you get an above-average number of "window shoppers" - visitors who never purchase (or do not respond to some other call to action).
Additionally, if you sell multiple products or a product that needs replenishing from your site, focus on repeat purchases may be more effective.
Setting Your Marketing Objectives
While there are different approaches to setting objectives, my preference is to develop a single objective for a site that may encompass more than one approach to business building.
In the marketing plan, I include separate strategies and tactics to address each approach suggested in the site objective. I also like to note in the objective both the customer stage(s) and business model(s) I will focus on in the marketing plan. This makes it easier to decide upon the most effective marketing strategies.
Another approach is to address the customer stages separately, in a summary or write-up. With either approach, you should view your marketing plan as evolving over time. As the business environment and situations change, your focus should change as well.
Once you get past the launch stage of a new site, for example, you are in a better position to evaluate site traffic, so your plan may shift from focusing on awareness and interest to building trial and loyalty. Similarly, a better understanding of site visitors may lead you to adjust your business model to more closely address your company's and Web customers' needs.