In the past, if you wanted a new website – or to redesign an existing one – the first step was to find a web design firm. This was fine when your website was an online brochure.
Today, if you make your first concern the design and look/feel of your site, you’re missing valuable opportunities to use the web project to refine or redefine your business focus, to add new business lines – and to get found.
A marketing/business consultant is well suited to help you in this effort and is a prudent first stop. Getting an outside eye on your business and online marketing can yield fresh ideas about how you can use your web presence to grow.
Then find a good design/web development firm capable of implementing your brand identity and web strategy, offering technical advice, and organizing your content for usability. Your marketing consultant will undoubtedly be able to help you source the right partner.
Here are 20 steps to structuring a website project to maximize business growth:
1. Review and audit your current marketing, as well as new marketing approaches you’d like to add.
2. Be able to articulate, “What’s our business?”
3. Do a lot of competitive research. Look at other sites. See what your competitors are doing or not doing. A good consultant will come up with ways that you can leap-frog them with your expanded web presence. (Tip: SEO utilizing current best practices provides fertile soil for growth. Most businesses simply aren’t doing it, or doing it right.)
4. Be sure to answer the question: “Are there any new products, services or offerings related to our core business that we can and should add?”
5. Make sure you’re focused on the right customer.
6. Identify your market positioning.
7. Think out of the box to identify all stakeholders and key influencers.
8. Interview a few of them
9. Develop your key messages – the most important ideas you want to convey consistently to your audiences.
10. Do your keyword research – identify the words/phrases people are actually using to search on line for products/services like yours. (Hint: Not necessarily the words you’d use to search for them).
11. Organize your site by developing a sample navigation. Be sure to include a blog if you want to drive maximum traffic to your site. Have your consultant recommend internal linking strategies to help users work efficiently through your site.
12. Decide: What existing content can be re-used? What content should be scrapped? What new pages do you need to develop?
13. Determine the level of control you want or need to have over your website. What edits do you want to be able to make in-house without tech assistance. We recommend having as much control as possible if you want to use your website to help grow your business.
14. Source a web designer/developer who works in technology platforms that will accommodate the level of control you desire.
15. Provide the navigation and all the guidance you’ve developed in completing the steps above to your web developer. It will help them prepare a realistic budget.
16. Write/develop the content for all of your pages – including all SEO information for each page, any photos, videos and other media you’ll want to use – and provide the content to the web developer.
17. Get into the design process and have fun with the visual.
18. Code the site in accordance with the provided SEO, content and linking strategies. In the case of website re-do’s, make sure to properly re-direct existing pages and to retain important backlinks to the site.
19. Test and tweak for usability.
Emphasizing business and marketing strategy first in the web development process has never failed to yield new directions for our clients’ businesses.
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My Twitter account was hacked last night, so no Tuesday Tweets til I get things back to normal. Instead, I’ll share more learning from the 2011 Inbound Marketing Summit (#IMS11 if you want to follow it on Twitter), which I attended last week in Boston.
I put up a couple of quick posts while I was there, but now that I’ve had a chance to process the experience and review my notes I can offer you more in depth reporting and some key takeaways.
As in the past two years that I’ve attended, the speakers were the top names in marketing and media – online and offline. I’ll be sharing highlights of their talks over the next week or so – starting now.
Differentiating Your Company from the Competition
After a welcome by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who talked about the opportunities for tech companies in his state, Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon gave the opening keynote on the topic of marketing differentiation. This is a favorite topic of mine as I see so much boring sameness out there, industry to industry. Translate that to mean loss of opportunity.
In true HBS tradition, as she put it, Moon explained ‘being different’ via case studies of IKEA, Mini Cooper and Apple. These ‘different’ companies have built very devoted customers and share certain qualities that we can all try to emulate:
- Nurturing the seemingly crazy ideas that lead them to buck the status quo and become ‘different.’ (Think about launching a tiny car to the U.S. market in an age of SUVs.)
- Embracing their negatives. According to Moon, the genius is often in the negatives.
- Being willing to ignore critics.
- Not over-listening to customers, who can tell you how to improve, but not how to be different.
- Being passionate beyond belief – the extreme version of caring and believing.
Do You Really Need to Be On Google+?
Chris Brogan, who’s been evaluating Google+ in depth since it launched in June tackled the subject of why we need another social network. His answer: Technology Evolves! We need to go where our people are.
Brogan pointed out an array of now-defunct – or almost defunct – technology and sites to make his point. Do you remember Friendster? Does anyone log onto Geocities these days?
Beyond its ‘clean’ visual look, Google+ has added social functionalities that have been missing and that Twitter and Facebook have now responded to with similar features. Selective sharing has been embraced, along with the video conferencing capabilities of which people are making varied and creative use, i.e. holding intellectual ‘salons’ of gurus and regular folk or hosting international customer support forums.
But the most powerful reason to have a Google+ presence is that it’s the first social network that combines social with search. Google no longer indexes Twitter, but being on Google+ might just help you come up higher in organic search results than those who aren’t.
Middle of the Sales Funnel in the Spotlight
HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan used his speaking slot to address the shifting sales funnel. The first few years of inbound marketing have focused on stretching the top of the sales funnel by attracting more traffic to our websites and other online outposts and then converting the traffic to leads.
Inbound marketing 2.0 will be about how to better nurture leads through the middle of the sales funnel so that we develop a significant enough relationship to convert leads to customers when they’re ready to purchase. HubSpot recently acquired the company Performable, which has focused on middle-of-the-funnel technology that will now integrate with the HubSpot platform.
The key takeaway from Brian’s talk is that this shift in focus to the middle of the funnel coincides with the shift in power from the sales rep to the buyer created by the ability to research products and services online before buying. This has created a paradigm shift in the relationship between marketing and sales.
The new realities of buyer power require bigger marketing departments to handle the lead generation and nurturing processes and a smaller sales force that can concentrate on converting to customers the highly-qualified and sales-ready leads that marketing turns over to them.
More to come! Have you begun shifting your marketing to take advantage of new thinking and online tools?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
The Dow fell more than 500 points today. Bad news was exuding from every media outlet. I had an opportunity to get some perspective on it in my weekly networking group meeting from members who are highly sophisticated financial experts.
Then I came home, shared some conversation with my neighbor on her garden swing, pulled a bunch of weeds that have been bothering me while thinkingabout what my blog topic would be for today. Relaxing and getting still allowed me to realize what was concerning me – and probably you, too.
When markets go crazy and economies are shaky and there’s less business to go around, we can’t help but think about how we’ll compete for what business there is. This has been on my mind for some time and brought to the forefront by today’s events.
Bottom line, I’ve decided not to worry about who else is competing for a piece of the online/inbound marketing pie. Instead, I’m working on my own story. Thinking harder about what I bring to the table that will have value for my clients and that I can speak powerfully about to prospects. I’m thinking about my strengths – what I really do better than anyone I’ve encountered.
Then I’m evaluating my lighter abilities — what I fully understand but need partners to execute well.
And I’m working on my messaging so that I can communicate clearly and effectively. That includes listening and testing… talking to as many people as I can find who are willing to offer feedback as I hone my messages.
I’m asking myself:
- Are my offerings aligned with the needs of my client/prospect?
- Is my language completely understandable, or too jargon-y?
- Am I creating enough curiosity that people will be willing to stick around and learn more?
- Am I explaining my services so that the benefits and value come through loud and clear?
- Am I being human enough to connect and credible enough to build trust?
I believe that refocusing my energies on being as meaningful as possible to my market is my competitive edge.
How are you dealing with the competitive and business realities of the current economic environment?
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Today was a marathon networking day with both online and offline communities that are important to me – and to my business.
Early this morning I read blogs I subscribe to including Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, my ethnomusicologist Sociosound and my rock ‘n roll management guru Peter Cook who posted a brilliant satire on blues lyrics that started my day with a smile.
Then I went to my Twitter profile to connect with some new folks who followed me yesterday and made initial contact. Next, I sent a few invitations to people I want to connect with on LinkedIn – and accepted some invitations that came in overnite. And I received notices that people who I put into Google+ Circles yesterday on my first interaction with that new social network had put me into circles of theirs.
At noon, I arrived at the Riverside Yacht Club inGreenwich,Connfor the summer luncheon of Thursday III, a professional group of senior PR executives and consultants. The group is fascinating and stimulating. The members are authors and PR icons who guided communications for Fortune 100 companies, major agencies and presidential administrations. I fall only marginally into any of those categories and am honored to sit at lunch with these brilliant and creative people every other month. The stories and the knowledge sharing that happens in that group is the stuff that NY Times bestselling books are made of.
A delightful aspect of the luncheon was that I sat between Ed Bloch who was a PR executive for Perkin Elmer and Ian Kerr who led important PR agencies in Fairfield County and represented luxury global brands including Jaguar and Rolls Royce. Both Ed and Ian are beloved figures in the local and broader PR community. Both have wry senses of humor that make them really enjoyable lunch partners.
Ed Bloch subscribes to this blog and noticed my increased frequency of posting. He good-naturedly teased me that my posts were piling up but that he intended to read them. I gave him some suggestions of how he could work them into his day – including bathroom reading, I’m afraid to admit. I’m including him in this post partly so that I can tempt him to read what I said about him when I post it.
After a bit of catch-up in my office, I met with Connecticut Networking Group www.ctconnected.org. This is a spectacular high-level group of mostly young and accomplished business people – entrepreneurs in fact and at heart. We’re more an advisory board to one another’s businesses than a so-called leads group. Again I’m something of an outlier as I’m a bit senior to most of the members. We get to know one another so that we can refer each other with confidence. We share a consultative and relationship-building approach to business development.
Going from my seasoned PR colleagues to my young, energetic and exceptional networking group was a particularly rich experience; so much valuable input across generations.
After the CNG meeting, I went to a meet-up event on a big paddle wheeler on the Norwalk CT harbor – across from my house. This was a big open group where there were a few people from my established network and many whom I didn’t know. Unfortunately this event was not well organized – in particular, no name tags that would have facilitated and focused networking. I jumped ship right before the group took off for an unannounced harbor cruise – in favor of coming back to the office and posting to my blog and attending to other to-do’s.
All in all, this was a very positive day of connection. We never know what may come of a day like this. But who cares. It re-charges the engines to engage with our communities, reconnects us with people who add to our lives and gives us the opportunity to widen out our circles. Time well spent in my book.
Please share your on- and offline networking experiences.
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