5 Things to Think About Before You Launch
Your Next Website
By Jonathan Kranz,
principal, Kranz Communications
I can't help but mourn the number of sites I see
that represent missed opportunities.
There may be nothing particularly "wrong" about the
design, the underlying coding, or even the
writing—but these websites aren't right, because
they fail to connect with customers in any
meaningful way (the way that ultimately brings
customers to your door and cash to your register).
The root problem seems to be a lack of imagination
that is further exacerbated by a poor understanding
of the fundamentals.
If you're reviewing your own site—or working on one
for a client—I encourage you to consider the
1. Take your eyes off your competitors and put
them where they belong:
on your customers.
Sure, you should take a glance at your competitors
(hopefully, a backward one) from time to time. But,
too many enterprises initiate their Web efforts by
reviewing their competitors' sites.
Without critical information about how well these
sites perform, how can you know what's worth
retaining or rejecting? Worse, competitor sites can
be downright misleading. Too often, I've seen people
reject exciting, potentially lucrative new ideas,
precisely because "no one else is doing it." Well,
maybe that means it's a foolish idea. But, maybe it
means you can seize an opportunity others have
The only way to know, or to make a reasonable guess,
is to look at your customers—and I mean closely. How
do they shop? How do they conduct research? What
information do they need before they'll act, or even
show interest? Which authorities do they trust? What
encourages confidence and trust? Where do they
"live," not just in flesh-life (hangouts,
associations, communities), but in virtual-life?
What media, traditional and online, do they read?
Which bloggers do they follow? And where do they
like to gather online (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace,
2. Your Web presence is much bigger than just
The truth is, your site isn't the only resource your
prospects have for investigating your products or
services. People are talking—on blogs, on forums, on
online media sites, on open community forums, and
"closed" proprietary sites (often built around
industries or interests). What's said there is every
bit as important, perhaps more important, than
what's expressed on your own site.
You can choose to ignore those alternative locations
(and judging by most sites, that's what many
companies do), but your customers do not.
How will you manage those other sources? Will you
monitor, listen, and, when appropriate, respond? How
will your site relate to those other sources? Can
you develop content that can be spread and shared
across the Web? Are there opportunities to encourage
links back to your site? Will you cultivate
relationships—among communities and with key thought
leaders—that can stimulate more interest in your
When you keep the big picture in mind, then it makes
sense to think of your site not as an island on the
Web, but as a crossroads where important connections
can be made and sustained.
3. What's the underlying business model?
Turning your corporate capabilities brochure into a
Website is not a business model; it's merely the
illusion of having an online presence when, in fact,
all you've created is a reason for potential
visitors to ignore you.
Instead, you should think of your site primarily in
terms of not what you want to say, but what you want
visitors to do.
It's vital to give this matter deep thought, because
decisions made in favor of one model may preclude
options that would work in another. Let's consider
three major models:
You offer products and
services people can purchase directly, on the site
itself. Under this model, you'll need flawless tools
for taking orders and accepting payment—plus, all
the information a prospect might want (including
product specs, testimonials, shipping info, etc.)
for making a purchase.
I'm not saying one approach is necessarily better
than another; the right choice is the one that best
serves the intersection between your business and
your customers. But, I am saying that your strategic
decisions lead to important tactical choices that
often cannot be mixed with each other.
2. Outbound or "sales": You bait your site with
offers that give you an opportunity to collect
lead-generation data you'll use in subsequent sales
efforts. The principle here is one of exchange: You
offer something of perceived value (say a
whitepaper, webinar, or e-newsletter) in return for
information (name; title; company; email address;
etc.), which you'll either direct to your sales
team, or deposit in a lead-nurturing system.
3. Inbound or "marketing": You create a site loaded
with rich content that becomes a center of community
interest. As your credibility rises, you become the
trusted resource of choice in a given product or
category. Exciting stuff—but you need a consistent
stream of buzz-worthy content to make it work.
For example, Michael Stelzner is a firm believer in
gating content to gather leads. Under his sales
model, this works; he's able to direct leads into
other channels (e-newsletters, seminar offers) that
push prospects through the sales funnel. David
Meerman Scott; however, believes in open content
without any registration; that works for him, as it
accelerates the distribution of his content; in
turn, leading to impressive book sales and lucrative
The two approaches are contradictory, yet one or the
other may be right for you—if it fits your overall
4. Content should drive structure, not the other way
No one in her right mind would design a book cover,
select a binding, and create an index, before
actually writing the book itself. But, that's
exactly what so many people do when they approach a
website: The architecture comes first; then a
copywriter is summoned to fill in the blanks. Silly!
Why does that happen? Usually, because the project
is led by the wrong people: the Web developers. From
their perspective, it's all about navigation and
code. What you want however, is a business
perspective (all of the above points) to lead the
With business leads, content comes first, not last.
And, the site is then designed around the kinds of
content that make sense for your prospects, your
customers, and your business.
5. It's not about you.
This principle is the most basic, yet most
difficult, to embrace. Even though it may be "your"
site, the site isn't, or shouldn't be, about you.
Yet, most sites persist in narcissism: Endless pages
"about us," mission statements; methodologies;
philosophies; visions. All created under the
illusion that these things create "competitive
If you believe that, take this simple acid test.
Select a key phrase from your mission statement or
"vision," and Google it. Look at the number of
returns and then tell me how "distinctive" your
vision really is. Reality: No one cares.
What do visitors care about? Themselves. Their
interests and needs. And, unless your site reflects
your visitors' hopes, dreams, and desires—unless it
speaks their language and on their terms—you're done
So, what's next?
As the Web evolves, most companies do a fairly good
job keeping pace with emerging technologies. But,
the harder, yet more rewarding work, involves
keeping up with changing "how’s:” The different ways
people use the Internet to learn; communicate; shop;
entertain themselves; and more.
By matching your Web presence to your customers' Web
habits, you stand the best chance of winning their
confidence and cash.
---Source: MarketingProfs June 8,
2010 (www.marketingprofs.com). Jonathan Kranz is the
principal of Kranz Communications. Reach him at
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