The aim of this article is to explain the process one needs to follow to create a successful website for your business. That means that it needs to achieve the goals outlined in your marketing plan and that it needs to be synergistic with your corporate brand proposition. And – above this – that means it needs to be aligned with your business plan too. Please note that our Marketing Matters blogs are normally aimed at SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses) and start-up enterprises. However, the same basic rules apply for any organisation, regardless of its size.
Align your website with your business plan
First things first. What are your business objectives? That’s the question you need to know the answer to before you do anything else. There are some organisations who don’t have a formal business plan in place but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing – it just means that it is perhaps more intuitive. However, there is always the danger when there is more than one person involved in the running of a business that they might be thinking different things when it comes to their ambitions and aspirations. What we often find is that many businesses grow to a certain size on the back of hard work and great skill. However, they can struggle to grow larger unless they improve their marketing collateral in order to deliver a professional and credible first impression to prospective clients. Defining your business plan more formally need not be considered an undesirable job. Rather, it should be viewed as an exciting opportunity that looks at where you are, and discusses where you want to be. That might mean exploring new markets or developing new products and services – or both. It will be looking at what you stand for and what makes you stand out from the crowd – this is the essence of a strategic brand proposition; it is the character and personality of your business.
Sort out all your marketing collateral
Once you know your business plan and have worked out your brand strategy (and made sure all your people are aware of it and support it) you then need to think about the messaging you wish to convey on your sales and marketing materials. Of course, the website is normally the most important piece of collateral you have. It’s where suspects and prospects tend to go first of all, to take a look at what you do and to get a feel for the type of company you are likely to be. That’s why it is the one marketing item we tend to think of more than any other. But it is not the only consideration. You also need to have all your other marketing communications in place too, and they all need to be synergistic with one another. That might mean a corporate presentation, corporate video, brochure, stationery, signage… whatever you need to have in place in your interactions with potential and actual customers.
Scope out your website
So, now you know all the above, you can start scoping out your website. First of all, think of the different top line categories you are going to need – such as a home page, an about page, a product and/or service page, an industry sectors page, a case studies page, a blog page, a contact page… It’s not difficult. If you’re not sure where to start, why not check out the competition and see what they do – and emulate that. Then you need to think about the sub-pages which fit within each main category. Such as people bios within your about page, and specific industry sector pages within your industry sectors page. And then you need to think about any need for sub-pages to the sub-pages. And so on. In reality, you will probably only have main pages and sub-pages, but obviously each business is different, so do this content mapping exercise in the way that seems right for your organisation.
Interlink your pages
Now you have all the pages in place, the next step is to think about how you can link different pages together. For instance, somebody in your organisation might work in one industry sector and be a specialist in the delivery of two specific products and services. Or a case study might be linked to three individuals, four products and one industry sector. That means you can intuitively work out a flow that naturally ties these different pages together. Google loves interlinking and so do users, so make sure you spend time doing this properly; this is not a time to cut corners. It can be good to have links to external organisations too, but please remember to make sure they always open up in a new window – including any social media links. You don’t want to be sending your customers away from your website…
Create high quality content
Next thing is to create all the content. This is easier said than done and copywriting comes with a big red warning flag. It’s the one area where it is easy to think one can save costs. We can all write; however, that does not mean that we can all write well. It is almost always better to commission a specialist copywriter to write or edit your web copy. Copywriting also takes up an inordinate amount of time, which is why – even with the best of intentions – the production process can drag on for weeks or months, and the quality can diminish in the desire to get things out of one’s inbox as quickly as possible. Far better to brief a copywriter, and to work with them to create content that is fit for purpose and resonates well with your target audience.
Strategic marketing planning process
This is a nice segue into our strategic marketing planning process. This framework guides clients along the path of any project to make sure they deliver outcomes that are as efficient and effective as possible. It involves an understanding of the business plan and a company’s products and services, an analysis of their target markets, a review of competitors, customer research, the development of a strategic brand proposition, the creation of a stakeholder communications plan, the design of a sales pipeline process following the bowtie marketing methodology, recognition of the possible need for the internal sales culture to change or evolve, the deployment of lead generation activities and the setting of targets, timelines and budgets. All of this activity should be measured, analysed and improved on an ongoing basis. This process will enable you to understand your overall marketing proposition and your overall brand proposition that define the character and personality of your business. Your values, views, virtues, vision and vows. The benefits of your products and services, and the pain points of your customers. What sets you apart from the competition. And this information in turn will inform the copywriting process, so that you are able to create content that is relevant, engaging and informative. Once again, this approach is loved by users and search engines alike.
Creative brand proposition
Your creative brand proposition will inform the look and feel of your website. Remember, a design style is far more than being just about a logo. It is a conceptual visualisation of your strategic brand proposition. It is sympathetic to your business proposition and your products and services, and empathetic to the emotional drivers and rational needs of your customers and prospects. Good design feels like a good user experience that is slick and intuitive and makes a person feel good, warm, or positive towards your company. A good brand experience is not just about the look and feel of the design and the words on the page – it is about other content too – photos, graphics, videos, downloads…. Anything you can create that gives a potential customer the information they need to make a well-informed decision. That might be to buy something from your website, or call you up to arrange a meeting. Whatever’s right for your organisation.
Calls to action
Sorting out the calls to action is a must when putting together your website – and getting it right is trickier than you might think. Some companies are too shy, and some too pushy. Find the common ground. Feel your way to what works best for your company. Again, this will be determined by your business plan – who your customers are, what your brand personality is, how the sales process works… It’s a good idea to take people on a journey, rather than trying to get someone to buy as soon as they land on your website. Most people don’t like being immediately subjected to signup offers and instant purchase promotions when they visit a website. More likely than doing what we are asked to do, we will leave the website, never to return…
Of course, it is always a good idea to try and capture data from your website visitors – maybe there is the option to provide added value content and promotional offers to people who sign up for your newsletter or to one of your social media channels. Data has great value, especially if you plan to put together a sales pipeline. For companies that deal with large volumes of data, this can add real value to your business should you be looking to sell the business at some point in future. You can also install Google Analytics software to find out how your website is performing, and install lead forensics software such as Leedfeeder if you are a B2B website in order to track people who visit your website.
Before you launch, don’t forget to optimise your on-page SEO. Search engine optimisation is something you need to think about at the very beginning of the process. Ask yourself what potential customers are likely to type into Google when searching for a company that provides your products and services. This will make sure that you have content on the website that references this terminology. This process should happen intuitively as you are scoping your website and writing your copy, but it is always good to formally check. The best source of information about all the factors you need to consider for both on-the-page and off-the-page is SearchEngineLand’s periodic table of SEO. It is also a good idea to find out what keywords your competitors are using.
Make sure you have a responsive website
Make sure your website is responsive too – that means it displays properly on mobile devices – not just one of them, but all of them. Android and iOS. Apple, Samsung and all the rest. So many people conduct research on their mobile phones these days. Of course, there is also a large number of people who work on desktops and laptops, so the website needs to be optimised for both, as well as tablets too.
Use the right web platform
You can build your website on any platform you like – this will be determined by the functional specification. For most SMEs, this will probably be a fairly standard requirement. For start-ups – especially those offering a technology-led solution, the functional spec will probably be a complex project that requires specialist knowhow. WordPress is a platform that works perfectly well for many types of businesses, and you can bolt on WooCommerce easily enough if you are selling online. WordPress is an off-the-shelf platform that will almost certainly require specialist coding to make it do what you want it to do. And some web developers use nothing more than the framework to code a fully-customised solution. There are many other options to choose from such as Shopify and Squarespace. Just make sure you use the right one for your business. And if that doesn’t exist, you can always build from scratch.
Don’t cut corners on web hosting
Web hosting can make or break a website. This is not a place to cut corners either. Invest in a robust web hosting platform that is quick to load and never falls over, and you will keep users and search engines as happy as possible. There are lots of providers out there, but it is probably best to avoid the larger suppliers such as GoDaddy and go for a UK-based service such as Positive Internet to name one of many we are happy to recommend.
Make sure you are legal
Invest in web maintenance
Finally, make sure you have got a good web maintenance contract in place and that a specialist is keeping your website up-to-date, backed up, stable and secure. It costs a small amount of money but delivers a great deal of reassurance.
Get in touch
It can sometimes help to engage a marketing agency to help you to create your new website. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about who we are, what we do, who we work with, and how we can help. We offer a free no-obligation two-hour marketing consultation at a venue of your choice to discuss any marketing challenges you are facing. You can find out more about what we do at https://www.abacusmarketing.co.uk/ and we are always happy to discuss your needs on the phone at 020 3858 7836 or by email at [email protected] Alternatively, please fill in our contact form and we will aim to get back to you within one working day.