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  Article # 13
  The Fundamentals of Web Site Strategic Planning
  by: Rick Costello, The Web Site Profit Doctor.


Steven Covey's second habit, "begin with the end in mind," helps us become more effective in our day-to-day endeavors. Similarly, when applied to the Web design process, we gain a roadmap to our desired results and a clear vision of success.

This may sound simple, but it's not exactly mainstream ideology. Thousands, maybe millions of companies across the globe invested in Web technology without a measurement plan. Let's learn form from these mistakes.

Guided by business objectives, market research and competitive intelligence, Web site strategic planning starts with the desired outcome.

Ask yourself:

  • What can help my business operate profitably?
  • What can I accomplish with Web technology?
  • How will I measure success?
  • What are my risks?
  • How long until I see ROI?

From that point on, all web design tasks (market research, information architecture, content development, copywriting, functionality design, technology alignment, merchandising strategies, action-oriented incentives, graphic design, usability testing, search engine optimization and traffic building) should support your business objectives.

Got all that? Let's get started...

Step 1: Define the Web site's purpose, all associated business objectives and targets

For example:

  • Purpose: Increase sales revenues
  • Objective: Capture qualified sales leads for the Insurance Dept.
  • Metrics: Total Web site traffic, conversion rates, phone calls, electronic lead capture, and database entries
  • Monthly target: 2,000 unique visitors (2% macro conversion), 40 warm leads
  • Value: $10,000.00 ($250 per qualified lead)

Other sample objectives:

  • Increase brand awareness (and yes, this can be measured)
  • Reduce cost of sales
  • Up sell product add-ons
  • Cross sell service lines
  • Reduce call center volume
  • Gain customer and visitor feedback

Other sample metrics:

  • Pre and post exposed vs. unexposed awareness
  • Sales initiated on Web
  • Purchase amount per customer
  • Total repeat purchases
  • Calls to helpdesk and customer support
  • Survey response numbers

Step 2: Define and understand your target market

To connect with Joe Customer, walk a day in Joe Customer's shoes.

  • What kind of company does Joe work for?
  • What is Joe's official job title?
  • What are Joe's daily responsibilities?
  • What is Joe's typical behavior (as it relates to your product or service)?
  • What does Joe need to make his job or life easier?
  • What kind of biases and objections will Joe have to buying?
  • What are some of Joe's outside and inside influences?
  • What is Joe's online experience?

Note: If your objectives fall on the in-house cost reduction and efficiency side of the fence, you must walk a day that user's shoes.

Step 3: Define the benefits of your products and services

Remember the consumer's "What's in it for me" (WIIFM) mentality? Only when you understand how Joe Customer thinks, feels, justifies, and decides among purchase alternatives, can you influence his decision to buy.

The goal of your copy is to communicate how your product or service makes Joe Customer's life or job easier/better. Do this for each product and service.

Step 4: Define your Web site's voice and Unique Selling Proposition

Another copywriting goal is to convince Joe Customer that you are the best possible choice - especially over your closest competitors. Start by defining your unique selling proposition and build a compelling case. The more reasons, the more perceived value, the better.

Ask yourself:

  • What makes our company unique?
  • Why would Joe buy from us vs. a competitor?
  • How do I communicate unparalleled value?
  • How do I convince visitors we are credible and trustworthy?

Step 5: Define the strategies and tactics needed to accomplish your objectives

Now that you know what should be accomplished and how to connect with Joe Customer, it's time to apply the technology. A project manager, business analyst, lead designer or outside consultant typically performs this task.

Ask yourself:

  • How and where do I get targeted Web site visitors?
  • How do I encourage repeat visits?
  • How do I encourage additional Web site visits?
  • How can I automate this?
  • How do we convert Web site visitors into leads?
  • How do we qualify and validate these leads?
  • How do I retain loyal visitors and customers?
  • What do I want visitors to do at our home page?
  • What do I value most?

How do I convince Web site visitors to take action? Following this simple outline and answering these questions will help position your Web site for online success. So what have we learned?

  • Steven Covey would make a great Web site strategic planner
  • A Web site should serve a measurable business purpose
  • Strategic planning provides a roadmap to success and tells us when it's time to celebrate
  • We must understand our target market before authoring copy
  • We must build a benefit-laden case to influence the buying decision
  • There are way too many bullet points in this article