It's not enough to simply have a 'presence' on the Internet, you need a valid reason for being there…
The next time someone asks you to look at their website, ask them a poignant question:
Chances are they'll be stumped for an answer.
You've probably been involved in a conversation lately where someone has blurted out excitedly, "Have you seen our company's website? You must have a look, it's www.blahblah…"
The Internet is a hot topic and everybody is 'doing it'. Seems you have to be on the Net or you'll get left behind. But surprisingly few companies put much thought into why they should be there and more importantly, why anybody would want to visit their website after it has been created.
Build it and they will come
This doctrine may have worked well for the early Christian churches but with over 4 billion webpages out there and growing, why should anyone visit yours?
It's a fair question and it's not always easy to come up with a valid answer. It requires a good deal of planning and some meaningful research.
A good way to start this process is by asking your customers what they want. What sort of information could you make available to them on the internet, that you wouldn't give them normally? What value-added benefits could they gain from visiting your website?
It's a question I asked myself recently, while working with a client who is in strata management. Like most businesses today, they thought they needed to be on the Internet and they asked me to build them a website. It would have been a fairly simple process for me to create a typical online brochure; saying what wonderful people they were and how they were the best strata managing agents in the business.
We could have gone on to wax hysterically about how they were cheaper, better and provided a service that was second to none, etc., etc.
Then, we could have all sat around waiting for the people to come. You can probably guess what the outcome of that exercise would have been.
A reason for being
I believe a website has to have a reason for being. It needs to be justified in terms of cost and return on investment.
It also needs to be integrated with the company's overall marketing strategy, and goals and objectives. Ideally, it should also generate more business and/or save the company money.
In other words, it should be a powerful tool for the business and an asset, not a status symbol or a liability.
With these objectives in mind, I set about trying to create an effective website for my strata client.
Our research revealed that most people involved in strata, don't have a very high level of understanding of strata matters. (Not surprising, given the vast amount of laws and by laws they have churned out in the last few years). Providing the information wasn't a problem (my client is an expert in their field) but it had to be done in a language lay people could understand.
Furthermore, as laws and by laws can be a pretty dry topic (and frankly, down-right boring), we decided we also needed to introduce an element of fun, to generally lighten it up a bit.
Ultimately, I elected to build them two websites: One that offered information on every aspect of strata for free and one for the client's services. The idea being to generate lots of visitors to the free information site and then gently guide them to the client's site by offering further assistance where needed.
For the information site, we came up with a cartoon hero called Strataman. He zooms around the site offering information on every aspect of strata and visitor's can even email him questions or subscribe to his regular electronic newsletter.
We are now offering a valuable free service which provides people with a good reason to visit the website.
There's a lot more to the total campaign than space here permits but I'm sure you get the general idea.
Will it achieve its long term goals and objectives for the client?
It's too early to tell. However, I'm sure it will be much more effective than simply going around saying, "Have you seen our company's website?"