The first key to a successful business web site is also the final and most important key.

Before you even start developing your web site, you should first consider your on-line strategy: What do you want your site to do?

Then, when all the content is complete, the graphics designed, and the whole site uploaded to the server, consider your strategy again. Is it still in place?

For a business web site to be successful you must ensure that all the elements of your site, your content, design, maintenance plan and marketing efforts, are working towards the same goal.

1) Will your web site sell? Inform? Market? Or support?

Surprisingly many companies fail to ask themselves this fundamental question. They are so eager to get on-line they do not consider their reasons for developing a site.

The goal of any business is to generate revenue. The Internet can help you achieve that goal, but it does not always have to be from direct sales.

There are many types of successful commercial web sites. We have identified four principal strategies:

  1. Revenue Generating & Self-sustaining
  2. Product Information
  3. Advertising & Marketing
  4. Customer Support

All of these on-line strategies can contribute to a company's revenue whether through on-line or off-line sales.

Now, although all the above strategies can be beneficial to your business, together they can destroy your on-line presence! You cannot be all things to all visitors.

Concentrate on the best strategy for your particular type of businesses. What are your competitors doing? "Surf" through the on-line community for your industry. Look for trends in their approach to your market.

We are not saying "follow the crowd", but certainly think carefully before selling on-line. If no one in your field has selected a particular strategy, they may have not missed an opportunity, but rather recognized a potential problem.

2) How will you measure success?

Many businesses claim that their on-line presence is not successful, but when you ask them what they expected from their site, they reply, "I don't know."

Before you beginning designing your site, clearly define how you will measure success. There are a number of ways employed by successful businesses:

  1. Sales Volume (On-line/Off-line)
  2. Traffic Volume (Usage)
  3. Client/Customer Inquiries
  4. Feedback

Now make sure your web site and business are designed to track these results. If you do not know what you want to accomplish, you will never know whether you have made it or not!

3) Bring it all together

It may be a little deceiving to identify your on-line strategy as a separate "key" to success. There is nothing new or separate involved here. It is really a matter of bringing the other "4 keys" together so that they work towards a common goal. It is ensuring that a common strategy runs through out your entire on-line efforts.

Make sure your marketing efforts attract the visitors who will read your content, and that your on-line design creates confidence in your customers.

This is where many web design companies are ineffective. They concentrate their efforts on lay-out and graphics without considering an overall site strategy.

Each site is unique.  Each business is different and no product has exactly the same market as another

It is often easier to look at your competitor's sites than your own when you are trying to find inconsistent messages. So start with your competitor and see if you can identify their strategy. How did they attract you to their site? How do they encourage you to travel through the site? What have they done to establish credibility? Why would someone buy from them?

Now, turn back to your own site. Forget about that wonderful headline you dreamt up at 2 a.m., and look at the nuts and bolts of your site.

Another technique is to draw your site on paper as a flow chart. Does every part lead towards your one goal? It is important to take this part of the web design process very seriously.

There are many excellent small business web sites on the Internet that have not considered their strategy as a whole. They have compelling content and attractive layouts. They even have employed some search-engine maximizing techniques, and yet their sites are still not performing as they hoped.

The problem is a lack of synergy. A full scale site re-development is not necessary, just some fine tuning.

There are many excellent HTML editors now available that will enable you to construct your own web site, but there is only one on-line tool that brings it all together. 

Site Build It! guides you through each critical step in developing and maintaining a successful website.  It not only helps with lay-out and graphics but also keeps  your site focused on one goal: your success. 

Our Library of Links has a list of wonderful resources to help you with your On-line Strategy.


UPDATED: October 16, 2002
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