The secret of success in anything is to ask some questions first, to make the best use of your website and e-business you need to make sure that you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it!

Doing business online may be new but the secrets to website success are the age old business maxims – clear communication of the benefits of working with you and making it easy and enjoyable for potential and current customers to do business with you.

So what questions should you ask?

Why do you have, or want to have a website?

Its very easy to decide to build a website just because all your competitors are! While this may be one of many valid reasons it should never be a reason on its own, and definitely not excuse to basically copy the exact same way of doing your website.

So, to answer this question you need to ask some more!

Who do you want to reach with your website?

Is it existing customers, new customers, journalists, financial backers, suppliers? Profile them, understand them, create content for them.

Where are your audience?

Just having a website is no longer enough. Social media, focused search and many other changes in the online world means you need to find out where your audience are and start the relationship there. And don’t forget the offline world, is your website address on everything you do?

What are your audience looking for?

We are all guilty of using buzzwords and your expert knowledge of your industry can often mean making wrong assumptions about what potential customers will search for us with. Ask your current customers the words they would search for, try and find the uniqueness of your business and target it in your search.

What’s your aim?

Having a clear aim will allow you to judge the success or failure of your website.

What do you want say and offer to your chosen audience?

Once you have established who the website is reaching out to you can create a far more targeted effort in making sure that you say and offer the right things to that audience.

But there is a key question to ask in parallel to this:

What do you want your chosen audience to say and offer to you?

The key mistake many businesses make is to thing off their website as online brochure with a chance perhaps to put a bit more information on and to avoid spending so much on their next corporate brochure. But the key benefit of a website and all online business is the improved communication it can offer to both parties. How many people have bought something from Amazon, but before buying it have read the customer reviews of the product. Both parties can benefit from such information, the customers can make more informed decisions and Amazon can see if a product is particularly popular or incredibly bad and make a stocking decision accordingly.

But a website’s two way communication needn’t just be business to consumer.

Can your website do more?

How can your website plug the gaps and improve your company’s performance and efficiency in every way possible?

  • Have you considered what it is that you could put on your website that might perhaps reduce the number of phone calls, and therefore time wasted, to your sales desk before you make a sale?
  • Or maybe the calls for copies of invoices or maybe how a project is developing.
  • Maybe your customers or suppliers would like to know how their account stands at any time.
  • Could you offer downloads of manuals or help guides to existing customers.
  • Re-ordering based on previous orders
  • Stock level information if you warehouse goods for a client.
  • If you offer post-sales support have a fill-in form that collates all the necessary information to be able to make an informed support response.

For a couple of months perhaps just keep a log of every bit information that you get called or emailed about and see if that could be offered on your website.

By answering this question you can better resolve who you target audience is and how you can communicate with them.

How do I stop bounce?

Looking good!
Your website should not be a stand alone item with no regard for your company’s overall appearance and identity. Branding and identity are becoming an all important element of your company’s success or failure.
Wally Ollins, a bit of an expert on branding, states that in the future a company’s brand or identity may be its most valuable asset. If this is the case and the website can be one of the most effective tools for interacting with your customers then make sure that it looks and says the right things about you. Many people seem to forget all about design, quality and a companies individuality when it comes to their website and are quite happy with bland, amateur or templated sites. They are missing the point. Increasingly today, the website is a prospective customers first or maybe even only interaction with you as a business. If a time wasting flash movie intro, poor navigation or inconsistent design lets them down, then the internet quickly lets them go elsewhere. If the letter or brochure they then receive from you, or even the phone call or email, don’t follow the same style in both appearance and style of writing and character then they will feel let down and a break may appear in the chain to making that relationship that sells.

So make sure that your website does and says the right things about you!

Feeling good
Make sure that at every step of the user experience your audience feel confident that they are getting what they are looking for, that their order will be successful and they will succeed in their aims.

So now here’s the challenge:

Have you asked these questions of yourself about your company and its use of the web?

If so, are you:

  • Making optimum use of the internet to improve your customers experience of you making your business leaner?
  • Truly integrating your website into your overall marketing and communication mix?
  • Prepared to go away today and investigate exploring at least one of the ideas mentioned to improve your business’ performance?

On that note I trust you have found this useful, I have only been able to scratch the surface of what is possible but I hope you will be inspired to go away and turn your website from an online brochure to a fully effective business tool.