Do you have the right website for right now?
There are many life cycles of a business.
Your business evolves. And so should your website.
The purpose of your website and how you invest in it should reflect which stage you are at in your business life cycle:
- Building initial customer base
- Growing the business
- Gaining market share
- World domination
Stage 1: Start-up Website as education tool
You have an idea and see an opportunity in the market place but don’t have customers or revenue.
The primary objective for your website in start-up mode is education.
Trying to do anything else at this point in your business life cycle is pointless because you don’t have:
- data about who is visiting your website and where they are coming from,
- a good grasp of your customers buying process because no one has bought from you yet, or
- a clear understanding of your differentiation.
You just want to point potential customers, investors, and new employees to a website that will help them understand your business concept and model.
You also want a platform where you can test content and messages about why people should buy from you.
What you need:
- A design for your company name or brand.
You can source this through 99designs or search for a local graphic designer in your business community who can put this together for you. Be prepared to supply a design brief so you can be clear on what you want your company to stand for and reflect that in its graphic representation.
- A V1 of a website to share information about your product or service.
You can purchase your URL through any web hosting company. Google offers a package of template websites for free that you can use to get your first website up and running. There are other places to buy templates (www.studiopress.com) and some good local web shops that can help you build the first version of the site based on product or service content you give them.
- A beginning social media presence.
You may have opened a few social media accounts or set up email marketing, which you can tie into the website and use these tools to drive traffic. If this is the case, try to track information using Google Analytics to understand which channels are best suited to your best prospects. Test to see what kind of content is necessary to get people interested in your company.
Stage 2: Building initial customer base Website as value proposition test
You’ve landed your first customers and are making money (or not). You’ve signed a few flagship clients and you are starting to understand who is buying your product or service and why. You have done many sales calls, gotten feedback from the marketplace, and are starting to get a feel for where your solution is a good fit.
Here’s how your website should evolve:
- You need to test your value proposition.
Are these initial customers a fluke because they came from the founder’s Rolodex or do they offer an opportunity to grow a market segment? A focused message and conversion points on your value proposition allows you to test via email marketing, downloads, and keyword analysis.
- You need a clear flow to the website that seamlessly walks an ideal prospect through content they need to make a buying decision.
This is more than “website as brochure” with a “contact us” tab on the bottom of each page. You need someone who can take you through your website’s analytics (Google and others) to determine how useful your website really is to visitors.
- You need a marketing consultancy that can help you make sense of your data and test messages and content.
At this point, you need more than a web shop or graphic designer. If you can’t test messages and content, you are just guessing about your customer base and how you will grow the business.
Stage 3: Growing the business: Website as lead generation tool
At this point many companies falter.
They think that interested parties will magically call them and that the content on their website is enough for someone to make a buying decision.
This is rarely the case.
It is critical at this stage to be able to track leads through the sales cycle to see if high-value customers are 1) finding you, and 2) getting what they need from your website.
To turn your website into a lead generation tool you need:
- A clearly articulated value proposition that has been tested with an offer and logical next step in the buying process.
- Content that supports the self-serve nature of the buying process.
- Various conversion points that can be tracked.
- Automated tools to help you manage leads.
Resources you need:
- A full time staff member who can manage content and an editorial calendar to support search engine optimization (SEO) and email marketing campaigns.
- Someone in charge of your website who understands its structure and how to update plug-ins, enhance security, and make changes as you identify your lead tracking process, this is more than just a hosting company or development shop.
- Continuous input from your sales team about what potential customers ask for in the sales process and confirmation that the right content is on the website during each step.
- Marketing automation tools such as an email marketing tool and a contact management system (CRM) from which data can be pulled to highlight which keywords and content brought the best leads to the website and how they converted based on the choices they were offered.
Stage 4: Gaining market share and awareness, Website as thought leadership tool
In order to gain significant market share today you need aggressive content marketing and social media programs to generate awareness and position you as a thought leader in your industry. Look at any company in the $100- $250million range, and you will see their presence on the web significantly contributing to industry issues.
Stage 5: World domination, Owning ‘page one’ search results for your top key word
Apple and Microsoft didn’t become what they are overnight.
It took years of understanding their customer base and building the products and services that met the needs of their best customers. Not to mention millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours dedicated to fine-tuning their websites.
Their online strategies cover all areas of the digital marketing spectrum from online purchasing to customer support and product returns.
There is no company today that enjoys world domination that hasn’t taken a focused and aggressive stance online.
Are you ready to do the same?
The tragedy of misalignment
Many B2B companies suffer from misalignment, they’re trying to reach Stage 3 of their business life cycle with a Stage 1 website.
You can’t grow your business with a website that is nothing more than a brochure ware.
No matter where you are in the business life cycle, you can get back on track.