The e-business playing field requires knowledge, vision and the right strategy
‘Behind every business website there should be a good business plan.’ This might sound logical but is it really the case? You would imagine so, but internet consultants today are frequently discovering that the converse is actually the truth and that behind every business plan there’s a good business website! The two are certainly closely interlinked, but which one triggers the other is open to debate in these days of a booming internet business economy. Get your website right and it sets the stage for the rest of your business, representing the core of all your commercial activities.
In the early days of the internet, businesses with a website were the exception rather than the rule. In fact, as recently as 8 or 9 years ago it certainly wasn’t the norm for SMEs to have a site. Many approached the idea with caution, and a number of more adventurous souls paid lip-service to this new phenomenon by subscribing to trade association websites where for a fee they could be included in a listing and allowed perhaps a paragraph to advertise their services. This usually didn’t form part of any strategic plan and was often done just because ‘well, I suppose we should’. Not necessarily the best investment and often providing little in the way of return on investment.
But times have moved on, and it’s unusual now for any serious commercial organisation to not have or be aware of the need for its own site. A good, fully optimised business website that generates maximum visitor traffic and revenue requires a lot of careful thought, planning, development and maintenance, but it’s when embarking on this sequence that companies find themselves looking deeply into their business model and often redefining their structure, services and goals. It’s this process that invites the observation above that behind every business plan there’s a good business website.
Time for a change?...
Take the planning stage as an example. There are any number of excellent website designers who will produce visually stunning sites which may provide the perfect showcase for your products. Your site represents your company and is in effect your shop window, and it will be your decision as to what you include in that window. So….do you dust off your old goods and services and display them, or in looking closely at what you offer and what to include, is it time to instigate some changes? If you’re not in the habit of regularly researching your target market, do you know whether your current products, goods or services are actually what people are looking for or whether you’re missing a captive market? Your sales figures may be ‘good’ but perhaps they can be better. With access to full data detailing popular internet search terms, an internet business specialist engaged to help you plan your site will be able to tell you not only what traffic is likely to be generated, but more importantly how this could be drastically improved if you’re in a position to adapt to the current market demands. This is priceless information, and is only one example of how planning your website actually takes you a lot further into thinking about your business overall and possibly restructuring what you offer and how you offer it. Even quite small changes to an established business model which you’ve not previously doubted can pay enormous dividends, and increasingly sophisticated website analytic programmes can provide information which, when correctly interpreted by internet consultants, can keep you ahead of your game and be at the heart of your whole business plan.
A good business plan looks at where you are now, where you want to be in 1, 5 and 10 years’ time, and how you plan to get there. It considers goods/services, costs, delivery, staffing, administration and marketing. You could take all of these elements separately and develop them a step at a time, tagging ‘website’ into the marketing category and treating it as one small segment of the whole. Or you can do the clever thing and turn your planning around so that today’s thrusting and ever expanding internet B2B and B2C economy is at the heart of your plans, with other elements radiating from it. At a few clicks of the mouse your whole public can see everything about you, so if you really want your site to earn its keep rather than just look pretty, in putting it together you’ll think about all the vital ingredients of any good business plan. No point putting something ’in the window’ that won’t sell, isn’t currently available, doesn’t meet expectations, reflects badly on your company, requires more staff than you’ve actually got, or doesn’t make you any money!
Planning is key...
Plan it properly and your business website will be the most powerful marketing tool you’ll ever have and be central to your business plans now and for the future. Proper planning? You’ll have assessed your corporate identity in today’s marketplace– time for a logo change perhaps? You’ll have defined and refined your products portfolio based on current, accurate market demand research. You’ll have re-assessed your costs and your staffing based on projected demand and current expenditure. You’ll have in place an internet marketing strategy which will attract your public to your site. In short, you’ll have turned your business inside-out to ensure that the investment in your new site reaps rewards…. and in doing so you’ll have dealt with things you’ve possibly been intending to tackle for some while, and established a clear way forward for your business with realistic goals and aims based on accurate, analysed and informative data.
And the answer to the question? No prizes for guessing - the business website comes first!
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