By David Trewern, Chairman
To really make an impact, your website needs to be awesome - as opposed to simply good. Below are the essential "herbs and spices" for awesomeness, followed by techniques for developing an awesome web strategy.
How awesome is your online presence today?
Some questions to ask yourself about your existing website:
- How much revenue does it generate?
- Does it create connections with your customers?
- What have you learnt about your customers from it?
- Does it give customers a reason to like you more?
- Does it demonstrate your values, rather than just talk about them?
The case for awesomeness
Google's digital brain is aware of more than 1 trillion URLs. That's a lot of competition for your website.
Your customers are busier than ever, and getting better each day at filtering out noise. As web users gain experience they get better at finding (and returning to) the awesome websites that make their lives easier.
Your competitors are only ever one click away. People generally don't waste time on the second best website in a given category. Websites that are not awesome risk being ignored.
Your customers regularly surf between your website, and the best websites in the world. Websites like YouTube, Google, Facebook, Flickr set the user experience standards that your customers now expect. If your website is not awesome it may annoy your customers, and actually damage your brand.
Great design, content and functionality are now expected. While these ingredients are essential, they are not THE essential ingredients that determine an awesome website.
Relevant + Unique = Awesome
While researching this article (and a webinar delivered for SmartCompany on the same topic) I went out to the Twitterati and asked for examples of awesome websites.
Every example I received back was both incredibly unique and particularly relevant to the individual who thought it to be awesome.
This reinforced my theory that truly awesome websites (the type that people love to visit, contribute to and send to friends) include two key ingredients: relevance and uniqueness.
The key to being relevant is simply to understand your audience (and their needs). You can then use this understanding to create an online strategy that revolves around them.
Listening to your customers is easy. If you are a smaller business you can simply talk to them. For big brands, you can run focus groups, online surveys or purchase market research.
Your goal should be to identify your customers' needs that you are well-placed to fulfill online.
By being relevant you can also be generous. Your customers will be buying into your website with the most precious currency they have - their time. What will they get in return? How will you provide more value than your competitors do?
View the development of your website as being akin to the creation of a new product. You need to develop a clear proposition for your website, otherwise it won't sell.
The web rewards specialists over generalists every time. It is far easier to build an awesome website about ‘1967 Ford Mustangs' than a website about ‘cars'.
It is critical that you aim to be the best at something.
- What will your something be?
- How will you sell your something?
Develop clear communication around your awesome something, and perhaps even a sub-brand (and unique domain) to help sell it. Make sure that your unique proposition is the first thing your customers see when they come to your website.
Also remember that your unique awesomeness does not need to happen on your corporate domain. In many cases it is both easier and more effective for it to be somewhat independent.
Combining relevance and uniqueness for awesomeness
You can have relevant ideas that are not unique, and unique ideas that are not relevant. An awesome website needs to be both. Your awesome web strategy will come from the overlapping intersection of both relevant content and functionality, and unique ideas for your competitive category.
Developing an awesome strategy
Research firm Forrester recommends what they call the "POST" strategy for customer engagement. This means doing your thinking in the following order:
People is all about understanding and relevance as it relates to your target audience. As described above.
Objectives are about what you hope to achieve; we will discuss this further in a minute.
Strategy is your unique idea, as discussed above. There are more examples of this below.
Technology is how you execute your strategy, and should be defined by the P, O and S.
A very common mistake is to pick a technology platform for implementation first, and then work backward towards figuring out your objectives and creating a value proposition for users. Technology should never dictate or constrain strategy. This is most certainly the wrong way to achieve success online.
Let's look at some quick examples. These have been put together for smaller businesses to prove that awesome relevance and uniqueness need not be expensive or difficult. We have assumed in all cases that the objective is to create a meaningful connection with customers online.
- Samantha owns an insurance broking firm specialising in servicing SMEs
- It will be hard to make her corporate website unique
- But she could create (and promote) the best SME insurance blog in Australia
Samantha's larger corporate competitors are a little apprehensive about blogs and social media. Samantha is an SME specialist and insurance expert. She has the opportunity to carve out a niche online that is more useful and valuable than a standard corporate website. Her blog would demonstrate (rather than simply talk about) her expertise.
- Paul owns a local high-end grocery store
- How can he compete with the websites of the billion dollar supermarket chains he competes with? How can he build something unique online?
- Paul could create an online community notice board, where customers can discuss what's happening in their neighborhood
- Paul could do this for very low cost using a service like Ning.com
- Paul could promote the notice board in store to build awareness
Paul's strategy is to do what he does offline, to compete with the majors: keeping it local, and building personal relationships.
- Jane owns a small chain of bookstores
- It's going to be difficult to differentiate from the websites of the big online bookstores and bricks and mortar chains
- Instead: Jane could film interviews with local authors that she promotes in her stores, and upload them to her YouTube channel
Instead of competing head on, Jane could use the social power of YouTube to build her brand online through unique, distributed content. Jane prides herself on finding unique books and supporting local authors. By uploading video content she can remain true to her point of difference, by building great relationships with authors and customers.
Turning awesomeness into success
Of course, some awesome things that you do online will directly help you achieve your business goals, and others will not. Therefore it's worth applying a third filter to the possible list of things you might do online. This is the business objective filter, and it ensures that what you end up with is awesome for users while also helping your business achieve its objectives.
The Value Filter
The web is full of irrelevant content and clutter. The content and functionality that you leave off your website could benefit the awesomeness of your website more than what you include.
You can follow a simple process to develop ideas for website content and functionality and help you decide what to leave off. We call it the "Value Filter".
Fill in the table below. Start with users and outline what they hope to achieve from a visit to your website.
Next add what you hope to achieve from a visit to your website from these users.
Lastly: the creative part. Add relevant and unique content and functionality ideas. But use the information in the table to filter out any ideas that do not address both the broad needs of users and achieve your business goals. You may find that the lengthy biographies and high-resolution photos of your management team on the ‘About Us' page really aren't helping achieve anyone's needs. The Value Filter will provide you with good ammunition to argue for leaving it off your website.
- Gain customer insight from research
- Understand what they want/need
- Get rid of anything that isn't relevant to them
- Develop a unique proposition you can own
- Be the best at something
- Define online objectives based upon business objectives
- Define how you will measure success and measure your progress regularly
- Don't spend your whole budget before launch. Use 50% of your budget to build the website, save the rest for optimisation and further iterations over the first year.