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Your Web Site's Objective
By Bobette Kyle

Do you know your Web site's objective? With an objective to help overcome your main challenges, you can work smarter, not harder. Through this second article in the four part Web Site Marketing Plan series, learn how you can consider business building models and customer stages when setting objectives.

Think of a Web site objective as the "big picture". In general terms, the objective answers the question "How can I use the site to overcome my business's main Internet related challenge?" or "What is the purpose of my site?".

Customer Stages: Awareness, Interest, Trial, Repeat

When setting your objective, it may help to think in terms of awareness, interest, trial, and repeat. These concepts are often used in marketing to explain the stages a new customer (or site visitor, in this case) goes through on the path to becoming loyal to your business. The potential visitor must first become *aware* of your site. Once aware, you must spark an *interest* with the potential visitor, motivating her/him to *trial* - responding to a call to action on your site. After (s)he visits your site, that person becomes *loyal* by revisiting in the future.

You may be able to most effectively build your business by focusing on one or two of awareness, interest, trial, or repeat visits, then changing your focus over time. If your site is brand new or known to very few people, for example, your plan is likely to concentrate on ways to increase awareness and interest. A focus on interest and trial may be in order, however, if you get an above-average number of "window shoppers" - visitors who never purchase (or do not respond to some other call to action). Alternately, for example, if you sell multiple products or a product that needs replenishing, focus on repeat purchases may be more effective.

Business Building Models

Direct Revenue/e-Commerce

Some of the most known Web site objectives relate to e- commerce or other types of direct revenue from the site. That is, the objective is to establish a direct source of revenue from either orders or advertising space. There are different e-commerce options, or models, to consider if your site objective is direct revenue. To learn about your options, go to http://www.bpubs.com/Internet_and_E-Commerce/ and explore articles in the "Strategies and Models" section.

There are other valuable ways, beyond direct revenue, a Web site can enhance your business:

Build Brand Image

A long-term objective for your site could be to improve sales by building an image for your product, brand, and/or company. Increasingly, this is an explicit goal for large companies with ample budgets. Small-budget companies can follow suit on a more affordable scale by building an image during the natural course of marketing. You can do this by consistently presenting similar design elements and "personality" at each point of contact with the world - whether that contact be virtual or physical.

Enhance Customer Service

Your site can increase revenue indirectly by improving customer service. When customers are more satisfied, they tend to spread the word about your products as well as buy more often themselves. Another way your site can indirectly increase sales through enhanced customer service is by supporting sales through other channels. Customers often do product research on a Web site then later place orders via catalogue, telephone, sales representatives, a physical retail store, mail, and/or fax. In all of these cases, a Web site indirectly contributes to building the business.

Lower Operating Costs

A Web site can help your business by lowering costs. Automated customer service functions - Web-based FAQ, order status reports, product specifications, etc. - can lower the number of customer service calls, reducing customer service labor costs.

A Web presence can also lower operating costs by streamlining communication with your business partners. Business-to-business companies can create secure Web space to communicate and collaborate with customers. It is even possible to have individual, private sites for major clients. A central "meeting place" that archives communications and other customer-specific information can cut down on administrative costs related to "phone tag", inquiries, and/or the need to consciously keep all players "in the loop". On the supply side, you could reduce costly business disruptions by giving key vendors Web-based access to your inventory or other real-time information.

Setting Your Objective

While there are different approaches to setting objectives, my preference is to develop a single objective for a site, which may encompass more than one approach to business building. In the plan, I include separate strategies and tactics to address each approach. I also like to include, in the objective, both the customer stage(s) and business building model(s) I will focus on in the plan. This way, it is more apparent which strategies are appropriate.

Another approach is to address the customer stages separately from your objective in a summary or write-up. With either approach, you should view your plan as evolving over time. As the business environment and situation change, your focus should change as well. Once you get past the launch stage of a new site, for example, you are in a better position to evaluate site traffic, so your plan may shift from focusing on awareness and interest to building trial and loyalty. Similarly, a better understanding of site visitors may lead you to adjust your business model to more closely address your company's and Web customers' needs.

Related Articles:

Developing a Web Site Marketing Plan
Your marketing plan is the compass by which you navigate. As opportunities arise or your business environment changes, the objective and strategies in your marketing plan will point you toward the best action. Without a marketing plan, you risk becoming unfocused in your marketing and are only guessing what might be best for your business.

Strategies for Your Web Site Marketing Plan
How strong are your Web site strategies? Do they move your business toward achieving your objectives or overall goals? Think of your strategies as a framework that clarifies the approaches you will take in meeting your Web site's objectives. They are more specific than the objective, but do not include exact details. After developing the strategic framework, you will fill in the details with tactics.

Choosing Tactics for Your Web Site Marketing Plan
Objectives, strategies, and tactics - these are the parts of a solid strategic marketing plan. Your site objective defines the big picture, strategies provide the framework, and tactics fill in the details. Tactics are where the action takes place - these are the things you will do to bring your plans to life.

Copyright 2002 Bobette Kyle. All rights reserved.

This article is based on Bobette's book "How Much For Just the Spider? Strategic Web Site Marketing for Small-Budget Businesses", http://www.booklocker.com/books/711.html

Bobette Kyle has over 10 years experience in Corporate Marketing; Brand and Product Marketing; Field Marketing and Sales; and Management. Through her newsletter, site, and marketing services she helps businesses integrate traditional and Internet marketing strategies, http://www.WebSiteMarketingPlan.com

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