Planning Your Business’s Web Site


Clearly Define Objectives, Target Audiences and Success Metrics

Planning for a website starts with defining the overall business objectives or requirements the web site must achieve to be considered successful. This is the first step in defining your Web Strategy. This article focuses on how to go about defining these objectives, who should be involved and how to define the success metrics that will tell if the objectives have been met.

To define business objectives, one or more planning sessions must be held. These sessions should focus on the overall business objectives and not detailed functional or technical requirements (these requirements are defined in later phases). The following information should be prepared and distributed for review prior to the first session.

  • An internal analysis of any existing web sites
  • An inventory of top-level business functions
  • An analysis of any partner sites and the services they offer to their partnering businesses
  • A competitive analysis of web sites owned by the competition
  • Any case studies available that show how other companies in similar situations are using the web.

It may help to break the pre-reading material down into several sessions and plan the sessions around reviewing and discussing the impact of that material on what the business wants to achieve.

Who should be involved? The obvious answer is top-level executives (at least one from each business unit if there’s more than one line of business for the company). People who are open to change and see the value of the internet should be selected as they are the most likely to participate fully and openly. There should also be representation from the IT division including a senior business analyst and a systems architect. And of course the CEO, CIO or president should be involved in this phase of the strategy. It is important to have members of the IT division involved in the planning sessions so that they fully understand the objectives of the web site. However, this is a business planning session and the IT division should not be leading the session or the discussions. Too often a focus on the technical issues can arise thus influencing the objectives defined.

What are the goals of the planning sessions? These sessions can involve people with differing requirements and feelings about what the web can do for their lines of business. This can make the planning sessions difficult but also very enlightening. The focus of these sessions is to have agreement on the web site’s overall business objectives and the target audiences associated with those objectives. The end result of the sessions should also see the prioritization of objectives if all can’t be met at the same time. For example, a business objective such as ‘increasing the percentage of new sales to females ages 24-35’ may not be as urgent as the objective ‘increasing the percentage of sale to the existing female customers aged 50-60’.

Define the target audience(s). The people in these sessions should know who their target market is and who it could be. Therefore these sessions need to clearly define who the target audiences are for this initiative. Goals and objectives need to be established for each target audience. Once the audiences are clearly identified, it is likely that they will be to be categorized and prioritized according to the priority of the business objectives.

Define success metrics. Likely to be one of the most difficult parts of the planning sessions, it is critical to identify how management is going to know if their web strategy has been successful. Examples of success metrics include:

  • % of sales for females ages 24-35 after 6 months
  • % of sales increase for females aged 50-60 after 3 months
  • % of sales online by target audience after 6 months
  • % of visitors/inquiries to the site after 6 months
  • % of downloads of product materials after 6 months

Not only does the planning session identify how to measure the website, but they also define the actual results management expects to see. Therefore these metrics must follow the SMART rule: they must be specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant and time sensitive. In the world of Web 2.0 – knowing these metrics ahead of time becomes even more important than before.

The end result: It’s likely that one planning session is not going to be enough. Expect at least two. Prepare lots of material ahead of time that gives the participants food for thought and ensure they are the right people for the sessions. Plan to define top-level objectives, target audiences and success metrics. Finally ensure the next steps are carefully laid out including a financial analysis and a master project plan outlining the next phases.

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