The Web strategy you need

MANAGEMENT SPEAK: We have many ideas about how the site would be used and what tools would be effective. We think it best to let the site evolve around those that use it.

TRANSLATION: We have no idea what we want to do. Come up with a system that will do it.

-- Find this week's anonymous contributor at http://www.toomanyplacesonthenet.comLast week, as I paid for my lunch, the cashier asked me, "Didn't you co-author a book on the Internet?"

Celebrity is where you find it. My cashier friend is in rarified company, because the marketing for Selling on the 'Net (NTC, 1996) has been, shall we say, spotty.

Nonetheless, because I wrote a book, I must be an expert, which means I've had occasion to talk to business and IT leaders about the Web. Although almost everyone has a Web presence by now, many tell me they "need to develop an Internet strategy".

Strategy is good. Substitute any other tool for "Internet", though, and you'll immediately spot the problem ("We need a circular saw strategy."). "We need a strategy" is a defensive statement. The last two words of this sentence -- "I guess" -- remain unvoiced, but they come through loud and clear.

Even though the World Wide Web has been visible to business for about five years -- and has been the focus of an extraordinary outpouring of creative energy, not to mention some cash -- business leaders still don't understand how to think about it. And although few dispute the future success of Internet commerce, we have to survive until the future gets here.

Businesses succeed on the Internet the same way they succeed in any other area -- by deciding to succeed and understanding what success means. It's a matter of clear, realistic thinking and deliberate planning. And as with most aspects of business planning, there's no tensor calculus involved.

Creating a Web site has more in common with publishing than it has with any other mundane endeavor. As with any publication, successful Web sites start with a clear focus and purpose, because if you confuse visitors to your site, they'll leave. Creating clarity takes hard work.

You'll be in the middle of this discussion, so be prepared to lead it if the conversation gets squishy. Here's an approach to use if you decide to take charge.

-- Step 1. Establish your business model. A business model states a cause-and-effect relationship in specific terms. Right now, the most successful model is enhancing customer relationships by improving service. Another good model: suggest new uses for your products to increase consumption by current customers.

-- Step 2. Profile your target audience. An audience profile describes who you want to attract and what they want when they visit. Reading Web demographics and figuring out how to attract "that kind of person" is a trap. You want prospects and customers, not visitors. If you sell office furniture, you may want to attract architects and facilities planners who want advice on office design -- teenage surfers are a distraction.

-- Step 3. Define measures of success. Good measures come from your business model. Although not every cause-and-effect relationship lends itself to direct measurement, avoid simply falling back on measuring what is convenient, such as hits. Measure what's important, not what's easy to measure.

-- Step 4. Perform a reality check. Is your target audience really going to exhibit the behaviour you need them to exhibit? This may come down to arguing or it may involve market research. Just watch out for the we've-reached-consensus-so-we-must-be-right fallacy. Automobile makers successfully focused their sites, rejecting online purchasing and instead helping buyers research car purchases.

Now comes the real work. These four steps are just the start and don't ensure success. In a competitive marketplace, nothing can.

(Send e-mail to Bob_Lewis@csi.com)

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?