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Senior Money Memos

MAKE YOUR WEBSITE
YOUR MOST POWERFUL SALES REPRESENTATIVE

INTRODUCTION

The world has changed. It is the age of Permission Marketing. People resent sales representatives knocking on their doors. They have voice boxes to prevent telemarketers and spam filters to reject unwanted email messages.

When a prospect is thinking about making a purchase, he or she may pull together a list of potential suppliers from the Internet. Your website becomes your sales representative in this process.

To ensure that your website will be a powerful sales representative when prospects come looking, it must have strength on four critical dimensions:

  • SALEABILITY
  • SEARCHABILITY
  • USABILITY
  • CREDIBILITY

SALEABILITY - MEET THE CUSTOMER'S PRECISE NEEDS

Newsletter 29 showed that a website must appeal to a human searcher (be a beacon), rather than just being created to score high with a search engine (so a blur of ideas would do). The critical issue is the Competitive Advantage or the Unique Selling Proposition. This ensures the product or service is much better than what the competition delivers.

This requires a carefully selected Internet marketing strategy. This defines the precise market niche and the needs of the potential customers in that niche. The appropriate product / service package must have suitable pricing and commercial terms. Efficient ways of communicating with potential customers and delivering the product / service must be arranged. In other words, the Marketing 4 P�s must be completely worked out. With all this in place, the website can showcase the whole in a way that is attractive to potential customers and that outshines the competition. This is SALEABILITY.

SEARCHABILITY - SEARCH ENGINES DO HELP

For any given market, at least one third or more of potential customers who have never heard of the company may come looking for the website by using a search engine. This fraction of the market is sufficiently important that the website must be designed so that it will rank well with the search engines. This can be described as SEARCHABILITY or Search Engine Visibility.

USABILITY - THE FIRST STEP IN THE CONVERSION FROM PROSPECT TO CUSTOMER

So by one route or another, these potential prospects come to your website (your sales representative). How are they treated? Can they easily get the information they want? Unfortunately too few website owners put themselves in the shoes of a first-time visitor to the website. It is very important to simulate or test the behaviour of a typical first-time visitor. The ease with which a first-time visitor can move around the website and find what he or she is looking for is called Usability.

Jakob Nielsen, the Usability guru, asserts "In terms of gross averages, I estimate that spending about 10% of a project's budget on usability activities doubles usability." In other words, the website is twice as effective if 10% of the budget is spent on improving Usability. The full article is entitled "Return on Investment for Usability".

CREDIBILITY - THE NEXT STEP IN THE CONVERSION FROM PROSPECT TO CUSTOMER

As the visitor picks up information from different parts of the website, an impression of the company is gradually built up. Does the visitor develop the confidence that buying the product or service will be a good experience? This will be highly influenced by the Credibility of the company behind the web site. This is critically affected by several features of the website. A good authority on this can be found in the "Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility".

They have 10 factors that can undercut the credibility of a website. One very important and shockingly obvious point is their 10th factor. Have no typing errors anywhere at all on the web pages. It is incredible the number of websites that fall down on this.

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THE EFFORTS INVOLVED IN DEVELOPING A POWERFUL SELLING-EFFECTIVE WEBSITE

To achieve a powerful selling-effective website, someone must put effort and time into each of the four critical dimensions. They must have the skills, knowledge and experience to do it well. Each dimension has a number of aspects and activities involved in it. These are listed in the table below. Somehow all the dimensions with their associated activities must be thoroughly covered.

Website Planning Effort

 

The team involved in developing the website must ensure that collectively they have the skills to cover every dimension. Unfortunately the majority of websites demonstrate that at least some of the skills were lacking in the website development team.

Usually the company can handle the activities and issues covered in the left hand column in an effective manner. Most competent web designers can handle the activities and issues covered in the right hand column. Where the problem arises is the activities and issues listed in the central three columns. Some website designers can partially handle some of these, but most find some major challenges in these areas.

CREDIBILITY

It requires painstaking attention to detail to ensure that all is correct. Usually the website owner will be the one expected to put in the effort here. However this is a job that can be subcontracted out to someone who will proof read everything and ensure that all links function as they should.

USABILITY

Developing web pages that are easily navigated and understood might seem to be easy. However many websites demonstrate that website owners often do not get it right. As was discussed in Newsletter 5, we never know what others see. Usability must be carefully worked on by someone who deliberately puts himself or herself in the potential customer's shoes. Then the web pages should be tested with a panel of outsiders to see what comprehension or navigation problems may occur. Again this is rarely covered by the website designer. The company itself probably does not have people with the expertise or time to do this. Skilled outside resources brought into the team will ensure this important aspect is covered.

SEARCHABILITY

The subject of Search Engine Visibility is the most difficult of all. Many technical issues are involved and it is important that those involved invest the time to stay current on what is important. There is a turbulent acquisition and alliance process going on in the Search Engine industry. Microsoft is working on its own new Search Engine. So what is important now may be less important even three months from now. The team must include someone who knows what are good current practices that will ensure strong search engine visibility and that are likely to endure. Most website design companies do not invest the time and resources to stay current in this area.

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WHERE TO APPLY THE EFFORT

The table above suggests what the balance of effort must be in a typical website development project. The second row of that table gives values for the percentage of effort that should be applied to each of the critical dimensions. The figures are by way of illustration and different values may apply to any specific project. However it is likely that the values should not depart too much from these typical values.

You should note that the website designer's work constitutes less than half of the total effort. One quarter of the effort must be done by the company in confirming its strategy and the objectives of the website. A full 30% of the effort must go into aspects that are often neglected. That is necessary if a selling-effective website is to be the result of the team efforts. So the team must determine what mix of internal and external resources will ensure that all these dimensions are covered effectively.

THE ROI (RETURN ON INVESTMENT) ON THESE EFFORTS

The need for a website should not be in question. Here are some common reasons that are quoted for having a website:

  • Without an effective website, you're fighting with one hand tied behind your back.
  • Without an effective website, you're leaving the competition to handle the potential customers.
  • Without an effective website, you're making it tougher for people to buy from you.

So a website is essential and will amply reward the efforts invested in it. So then how should the budget be split among the critical dimensions? The following are judgement values on the relative effectiveness of websites without effort and with effort put into the particular dimension. ( 1 = typical )

  Without effort With effort
Saleability (clear Internet Marketing Strategy) 1 4
Searchability (Search Engine Visibility) 1 2
Usability 1 2
Credibility 0 3
Good website design 1 3

 

These values are intended to invite discussion. You should replace them with your own judgement values. Note that each dimension probably acts like a multiplier. The total effectiveness of the website is determined by the product of all these ratios. Given this logic, it is not surprising that one website can be very many times more effective than another. Clearly the return on investment by applying some of the budget to these other dimensions will be very high.

CONCLUSION

The issues raised in this Newsletter are being keenly discussed in circles where Internet Marketing or Search Engine Marketing is important. Some suggest that these issues can be tackled sequentially: for example, design the website and then make adjustments to ensure search engine visibility. In practice this is very inefficient and sub-optimal. The only effective way is to have a team from day one that can grapple with all the issues simultaneously. If you are looking into how to develop the best team and budget for your new website project, then SMM will be most happy to work with you in defining how best to do this.

Some may be saying, "This is all very well, but my website is up and running. It cost a lot of money and I certainly do not want to get involved in redoing it or incurring major expense in revamping it." Luckily very often some significant improvement can be achieved by "tweaking" the website content with a very modest cash outlay. The next Newsletter will deal with some of the major practical weaknesses that can be seen on the Internet every day. It will explain how to correct these, where possible, by "tweaking".

If your company is reviewing its website, SMM will be happy to help you figure out your best approach. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience and creativity can complement those of your company. So write us a Message today on what you're looking for without obligation.

Barry Welford

PS The Website Planning web page gives a summary of the key points in the above Newsletter.

Added to site 4 October 2003

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