Setting Goals for Your Online Business Presence
The goals you set for your business website plus the definition of your target market should drive both your web design and marketing campaigns. Business websites generally have a primary goal, although large, sophisticated sites now address several goal categories.
Providing customer service through information
Brochureware or business card sites are an inexpensive solution. These sites, which contain no more than the minimal information included in a small trifold brochure, might provide a small business with an adequate web presence. For example, the two-page business card site at Sisters Nail Salon links to a second page listing available services. Other information-based sites are much more extensive.
Branding your company or product
Sites such as Coca Cola serve primarily a branding function. Branding sites may include games, coupons, entertainment, feedback sections, interactive functions, and corporate information, but they generally don't sell the product online.
Branding can be tricky when the name of a site is not the same as the existing business or when the URL and logo don’t match.
Generating leads or qualifying prospects
Some sites, especially those for services and expensive products such as cars and homes, allow potential customers to research offerings, but customers must call, e-mail, or visit the bricks-and-mortar establishment to close a sale. Interactive techniques, such as the Live Help feature used by Candy Direct, may improve service, in this case making it so convenient to order bulk candy that prospects are less tempted to visit competing websites.
If you’re clever, you can qualify your leads online. For instance, House of Bamboo, a supplier of bamboo building materials, requires visitors to categorize their Contact Us inquiry as a general request, request for quote, or request for consultation.
Generating revenue through sales
Transaction sites, which are, perhaps, the most familiar type of site, are used to sell goods or services online. Travel reservations, magazine subscriptions, organizational memberships, B2B (business-to-business) sales, and even donations fall into this category, as do retail sites from Amazon to the smallest, home-based micro-store. Good transaction sites take advantage of the web to gather information about customer demographics, needs, and preferences and to test response to special offers.
Generating revenue through advertising
A business model that calls for generating revenue by selling ads operates in a fundamentally different marketing mode than one that generates revenue by selling products or services. When you sell advertising, the primary product is the audience you deliver — either the number of eyeballs that view an ad or the number of click-throughs to an advertiser's site.
Achieving internal needs or building relationships
Sites in this category attract investors, identify strategic business partners, locate suppliers, recruit dealers, or solicit franchisees. The audience for these sites is quite different from the audience for a site targeted at customers or clients. This distinction is critical because elements of your marketing plan are derived from the definition of your target market.
Sites with this goal may also seek to cement their relationship with existing customers by building loyalty through special offers, sending related information, and encouraging repeat visits.
Improving business processes
The goal of transforming business processes applies to more than giant corporations whose websites integrate just-in-time inventory, smooth supply chains, online sales, and accounting systems. Many innovative small businesses create online processes that fundamentally change the way they do business.
Surprisingly, innovation doesn’t have to cost much. Pablo’s Mechanical, a plumbing and heating contractor, captured the second-home market in the rural tourist area near Angel Fire, New Mexico. Pablo’s Mechanical realized that owners of second homes are usually well off, are frequent Internet users, and often live out of state, perhaps in a different time zone.
His simple, inexpensive site directs his customers to click links to large plumbing manufacturers’ sites to select fixtures and then e-mail him their decisions.