How to think when building or reviewing your website …. 101

I want to turn the reader’s attention to websites – an object that evokes responses ranging from an obsessive-compulsive requirement to update, to that akin to a toddler who has seen a new pigeon in Trafalgar Square (with the old website being the previous pigeon).

I don’t sit at either extreme, but I do believe that for the vast majority of today’s companies the website is the ‘shop window’. Now everyone knows that a good shop window pulls in customers – provided it is seen – no matter what the size of the organisation behind the shop. The website provides the entrepreneur with the opportunity to present their wares on a level playing field (the internet) against much larger rivals.

“But I am no designer!” you might cry. Irrelevant; I am not talking here about the prettiest shop window aiming to attract the most conscious fashionista.  This is about getting the right message across to the intended reader.

Have a look here; did that site make any sense? Probably not. To its intended reader, it’s spot on – XP Power is one of the fastest growing companies of its type globally.

So, how can the entrepreneur make sure that they are hitting the (right) mark with the company website? I would advocate the creation of a simple grid – on one axis list your stakeholders (the people you want to communicate with), on the other axis list the reasons you believe people are going to come to your website.  Here are some examples of each:

  1. Stakeholders:
    • Investors
    • Specific customer sets e.g. middle aged men, human resources directors etc.
    • Journalists
    • Potential employees
  2. Reasons for visit:
    • To get contact details
    • Information for an business degree thesis
    • Find out about the company
    • Identify fit between product / service and need

Next, put a cross through each box on the grid that is clearly nonsense, e.g. the box which is at the intersection between the ‘investor’ column and ‘identify fit between product / service and need’ row.

Then review each of the remaining boxes. If you already have a site, match all the pages to the relevant boxes in the grid. Where a page appears in multiple boxes ask yourself ‘can I realistically service all audiences through a single page, or should there actually be multiple pages?’. In some cases, the answer will be ‘no’ – the homepage is the homepage; contact details remain the same for all audiences. In other cases, you might wish to consider creating multiple pages to reflect the differing information requirements of the audiences.

You will also find …. gaps. Be honest with yourself, identifying a gap is a good thing – it shows where you need to put in some work to give your stakeholders the information they need.

A final thought: make sure you are running and reviewing your Google Analytics data. I won’t accept any excuses on this one – Analytics will tell you where your audiences are going, and where you should be focussing your energies when producing content.

Networking: where do I start?

Despite the fact we live in a ‘global world’ it never fails to surprise me how localised various industries seem to remain. Indeed, the old adage, “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know” seems to remain a significant component of doing business in the 21st century. And it is with some modicum of frustration that I note that this challenge – of knowing the ‘right’ people – seemingly exists regardless of the compelling nature of your solution.

To clarify, I am not suggesting that a business will not be successful without actively ‘networking’ but rather that networking itself, or more importantly monetising those networks, remains a key component of business.

It was with this in mind, and with aspirations to replicate the success of Debra Meaden, that I began my ‘networking career’ back in July 2010 – beginning from a standing start my objective was two-fold:

  1. To identify appropriate  networking groups, forums and events through which to network into my target sectors and with key decision makers
  2. To gain access to these key decision makers on behalf of my client

Challenge 1, which I somewhat naively thought would be easily solved through a few hours of internet research was in reality rather more challenging.  Although a plethora of networking groups, forums and events exist identifying the right ones and subsequently maximising my time was a key consideration.  With this in mind I set out to find groups which met my 4 criteria below:

  1. They needed to be industry specific
  2. They needed to be attended by key decision makers
  3. They needed to be free or of minimal cost
  4. They needed to be easy for me to access

What I hadn’t allowed for in this criteria however was that the group itself need to accept or preferably welcome industry outsiders.  Indeed, as I quickly found out a significant number of groups were not keen to admit people who they saw as targeting their members with the eventual aim of selling to them – in retrospect hardly surprising.

As a result, this process was much like internet dating, involving some rejection, a little flirting to establish the relevance of each party to the other and an eventual agreement that ‘we were well suited’.

Eventually, after over a month of searching I joined two very different networking groups, one in each of my target industries.

To be continued….