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The role of a website in a business

Posted by
Date: 10 September 2011

A website is not just a marketing resource - it's a business tool as well. Viz. why settle for an internet billboard when a website can do so much more? Even the smallest business can utilize the power of the internet to be more efficient and to build revenue. Once you start thinking about it, it's easy to get excited about the potential for your website.

Things like new sales leads, an increase in average consumer satisfaction, decreased support calls, more subscriptions or completed surveys. These are all measurable goals that do mean something to your company.

The question is, what are you using your website for?

Identifying the role of your website and its target audience

If you have a long hard think about it your website adds value in at least 1 of these 4 areas:

Role Department
Generate leads Marketing
Facilitate transactions/orders Sales and logistics
Support Sales, marketing and help desk
Save money Human resources
Production
Accounts
Public relations
Ö

By identifying and understanding the goals of your website it becomes easier to identify your target audience and plan;

  • how you going to capture them,
  • what you going to give them and
  • how you going to keep them.

Too many people have traffic (or seo) as the goal of a website. But think about it; would you rather have 1000 people visit your site and do nothing, or have 100 people visit your site and take action? Does a good PageRank mean anything to the real profitability of your company? These abstract, relative numbers don't make a difference by themselves, and should not be the ultimate goal of any website.

Generating Leads

Your website is instantly accessible to the world. Your brand, products and contact details are available to anyone 24/7. How do you want them to see you? Letís say your customers and prospects Google you and your competitors before making a decision on which brand to use. I think it will be safe to say that their decision will be based largely on your website. So, are you showing your company and product in the best possible light? Are you giving the end-user a reason to contact you over your competitor?

Accessible

Much of the traffic to your website will be directed there by sharing (where the website address is published on emails and social networks) and traditional above-the-line media and advertising (where uses will enter the website address directly). So this aspect is very important, however with millions of users out there making use of the search engines to locate providers of products and services, it is vitally important that the mechanics, structure and content of your website are optimised for optimum search engine indexing (seo).

Credible and Informative content

Are you sending your audience the correct and strong brand message? Are you actively using your website to build trust? How often are you updating it and how else are you communicating with your prospects? Twitter? Facebook?

The simple truth is that people are more likely to trust your brand if:

  • it is consistent and professional
  • they know more about you
  • they know more about your products and services.

Functional and Convenient

The simple fact is you are not building a website for your company or yourself; you're building it for your customer - for their convenience.

E-Commerce

In our experience it is very rare that the expected success of an online shop is realised. What works in the US, UK and Europe is not necessarily going to work in South Africa. The challenges that we face in South Africa relating to;

  • logistical infrastructure and capacity,
  • market size, user habits and competencies,
  • reliability and dependability,
  • banking laws and currency restrictions

make it very difficult to maintain/rollout a successful e-commerce business.

All too often the required back office infrastructure, construction, target market size and budget (development and marketing) are not considered rationally.

Website construction

E Commerce in South Africais struggling to shake off its poor reputation. To convince the South African user to transact via your website a considerable effort must be made to instill a level of trust and confidence in your brand.

  • The brand message needs to communicate integrity, reliability and professionalism.
  • Contact and support information must be clearly communicated, like LiveHelp, testimonials, feedback, tracking, etc.
  • Alternate payment methods should be available, like EFT.
  • The back office needs special consideration as oversights in the shipping, checkout, payment methods and product variances can hamstring the system.

Market size

Careful consideration must be made when identifying the target market and the size thereof. In South Africa we have close to 6 million users that have access to the internet (as data prices tumble that number is set to double by 2014). If you start whittling down the numbers, the target audience (if South African only) will be remarkably smaller when considering that the US have over 250 million internet users.

Example:

Letís say you selling lawnmowers. There are potentially 1 000000 credit card holders in South Africa with 50% thereof being in the home owners demographic. There one of two, decision makers (purchaser) in the household, 50%. Potentially there are 250000 lawnmower users that have a credit card in South Africa. Letís say that on average we purchase a lawn mower every 10 years. And if all users by a lawnmower online from YOU (unlikely) over a 10 year period - youíll sell 1 lawnmower every month. And that is if you have 100% of the market, with all credit card owners having access to the internet, prepared to transact over the internet and all buying their lawnmowers online.

These numbers are by no means spot-on, but accurate enough to deduce the obvious - selling online to South Africans is going to be a challenge.

Support

Your website should be used as a gateway to communicate with your prospects. CRM is about building the relationship that will last. Done correctly, it is your sales force and aftermarket care division rolled in to one.

Being available 24/7 a website offers instant gratification. The right content and online systems can alleviate your businessesí support and help deskís load.

Saving money

Other than the obvious Ė selling of goods or the generation of leads - a website can improve your bottom line by complementing and in some cases replace existing systems:

  • Innovative online processes can streamline key business processes and in-so-doing save on operating expenses. Online statements, recruiting and centralized file and document libraries are just some of the opportunities that a website has to offer.
  • Promoting your products and services for much less than sending out catalogues, brochures or placing print ads and target specific psychographics, demographics and technographics for minimal cost.

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