Ten significant goals for your Web site

goalspageimageThis list is by no means exhaustive. But these ten goals are among the best for small businesses and non-profit organizations.

1. To Establish Yourself – Your Presence

You will remember that I said in Three Reasons that your organization should be all about standing out where it can be seen. You wouldn’t think about setting up a retail business without a store. In our world today, a Web site combines the functions of a storefront and a Yellow Pages listing. At a minimum, your site should tell visitors everything they need to know to be able to come see you. What do you do? Where are you located? What are your hours? How can someone contact you? What methods of payment do you take? And, unlike print or broadcast media, this information is available 24/7 and can be updated instantly.

2. To Inform

This goal covers a multitude, not of sins, but of virtues. This is where you tell your visitors who you are and what you stand for. This is where you answer FAQs. Whoever answers the phones in your organization can tell you that much of their time is spent answering the same questions over and over. These are the questions customers and potential customers want to know the answers to before they deal with you. Post them on your Web site and you will have removed another barrier to doing business with you, to say nothing about freeing up some time for that frazzled phone operator.

3. To Build a Community

This is where you do all those things that turn you into one of those “comfy little restaurants” that people fall in love with and adopt as their own. A lot of business is simply making connections with other people. Every smart business person knows that it’s not just what you know, it’s also who you know. Passing out your business card is part of every good meeting and every business person can tell more than one story about how a chance meeting turned into a big sale.

4. To Serve Your Customers

Making business information available is one of the most important ways to serve your customers. But you should be able to find even more ways to use internet technology. How about making forms available to pre-qualify for loans? A picture is worth a thousand words, but you don’t have the space for a thousand words and your clients don’t have the patience for a thousand words. How about adding picture, sound or short movie files if that will serve your potential customers? No brochure will do that.

5. To Allow Feedback From Customers

You pass out the brochure, the catalog or the booklet. But it doesn’t work. No sales, no calls, no leads. What went wrong? Wrong color, wrong price, wrong market? Keep testing, the marketing texts say, and you’ll eventually find out went wrong. That’s great for the big boys with deep pockets, but who is paying the bills? You are and you don’t have the time or the money to wait for the answer. With a Web page, you can ask for feedback and get it instantaneously with no additional cost. An instant e-mail response can be built into Web pages and can get the answer to you while it’s fresh in your customer’s mind, without the cost or lack of response to business reply mail.

6. Coming Right Up – No Information Delay

What if you have information that needs to be released no earlier than midnight? The quarterly earnings statement, the grand prize winner, the press kit for the much anticipated film, the merger news? You can send out the materials to the press with a request, “Do not release before such and such time,” and hope for the best. But on your Web site, the information can be made available at midnight or any other time you specify, with all related materials, such as photographs, released at exactly the same time. Imagine the anticipation of “All materials will be made available on our Web site at 12:01 a.m.”. The scoop goes to those who wait for the information to be posted, not the one who releases your information early.

Or sometimes, information changes before it gets off the press. There you are with a pile of expensive but worthless paper. Electronic publishing changes with your needs. No paper, no ink, no printer’s bill. You can even attach your web page to a database which customizes the page’s output to a specific need or customer, and you can change as many times in a day as you need. No printed piece can match that flexibility. And broadcast? Forget it.

7. To Reach the Media

Every kind of business needs the exposure that the print and broadcast media can bring. But what if your business is reaching the media through your Web site? The media is the most wired profession today since their main product is information and they can get it more quickly, cheaply and easily on-line. On-line press kits are becoming more and more common, since they work with the digital environment of more and more pressrooms. Digital images can be put in place without the stripping and shooting of the old pressrooms and digital text can be edited and output on tight deadlines. All these can be made available on a Web page.

8. To Reach Your Markets

The demographic of the Web user is probably the highest mass-market demographic available. These folks are usually college-educated or in the process of being college educated. They make high salaries or soon will make high salaries. It’s no wonder that Wired magazine, the magazine of choice for the Internet community, has no problem getting Lexus and other high-end marketer’s advertising. This demographic will remain high for many years to come.

If your market is education, consider that most universities offer Internet access to their students, and most K-12’s are on the Internet now. Books, athletic shoes, study courses, youth fashion and anything else that would want to reach these overlapping markets needs to be on the Web. Even with the coming of the commercial on-line services and their somewhat older populations there will be nothing but growth in the percentage of the under 25 market that will be on-line.

Are you selling a very specialized product? You may think that the Internet is not a good place to be. Well, think again. The Internet isn’t just computer science students anymore. With the 233 million and growing users of the internet just in North America, even the most narrowly defined interest group will be represented in large numbers. Since the Web has several very good search engines, your interest group will be able to find you, or your competitors.

9. To Test Market New Services and Products

We all know the cost of rolling out a new product. Advertising, advertising, advertising, PR and advertising. Expensive, expensive, expensive. Once you have been on the Web and know what to expect from those who are seeing your page, they are the least expensive market for you to reach. They will also let you know what they think of your product faster, easier and much less expensively than any other market you may reach. For the cost of a page or two of Web programming, you can have a crystal ball into where to position your product or service in the marketplace.

10. To Sell Things

Many people think that this is the number one thing to do with the Web, but I made it the last thing to make it clear that you should consider selling things on the Internet only after you have done all the things. Why? Well, the answer is complex but the best way to put it is, do you consider the telephone the best place to sell things? Probably not. You probably consider the telephone a tool that allows you to communicate with your customer, which in turn helps you sell things. Well, that’s how we think you should consider a Web initiative. The technology is different, of course, but before people decide to become customers, they want to know about you, what you do and what you can do for them. This you can do easily and inexpensively on the Web. When you are ready to sell, make sure you have available on your Web site all the information people need to help them decide. And don’t pay so much that you won’t make a profit until the next century. That’s smart business.