By Kelly Cook – first distributed by The Empowerment Network from Women Moving Forward, February 2004
1. Not having a website today is like trying to do business with an unlisted phone number – a bad idea all around. Your customers are online and looking for you! Without a website you make your competitors lives easier and you may begin to lose credibility with clients, employees, the media and possibly your suppliers or vendors.
- Establish an opinion about the importance of the Internet in your marketing strategy. Have you ever criticized a company business for not having a website? What did you think of them when you couldn’t find them online? Has your company ever been criticized for not having a website?
2. To help you establish an opinion about the importance of the Internet, here are two reasons why your company should market itself on the Internet: 1) Statistics Canada research discovered that only 24% of small businesses in Canada have a website (compared to 74% of large businesses) and 2) 72% (17 million) of Canadian adults are online and 91% of them are online looking for product information.*
- Decide if you want to be one of the 76% of small businesses without a website. If so, don’t you think you might be missing a significant opportunity to promote yourself to those segments of your target market that are online? You must establish a point of view and then act!
*Source: “Multi-Country Report”, comScore Media Metrix Canada, March 2003, “Canadian Netizens”, NFO CFgroup, January 2003
3. An Internet marketing strategy is most effective when it is integrated with your overall marketing strategy. In order to do that, your overall marketing strategy must be able to answer some critical questions:
- What is the total size (in units / dollars) of your target market (e.g. Ottawa vs. Ontario vs. Canada vs. North America vs. the world?)? What are its segments (e.g. Women? Men? Professionals? Students? Etc.). How are you positioned against competitors (are you better? faster? less expensive?).
4. A critical part of your marketing strategy involves setting an annual marketing budget. Many companies set their annual marketing budget based on a percentage of revenues (e.g. 5%).
- Identify all of your marketing expenses (business cards, direct mail, sponsorships, etc.) and note how much you are currently spending on each item (in dollars and as a percentage of the total budget). Are you within the limits of your budget? Or do you have some room to experiment with alternate forms of marketing?
5. To integrate the Internet into your marketing strategy, think about the Internet is as a relative (not absolute) marketing expense – it’s not a technology problem! Of your total marketing budget (established in Tip #4)…
- Decide how much you’d be willing to test on the Internet: 1% of the total budget? 5% of the total budget? The result will tell you how much money you have available to launch, promote and maintain a website.
6. Expect to spend 50% of your website launch costs on technology related expenses (domain registry, monthly hosting fees and hiring someone to ‘build’ your web pages). Expect to spend 20% of your costs on design, another 20% on planning and 10% on marketing.
- Take the Internet budget you established in Tip #5 and list each individual Internet expense you anticipate. This will tell you how much you can afford to spend in Year 1 of the website (including launch and maintenance costs). Are you over, under or even with your forecasted Internet budget?
7. When launching a website, there are four distinct phases: 1) planning, 2) design, 3) production and 4) marketing. The best way to stay on budget and on schedule is to approach the phases in that exact order. Begin with planning:
- Review your competition online, establish a three-year budget, draw a site map and write all the copy for your site. If you complete these steps before you think about design, you’ll save yourself time and money during the later phases.
8. The first and most critical step in writing website copy is to understand how your audience perceives your product, service or organization. Force yourself to think of terms they might use (versus those you would like to be perceived as). For example, you might like to think you sell “pre-owned vehicles”, but few users search on that term. Instead, they search for “used cars”. Adjust your site copy accordingly based on search term research.
- Identify the terms or phrases your target audience inputs into search engines when looking for your company website, product or service category by using tools such as the Search Term Suggestion Tool at www.overture.com or at www.wordtracker.com.
9. The simplest approach is to writing your website copy on a page-by-page basis. Best practices for websites state that a minimum of five pages are needed to answer most users’ questions: Home page, Clients / Customers, Products / Services, Contact Us, About Us. Assume a minimum of 250 words of body copy are needed for each web page in your site.
- Write the copy in the order that is most important to the user – not your organization. To maintain this perspective write the Clients / Customers page first, leaving “About Us” until the very end.