Giving Your Website a Purpose

One of the questions I always ask clients during the interview process is, "What is the purpose of your website? Who do you want to see it, and what do you want them to do on it?"

It never ceases to amaze me how many blank stares I get after proposing those questions. Service agencies like 2HelixTech have been pounding the ground for 15 years trying to convince small businesses that they need a website. And they do. The U.S. is coming to the point - finally - that nearly every business understands they need a website, and many of them actually have a website. Yet we have been pushing the message so fiercely that many of these businesses never stop to think about why they need a site, or what it will do for them.

This disconnect is the cause of the blank stares I receive from prospective clients. It isn't their fault, it's ours. With a website, if you don't know why it exists, it isn't going to perform any function particularly well. So I ask you, what is the purpose of your website? Who do you want to see it, and what do you want them to do on it?

What is the purpose of your website?

This seemingly painless question is the cause of much frustration. Ecommerce companies usually have the easiest time answering the question. They make money directly from sales on the site, so it is easy to understand its purpose. Less so for businesses that operate primarily offline, or have different objectives.

Common website purposes include:

  • Generating leads for your sales team
  • Selling a product
  • Giving your customers pertinent information about your business (e.g. your hours or directions)
  • Bringing in traffic to your brick and mortar store
  • Prompting visitors to call your number or email you
  • Building your brand name

Some of these purposes are easy to comprehend. Generating leads can be tracked, and relatively easily, but building your brand is more difficult to measure. It helps to think of your website as an entity. Is it an extension of your brick and mortar store? A step along the sales pipeline? A brand ambassador?

Your website should probably serve no more than two or three purposes. If you try to do everything with it, you will end up doing nothing with it.

Who do you want to see your website?

Once you understand the purpose of your website, the next logical question is who is it targeting? It should be easy to answer this question now.

The smarmy answer is "my customers." This is usually the case, but more importantly, who are your customers? Are they

  • Local area residents?
  • Businesses or consumers?
  • Parents? Teenagers?
  • Mostly women or mostly men?
  • Business executives?
  • A specific type of business?
  • A specific size of business?

It's important to understand who is your target customer, who you want to see your website. Knowing this goes a long ways toward building an effective website. In a later post I will discuss more in-depth how to target your customer base.

What do you want these visitors to do on your website?

Once again, answering the above questions makes answering this quite easy most of the time. This is my "gotcha" moment for clients. Usually, even after the deer in the headlights look they give to the first question, they can fumble their way through it. Once I get them to this point everything becomes real. It becomes actionable.

So, you want customers to call you or email you after visiting your website and learning a little about what you do. You have defined your target customer. That's great, now, how well does your website enable them to accomplish this task? Is your phone number clearly visible on every page? Do you have an email address or a contact form readily available?

Just as important, how well is the site accomplishing this? Believe it or not, this is a huge pain point with some of my Internet marketing clients. They have a website that is fulfilling its worthy business purpose to some extent, yet they don't measure the website. They don't track email leads, or phone calls, or white paper downloads, or what pages visitors are seeing, or where visitors are falling out in the checkout process, and so on.

I like to tell clients that they should think of their website as an employee, a member of their team. It sounds cheesy, but consider: a good team leader is familiar with his crew, he knows their strengths and weaknesses, knows where they need improvement and gives them the tools necessary to improve, he probably tracks their effectiveness, and probably has regular employee review sessions. All of these are tasks you should be accomplishing in regards to your website, and if you're not, then you are not getting the most out of it.

If you would like some consultation regarding the purpose of your website, identifying your target market, or analyzing the website's effectiveness, contact 2HelixTech.