Planning a website? Don’t start without a marketing strategy

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We speak to loads of businesses whose first priority is redeveloping their website – and for good reason. Your website is your business’s face to the world and is your central tool for lead generation. Without a performing website, you’ll struggle to see marketing results.

Despite this, a website is not something to jump into blind. Whether it’s brand new or a redevelopment, you need to first understand the ultimate purpose of your website. Who are you trying to target? How will you reach them? What do you want people to know about you?

Simply put, you need a marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy defines your business’s goals and vision. It sets out a clear plan for what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. The research in your marketing strategy is the foundation of your website.

How does a marketing strategy inform your website?

Your marketing strategy makes sure that your website is relevant to your target audience, and that it is visible, by harnessing digital tactics to drive people there. Each section provides insight into how your business should be positioning itself to the outside world.

What goes into a marketing strategy?

  • Objectives
  • Target markets and buyer personas
  • Product and services segmentation
  • Brand positioning and messaging
  • Competitor research
  • Vision and values
  • SEO research
  • Activity plan

A comprehensive marketing strategy also looks at each digital marketing channel and examines how your business could use it to reach the relevant people. Search, PPC, social, design, PR, video, email – all roads lead back to your website.

So, let’s look at what you need to know before launching into a website project.

Woman browsing internet on laptop

Don’t lead with design – think user first

It’s tempting to run away with the fun, creative side of a website build and fixate on the design. But the design is secondary to the sitemap, functionality and user experience of your website. Yes, it needs to look good to make a strong impression. But nobody cares what it looks like if they find it frustrating and unintuitive to use.

Your marketing strategy is the perfect place to explore what your website needs to do for its users. What decisions do you want people to make? What information do they need to make them? Will action do you expect people to take?

These questions tie into your business plan, sales process and overall marketing strategy. By doing the research, looking at competitors, and talking to your customers, you can establish exactly how your website should function, before you start thinking about design.

Who are you trying to reach?

Writing thorough buyer personas and segmenting your audiences is critical to getting the messaging right on a website. Who are the main people you need to reach? What are their needs and concerns? How do your products or services benefit them?

Defining your audience within your strategy helps identify the places you might be able to reach these people (specific social platforms, for instance). It also helps you speak their language, communicating in a way that resonates and matches with their online search intent.

Be clear about product and service categorisation

This is one of the main ways we see businesses fall down when designing a new website. They think a lot about the look, feel and core pages (home, about us etc.), but neglect to create a clear, consistent structure for displaying their offering.

These are the most important pages to a potential customer. Your products and services should be easy to navigate to, with all the information required to make an informed decision. This is an important part of website user experience (UX).

Creating a clear product matrix or hierarchy, linked to the relevant audiences, enables you to clearly understand how your website product pages should be laid out. It also enables you to plan properly for using the right key terms and search queries on these pages.

Do your SEO research – it should lead your sitemap

Of all the website development errors we see, this is number one! Lots of businesses set off building a website without a search optimisation strategy. The purpose of your website is to bring in new visitors, and many of these visitors come from search engines, particularly for B2B businesses.

Detailed research helps you identify the relevant keyterms, and the terms with the best opportunity for ranking. These terms are then built into your website plan, informing everything from the structure of your pages, page names, meta information, content, and user journeys.

By designing a website with the search terms your potential customers are using front of mind, you are setting your website up to be found. Building a website without a search strategy is like building a shop down a dark back alley with no signage to point it out.

Nail your brand first

A good website design has the business’s brand woven through its fabric. The colours, fonts, imagery, graphics, layout and animation. If your brand is outdated or not quite right for your offering anymore, consider updating this before your website development.

Changing your brand after completing a new website is not as simple as switching the logo in the top left. There is typically a lot more unpicking required, and you may end up with a website design that feels disjointed from the rest of your brand assets.

Is it futureproof?

A well-designed website should last a business up to 5 years. And we work with plenty of clients who’ve had successful websites that have taken them well beyond this. Part of making sure your website goes the distance is looking ahead to your marketing strategy.

Are there new products on the horizon? Do you want to expand into another marketplace? Is e-commerce a part of your future? Building a website with these goals in mind means you can make sure your design is compatible with them, saving you on another costly build project sooner than you’d hoped.

Build it and they will come’ isn’t enough – what marketing activity will follow your website launch?

The final hurdle we see businesses trip on when building a website with no marketing strategy is the post-launch drop-off. Many businesses employ a ‘build it and they will come’ approach to digital marketing, thinking their website will pull in the crowds, simply by existing.

The reality is that a website needs to be supported by other digital tactics to make it visible and engaging. Paid campaigns, your search strategy, email marketing and a social media strategy are all examples of the types of activity required to support a website launch and beyond.

Ongoing, strategic marketing activity provides your new website with the best chance of thriving and delivering the results you need it to once it’s launched. Going into a website build thinking this alone is going to solve all your lead generation problems is setting yourself up to fail.

Get the website you need long term – talk to architects before you hire a builder

The tricky thing about knowing when you’re ready for a website project is that there are so many companies out there who will build a website from a non-existent brief, without a strategy in place. Website builders aren’t typically measured on the long term success of a website and the project is off their desks when it’s live.

This means the strategy and research stages are skipped over, in favour of presenting you with design concepts as soon as possible. While you might get a smart looking website, it often doesn’t perform, and businesses are left without the engagement they’d hoped for.

Consider your website development like a house build. Would you allow your builders to begin construction without proper plans or drawings? Marketing strategists operate as the architects of your website build, doing the necessary research and planning to make sure your home is safe, habitable and designed around the people who are going to use it.

Marketing specialists also understand the ongoing monthly activity that’s needed to manage a website and build a consistent digital presence. Your marketing team or consultants can help you ask the right questions at the very start to make sure you’re going into your website development armed with all the relevant information.

Are you a business looking for guidance on your website? Are you unhappy with the design, or is it not bringing in leads as it should be? Talk to our team. We can offer some friendly advice or arrange an audit of your current website and marketing activity to see how it can be improved.

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