Strategic Opportunity

I have led web design projects for years, and one of my early questions for clients is always some iteration of “What are you looking for the website to do for you?” It’s a great way to start the conversation around what the client is looking for, their expectations, their hopes and dreams. And many take that opportunity to share a big picture. While that’s the goal of my opening questions, I also frequently encountered another answer – “The Laundry List.”

Clients would often share all of the pages and the functionality that they want on their website. “I need a homepage, an about us page, a page for products, a contact form, etc.” While it’s really important that a client knows what they want, it’s also just as important for the agency to help them develop a plan that makes sure the site will meet their business goals.

Most importantly, site content should always help the user accomplish their goals. Help them gain the information they need and move them a step forward in their buying decision. This means knowing who your users are, what questions they have about the client’s business, what the roadblocks are to building a business relationship with them, where they are in their purchase decision, and what information or interaction they need to encounter to move forward. Every piece of content needs to map directly to this experience.

There are obviously pages that are “required” in many types of businesses, but the idea is that there should be a reason for each one of them. You could build the best widget, but if it doesn’t help the client reach their goal – by helping their user on the site – then it hasn’t served a purpose.

I always like to map my primary personas against a simple buyer’s journey as a starting point. If you know which steps the website will be involved in then you can quickly identify the content that will have the most impact on each step for each user. This map can get complex quickly, so depending on the size of the project, it might be best to simplify this as much as possible.

As you look at your final sitemap and page content strategy, now you can make sure that every piece is adding value. If you are regularly adding content to a blog or adding new information to the site, make sure to find ways to weave this new content into the original plan. For example, let’s say “Joe” (one of our personas) needs to complete research on the ingredients in Product A before deciding to buy. When you blog about how you use organic ingredients sourced from local farmers in Product A, make sure to highlight that blog post on a key page where you think Joe will visit to do this research. Now your content ties directly to your website strategy and provides a better user experience for Joe by helping him answer a critical question.

I love strategy when it’s used to execute an idea, and mapping website content to the buyer’s decision-making process is a great example of strategic execution. When you’re talking with clients about what they want to accomplish, this can be the perfect place to highlight how you can help them strategically achieve their business goals. You can differentiate yourself from your competition with this kind of discussion. So instead of just copying down the “laundry list,” will this help you elevate your conversations with clients? Share your thoughts below.