What's Your Web Site Plan?
Many organizations believe that a web site is something that you buy, pay maintenance fees for, and which subsequently sits on the Internet making you money. This is not true. A web site is not an entity that can stand by itself. It is a link between your business and the outside world. It needs to be supported by "machinery" and procedures behind it.
Don't hand over responsibility for all the decision making about your web site to a web authoring company: it's too important and, with the best of intentions, they don't know as much about your business as you do. If you haven't done so already you should ask yourself the following questions about your web site:
1. Who is responsible for your internet involvement? Somebody needs to be responsible for ensuring that you have a properly developed web site strategy and it is being followed properly. This person should always be up to date about the company's involvement with the internet and be in a position to talk to any outside companies (e.g. web authors, graphic artists, internet promotion specialists) that you hire.
2. How often is e-mail checked? Letting potential customers e-mail you is great. letting them fill in forms, so that the responses are e-mailed to you, as well is even better. However, these measures are only as good as the procedures for ensuring that e-mail is picked up and actually read by an appropriate person within a reasonable time.
3. How quickly are inquiries dealt with? When your web site generates inquiries you need to make sure that you send back a response quickly enough. Even if the response is, "We are looking into it and we'll get back to you in a few days", showing that courtesy is well worth it - and much better than having your web site appearing as though nobody is on the other end of it.
4. How do you assess the success of your site? You need to be able to evaluate the success of your site. Automatically generated site reports, showing how often the site is hit and which search engines referred people are excellent. Keeping track of the numbers of enquiries and orders generated by your site is a must. Keeping track of the actual revenue generated by your site will help future decision making about investing more resources in your site.
5. How often do you review your site? You need to plan for regular reviews of the effectiveness of the site, at prearranged times. That way, you can take advantage of any new opportunities in a timely way and deal with problems before they become a major issue.
6. If on-line ordering is used, what procedures are in place to support it? If you are taking on-line orders how do you ensure that the products are sent out on time? if credit card payments are accepted on-line how do you ensure that this occurs at an appropriate time? Are you obeying local laws in this regard? (If there is any appreciable time between debiting a customer's account and sending out the product you may be in trouble).
7. How is your web address being promoted? Do you take advantage of every single opportunity to promote your web site? Are search engines being used to their full extent? When customer's contact you conventionally, do they find out about your web site? How do you ensure this? Is your web address on EVERYTHING sent out by your company?
8. How is feedback about the site dealt with? Feedback about your site from visitors may help you to remedy any problems with your site (though anything obvious should have been caught earlier!). You need to make sure that you are clear about how any feedback is dealt with. Having too much feedback to respond will be perceived as unacceptable to visitors. Always replying (even if it is only to thank them for their comments) is advisable. Someone needs to read any feedback and decide what action should be taken. Not dealing with feedback tells people that you don't care.
9. Is there a plan? Have you planned how to achieve the above?
10. Have you communicated the plan? Finally, If you have people working for you do they understand the plan?
Article by Paul Almond