You would think that, as a Web developer and content marketer, the last question to ask a potential client is whether they really need a new website. And yet, that’s one of the most productive questions to ask.
Far from talking clients out of working with you, it frequently helps solidify their thinking, which in turn makes your job much easier. It’s always easier to succeed if you’ve defined what success looks like before you begin.
Defining what success looks like usually involves more stakeholders than the small group tasked with building a new website. It can be helpful to talk to various constituent groups directly, since talking to an outside expert can help break the silo-ed thinking and turf defending that sometimes happens when discussions are filtered through the in-house team.
The groups to typically speak to include marketing teams, sales teams, C-suite executives, customer service reps and the people who are primarily responsible for developing the company’s products or service offerings.
When possible, you may also want to hear from customers and prospects.
What you can learn from opening a discussion with all of these people is:
- What do they hate about the site?
- What do they love about the site?
- In what ways is the site weaker than competitor sites?
- Are there ways in which the site is particularly strong?
- How does the site make various jobs easier?
- What one thing would you like the site to do for visitors that it does not currently do?
- What one thing would you like the site to do for you as a [salesperson, marketer, CSR, etc.] that it does not currently do?
Notice that most of these questions are not yes/no questions? They’re open-ended and designed to encourage broader discussion. For simpler sites, answering these questions (and whatever issues they uncover) may be all it takes to determine how a website update should proceed.
For sites with great scope or complexity, a more in-depth look at certain areas of the site is frequently required.
A content audit can point out whether the content you’re creating aligns with the products and services you’re selling. An inventory can show gaps in coverage for particular verticals or job descriptions (e.g. bookkeepers have different interests than CFOs) or even weak spots in the various stages of the buying cycle. One missing link can drag down otherwise stellar work elsewhere. Crucially, a content audit can also bring to light a lack of strategy. Publishing willy-nilly rarely reaps the marketing rewards we are after. Taking a step back to see the larger picture is almost always helpful.
A technical audit may also be in order and can cover very basic and “obvious” things like mobile compatibility/responsiveness and cross-browser issues as well as issues that might be tougher to see, like inefficient page loads and poor URL structure.
A sales and marketing audit can tell you how content and technology are working together, to say nothing of how design and other factors are influencing your marketing efforts. Solid calls to action and a clear path to conversion are frequently overlooked by team members who are paid to focus on the details of content or technology.
Overall, be sure there is someone on your team — internally or with the developer you hire — who stays focused on the site’s ability to meet your business needs. Great design and really cool features are beautiful things for a site to have. A strong return on investment is even more beautiful.
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