Business Website Checklist Part 1: Demographics
- Benjamin Kuker
- August 25, 2009
Be warned, this isn't a fluffy set of articles and if you currently have a business website, reading this might cause you to rethink the way you've been running it. If you're prepared to begin making serious changes to your website in a way that will make it more profitable, read on.
Done right, the best employee of any business is its website. The website provides a first impression into the professionalism of your brand. It gives technical support, issues follow-up emails, lists contact information, and offers driving directions. A business website can generate leads, close sales, and create long-term fans.
"Misplaced focus will cause fewer conversions and lower revenues."
As much as a good website can be a company's greatest asset, a poor website can also become a nightmare for businesses. A bad first impression can be conveyed instantly through any number of mistakes: unprofessional design, hard-to-find information, bad copywriting, and a host of technical errors. Misplaced focus will cause fewer conversions and lower revenues. The sad truth is that many websites fall in this category.
In this article, I'm going to share with you a checklist that can serve as a barometer for your business website. There are certainly hundreds, even thousands, of items that could be included in such a list, but I've tried to pare it down to the essentials. Because of the length of the article, I'm breaking it into three parts over the next three weeks. We'll look at three key areas: demographics, actions, and metrics and then narrow the scope within each of those areas.
Your target audience should be the main focus of your site, with all aspects of the website working in concert to attract exactly that core demographic. Consider your target market as the foundation stone of your online endeavors.
Who Is Your Target Audience?
Surprisingly, many businesses have not properly identified their target audience. Some cast their nets too widely, aiming at everything and hitting nothing. Others become so focused on a single niche market that they fail to consider if the niche is big enough to support their business. Still other businesses don't bother or don't even know who their market is.
Put bluntly, if you're not focused on your target market, you're not relevant. If you're not relevant, you won't be profitable.
A business simply must identify the demographic that will become its main source of income. If you're having trouble doing that, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who will benefit from my product or service?
- Will they be willing and are they able to pay for my product/service?
- Is there a large enough market of potential clients to support my business over a long period of time?
If and when you're able to answer all of the above questions with confidence, you've taken a step forward. Although it's only the beginning, it's important to answer meta-questions such as these before moving into specific implementation details.
What Does Your Target Market Want?
Relevance is the new golden rule in business. To become relevant to your target audience, you need to understand it and that means learning the preferred media, the culture and the language of the demographic.
In terms of a business website, figuring out what your target market wants starts with designing the look and feel of your site in a way that appeals to your audience while still maintaining usability, branding, and meeting the business goals for your website. If your audience is younger, you might consider a modern design, lots of video and social media interaction, and a mobile version of your site. If your audience is considerably older, large type and solid support for older browsers might be a consideration.
The copy of your website must also appeal to your target audience, in both form and content. Research the language your audience uses by looking for forums, blogs, or other social media sites related to your business. Employ some of the same phrases and terminology on your website.
Always write and design with your main audience in mind, without ignoring the needs of secondary audiences. Tailoring your website design and message to your audience will underscore your authority in that market by creating an implicit understanding between you and your users.
Where Is Your Target Market And How Do They Consume Information?
For your business to succeed, a certain part of it now needs to be in the hands of your users. Gone are the days of forcing users to come to you and experience your brand under carefully controlled conditions; now you need to go to them in whatever environment or medium they deem has value.
Technology has opened the web and information up in a way that most businesses are unaware of and that leaves many who are only beginning to understand struggling to catch up. As a business on today's web, you are expected to communicate with your users through technologies like RSS feeds, email alerts, embeddable widgets, mobile websites, Facebook and iPhone applications, social media, podcasts, videos, and more.
"Your website should no longer be considered a destination, but rather a platform or a hub to which some of the tentacles of your brand may be only loosely tethered."
Such a list might seem intimidating and expensive to implement and maintain, but realize that each additional way that you allow your users to access your content increases the value and the range of your brand many fold. Your website should no longer be considered a destination, but rather a platform or a hub to which some of the tentacles of your brand may be only loosely tethered. These outlying reaches of your brand may draw your market in to your website only at strategic times and otherwise should function solely in their respective environments, but that doesn't mean that they can't bring you enormous value if used properly.
Not all types of interaction are necessary for every business and some can be implemented gradually as your business grows. It's important to know your market and how they consume information and then to plan accordingly.
The next article in our series on business websites will talk about how to plan and implement calls to action on your website.
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