When commencing a website build it is really important you understand how the website can generate a significant return for your business.
In my experience at a headline level there are usually three key areas of ROI to focus on:
The website acts as a sales tool generating additional new customers (ensure goals are set in Analytics allowing you to measure conversion and possibly attribute a unique telephone number to track inbound enquiries via the website).
The website allows you to service existing customers better (improving service possibly via a secure login area where you can provide access to support materials for example, making additional sales or cross selling and up-selling by increasing engagement via the website).
The website allows you to reduce traditional marketing costs – this is not effective in all instances but may provide opportunities to drive new and existing customers to the website without the need for printed collateral.
Sometimes a website will act purely as credibility check for prospects you are already engaged with. This is OK but it is vitally important to start with the end in mind as a website built without focus will be ineffective.
Once you have understood the function the website is going to perform you (and your Web developer) need to understand the challenges the business faces and consolidate the following information about the Company:
Its mission statement
The challenges it faces in its various markets
Your Company structure
Your sales and marketing infrastructure
Your Company goals
The markets you address
How do you segment these markets?
What are the trends in these markets?
What is the turnover balance between these markets and do you anticipate this changing?
Are some markets more profitable?
What is the turnover split across these markets, what will it look like in 2 years?
Your Audience / Customers
How many of them do you have?
Who are they?
What are their problems?
How is the decision made to buy your products / services, who is the decision maker?
Why do they visit your website, what questions will they be asking?
Do the customers in various markets overlap?
What feedback do you solicit from them?
Your Selling / Marketing Activities
Your routes to the various markets (direct, indirect via a third party)
Your existing marketing and new business activity and associated costs
Your new business / existing business turnover split in a typical month
What is the typical new business sales process today?
Cost of a new customer acquisition
Your products / services – lifecycle issues
How do you differentiate from the competition and what are your USPs?
Why do you win or lose business?
When does the site need to go-live and what will your involvement be in the site build (will you be writing copy? Sourcing imagery? etc.)?
Review the competition, do you aspire to be like any of your competitors and who does a good (or bad) job in your industry?
Only by understanding this can you build an effective website. It is vitally important to remember the website is there to support and service your customers so you must ensure they are re-assured and believe you are a credible, trustworthy business able to meet their needs.