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The three most important questions to answer before buying a website

If you’re like me, the idea of getting something new for your business gets you all giddy and raring to go, especially if you think it’s going to revolutionise the way you do business.

Many people feel like this when they’re buying a website, but from the conversations I’ve had with prospects, the chances are that they’ll end up frustrated, let down and ultimately disillusioned about the whole process. And that’s the best-case scenario; often people end up a bit embarrassed with what they’ve spent their time and hard-earned cash on.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. A well planned, strategically placed website can help you drive your message, increase loyalty with your existing customers, reduce manual administration and so much more.

In this post I’ll help you understand and answer three crucial questions that will set you on the path to getting a website that truly works for you and your business.

Websites aren’t like anything else in your business. You’ll hear people call them things like ‘your online business card’ but this is mis-selling it.

The truth is that for some businesses, a website is like their top sales person offering free samples outside their beautifully dressed shop, handing out flyers, getting people’s contact details and encouraging them to step inside and have a look.

For others, a website is like a customer service superstar, empowering customers by helping them diagnose and fix things themselves, rather than subjecting them to endless hours of droll hold music.

One of the reasons sites like this do so well is that the people running them were clear on three things:

  • They understood the reasons why their business needed a website
  • They knew what things their target audience were trying to get done and;
  • They were clear about what kind of impact—in pounds sterling—they were trying to make on their business.

If you can be clear on these three things from the outset then you’ll be in the driving seat from the off and you won’t waste a bunch of time, money and life on things that aren’t needed. You’ll be empowered to make informed decisions and you’ll keep the focus on what really matters.

Question 1 – do you really need a website?

Not enough of my peers are asking this question (for obvious reasons!) and in my opinion, both the customer and the web design industry as a whole suffer as a result.

What would you say if I told you that you might be able go from where you are now to the next critical phase of your business without a website?

You’d probably say I should get some rest and maybe lay off the Skittles, but trust me when I say that not only is it possible to build your business successfully without a website, I’ve seen it done numerous times before; you probably have as well.

Let me share an example to bring this to life.

Example – The Steakhouse

No one would ever call the town where I live a centre of culinary excellence. There are a couple of really nice restaurants but although the number is creeping up every year, there’s still some way to go. As a result it’s really hard to get a decent steak in town.

So one day a couple of guys (who’d clearly been listening to my dreams) decided to open a steakhouse at the end of my road.

From day one, I struggled to get a table in the place; it was always booked. And when you walked past the large, street level windows at the happy diners tucking into Texas style rib-eye and low ‘n’ slow pulled pork burgers, it was easy to see why.

So one evening, before the rush, I wandered over to try out the steak (it was so good I ended up giving the chef a hug!) and got talking to the owners. I’d tried looking them up on Google but couldn’t find their website. I was curious as to how they’d manage to launch with such incredible success and no website.

One of the founders told me they had thought about getting a website, but then they asked themselves why; at this point they weren’t even sure where their customers were online, so they started by creating a free Facebook Page and posting lots of lovely, delicious images of their food.

It wasn’t long until they had built up a following and their posts on Facebook were being shared all around town, with people chomping at the bit in anticipation of the grand opening.

It’s been over a year since they launched, and if I look them up today, they’ve got a simple brochure site that gives a little more information, but nothing fancy. I still struggle to get a table there.

The takeaway (geddit?) here is this: if the people you’re trying to talk to prefer to do it in person or on social media, and if you’re not trying to deliver customer facing services online, then you don’t necessarily need a website to get started or take things to that next level. At the very least, you might only need a very simple website with your contact details and some links to your social profiles.

Think about your prospects, customers, readers, subscribers or members. Will a website have significant bearing on whether they choose to buy from you? Will it improve the experience they have when interacting with you, or how actively they engage with you? Do you need it to deliver services or functionality only a website can provide, such as instant calculating a quote or online bookings?

If you’ve answered ‘no’ to most of the questions above, then a website might be a lovely accessory and a cool-looking piece of collateral, but don’t expect it to revolutionise your business.

Question 2 – what do you want your website to achieve?

If you’ve made it this far, then there’s a good chance that a website could significantly improve your business and help you better serve the needs of your customers.

Now we reach the crucial second question – what do you want your website to achieve? Here at Six Two, we like to think of websites as another member of the team. No one goes to the effort of hiring someone without first being clear on why they need another person, and what they want that person to do; you’d write a detailed job description and outline their key areas of responsibility.

It’s exactly the same with a website, and whilst a website won’t be able to solve all of the challenges you face in your business, there are some that they solve incredibly well.

There’s a process that we use to help people get to the specifics of why they need a website and what they want it to achieve. It works like this:

  1. Think about the top pain points or challenges in your business (around 10 is a good and practical number, but it can be more or less depending on your business). Write them down.
  2. Of those things, discount any that need a physical activity to take place; I’m sorry but website’s can’t sew hems, ice cakes or change engine oil.
  3. Also get rid of any of the tasks that require emotional or empathic responses, complex diagnoses, pattern recognition or research. You can get websites to do some of this stuff but it’s super expensive.

Example – A small established supplier of industrial widgets

  • Generating new leads
  • Keeping my salesperson motivated
  • My supplier constantly sending out the wrong parts
  • Customers keep calling me with the same old questions and taking up a lot of my time

In this example, there’s not much a website can do to stop someone in the warehouse getting the order wrong, and the same goes with motivating the sales people. But it can certainly help out with generating leads and helping customers find the right product before they pick up the phone.

Example – A startup business consultant

  • Getting myself known in the industry as an expert
  • Generating new leads
  • Managing realistic expectations with new clients
  • A lot of paperwork/ emails to deal with

Here it looks like there’s a few things that the website can help with, but also some aspects that it can’t. A blog can help our consultant to publish her ideas and thinking on a subject, but it won’t write the articles. Likewise it can certainly help with generating new leads if it can rank well in search engines, but some analysis will need to be done to find out what words people use when they’re searching for consultants.

A website could also help with managing client expectations, especially if there are lots of useful pages which describe what it’s like to work with our consultant, and what sort of results she gets.

Helping out with paperwork and emails is also possible, depending on the nature of it, but again when you get into complex process automation things start to get super expensive. You might want to consider a virtual PA for this type of work.

Question 3 – what measurable impact could your website make?

At this point you should be pretty certain about why you need a website and what you want it to do for you. Now it’s time to start thinking about the specific impact it could have on your business.

Let’s go back to the job role analogy for a moment. A common thing when defining a job role is to define the measurements of their success. A salesperson, for example, might be expected to generate 10 appointments and close 4 deals that bring in £10,000 worth of new business per month. An financial controller may be expected to ensure all invoices are paid within 30 days and submit all compliance reports accurately and on time. If either of these people failed to live up to those goals on a consistent basis, then you’d be able to intervene and see what might need to change to get them hitting their targets.

It’s important to hold your website to the same standards. Without having clearly defined targets for the impact you’d like your website to make, you’ll have no idea about whether it’s performing well, and when to intervene.

So now that you’ve got your shortlist of why you need a website, it’s time to dig a little deeper into the challenges you faced. You’re going to need to be honest with yourself, and it might be a little painful, but trust me; it’s for the best.

Pick the top thing in your list and ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the problem with this part of your business?
  • What’s the impact of this on you, your customers and your business?
  • How much do you think this problem costs you daily/weekly/monthly/annually?
  • What will solving this problem enable you to do?

What we’re going to do now is to put this into a sentence. This sentence is what we call your Statement of Intent. Don’t worry, it’s not quite as scary as it sounds, it’s just a clear articulation of the challenge you’re seeking to overcome and the impact it’ll have. Here’s the rough format so feel free to change the wording slightly to make it appropriate for your business:

I need a website that can help me with ____________. The problem/ challenge I’ve got is ____________. The impact of this on me/my team/my customers is ____________. I think this costs me/ results in missed opportunities of ____________ a day/week/month/year. If I can fix this problem, it will allow me to ____________.

Example – A small established supplier of industrial widgets

I need a website that can help me with customer enquiries. The problem I’ve got is my customers keep calling me with the same old repetitive questions. The impact of this is some people can’t get through because we’re on the phone and go to a competitor, whilst I can’t focus my energy on other parts of the business. I think this problem costs me £1,200 a month in missed sales alone. If I can fix this problem, the extra sales will allow me to hire another salesperson and enable me to focus on increasing my product range and looking after my key customers.

Example – A startup professional business consultant

I need a website that can help me get myself known in the industry as an expert. The problem I’ve got is that although I have worked in the industry for over 30 years and have incredible knowledge on my subject, only people in my network know this about me. The impact of this is that when the bigger companies I would love to work for are asking for referrals, unless they happen to know one of my contacts, my name isn’t mentioned. This results is missed opportunities of around £10,000 per contract per quarter with profit margins of 30%. If I can fix this problem, it will allow me to increase my influence, create an audience of prospects and start winning bigger and more profitable contracts.

Now go through the rest of the list and repeat until you’ve run out of problems. Easy, huh?

A word about budget

You might have noticed that one of the questions asks you to assess the cost of your problem in monetary terms. This is a hugely important thing because it often forms the foundation of your budget for your project.

If you think that your website is going to solve a £500 problem, it’s not worth spending £5,000 on it as you’ll never see that money again. That would be like paying someone £30 to sell a £10 product.

More importantly the opposite is also true: if you’re looking at the business end of a £50,000 problem, then getting a freelancer who’s quoting £1,000 and promising to do it by next Wednesday probably isn’t going to cut it.

Make sure that your budget is proportional to the problem that you’re trying to solve.

Now go forth, and godspeed!

If you do one thing before you embark on your digital journey then make sure it’s this. Armed with only your Statements of Intent, you’ll be able to start having valuable, informed conversations with the many suppliers of websites that are out there. You’ll be able to talk in a focussed way about the thing you’re trying to get done. It’ll also help you narrow the field when it comes to your budgetary range.

If you still get stuck, or you need a hand getting to the root of your business challenge, then feel free to contact our team.

Get in touch to find the perfect package for you