Building a successful website takes lots of preparation, and of course, if you’ve never done anything like this before, mistakes are going to be made along the way. That’s okay because there’s plenty of room for mistakes, but there are three crucial ones that many people make which are easy to avoid. They are:
- Not knowing your target audience
- Not having clarity as you build your website
- Not testing the marketplace
Not Knowing Your Target Audience
You simply CANNOT build your website appropriately without getting well-acquainted with the person who is going to be visiting it. On the surface, this may seem like common sense to you, especially if you know anything about marketing, but many people take it for granted that they know their audience well enough without spending any time really looking at and testing out what their audience would want. Hence, they put together a website that doesn’t suit their audience, and their website doesn’t end up yielding the results that it should.
No matter what type of business you are in, and whether you are planning to build a website or not, you should know your target audience well. You’ve probably heard about creating a customer avatar before. This just means to create a profile of your ideal customer, and the more you get to know that “perfect customer”, the more you will be able to relate to them and understand what they want. It’s hard enough to market to someone if you don’t have a good idea of who they are, and it’s even more difficult to build a website without an idea of who the user is.
The more detail you can work into your customer profile, or customer avatar, the better results that you’re going to get. You need to be able to create a detailed picture in your mind of who this person is, what their needs are, what they enjoy, and what pains them. Begin by outlining just the basics, which are:
This is an essential task to complete as you plan your website. After you have finished creating this basic profile, you will need to continually add to it. You may create a picture to look at to give you a better idea of who this customer is, and it’s also a good idea to add in quotes of what this person might say. You can actually gather a lot of quotes from your target audience pertaining to their needs and wants by looking through the reviews on a competitor’s website. Again, the more detailed you can be, the better. You can find more information on how to do this by visiting Gemwriting.co.uk/customer-avatar. Provided in this article is a template that you can utilize to make the process a bit easier. Another good site to consider is UI Faces where you can put a real face to your customer avatar.
Here is the one I created for Online Mastery whilst I was writing my book Plan Your Website.
Not Having Clarity as You Build Your Website
You need to have a clear vision of what your website should focus on before you even begin to build it. That means you need to spend some time clarifying who you are, what your business is all about, and why people should choose your product and/or services over your competitors. Many people, if they even know they should be doing this, find this part of the process superficial, so they skim over it. What they don’t understand is that what you discover when you are going through this process is going to end up being the foundation of everything else you do. Your whole business is going to be centered on one mission statement that you come up with. In other words, you are going to build your website around one single sentence that tells who you are and what people can expect from you.
Forbes Magazine outlines this process and makes it very easy in their article, “Answer 4 Questions to Get a Great Mission Statement”. In the article, the four questions that Forbes recommends are:
- What do we do?
- How do we do it?
- Whom do we do it for?
- What value are we bringing?
Your mission statement will be a promise that you make to yourself and your customers. The article mentioned above also provides some examples of mission statements used by some Fortune 500 companies. It’s highly recommended that you take a look at them as you are trying to work out your own mission statement. Once you have worked out your mission statement, you can use it as part of your website strategy. You see, everything you do as you build your website is going to revolve around this one statement, or promise, that you have made for your business.
As you plan your website, you’re also going to want to pay careful attention to what your user would want when they land on your site. So, you’re going to utilize your customer avatar and make decisions according to what your ideal customer would want to find as they land on your site. Use your special knowledge about this person to plan what categories should be in your menu bar, for example.
Let’s say that you were a supplement company. Don’t you think that a person who buys supplements would want to know a little bit about the company they were buying these products from? Therefore, in your case, it would be imperative that you provide easy access to an ‘About Us’ section on your website. It would also be a good idea to have your mission statement on that page, wouldn’t it? This is just one example of why it is so critical to have these details in place before you even begin to plan your website.
Not Testing the Marketplace
A crucial part of your website strategy is going to be testing out the marketplace prior to building out your site. It is best that you test this out long before you start your business altogether, and if you haven’t then you need to do so right away. In an article for Entrepreneur Magazine, Brad Sugars states, “I’ve said for many years that the main reason businesses fail is not for lack of capital – it’s for lack of knowledge.” The article, “How to Test Your Business Idea”, goes on to say is that one of the biggest mistakes made by people trying to start their own business is that they base it on what they think people would buy, rather than what they actually want or what they would buy.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that there is a demand for your product or service. One of the quickest ways to check for this is to Google a main keyword for your business and see if any related ads show up. If they do, that’s a good sign, but it’s not the only thing you need to check for. Part of your website strategy should be to dive into research, noting how much competition is out there. The more competition there is, the more demand there is for your product or service. If there’s no or little competition, you’ve probably chosen a dead market that you shouldn’t go into. On the other hand, there may be a lot of competition. That can be a good thing and a bad thing, and it depends on exactly what you are doing as to whether it is wise to go in and compete.
Assessing your competition is a complicated matter. If you’re fond of the Dummies book series, you might want to check out their article on “How to Assess Your Business” competition as a jumping off point. Two fundamentals that you need to understand is that no matter what type of business you’re running, you are going to have both direct and indirect competition. A direct competitor is one which serves the same specific industry as you. For instance, if you owned a grocery store, then a direct competitor of yours would be other grocery stores, while an indirect competitor might be the restaurant down the street.
Checking out your competition and whether or not your product or service is in demand are just the first steps in testing your market. Other questions that you need to be asking as you do your market research are:
- Who are my direct and indirect competitors?
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What does my target audience think of my competitors’ products?
- What is my unique selling proposition (how can I outperform/differentiate from my competition)?
- How much would my ideal customer be willing to pay for my product and/or service (how much are people paying for similar products and services to yours right now)?
There are a lot of different things that you can do to test your market out, and it would be wise to try as many different things out as you can before you even start to plan your website. One thing that you can do is find someone that fits into your target audience, present them with a prototype of the product or service you wish to offer, and ask them if they would buy it. If they say “yes”, then ask them how much they would be willing to pay for it.
Similarly, one thing that you might try is to visit or build a Facebook page that’s related to your product or service and ask that audience questions through a post. For instance, if you are selling T-shirts that have a sports logo on them, you might go to a sports-related Facebook fan page and post two different possible logo designs. Then, you can simply ask the audience which one they like the best.
One great website to visit and do some of your market research on is UsabilityHub.com. This site allows you to split test everything from different ad designs, to different price points, and even ask people direct questions about what they would want and be willing to pay for. The best part is that you can get a discounted rate on using this service by simply participating in the tests of others.
In any case, you’ll want to spend some time trying to find out what your ideal customer wants and what that person is willing to pay for. Also, research your competition and try to find ways to make your product stand out. Only after you have done these things should you move forward to build your website.