Why Written Plans Improve Web Site Project Success

by Jennifer Beever on February 5, 2016

Web Development GapStudies show that up to 25% of web site projects fail and 30% are over budget. But, don’t worry, there is a solution!

When creating a new or updating an existing web site, marketing professionals have a tough role to play. They have to understand the web site owner needs and translate those needs into specifications that web developers (the techies!) can use effectively. Web site projects either fail or exceed the budget because of a lack of clear communications of owner expectations and constraints due to technology limitations.

The solution is a written web site project plan. By writing a plan, marketing has a document that the user community has to approve and sign off on before any programming starts. The programmer has a document that outlines the vision for the website, and, if done right, much more detail that eliminates the guesswork and bridges the gap between owner expectations and programmer assumptions.

The written web plan is an iterative process. Once the plan is written and approved, the web development team can use the written plan to develop a comprehensive and detailed proposal and technical specification for the project. The web development team can use the document to identify any technology issues and new solutions that should be communicated back to the site owners. Any issues or problems need to be negotiated so that solutions are found. Once the web developer’s proposal and specification is accepted, the web plan can be updated with appropriate changes so that everyone is on the same page.

What are the elements of a good web site project plan?

Like all marketing projects, the web site plan should discuss how the web site will help the site owners achieve business objective and goals. What are the critical success factors, and how will we measure them? Do we need to generate new leads, create awareness, better support existing customers, build a user community? How many leads, how much awareness, what satisfaction level, how many users, what level of engagement? How will we accomplish these goals and objectives?

The plan should include a discussion of the web site audience. Who are they? What are their demographics (age, income, gender, etc.)? What are their psychographics (lifestyle preferences, purchase habits, affinities, hobbies, etc.)? What colors do they like? What colors will they have a hard time reading (for example, seniors have difficulty reading red text)? What images will appeal to the audience? What images should be avoided?

What kind of structure and navigation will the new web site have? If there is an existing site, how will the structure  navigation differ? Here diagrams embedded in the documents help tremendously. A picture paints a thousand words. You can embed a simple hierarchical chart using Microsoft Word 2007 SmartArt. I’ve also used SmartDraw and MS Visio to generate web site diagrams. I show one chart for the old navigation and a second chart to show the new navigation.

What is the objective of each page on the site? What kind of content, graphics, images, forms or other features will each page have? The web development team can review these detailed requirements and recommend new technology and solutions where possible.

What is the plan for website optimization? What SEO tools will be used, and how will the website technology support SEO? What keywords will be used?

Web site plans are not foolproof. Basically, if the plan is not comprehensive or lacks important information, it won’t be effective. Garbage in means garbage out. Recently we’ve had several situations where sites were developed and then the business owner wanted to optimize the site for better search engine performance. Because SEO was not planned in advance, there were major technical issues that seriously hampered SEO efforts, requiring additional time to perform costly re-work on the site for the business.

Year ago, a client firm – an IT services company – insisted on including Macromedia Flash in their web site update. We explained that Flash was not easily recognized by the search engines and could impede the firm’s search engine performance. We negotiated a solution: the site pages would be programmed with part Flash and part HTML.

When the site was 90% complete, one of the firm partners noticed that when navigating through the site his back button didn’t work. The web developers on the project didn’t think to bring up this technicality: the back browser didn’t work when you use Flash on a web site. They assumed the site owners knew this. The site owners didn’t know what they didn’t know. It turned out there were work-arounds for the problem, but it would have been better to identify the issue up-front and avoid the surprise at the end of the project.

Need an expert to make sure your website update project is successful? At New Incite we’ve been managing website update and development projects since 1998. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

The study referenced in the sub-headline is by ZDnet. Read about it here.

Photos used in this post are from Flickr by Elvert Barnes and David Goehring. Some Rights Reserved.



3 Strategic Marketing Models that Work

by Jennifer Beever on January 29, 2016

3 ThreeOne of the most important success factors in marketing is to have a good strategy. Even if you understand what marketing tactics work today, without analysis and strategic planning first, you’re wasting your time.

Marketing campaigns run when you don’t understand your customer, your advantage over the competition, or what’s going on in your industry, are bound to generate less-than-great results or downright failure!

When I work with clients to plan their marketing, my favorite tools help provide three must-have pieces of information: 1. Know thy customer; 2. Know thyself; and 3. Know thy industry. There are a lot of ways to analyze these areas, but some have bubbled up as the more effictive and popular for businesses and organizations that want to grow faster.

Here are three of my favorite tools and models for analyzing a client’s marketing strategy. 

1. The Marketing Persona – Know Thy Customer

Today marketing personas are used to understand customers and communicate that understanding to employees and other stakeholders. A marketing persona is a story written about each customer segment your company serves. The persona in the story is given a person’s name, and the story describes the customer type’s attitudes, likes, dislikes and needs. Creating and sharing marketing personas makes it easier for everyone to understand, empathize with, and make better decisions about the customers you serve.

Marketing Persona

Why is the marketing persona efffective? As B2B marketers, we worked for a long time with demographics. We looked for people with certain titles, incomes, educations, age in a certain geography. As marketing and sales became more competitve, we got a little smarter. We started looking at psychographics. What motivates our prospect? Where do they go? What do they read? All these were clues on how to reach them.

But now that buyers have control over the purchasing cycle (we used to call it the sales cycle, because we marketers and sellers had control of the information), we need to intimately understand the buyer. We need to walk in their shoes. What is a day in their life like? What things can we talk about that will help them connect and engage with and like us? The marketing persona has been used by ad agencies for years. They knew that for creatives to “speak” to the right audiences, they had to get inside their heads.

And I’m not sure how to explain how the marketing persona works, but when you nail your personas, they can transform the way people in your organization think about your customers. All of a sudden, the customer isn’t someone on the other side of the table. It’s someone who is known to you. You know their story. You understand them and have empathy for them. For more about personas, read my previous post, Why Marketing Personas Rule.

I can’t tell you you many times I’ve presented personas to companies that have been in business 20, 30, even 40 years, and I have witnessed the lightbulb going on. People get excited. They gain clarity about customers. One man in one of my audiences saw himself in a persona presented and exclaimed, “Why, that’s ME!”

2. SWOT Analysis – Know Thyself

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is well known and easy to understand. But, it is extremely difficult to do this accurately. The main difficulty is in being brutally honest about the state of your business or organization and about the strengths of your competitors. It is human nature (and especially with business owners) to see and believe the best about your company.

SWOT with Actions

The SWOT analysis I use incorporates action items with the analysis, making the tool more action-oriented. Having all the information on one page makes this analysis easy to digest and share with others. It also puts the emphasis on action, so that the SWOT analysis doesn’t get done and then no action is taken to improve weaknesses or leverage strengths.

The CEO at one of my client organizations included my SWOT analysis in her presentation to investors because it so well presented exactly where the company was and what it was doing to move forward. See my previous blog entry, 1-Page SWOT Analysis with Action Items, for more information about this tool.

3. Blue Ocean Strategy – Know Thy Industry

Blue Ocean Strategy originated as a book co-written in 2005 by Kim Chan and Renee Maubourne and published by Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. It is an approach in which businesses create “blue oceans” of uncontested market opportunity rather than compete in the existing bloody “red ocean” market space. I like this model because it encourages breakthrough strategic thinking. What marketing opportunity hasn’t been tapped yet? What other audiences exist that we can sell to?

Blue Ocean Strategy Blue Ocean Strategy

A good example is Southwest Airlines recognizing regional, low-cost air travel as its blue ocean – an untapped market with growth potential. All the airlines were competing in the high price, high service quadrant in the chart above – the bloody red ocean of high competition. The blue ocean was where an airline could offer high performance for a much lower price. For more information read my previous blog entry about Blue Ocean Strategy, Why B2B Marketers Need Blue Ocean Strategy.

Don’t jump into marketing programs and activities without thinking strategically first. How well do you know your customer? Your company (and are you honest about it or are you in denial)? Your industry? I hope these three strategic planning tools will help you answer the critical questions before you start marketing. 

If you need help in identifying the right strategy for your business or organization, contact New Incite today. We provide strategic analyisis, strategic marketing plans, and outsource marketing program execution.

Blog entry excerpted from the Marketing chapter written by Jennifer Beever in The Book on Business from A to Z Blog entry excerpted from the Marketing chapter written by Jennifer Beever in The Book on Business from A to Z

I originally wrote about these three strategic planning models in my answer to one of ten top questions business owners have about marketing. It was published in the marketing chapter of The Book on Business from A to ZWhat’s the best strategy for marketing my product or service?” The book is available for purchase on Amazon.

Photo “Three” by Kyle May on Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.



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