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Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Tuesday, 11th December, 2012

How to bring focus to your web strategy

Before you can start work on improving your online presence, you need criteria by which to measure success or failure. You also need a way to judge what work is worth undertaking. You need trackable business objectives.

Digital Strategy:
The estimated time to read this article is 9 minutes

How do you judge whether your website is performing adequately or not? How do you decide what should be done next? How do you justify further investment in your web strategy?

If you are anything like the majority of website owners, you will struggle to answer those questions. That is because the majority of websites are run on an ad-hoc basis with decision making being made on the fly. Somebody senior feels the website is looking dated so a redesign project is launched. Somebody else feels that the site needs a new feature and so that is rolled out. It is essentially knee jerk development.

This is what I want to tackle in this, my next post, in our web governance series.

It is time to bring some focus to our fictional law firm’s online strategy.

Before we leap into implementing ideas, we need to know the destination.

Setting your destination

As Bilbo Baggins says to Frodo in the Fellowship of the Rings:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

The same is true for your website. If you set off without a clear destination you can easily be swept anywhere. Before we take our first step we need to know where we are headed.

In the case of an online strategy, the destination is your business objectives.

So far we have not formalised the business objectives for Wolfram and Hart. We would of collected a lot of perceived business objectives from various people within the organisation, while doing stakeholder interviews, but these will not have been formally agreed by the “powers that be.”

Before we can develop a roadmap we need a set of objectives for our website that have been signed off across the organisation.

This process would begin by Headscape taking the suggestions from the stakeholder interviews and comparing them with our SWOT analysis.

Where a suggestion is inline with a strength or opportunity from the SWOT analysis, we will include it. However, if a suggestion seems infeasible because of the weaknesses or threats the company faces, it will be left off. This means when we are questioned about our proposed list, we have some criteria upon which we based our decisions. This is especially important when two suggested objectives directly conflict.

Fortunately it is rare for business objectives to conflict so completely. Most of the time the challenge is in agreeing a priority. This is the case with Wolfram and Hart where objectives clash in two areas.

First, the CEO wants users to be primarily introduced to Wolfram and Hart, while attorney’s want them funnelled as quickly as possible to their own biographies. Luckily these are not so much a difference in objective as implementation. Both objectives are about generating more leads.

Second, marketing sees the website as exclusively a lead generation tool, while PR wants to use it for recruitment. Although not a direct clash there is a difference in priority. Fortunately the CEO resolved this priority difference when he stated in his own stakeholder interview that the website is primarily a sales tool.

As you can see the prioritisation of your business objectives is crucial. Without that prioritisation it becomes hard to work out what work should be prioritised on your roadmap, or where the emphasis is placed on the site.

It is important that the list of objectives does not become too long. If it does then the strategy and roadmap can begin to become unfocused. Half a dozen objectives is normally more than enough. In the case of Wolfram and Hart, we decide on four:

  1. The primary objective of the site is to generate quality leads.
  2. To increase the reputation of Wolfram and Hart as a ‘thought leader’ in the technology and petrochemical sectors.
  3. To build a community of ex-staff, clients and prospects who could potentially turn into leads or recommend Wolfram and Harts services.
  4. To portray a positive image of Wolfram and Hart as a place to work, so attracting new attorneys.

There are a couple of things to note here.

First, the primary objective is to “generate quality leads.” Wolfram and Hart want the digital strategy to be judged on quality, not quantity. It is also about leads, not sales. Most of the sales work will happen offline and so is beyond the reach of the digital strategy to influence.

Second, the second and third objectives support the first and the last. Being seen as a thought leader not only helps generate leads, it also makes Wolfram and Hart an attractive company to work for. Equally a network of people promoting Wolfram and Hart helps lead generation and recruitment.

With our business objectives in place, you would be forgiven for jumping into planning tasks. However, we have one last thing to do. We need a way of measuring the success of our roadmap, which means we need a baseline to measure from.

Setting a baseline

In order to know if our roadmap is successful we need to be able to measure it against our business objectives. But, how do we measure our business objectives? We need to turn them into something trackable. Take for example Wolfram and Hart’s primary objective.

> The primary objective of the site is to generate quality leads.

This objective presents us with two problems. First, the existing site does not track leads at all and second tracking the quality of leads is challenging. Fortunately, both are solvable using Wolfram and Hart’s existing systems.

How to track

The first step is to be able to track any lead coming from an online source. Currently this happens in three ways:

  • Via a contact form.
  • Via the phone number displayed on the site.
  • Via the email address or phone number of an individual attorney.

Tracking the contact form can easily be done with Google Analytics. A phone number is slightly more difficult. The best solution is to have a phone number that is unique to the website. That way any calls coming from it are almost certainly coming from the site (although phone numbers do get passed around).

The individual attorneys information is trickier to track. This is because it is just displayed on the biography page. We have no idea whether those visiting the page are using that information or not. Having website unique email addresses and phone numbers for every attorney is impractical. Therefore the best option available is to initially hide contact information on an attorney bio. Only when the user clicks a contact button will the information be revealed.

This is not an ideal solution for three reasons.

  • There is no guarantee that just because users clicked the button, they will actually contact anybody.
  • It requires an extra step for the user, which is never desirable.
  • If they do contact somebody we have no way to know that lead has come from the web.

However, I strongly believe that tracking something is better than not tracking at all. At least we can compare the number of clicks on the button before and after improvements have been made to the site, so giving an indication of whether the improvements have helped.

That said, it is not just a problem of tracking, its also ensuring we are tracking the right thing.

Tracking quality

The second problem I identified with tracking Wolfram and Harts business objectives was that they wanted to generate quality leads. In other words the web strategy has not achieved its business objective if they receive a large number of leads that don’t convert or are of too low a value.

For many organisations this presents a considerable challenge. It requires having the ability to not only identify a lead as coming from the website, but also being able to track that lead all the way through its lifecycle.

Fortunately for Wolfram and Hart, this isn’t as much of a challenge as for some. They already have a customer relationship management system (CRM) in place for managing prospects. This is something I would recommend for any organisation wanting to track the quality of leads coming via the web.

Most CRM systems (such as the well known SalesForce) allow you to enter the source of a lead. Even the lower cost solutions (such as Highrise) allow you to enter notes that could include a hash tag citing the source.

With the source tracked in the CRM system, it is relatively easy to produce reports that outline the percentage of web conversions and the average value.

Although we can now track Wolfram and Hart’s primary objective relatively accurately, some of the other objectives need creative thinking.

Tracking the impossible

When confronted with an objective such as:

To increase the reputation of Wolfram and Hart as a ‘thought leader’ in the technology and petrochemical sectors.

things get a little trickier. How do you track reputation and perception?

Obviously, there is no way to track these figures accurately. However, we can get an indication. Remember, we are looking to measure these against a baseline and so as long as the measurement criteria don’t change we can get an indication of whether things are improving.

In fact we have several options here. We could:

  • Carry out a survey. By surveying people within the related sector we could judge the level of awareness surrounding Wolfram and Hart and how they are perceived.
  • Monitor online mentions of Wolfram and Hart. Services like Google Alerts allow us to track mentions of names or high profile cases. By analysing the results and looking at where the mentions are made (are they being mentioned in publications relating to our targeted sectors) we can get a sense of how well known Wolfram and Hart are.
  • Look at levels of returning users to the site. If Wolfram and Hart are looking to build a reputation as thought leaders, they need to be producing useful content. If they are, then people will be visiting the site more often. We can track how many people return to the site on a regular basis, so getting an indication of how engaging the content is.
  • Track subscription levels. If Wolfram and Hart produce material in the targeted sectors which users can subscribe to, we can track those subscription levels. This would include things like newsletter subscriptions, membership of linkedIn groups or RSS subscriptions.

All of these approaches have obvious weaknesses. However, as I have already said, monitoring something is better than nothing. The important thing is to be able to see an upward curve that can be correlated to the work we are doing as part of our digital strategy.

It is amazing what it is possible to gather data about, if you are willing to accept it is only an indication rather than 100% accurate. It just takes some lateral thinking.

Once you have a way to track each of your objectives, you are ready to start work. Of course the big question is; what do you do first? To know that you need a roadmap, which is what we will cover in the next post.

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