Any Road Will Do...    

When you don't know where you are going. The other day we were asked to provide ROI commentary for a Web site that wanted to increase sales.  Iím pointedly not going to name the site Ė Iíll call it Web Site Nebula - but I will tell you that what this business was selling was not your ordinary sort of service.  Most folks would find it on the loopy side (although it actually appealed to my universopolitan side).

Suffice it to say, if the premise of your business potentially could be considered flaky, youíve really got to work hard on image and credibility.   I thought we were going to be dealing mostly with that sort of stuff here.  And I didnít think thereíd be much by way of general insight to come out of the experience.

Come to find out, when we landed on Web Site Nebula, the image problem was a far lower priority battle for this site.  There wasnít a single shred of evidence that anybody considered the importance of process.  Not even one call to action Ö anywhere!  I couldnít figure out what I was supposed to do, or what they might even want me to do.  If this site wants to persuade sales, it will have to go back to Square One.

The cool thing is that Square One is the same for all of us!

Most of you dear readers have been with me long enough to realize there are literally thousands of factors that can affect your conversion rate Ė lots of things little and big that, when tweaked, give your conversion rate a much healthier glow.  We call these little and big things Ďtactics.í

But thereís a bigger picture out there.  You canít start with a bunch of tactics, even if they are proven ones, and hope you are going to be successful.  At the tactic level of management, you are in a position of seeing all the trees but missing the forest.  You canít even start with strategies.  You gotta start with objectives.

I know this is going to sound positively pedestrian, but the very first question youíve got to answer about your Web site is this:  What is the overall goal of your site Ė what is the ultimate action you want to motivate?  Donít give me a complicated answer, Ďcause it isnít a complicated question.  And if you donít have an answer thatís obvious to your visitors, then itís time to decide on one.  Tell me you want folks to buy some product, book their flight, ask you for a brochure, schedule an introductory meeting.

Youíve probably got some subsidiary objectives for your site as well.  So tell me you want folks to subscribe to your newsletter so you can keep letting them know you are the choice in your field, tell me you want them to request promotional emailings or enter a contest.  All of these objectives are going to feed into your primary objective.

Only when you understand WHAT your site is supposed to be doing will you ever be able to create an effective persuasive architecture that motivates your visitors to take action.  Only when you know the WHAT can you make heads and tails of the HOW, which leads you to defining your strategies and selecting your tactics.  And only when you know the WHAT about your site will you ever be able to measure your web trends in a way that allows you to manage meaningfully.

Because you cannot manage what you cannot measure.  And you canít determine what to measure if you do not have objectives.  Tweaking tactics has value only if you are measuring objectives.

Whether you are building from scratch or refurbishing, nowís the time to clarify your concrete, measurable objectives, from which all else flows.  With these in hand, you can then turn to the questions that will help you create the optimal system of conversion.

At the site level, you must always ask:

On top of these, at the level of every single one of your pages, as well as your site overall, you must always ask:

Objectives are absolutely essential.  Donít hit the road without them!

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