The real purpose of a website

I am a strong believer that you have to put yourself in your customers shoes to understand if what you’re selling will sell, and continue to sell. Recently I noticed how many people in this business fail to do this.

This is the main aspect which is lacking in our field. Possible purposes of having a website include:

  • place something on your business cards
  • offer something to exisiting clients
  • offer something extra to people who already know your website
  • advertise your company and increase your brand awareness
  • further enhance your companies image
  • increase your sales

All might be reasons why you’d have a website, but each of those reasons would have a completely different price tag. Many would want to target more than one purpose, but again it all depends on the client.

From experience I found big conglomerate companies to want custom designs, where as small guys to focus more on internet traffic and increasing sales. In other words increasing or improving their ROI of their original site. Most people (outside their personal life), give money to make money, and a website might and can be seen in the same light (particularly amongst the small guys).

I would be interested to know people’s view on this and how this has effected them on giving out proposals.

That one sounds a bit circular … but I get your drift here. Yes, a lot of people seem to want a website because … well … that’s what you do, right? Well, no … The decision to have a website should be like any other business decision: you don’t just buy a car, or a computer, or a warehouse for the business just because … well … everyone else has one. You carefully weigh up whether this investment will provide a useful ROI … or in other words, will profit the business in some way. So potential website clients should be asking this question … and should be told to think about this question if they aren’t asking it.

SME in my sector, construction and for me personally central heating, use a website for two purposes. To show what they have to offer to people that in some way have heard about the company and know it already is one. To attract new customers, is the other. Although there is an overlap, they are essentially two different things.

The first could be summed up as a virtual brochure or even showroom. The visitors have already more or less decided on the company they are going to use for the job, and now they want to see what their kitchen/garage/conservatory/bathroom will look like. Secondary to that will be some technical info, price, size, colour and what have you. In other words the company doesn’t have to be found, nor does the customer need to be convinced or interested. This kind of site will have a higher demand for glossy images and/or videos.

To get new customers, the website needs to be found and the visitor needs to be “sold” on the company. To get visitors to the website, the company can, of course, use conventional advertising methods to publish the existence of their site. In most cases, that won’t be very effective and rather costly. Ergo, seo needs to be built in, or a serious budget has to be allocated to ppc. Once the visitors are browsing the site, they need to be sold on the company. That means that there needs to be a clearly recognisable USP as a read thread through the website, combined with whatever further strategies the company has to show the visitor that this company would be a good choice or alternatively is worth contacting. This requires more info about the company than the “virtual brochure”. Graphics can help to make it all more interesting and attractive, but is clearly not the greatest puller.

In my experience, the smaller the business, the smaller the business owner’s knowledge/understanding about this. They tend to want both, and more if possible, whilst often having neither a USP, nor adequate information and/or supporting materials i.e. photos, videos and selling information. Especially in this day and age, they come to a webdesigner because their business is going down hill, their conventional marketing/advertising is getting less and less productive, and now they are ready to try the website option they should have bought 5 – 10 years ago. As their business is not what it used to be, and they never realised the value of a website in the first place, they often want an all in one solution for a couple of hundred quid, dollars or whatever currency you work in.
As this is no more possible than buy a car that is fast, can tow a big trailer and is low on fuel at the same time, I see it as quintessential to find out from the business owner what his primary expectation is and make sure he understands that you can not solve all his problems for a couple of hundred notes.

I am working in a company that took it further.
We dont offer client to create a web-site, we offer him to reach his goal.

— what would you like to do with your web-site?
— wel… this and that… i guess… and then i want 50 more people to have a dinner at my restaurant every day.
— 50 dinner bookings per day will cost you approx. $X / month and we create everything that is needed to achieve it

That way client doesnt interfere in the process because no one promised him a “good web site” (which might exist in his head already). He was promised a specific result and he doesnt really care how it will be achieved. Sure he might want to make “logo bigger” and “put this 10 000 characters intro text on the main page” but its easier to reason him.

Lieto’s approach sounds like a very good idea.
I’ve got to say that, as I’m working on something similar. :-o

You’re lucky if you get a customer that can be that specific.

They normally say “Oh, I want more sales. As much as possible. How much can I do?”

At this point you want to answer “How would I know? this is your market, your business… you know how it normally goes and the type of customers you have”

Of course, you can’t :smiley:

That is the case across the board over any and all professions.
When you advise in marketing, you should expect that the client does not know which questions to ask, so you have to guide them through it by getting more precise when the client is too general, and broaden the focus when they are too occupied with details before the core is assessed.

It’s like the difference between a real accountant, and a bookkeeper who calls himself an accountant. The latter thinks he is the expert, but in fact despite having the title, is nothing more than an overpaid number crucher who doesn’t have a clue how to help a company with structuring the money flow.

Nah, they are never that specific =) but its not hard to estimate approx. marketing costs. Will take less then an hour to research if the business isnt particularly big.
but i am not gonna lie, it works best when there isnt much competition in the region or client can afford large marketing spendings (lets say item costs $10 /pc to make and we sell i for $25/pc, client gets $15 and $10 goes on marketing), so the product needs to be “unique” or at least not widely known.

I mean thats what all products do, i doubt that bottle of wine for $300 was made for more then $50. Or you order something in China for $10 and sell it for $50 in US etc… Just saying that some particular clients wont be able to benefit from such offer if they sell lets say bread alongside with 10 other bakeries on the same street.

I believe it’s even bigger than this. A website is a place to do business and you can do just about everything you do with everyone involved online. A client can have a site built to do business with: Prospective clients, Existing clients, Themselves/their employees, Vendors, Regulatory bodies. In other words: anyone with whom they do business.

We’ve built sites targeting only prospective clients, we’ve built site targeting only themselves and their employees, and we’ve built sites that serve all of the above. Often our clients have one group and/or goal in mind when they come to us and end up hiring us to build something that is for that group or goal, but many times we are able to open their eyes to additional possibilities and address other groups, even if it’s initially only in a cursory fashion.

I sell a template website then focus the remaining budget on getting traffic in from various sources.

Traffic is mainly generated through Google, Facebook and social media channels. Even though I can custom code, small/medium clients don’t want their budget spent on a custom design, instead they want results, and those results often mean more customers and more sales, and the only way to do this on-line is to increase their traffic.

I tend to advice clients on popular terms and give them an insight on what they can write about, helping them. This help is charged at a far cheaper rate than somebody actually doing it for them. Normally the sole deciding factor is the PRICE!

Even though you know what you’re selling is pretty strong, it’s very hard to convince people that they are making the right decision. I hate to say it, but much of their website success is down to the client, and not myself. I can guide them, but ultimately unless they are willing to pay for the complete services, then their website’s success with be short lived.

We have to understand that conglomerate companies have their on-line traffic and if not they are likely to hire an on-line team to generate this. Those type of clients are more likely to demand for custom/bespoke work, from a business point of view I can’t say that a custom design will help them get more sales, but it will give them the control they might be after. Smaller fish often expect much more from us, and they often expect the traffic to come part of their website, they don’t want as much control and are willing to save themselves more money, as they have far less to play around with.

As the European recession grows I am finding big companies even to ask for template website strangely enough, and smaller companies to do without a website completely (*very sad indeed).

Off Topic:

Each country in the euro zone has a completely different economy, but we share the same common currency. We print money when we are short of it, so as a country comes to financial disaster (considering they have their own currency), they print as devalue their own money so that people in their own country can survive with their own prices. Interest rates are controlled in the same way. Things are likely to get worse as the model which countries survived in are now been grouped with other countries who are more power and share a different economic climate.

I would also like to add, I continuously change the way I do this focussing on what works and what does not. Whether this is because I am doing bad business or simply learning is unbeknown to me. What I am doing now is completely different to what I did a year ago and it’s likely that they way things are done will continue to change as I get new clients.

Long ramble.

I’ll tell you why I visit a website. You can always try asking your client what their (potential) visitors are looking for. That would answer a lot of questions. And if the client doesn’t know (surprise), you have a new task: research.

I want to know if you (the company) sell the product. Or, if I’m not sure what the product is, do you sell the solution.

I want to know what the product or solution costs.

Are you located in my country? Do you have an office here?

I want to know if you will ship to me, or only ship to 'Merkins. Will shipping cost an arm and a leg? Can I get free shipping? Will I get charged customs duties?

If I order at 9am, can it be here before noon?

I want to know if there’ll be someone there when I call. Is there a phone number? Is there a human behind it? Does the human speaka da English (or my language)?

You’re only on Facebook? Hello??

Do you do running updates? Long Term Releases? Only in beta? Can I fork you on github?

I want to know if you do installations.

I want to know if you contract out.

I want to know if there are horror stories or tales of awesome (okay, I won’t find this at the website, I find this in the search engines… which is more often how I reach the web site when I’m looking for a Thingie and don’t know who sells it).

Can I get it customised?

Can I cancel my order? I don’t need it anymore since it’s 2 months late. Can I complain about that?

It came damaged but still works. I’m willing to keep it but I want a discount. Can I do that?

I got a replacement for the broken one. How do I send the old one back? You didn’t include a return slip. Which address do I send it to? Does it need all the plastic and stuff it came in?

Do I have to buy 500 of them (do they only sell B2B) or can I just buy one?

I just got off the phone with Bob and he was a total douchebag. Who do I contact?

Do you work with another company?

Sometimes I just want an explanation of what the product is and what it does exactly. I’m not looking to buy.

It’s leaking some smokey purple stuff when I use it. Is this normal?

Can I throw it in the garbage, or recycle it? Is it chemical waste? The packaging didn’t say/I lost it.

How long is the guarantee?

Was there a recall? When? Which models?

Do you promise fast, cheap and excellent quality? If I find that on your site, I know to avoid you.

Can you spell and deal with basic punctuation? It does matter.

Can I buy stock?

Have you been in the news recently? Did your factory leak something into my river? Is your newest model out yet? Is Apple suing you for making a product that beeps when you touch it?

What’s your physical address?

It’s out of stock. Can I backorder it? Or do I have to look at the newer models?

Do you carry accessories for my model?

Who started the company? What was the flagship product? Who are the competitors? (not questions as a consumer but press, journalism or plain interest)

I have a . Do you accept those?
Can I sell it to you?
Can I trade it in for a newer one?
Can I donate to you?

What is your main goal? If I give you money, where does it go, specifically? How much is eaten by administration costs?

Besides this website, where can I see updates on the project? Photos?

Does that smiling girl with the earpiece really work there?

I’ll tell you why I visit a website. You can always try asking your client what their (potential) visitors are looking for. That would answer a lot of questions. And if the client doesn’t know (surprise), you have a new task: research.

:slight_smile: I think many clients might withdraw from the research bit.

I think the main purpose of a website is income. Even though we might not class ourselves as investment people, this is in effect what we are doing. Anything bought which is not for domestic or personal use would be bought with an idea or notion of some sort of investment. So we have to give customers a website which will comply with their investment needs, however their ROI depends on the budget many clients are willing to give.

He didn’t suggest that the client should do the research, he said that you should do it, in case your client hasn’t done it before (because he most likely doesn’t know how to do it properly himself).

So you pull figures out of thin air and make promises you couldn’t possibly fulfill?

So you pull figures out of thin air and make promises you couldn’t possibly fulfill?

Are you trying to say one cant estimate approximate cost of a lead for specific business in a specific area?

Let me give you an example:
Lets say our potential client is a Bed and breakfast luxury service in Moscow.
Adwords we want to use will cost us from $0.5 to $5 depending on how fast we want to drive the traffic
Our web-site conversion is somewhere between 2-3%.

Approximate cost of a lead is somewhere between $50 and $1500 which is quite a difference but

  1. adwords isnt the most cost effective way to drive target traffic so we can cut corners ther
  2. we can still realistically make it $100-$200 if we target keywords better and make a good converting web site

Now $100-$200 per lead is an ok price for Moscow since luxury flat may cost $200-$1000 per day. Granted most people will rent for 3 days+, marketing costs are less then %30 which is ok.

This is an extremely rough example with sky high numbers but how is this whole process = pulling figures out of the air?

There’s a difference between web based metrics and saying you can guarantee a restaurant owner “50 bookings a day”. It’s just not possible to do that in that specific instance.

Well, you can guarantee it if market for that service is developed. In my example above i can “guarantee” any reasonable number of bookings per day because that market is huge and its only a matter of investments. But lets not focus on word “guarantee” if you dislike it so much, obviously its approximation. To sum it up:

  1. As for the number of leads you need to know the market
  2. As for the cost of the lead as long as you round it up nicely you will make money

You can’t guarantee it. You just can’t. No way you could guarantee a certain number of bookings on the website per day.

Those kind of boasts instantly make me think of the claims of certain SEO companies. And those claims are normally hot air. I’d never trust a company that said they could guarantee x number of customers using the website. You can’t guarantee it. Nothing like that can be guaranteed.

ou can’t guarantee it. You just can’t. No way you could guarantee a certain number of bookings on the website per day.

[edit] Changed my post

What can go wrong in this scheme then?

  1. 50,000 are ordering the service that you deliver. Every day
  2. You have a budget to advertise across those 50,000 via lets say adwords
  3. Your web site is good enough to actually convert 1-2% visitors

I mean… for this scheme to fail the following need to occur:

  • people stopped looking for the service
  • your adwords stopped working
  • your website stopped converting

Neither of the above is really possible.

Well firstly, I guess we’re dealing with made up figures here, because I bet there’s no way in reality there are 50,000 booking tables in restaurants online each day.

How do you know in advance that the website is “good enough” to convert 1-2% of visitors? How do you predict accurate traffic figures?

I would never use the word “guarantee”. I’d use a word like “estimate”, and provide a report detailing where my figures came from. That is much more realistic.

I think my problem is with your use of the word “guarantee”. You can’t guarantee this kind of thing. It is not possible to do.