Akatombo Web Log
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
What Are Your Goals?
An interesting (to us anyway) phenomenon has come to our attention recently in between meeting with clients about their products, and hunkering down to work on some of our own. We find it to at least some degree in nearly every client project we work on, and it sneaks into our internal projects as well.
In consultations with clients about web site creation the first question we usually ask is, “what do you want this site to accomplish for you?” The answer to this is quite frequently something to the effect of, “Well, we were thinking that we could have a section with this in it, and a section with that in it, and perhaps a flash animation here to do this other thing.” Those kind of ideas are great, and we really appreciate our clients coming up with an idea of what they want their site to look like, but you may have noticed that one thing those ideas didn’t do is answer the question. “What do you want this site to accomplish for you?” or put more simply, “What are your goals?”
It is very common for a business to get an idea, and decide to go for it before really thinking through why they are doing it, and end up wasting a lot of time and money redoing their project after realizing that it is not really what they needed. Asking a simple question before embarking on a new project can save a lot of money, time, and heartbreak and result in a better overall project. The question, as above, is “What are your goals?”
Before even starting to write down the specs for a new web project we encourage our clients to first take a few moments and put down in words what they want their project to accomplish for them. Of course, “Increase Sales!” is not a very good answer. More suitable goals would be things like:
- “Increase sales of the widget, by demonstrating its value to potential buyers, exciting them, and driving them to visit one of our brick and mortar stores.”
- “Build customer loyalty and word of mouth for the whozit by fostering an online community where customers can interact, get frequent news updates, and share usage tips.”
- “Increase the rate of new client acquisition for our e-learning activities, by encouraging corporate training managers to contact us and set up a consultation.
These statements all state the overall goal of the project and paint in very broad strokes how this must happen.
A good goal statement gives a very good base for deciding how to tackle the goals in the most effective and efficient way; and will help you finding flaws in current sites that might otherwise remain hidden. We recently helped a client review their website’s efficiency as part of the process of determining what steps they should take to improve their online activities which had had unsatisfactory results so far. Once completing the goal assessment one of their largest problems became glaringly apparent.
Their goal statement was something like this: “We strive to double sales by exciting potential customers and encouraging them to contact us to set up a sales appointment.”
Can you guess what their problem was? On most of the pages containing marketing copy about their product, they didn’t request that the customer contact them. Furthermore, the link to their contact page was hidden away in tiny letters on the footer of their website and there were no other links to it. We were actually somewhat surprised that they got any sales leads from their web site.
We encouraged the client to go through and fix these problems and see what sort of difference it made before hiring us to make any other changes. While the client is still waiting to determine the full results of this change; they have already reported a fairly drastic increase in the number of sales contacts coming in from their website and we hope to help them increase it again when they are ready.
In the meantime this has illustrated for us quite dramatically the value of clearly stated objectives, and we will continue helping our clients to analyze their needs using this method. We have also found going back and doing this kind of needs analysis on a micro level throughout the site helps us to deliver the client the best product we can, but we’ll cover that another time. How do you use goals to keep you on track?
Note: We have intentionally left out the mention of measurable goals, and all the other standard rules about goal setting in the interest of simplicity. For some more information about goal setting, this article on SMART goals gives some good pointers.