Web sites represent an all-in-one storefront, a display counter, and a megaphone for organizations to communicate in the digital world. For digital and bricks-and-mortar businesses, Web sites are a primary channel for communicating with current and prospective customers as well as other audiences. A good Web site provides evidence that an organization is real, credible, and legitimate.
The variety of online Web-site-building services now available make setting up a basic Web site relatively simple and inexpensive. Once the Web site is established, it can continue to be fairly easy and inexpensive to maintain if the organization uses cost-effective and user-friendly tools. On the other hand, sophisticated Web sites can be massively expensive to build and maintain, and populating them with fresh, compelling content can devour time and money. But organizations can adjust the scope, scale, and resources required for their Web sites in proportion to their business objectives and the value they want their Web sites to deliver.
Web Sites As Marketing Tools
Web sites are very flexible, allowing organizations to build the kinds of features and capabilities they need to conduct business effectively. Common marketing objectives and Web-site functions include the following:
- Providing general information about an organization such as the value proposition, products and services, and contact information
- Expressing the brand of an organization through design, look and feel, personality, and voice
- Demonstrating products, services, and expertise, including the customer experience, features, benefits, and value they provide
- Proof points about the value a company offers, using evidence in the form of case studies, product reviews, testimonials, return on investment data, etc.
- Lead generation, capturing information about Web-site visitors to use in ongoing sales and marketing activity
- Communities and forums for target audiences to share information and ask/answer questions
- Publishing value-adding content and tools for informational or entertainment purposes to bring people in and draw them back to the Web site
- Communication about company news, views, culture, developments, and vision through an electronic newsroom or a company blog, for example
- Shopping, providing tools for customers to research, find, and select products or services in the digital environment
- Recommendations that direct customers to information, products, services, and companies that meet their interests and needs
- Sales, the ability to conduct sales and transact business online
- Capturing customer feedback about the organization, its products, services, content, and the Web-site experience itself
Before starting to build a Web site, the marketing manager should meet with other company leaders to lay out a common vision for what the Web site should accomplish and the business functions it should provide. For example, if a business does not plan to handle sales online, there is no need to build a “shopping cart” function or an e-commerce engine. If cultivating lively dialogue with an active customer community is an important business objective, this capability should be incorporated into the Web-site strategy and design decisions from the outset. The Web-site strategy must be effective at achieving the organization’s goals to inform, engage, entertain, explore, support, etc.