Know the single most important thing your website is supposed to do.
"I think deciding what our Website was meant to do was the first and most important step to achieving results." So states John Blackmore, Senior Manager, Web Demand Generation for IBM. Your website, whether it be government, non-profit, intranet or commercial, requires management. And management requires knowing what you're going to do and what you're not going to do. In fact, in an age of endless choice and infinite information, knowing what you aren't and what you're not going to do must be the foundation for your web strategy.
For the IBM Cognos website it's all about lead generation and because of that focus they have moved from an industry average 4 percent conversion rate to 12 percent. "If lead generation is job one, John states, "who is the easiest person to get a lead from? Answer: the warm prospect. Therefore, we could design a Website geared to a person who had a business problem and believed what we offered could solve it. We could "de-focus" from the tire-kickers, the partners, the media, etc. It also meant that content had a business purpose as well as a visitor purpose. It allowed us to have reasonable discussions with people who wanted things on the page -- when it didn't help lead generation we had a defendable rationale."
If you don't have focus then practically every request to put a page up on the website, or add a link to the homepage, becomes reasonable. Even responding to ridiculous requests will take up far too much time because there is a lack of overall website focus. "Your Website doesn't have to be about lead generation," John states, "but it should have a business purpose. It could be deflecting help calls. Or soliciting online donations. Or providing services to citizens online. The main thing is, and it's our first principle-know what you want to do."
Real people use your website. They're not users. They're not traffic. They're not hits. They're real. REAL people. In a hurry. Trying to get things done. Just trying to get on with their day.
"Web visitors are often treated as second-class citizens," John states. "They're not serious people. They're hippies. They're ne'er do-wells. I like to think of Web visitors in a real-world rather than virtual-world way.
Imagine you're running a GAP store and five people every minute of every day (even midnight) are walking in the door. You'd be overjoyed! Taking a page from Gerry McGovern, once they walk into your store, would you try to talk to them all about the GAP and why it's a great store? No, they're already in your store. You'd find out if they want to buy jeans or a sweater. And then, you'd help them get that pair of jeans and make the transaction."
"Your fellow marketers may also treat your Web leads as second-class leads," John continues. "Part of the thinking is it's too easy to get the lead, therefore there is little value. The person didn't drive downtown to a hotel in the morning. We didn't host a breakfast with a speaker."
You're running a website. What business are you in? Content? Design? Technology? No. You're in the business of service. Serving real people. Helping them get stuff done.
[Recommended Reading: Content Management Equals Continuous Improvement]