Designing Business Goals and Growth
We all have goals for our businesses - but how often are they purely speculative expectations, rather than detailed or precise forecasts, facilitating the things we want to achieve?
It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day running of any enterprise that taking the time to step back and consider how things could be done differently can seem like a waste of time - or a distraction from the stuff that needs doing 'now'. In my opinion, time spent 'on' your business rather than just 'in' it is time well spent.
As the web has developed, so have peoples' perceptions of what a website should do. And it's becoming increasingly clear that, as the web continues to grow and infiltrate more and more areas of our lives, the humble website is becoming a far greater tool for business development than it used to be.
For example: small businesses are now able to compete with multinational brands online by presenting themselves professionally and effectively online. Yes, they still have to be 'found', but once a visitor is on your site, how are they perceiving your 'brand'? If your site is presenting trustworthiness, efficiency and amazing customer service, this is how you will be perceived.
I am not for a minute suggesting that businesses should promote themselves as anything other than they are - it's a sure fire way to secure a bad reputation if you do. What I am sure of though, is that with an appropriate marketing (basically, communication) and design strategy (how you present your business visually), businesses of any size can engineer their own success by aligning their business goals with their website and social media projects.
I'm going to outline a few ideas below - if anything strikes a chord with you, feel free to share using the comments box at the end of the post. I'm always interested to hear what others have to say!
Goals for Business Growth
You want your business to grow. But in what way? More turnover? Profit? Reach an wider market? You want to take on more staff? Or diversify your offering?
A website can be a fantastic tool for facilitating all of these growth types, for example:
- You want to increase sales but aren't selling online? There's really no reason no to and you're missing out on a potentially global market. If your current site simply points to a physical shop you're limiting your potential.
- If you're struggling to reach a wider customer base or not engaging those visitors who end up on your site, is there some aspect of your site's content or perhaps navigation structure which is limiting your impact and could be easily addressed?
Goals for Business Efficiency
If your business isn't efficient it'll feel like you're constantly pulling more than you should be. Inefficiency can appear in various ways, but in relation to websites it's usually in terms of administration and process management. Why not set some goals which will help you bring more efficiency into your business, such as:
- You want to simplify your online ordering or enquiry process. How could your site be better designed to make these processes simply and easier for your clients and also provide you or your staff with the right information, in the right format, to enable the 'back office' tasks to be more easily completed? Could you look at your e-commerce platform, or simply what fields you require on your contact form? Are you getting all the information you need, or are you asking for too much, and putting your potential leads off?
- Your site can be an amazing platform for promoting your new services and products - but is it easy for you to keep up to date? So often people are put off managing the content on their sites because it feels difficult or complicated. It shouldn't be. Set some goals now to enable you to achieve efficiency in this area: it could be a meeting with your website developer, more training, or even a change of platform. Of course there may be costs involved, but you'll save in the long term.
Goals for Business Consistency & Reliability
Are you consistent in your business practises? Are you reliable when it comes to customer service, enquiry/order management, sales, marketing and more? If not, you could be shooting yourself in the foot - customers are quick to loose trust in businesses which are not consistent and reliable.
You could set some business goals to help you achieve in these areas - and use good design and marketing practices to help you deliver:
- Are you marketing and publicity materials consistent? If not, you risk limiting your impact by not presenting your business effectively, or in a confusing manner. If you're using out of date business cards, different versions of logos or colour schemes you really need to sort that out - it speaks volumes about consistent service.
- Is the way you deal with enquiries or orders consistent and reliable? It doesn't really matter what the process is (provided it works well for you) but it must be a process which serves the purpose and brings a consistent and reliable service to your firm. Quite often these things can be down to the way in which order software or enquiry forms work - perhaps you need to assign new email accounts, or request additional information in your enquiry forms so you can better process the requests.
Goals for the Long Term
In the long term you may want to grow your business, by taking on additional staff, or expand into different markets. You can use your website to bring these goals on quicker or more effectively.
- Do you have a blog or news section? This can be a great tool for gauging interest in potential new products or services. You can share your thoughts here without making concrete promises, share your blog posts on social media and encourage feedback which you can use to inform your decisions.
- Looking for new staff? Use your site to grow your team by encouraging people who may fit well with what you're trying to achieve to get in touch. You don't have to advertise a specific job - just operate an 'open door' system where people interested in working with you are invited to get in touch - you never know where a random job application may lead.
- You want to grow to be a leader in your field? Use your site to facilitate the change: promote your business, services and products in a way which will bring on the growth - set yourself targets and goals and present your business in a way which reflects what you want to be - not necessarily what you are at the moment.
Don't Over Promise
A word of warning: do not over promise on your service. A key business practice to ensure customer loyalty is to under promise and over deliver - delight your clients with excellent service.
Set Some Goals
So, where do you want to be in 3 months, 6 months, 12 months from now? Think about setting some goals and then determine how you can use the internet, websites, social media, video, photography and so on to help you meet (and exceed) your targets.