Web Strategy 3.0
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Author: Lars Hilse

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Web Strategy 3.0 Web Strategy 3.0 Document Transcript

  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Web Strategy 3.0 e-Business Leadership through Customer Centric Internet Platforms By Lars HilseLars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Contents About Lars Hilse ....................................................................................................................... 4 Executive Summary ................................................................................................................. 5 Step 1: Attracting (the right) people to your website .................................................................... 6 1.1 Speaking to over 2 billion prospects .............................................................................. 6 1.2 Social Media Marketing..................................................................................................... 6 1.2.1 Facebook .................................................................................................................. 6 1.2.2 LinkedIn ................................................................................................................... 7 1.2.3 Twitter ..................................................................................................................... 8 1.3 Corporate Online Reputation Management .......................................................................... 9 1.4 Search Engine Optimization .............................................................................................10 1.4.1 The technical aspect .................................................................................................10 1.4.2 The Keywords and Content ........................................................................................10 1.4.3 Your Competition ......................................................................................................11 1.4.4 Mobile Search Placement ...........................................................................................11 1.5 Email Marketing .............................................................................................................11 1.6. Mobile Marketing ...........................................................................................................12 1.7 Search Engine Marketing & Paid Inclusion..........................................................................12 1.8 Offline Marketing and the internet ....................................................................................13 1.8.1 Offline Advertising ....................................................................................................13 1.8.2 Event Marketing .......................................................................................................13 Step 2: Your Website...............................................................................................................15 2.1 Advanced Web & User Interface Design .............................................................................15 2.1.1 Accessibility .............................................................................................................15 2.1.2 Mobile Devices .........................................................................................................16 2.1.3 Navigation and Menus ...............................................................................................17 2.1.4 Search Ability on your site .........................................................................................17 2.2 User Experience .............................................................................................................18 2.3 Web Analytics ................................................................................................................18 2.4 Proactive Website Visitor Engagement...............................................................................19 2.5 Corporate Blogging .........................................................................................................19 2.6 The Community Aspect of Your Website ............................................................................19 Step 3: Your Customer Relationship and Knowledge Management .................................................20 Step 4: The Community Metric in your Strategy ..........................................................................21 Free Market Research ...........................................................................................................21 Improving Your Products & Services (crowdsourcing) ...............................................................22Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Enhancing Customer Support ................................................................................................22 Your Community on Your Portal .............................................................................................23 Step 5: Putting it all together ...................................................................................................23 Risks .....................................................................................................................................24 Compliance and Regulatory Issues .........................................................................................24 General, Legal Requirements for operating a Website ...............................................................24 A print version of this publication will be available under ISBN 978-0-557-57342-4 starting Aug. 1st, 2010Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY About the Company Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development Consultants is a management consultancy founded in 2008 to advise and assist organizations during the creation, evolution and unification of their web related marketing and product distribution efforts, in particular with the seamless integration of complex workflow, customer relationship management, customer-service, and other related issues. The services we provide include – but are not limited to – status quo assessment upon which we improve internet related strategies, interim placement at management and C-Level to help clients during the creation or evolution their processes, crisis management for organizations in temporary turmoil, advisory board member placement to help organizations evolve. Our customer base is in the financial services, public health, military/defense, HR, politics, legal and a variety of other sectors spread across the Americas, Europe, Middle and Far East. About Lars Hilse Web guru & insurance pro with a passion for psychology and quantum mechanics Hilse was born in 1979 and started his career in the German insurance sector in 1999 where he specialized in corporate/industrial risks and asset management. The profound knowledge about customer service & relationships (CRM), knowledge management and other demands of large organizations he ascertained therein - combined with his lifelong passion all things web - quickly made him a globally recognized authority in context to developing highly individualized and exceptionally successful concepts, strategically positioning his clients well ahead of their competition. Beside his utilization of social media for business purposes, Lars experiments with several platforms regularly, drawing comparisons between them but also making out key differentiators, especially in inter-cultural aspects and how to utilize those most efficiently to create a competitive advantage for his clients. Praised for his enlightening and motivational speeches about search engine optimization and the “next generation web strategy” he is also author of the book “Adding the E to your Business Strategy” (ISBN 978-0-557-08080-9) as well as publisher of several market segment relevant white papers about the internet- and web marketing industry. The extraordinary strategies he develops with his clients are backed by his “über-human-thinking” skill deriving from his hobbies psychology and quantum mechanics. This talent gives him the capability to make out problems or flaws inside organizations and deliver holistic solutions, effortlessly intertwining even the most complex or unthought-of issues.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Executive Summary A few “must haves” to acclaim Digital Economy Leadership The fundamental must haves in any modern web strategy can be segmented as follows: 1. Getting (the right) prospects to your point-of-sale, your website, through a variety of marketing channels like Social Media Marketing, Search Engine Optimization and Marketing, offline marketing efforts, etc., 2. Converting prospects to leads directly on your website, for instance through proactive website visitor engagement, 3. Ensuring the continued customer relationship through the implementation of a customer relationship management system and associated strategy built around your existing business processes, along with offering your customers and prospects plenty of unique incentives for them to return to your website regularly and giving them many opportunities to engage with and see your brand on the web. Your web site has become a mere aspect of web strategy… so have social media marketing, search engine optimization, e-commerce and all other aspects involved. It’s about the complex and most efficient intertwining of them all to claim a role in digital economy leadership, increase your market share and stand out in your business vertical. Because web strategy is something highly individual we have only outlined a general procedure and shed light on some of the factors which should at least be included in your marketing and sales mix. “Individual”, in this context, does not refer to individuality you need to maintain in your vertical but also refers to the individual, manifested and long developed business processes which need to be respected during the planning and execution of your new web campaign. Diversify your budget and efforts - Don’t dedicate all your resources to a “hype” Particularly during the last few months we have seen a variety of organizations follow the Facebook hype, dedicating a majority or their resources and budget towards this one portal. The consequence was that many of them neglected what should have been their primary focus, their corporate website which represents the center of the entire strategy. That being said: it’s about utilizing the social media landscape, but what you have to keep in mind is that the most efficient place you can covert leads to actual business, thus being able to create an ROI calculation, is – and will be – your corporate website. An important aspect to keep in mind in this context as well is that only your corporate website will consistently remain in your sphere of influence while your social media and other proprietary endeavors may be subjected to third party influence.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Step 1: Attracting (the right) people to your website Making the most out of the Internet & its unification with offline marketing The secret here is to diversify your communication efforts so that these reach the most popular places on the web giving Prospects the opportunity to be made aware of your brand and value proposition, and Existing customers the opportunity to see that you’re out there and available to them. Because of the individuality of each business and their vertical you have to prequalify which platform you want to spend which amount of effort on. For instance: Facebook and Twitter will be the right places to look at if your primary engagement will be within the B2C field while B2B savvy business will probably want to look at building relationships using LinkedIn, simply because it offers access to the decision makers of a variety of organizations. 1.1 Speaking to over 2 billion prospects New York = 8,363,710 citizens | The Web = 2,000,000,000+ users When planned and executed correctly your web strategy can grant you access to over 2 billion web users. Setting up shop in the world’s biggest metropolises will not give you that exposure. While a majority of these internet users will speak English to a certain extent, the queries they will submit to their domestic versions of Google, Yahoo, Ask, etc. will be in their mother tongue. This is one of a few dozen problems you will be facing when trying to set your business up internationally through the web and which requires you to think outside the box about how to work around this and many other issues involving demographical, geographical, cultural and related topics. 1.2 Social Media Marketing Social Media Marketing is one of the hottest issues amongst many marketing executives at the moment. And while the figures of Facebook’s 500+ million and Twitter’s over 100+ million users may seem tempting and – at the first glance – represent a good opportunity, the ROI is actually hard to measure yet Social Media Marketing should be present at all times in your marketing mix simply because it offers a great opportunity to draw new prospects to your online operation and have brand visibility on the social web 1.2.1 Facebook Facebook (FB) offers numerous possibilities to increase visibility through engaging your brand’s fans, for instance by creating a group for your brand. When you update your FB fan-page, your users will be notified on their “wall” which also offers them to “like” what you have posted or directly engage with you by commenting on your news.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Both the “likes” and the comments will in turn be visible to your fan’s network of friends, allowing a significant spread of your brand on FB. Based on our experience you can usually ascertain a user base of a few hundred fans within a few weeks. It then depends on your engagement with the existing base community on whether your number of fans increases progressively. Allowing your employees to use Facebook during work This is a truly controversial issue because when spending working hours on FB your employees will not be working on their day-to-day tasks. Their profiles, however, will have their affiliation with your company visible and thus increase your brand visibility. PROOF OF CONCEPT Upon several assignments we have been asked whether it was feasible to let employees use FB during working hours. On these assignments we usually made it possible for the employees but regulated environment, governed by a unique Social Media Policy developed together with Legal, Human Resources Departments in cooperation with the employees and associated unions. Core component was the obligation of the employees to engage only in work related groups (using these as resources) and the companies own presence on FB, thus increasing brand visibility. 1.2.2 LinkedIn Unlike FB, which can be classified as a social network, LinkedIn (LI) can be referred to as a sole business network, hardly allowing its members to utilize it for anything else than business related engagements. LI is about building and maintaining professional relationships between professionals. The key benefit from an organization’s point of view is that your brand will be visible to all your employees’ connections on LinkedIn and every engagement they make with others will strengthen your brand visibility. Especially key level executives should be encouraged to create and maintain a LinkedIn profile because they will be the people which will be approached first. Your Organization can have a Profile on LinkedIn too LinkedIn does not only entitle individuals to a profile but also lets organizations create so called Company Pages on LI which other individuals can follow. When people start following your company it will be made available on their social stream which is visible to all their connections.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Further, the LI company pages let you publish updates about your organization, for instance projects you’re currently working on or the bids you have recently won, making it an interesting place to encourage interested press representatives to follow. Further increasing your Organization’s visibilit y on LinkedIn Similar to the concept on Facebook, LinkedIn also allows you set up groups which offer discussion forums and other aspects of communicating with other individuals. In context to your brand you may want to start by creating an alumni group, which is going to become a place for all your past and current employees to meet up and have a closed environment to exchange knowledge and thoughts. Also, you can use the alumni group to publish news regarding your organization. Brand Groups will enable you to engage with individuals. As we had stated when starting this chapter, LinkedIn’s membership is targeted towards professionals. This, in turn, gives you access to their perception of your brand and access to intelligence about product perception. Further, the engagement your brand will receive is of higher quality because your members will take more time to answer potential questions you have towards them with more diligence. 1.2.3 Twitter Twitter has several success stories of brands interacting with their community. But Twitter is not limited to this aspect. The most important aspect of Twitter is the measurement of your brand’s reputation and associated tools like HootSuite, CoTweet, and similar allow you to execute a Corporate Online Reputation Management Strategy. Using Twitter to keep your Brand’s community on top of things and engagement When your company has something to say you should make Twitter one of your prioritized channels to convey what you have to say. Twitter is still often misconceived as a kids tool and it is thus still widely believed that the primary audience consists of immature kids. The truth is that the people following your brand will probably consist of industry/business/financial analysts, the press and other entities writing about and regularly engaging with you. Another important aspect is using the same corporate channel to engage with your customers and community keeping them up to date with news on your organization but also offering them a point where they can connect with your brand. The benefit of Twitter in this regard is that the engagement with your brand will consist of no more than 140 characters, keeping the effort for communication brief. Keep in mind that the more you engage with customers and community the higher the spread of your brand’s visibility on the Twitter platform.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Twitter as a tool to proactively sell your products or services Twitter can be used as a bidirectional communication instrument. Above mentioned tools also allow you to search the “Twitter Universe” for information relevant to your field of business. Once you have identified the users you want to address you can incentivize these users or otherwise engage them in a discussion proactively. Due to the fact that this procedure has not been widely adapted your brand will receive not only recognition by the user you have engaged but this step may also be widely recognized by the blogsphere and associated social media instruments and communication outlets. PROOF OF CONCEPT A domestic tourism marketing corporation hired us to develop a unique social media concept which they would include in their portfolio of services. One of the two dozen ideas we qualified consisted of continuously searching the twitter stream for the keywords “vacation” and related terms. Twitter users mentioning these words would then receive a discount for their next vacation booked through this tourism marketer. The result was a significant and sustainable spread of the brand in the Twitter Universe and in the trial period generated 25,000 EUR of business. 1.3 Corporate Online Reputation Management 10 years ago a bad mention could reach hundreds, today in can reach millions The worst enemy your corporate reputation had to fear only a decade ago was word-of-mouth propaganda which could reach a few hundred people. Today any influential individual can diminish your organizations reputation by sending out a tweet. Being aware of what is being said about your Organization Whether you decide to engage or not is entirely up to you. However you should have a constant eye on what is being written about you and your brand in the social web at all times. There are two primary channels you should keep in mind when developing a corporate online reputation management campaign. One of these is the more static channel of blogs and websites which you can monitor using a service called “Google Alerts” or similar products. Google Alerts in particular let’s you monitor all websites Google indexes and you will be provided with a daily report by email of mentions about the keywords you want to monitor. Recently Google added the possibility of receiving this information via RSS.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY The second, and probably more important channel, is the micro- and blogging sphere which you can monitor through free or commercial tools. Our experience has been that the free tools are as effective as the commercial ones. The commercial ones just offer a few features the free ones don’t. Whether these are worth the budget is up to you. One of the primary tools to monitor blogs, microblogs (i. e. Twitter) and other related websites is Social Mention. This tool updates all mentions and keywords you monitor in real time to your screen, allowing you to keep up to date about your brands reputation. 1.4 Search Engine Optimization If you don’t show up on the first search results your competition gets the client When people submit a query to search engines, most of the times they will only look at the first three results and then refine their search. That’s why it is important to show up on leading positions on search engine queries in context to certain relevant search terms. These leadership positions can sustainably be attained by organic search engine optimization which involves the technical and content restructuring of your website. Another way to show up first on Google and Yahoo is to participate in their advertising programs. By giving money your result then shows up on a leading position on search results. These are momentary efforts. 1.4.1 The technical aspect Technically search engine optimizing a website involves many aspects. Should your website fail a thorough analysis you should use the opportunity to move forward to a content management system (CMS) which includes search engine optimization out of the box because the effort of touch all relevant points would supersede that of starting out from scratch. Since the market for CMSs is constantly evolving you will have to do a lot of research and really test the system you’re going to implement. It’s particularly important to get a feel for the SEO capabilities of the programmers and architects of the system and what efforts the company or open source project has dedicated towards this. Some of the fundamentals include the automatic generation and updating of your XML sitemap which will make it easier for search engine to index all pages of your site. 1.4.2 The Keywords and Content Another very important aspect of search engine optimization is the determination of the keywords you want to rank highest for. In context to your keywords the saturation of these and associated terms in your content plays a major role in the search engines defining where you rank. Defining your keywords can be supported by basic tools like Google’s AdWords Keyword tool (Search “Google Keyword Tool” on Google) which will give you access to the popularity of certain keywords,Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY show you the searches submitted for that word for the past month globally and domestically and will also suggest an extensive list of alternatives, ranking lower competition-wise. 1.4.3 Your Competition The SEO results you or your team can produce rely largely on the amount of effort, resources and budget you can dedicate. A major aspect of creating the search engine strategy is analyzing the competition you’re up against and you should thus closely scrutinize the efforts your rivals are undertaking in context to SEO. Pre-evaluating what is being done by others will give you insights into whether it makes sense to compete for major search words in the first place or it makes more sense to dedicate your effort to a larger quantity of less prominent keywords. The less prominent keywords are often neglected and thus offer a great opportunity to get your hands on the business your competition is not paying attention to. 1.4.4 Mobile Search Placement Relatively new to the search engine optimization sector is the mobile search placement. With an ever increasing number of mobile devices hitting the market and people utilizing localized searches to find the nearest Italian restaurant or drug store you have to keep the optimization in context to your positioning in mind. The big map service providers Google and Bing will most likely have included your business address already in their services. Our experience has shown, however, that it makes sense to review your listing because a lot of times the placement will be not entirely correct and the data associated to the listing may be incorrect as well. 1.5 Email Marketing Believed dead by many, Email marketing still represents a major way of keeping your community and followers up to date about current issues, deploying coupons to incentivize users to return to your site, and many other opportunities of recalling your brand into memory. It’s just that with the evolution of the web the rules have changed a little. The talented marketing professional will adapt their email newsletters and the strategy behind their distribution. Both the “elderly” generation and those traveling a lot appreciate email newsletter updates. The elderly primarily because they’re used to receiving and digesting this way and the travelers because they spend a lot of time in transit, a majority of which they have no internet connectivity. Delivered email gives them the opportunity to read information offline which is a good way to use time you can’t spend otherwise. Adding a new skin to an old technology The rules that have changed are numerous, yet the primary things you want to keep in mind when revamping this technology areLars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY to add redistribution features, making it easy for users to forward the entire newsletter or parts of it to other likeminded people in their network as well as buttons for “Tweeting” or “Share on Facebook” buttons, all of which will allow gathering new subscribers to have both HTML and text-only versions in the same distribution to allow Blackberry and other mobile users low download rates when traveling PROOF OF CONCEPT “How can we increase this newsletters value?” was a question we asked the subscribers of a client. We got so much feedback which we almost entirely incorporated into the new distribution which increased the opening rate to 45% raised the subscriber rate by 14%, sustainably increasing with every issue gave new sales perspectives to our client Especially the inclusion of Facebook and Twitter tools led to a large reach on this portal. 1.6. Mobile Marketing Mobile marketing, in reference to SMS and MMS messaging still plays a role depending on the target audience you’re trying to reach in context to both demography and geography. Even in Europe there is a certain audience you may want to keep up to date about special offers and coupons through these marketing channels. However, this instrument of delivery in general is declining due to the penetration of mobile internet enabled devices. 1.7 Search Engine Marketing & Paid Inclusion A few chapters earlier we covered the importance of search engine optimization which offers sustainable positioning on results deriving from queries submitted to search engines. Sometimes these rankings are not possible due to too much competition for a certain keyword. Another way of achieving top rankings is to pay for them, each click or impression at a time. The biggest search engines offer programs in which you can have a link to your site included against money. When do SEM and PI prove valuable? In most situations we would suggest going for the SEO way simply because the investment is sustainable. Some of the situations in which SEO is not feasible are if you have a certain offer you want to put up to potential clients which is limited time-wise. Another case is when your competitors want to use your search term to benefit from it.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY PROOF OF CONCEPT One of our clients’ competitors utilized Google’s AdWords program to push themselves in front of our organic search results we had achieved. We had no other choice but to initiate a campaign ourselves to push the competitor off their positioning by increasing the campaigns price per click to an astronomical value. The competitor cancelled his campaign shortly after we initiated our countermeasures. 1.8 Offline Marketing and the internet Newspapers and other offline media will be with us for a very long time and continue to present a very beneficial opportunity to communicate with an exceptionally targeted audience. Usually these types of advertisements offer you a certain amount of space to convey your message. The bigger this amount of space gets, the more expensive the advertisement. The internet offers you a great solution to cope with this problem. An efficient campaign based on a dedicated campaign leading to a specific landing page will offer you even more advantages. An example would be an advertisement campaign for a product or service. The advertisement would be created to raise the reader’s initial interest and offer them a dedicated domain to go to. This domain would then be forwarded to a dedicated landing-page on the corporate website from which all following actions can be measured. Because this dedicated domain leaves a clear indicator as to where the hit to the website came from the campaign’s outcome can be segmented and its success be set in context to which publication drove most traffic, which converted the most leads as well as giving insights into other behavioral patterns of the readers. 1.8.1 Offline Advertising Offline advertising still represents an important part in an overall marketing strategy mix due to the possibilities it bears in context to segmentation and addressing a dedicated audience. The way to incorporate into your web strategy is to reduce the content you’re trying to convey in the advertisement itself and through a link to a dedicated domain monitor the outcome of prospects coming to your online presence. This, in turn, will allow you to channel the incoming prospect to a dedicated landing page giving them more in-depth information on the headline you used to raise their interest. The raised interest is caused by the fact that your advertisement stood out because you were able to use large fonts for your initial trigger which suggested them to read more information about your offering on the (hopefully easy to remember or catchy) domain name you provided them with. 1.8.2 Event Marketing Event marketing, in this example, refers to associated efforts to place your brand on tradeshows or conferences.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY These are interesting venues due to their very targeted audiences and present good opportunities to experiment with incentives because of the high chances of lead-conversions. Again, it is important that you present your prospects with a dedicated landing page which brings the conference where you met them back to mind because the chances of them recalling your conversation during that event will increase. When giving away presents make sure they are something unique or useful and that they are somehow related to the dedicated landing page for this event. Having this dedicated landing page for conferences is particularly important because most conferences and tradeshows tend to have a very diverse audience in geographical aspects. While advertisement campaigns in newspapers can give you reports of success in context to their geography (regional newspaper or magazine) when people leave the conference they will travel back to their office and will access your website from there to obtain more information. Because these office locations are spread across the globe you will not be able to track anything but a sudden increase of visits to your general website from a diversity of locations.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Step 2: Your Website Your corporate website is the heart of your web strategy because it represents your point-of-sale in our description. All marketing efforts, all advertisements are directed to this one entity, so it better look pretty, be accessible to the disabled, be open 24/7 and offer a great experience to be at featuring exceptional customer service. Sounds too much like a real-life-boutique? Well, it is. Modern websites have to complexly intertwine a variety of aspects and respect several standards. And if you’re offering an e-commerce solution where your clients have to pay for services or products you better make sure that their credit-card or associated data is safe and convey that safety to them gaining not only their money, but also their trust upon which you can build a sustainable relationship with your new customer. 2.1 Advanced Web & User Interface Design When designing your website you don’t only want it to be a memorable experience for your visitor but also ensure that they can use it properly and make sure that all the information they may be searching for is available to them at the touch of a button. Modern websites are usually designed to present all information at a maximum of two clicks away from the “home” page which proves to be hard to achieve when you have to convey a large quantity of information. If you are in that specific situation think about splitting up your websites and adding intelligent algorithms to the backend which will start a dialog with the visitor asking them whether they wouldn’t prefer to visit your dedicated page for the content they were searching for presenting a link to that segment or product specific website. Incorporating aspects of modern user interface design standards is inevitable as well and can determine whether the website fails. 2.1.1 Accessibility Up to 25% of your website visitors have some kind of disability. They may either be blind, deaf, dyslexic or impaired otherwise. But also technical aspects like a slow internet connection, viewing your website with a mobile device and others may present barriers you don’t want to have. Accessibility refers to having your website coded and presented by standards which allow impaired users equal access, something a lot of organizations are paying little to no attention to. While writing this paper we analyzed the websites of the world’s 500 biggest companies of which 82% were not compliant to accessibility standards. In particular Wal-Mart’s website stood out with over 16 critical accessibility errors. Have you ever thought you could get a lawsuit for having an inaccessible website? It also has a legal background. Several countries have gone as far as to threaten online service providers with legal actions if their web offering is not accessible by certain standards.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY To be on the safe side of things you may want to reach out to your federal government and ask them for guidelines which they have developed. Our experience is that most countries have at least worked out a set of regulations for government websites which are usually very helpful for designing your site to be compliant to international accessibility standards. Other than that we have used the guidelines released by the W3C to help our clients design their online presentations to meet these standards. 2.1.2 Mobile Devices Apple’s iPhone is the center of the universe The number of mobile devices is increasing progressively. And while we’re stating the obvious: the iPhone is not the center of the universe. Regardless of which client we have visited worldwide their main concern was to have an iPhone app branded for their organization, assuming that they’d have completed their service offering to smart- phone users. The truth is that the iPhone globally only has a m arket share of 13% A majority of the market is scattered among older devices with less computing and graphical power and that is where the problem begins. These devices have a variety of screen resolutions and an even higher variety of compatibility issues. While some support Java others only support Flash. What we like to refer to as a “critical patient” is the entire Blackberry series of smart-phones because not only their compatibility issues vary from device to device but they can also have regulations in context to content delivery implied by the Blackberry Enterprise Server. Making it right for everyone Without killing your entire web budget for two dozen different versions of your website you may want to find a compromise along the line classifying mobile devices into 2 categories where category one represents older smart-phones having a menu selection available based on the numerals rather than a QWERTY input basis. Category two would be a fallback for more modern devices into which the Blackberry should fall as well. These devices have QWERTY input and can handle most modern aspects of websites but you should cut all content based on Java and Flash. Not only do these devices have issues with displaying that content properly but a large variety of BlackBerrys on the market are not 3G/UMTS capable, thus leading to unacceptable loading times. The third category we have not pointed out above will be the iPhone and Android devices. Our experience is that implementing an introduction page upon device identification giving the user the opportunity to choose between the standard and mobile version of the website is the key to success.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY 2.1.3 Navigation and Menus With 650+ million social media users guess who’s influencing UI Design Over 25% of the world’s internet users have a Facebook account. And regardless of how active they are they’re going to be acquainted that a main-menu is horizontal and on top of the website. Submenus are vertical and on the left. Proprietary information is on the right hand side of the main content in the middle. That’s just the way it is. Now, it may be disputed whether Facebook is right with their design policy. Fact is that all social media portals adapt to this trend, driving this trend forward even further. Don’t try to be a trendsetter – Just comply When designing your site you will want to stick to what is pointed out above simply because if you don’t you’ll lose website visitors if you experiment with alternatives. Before you start doing anything spend a decent amount of time figuring out what content goes in which submenu. Don’t use your logic when evaluating this critical aspect, use the reports you have about your website visitors. When designing your horizontal main menu you will not want to have any more points in there than necessary because the user will feel over killed. 2.1.4 Search Ability on your site Hopefully all your content is only 2 clicks away from the user and your 2-click-policy is based upon the analytics reports of your web users in the past. Especially those that incorporate the concept of corporate blogging which we’re going to address later in the paper will find it hard to reference the links to posts and detailed content though as a consequence of which your visitors will have a hard time finding the right content. That being said it’s time to find a solution the easiest of which is the implementation of a functional search box on your website. This will allow your visitor to enter their search term and then be presented with search results. Most search boxes will not allow you to rearrange the results presented. The results may thus be non- relevant in some cases. When using a search box make sure it will also allow referencing tags attached to website content. This way you can influence the results by posting your pages with tags. Include searches in your TITLE-meta-tag For further determination and decisions it’s important to ensure the protocol of searches. For the sake of the proactive website visitor engagement which we will cover a bit later and deciding upon which visitor you’re going to engage it is important to know which query they submitted to your search box.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY 2.2 User Experience It’s less about making the user feel welcome than about giving them a memorable experience of their stay either by a unique and eye-catching design or feature your website has which will leave an irreversible impression in their mind. Other crucial aspects of creating a memorable user experience are the choice of colors, fonts, font sizes, structure & segmentation of content multi-media content, for instance video as an alternative for product presentation Based on our experience the higher the level of convenience and uniqueness, the higher the conversion rate of prospects or website visitors is. 2.3 Web Analytics Thorough reports about your websites performance are essential to create and manifest a sustainable success in web strategy. These reports can give you insights not only about the behavior of your users while on your website but they will also let you determine how your website content is conceived. Let’s say you have a page on your site that takes an average human being two minutes to read but the average duration on this page is 50 seconds; this is an indicator that the users bounce before they have completed reading the content and that at some point (about half way through the text) they have lost interest. Further, web analytics allow you to determine the outcome of a marketing or advertisement campaign, primarily in context to geography and thus play a major role determining how the advertisement in a local newspaper was accepted and what its ROI is. For the sake of crowd-sourcing you may want to involve as many departments of your organization in the process of determining the figures in the reports. Documentation of associated campaigns is also important to determine the source of peaks hitting your website. These numbers may also prove important for your webmaster or web hosting provider as a heads-up info in context to potential expansion being due for the server architecture. Modern Web Analytics are real time Real time analytics play a major role determining the prospects you want to engage in your proactive website visitor engagement policy. Real time analytics give you multiple indicators whether a website visitor is a valuable prospect or a stray. Besides giving you metrics on a variety of technical details it may prove to be important for the above decision to know where the visitor is from in a geographical context which is also provided by modern real time analytics tools.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY PROOF OF CONCEPT A client who hired us to reorganize and redistribute their entire web marketing campaign decided to include proactive website visitor engagement to increase lead-conversion off their website. Since the company had offices in only 3 cities they had to determine the value of a visitor based on their geography. Real time analytics let us set triggers to the three cities of operation and prioritize visitors based on their distance to one of these cities. The outcome was the first-ever possibility for the client to engage proactively with their customers and increased their website-lead-conversion by 530%. 2.4 Proactive Website Visitor Engagement Proactive website visitor engagement refers to the process of the website operator sending a chat request or invitation to a website visitor based on the visitor viewed prior and other behavioral factors and metrics relevant to the website operator. These tools can also be used in a bidirectional manner giving the website visitor the opportunity to engage with the website operator which has proven to be fairly unsuccessful due to the amount of non-business related questions being asked. Based on the real time analytics data available about the users behavior the engagement and the website operator being able to use this during the chat the chances of selling and even up-selling are tremendously high. 2.5 Corporate Blogging Your conventional website has a limited, static number of pages in context to which search engines can add you to query-results. When having a blog seamlessly integrated into your website, each blog-post you published is indexed as an additional page, each of which can give you traffic. The seamless integration of the blog in your corporate website allows you to have it appear under your brand. Content you publish will be subject relevant, so the user getting to this blog-post by a search engine query will most likely be interested in your organizations products or services. Because blogs are rated as news sources by major search engines the content published therein is indexed extremely fast, usually within a maximum of 60 minutes. When blogging make sure to only publish subject/industry relevant information and that there is a certain density of the keywords included in your overall SEO strategy. 2.6 The Community Aspect of Your Website One of the most important aspects of web strategy is to stage a wide variety of possibilities for your users to engage with your brand to ensure a residual stream of visitors; regardless whether they are new or reoccurring.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Depending on your organization and the mindset therein are projects of a white labeled and industry/business vertical relevant community being fed with user contributed content. Once the critical mass, the point at which the user engagement starts to increase progressively, the portal will start to attract a lot of search engine traffic based on the discussions being lead and the information being exchanged. Due to the fact that the portal belongs to your organization you will be able to use the advertising space free of charge and since the search engine traffic you receive will be all industry relevant the visitors will click on your advertisements. Let the customers do the customer services themselves Another aspect of building a community around your brand is to create a community around your customer service. The owners of your product will confront you with problems they may be experiencing with your project upon which you react presenting them with a solution. This concept involves a certain “critical mass” which has to be breached after which the community users will start helping each other, reducing your costs for customer support. The most appealing aspect of the web-based customer-self-help-concept is, however, that the portal is entirely in your sphere of influence, giving you the opportunity to manage and moderate the direction the community is taking. As pointed out above, users will start searching the web for problems related to your products or services and due to the massive amount of user contributed content your website will show up first in search queries, thus all the discussions, questions, etc. will take care in your sphere of influence. Step 3: Your Customer Relationship and Knowledge Management The more information, the higher the value of your company Should it ever come to a merger, acquisition or execution of your exit strategy the price you can ask for your company increases with the amount of information you have both about intellectual property and internal information and the information related to your customers. Part of your web strategy efforts should thus be dedicated towards implementing CRM and Knowledge Management Systems which allow you to retain this information. Because they will be using the system in the end it’s inevitable you involve your employees during the planning and deployment of these systems and that the systems are built on top of existing business processes. We have seen about half a dozen CRM campaigns fail because the system oppressed new business processes upon employees which made them deny the use of the system. Another often neglected benefit of a KM is the cost reduction aspect due to the fact that the number of multiple project initiations declines.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY This relies on the KM being accepted by your employees and system relevant factors like good search ability presented by the system. Step 4: The Community Metric in your Strategy It’s not hard to build a community; the problem is getting it involved Pretty much each of our customers has requested to have us incorporate the community aspect into their web strategy which is great. However, it took us a while to communicate to our client that it’s the involvement of the community that raises the value of the brand and that this involvement is the problem. When starting a community around your brand you want to start thinking about the touching points you have with your customers. Do you have a customer-self-service concept inform of a discussion group you could use to engage? How strong is your brand in context to social media and how visible and active are you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et. al? How big is the list of active customers in your CRM which you could potentially inform about the new approach you’re taking? These are some of the most crucial questions you need to answer before you start taking the next step, setting up a community strategy. After you have done that comes the hardest decision you want to take: 1. Do you create a branded community which is fully integrated into your website, bringing you search engine traffic and new customers, 2. Or are you going to have an unbranded but industry relevant community, which will also granting you access to your competitor’s knowledge exchange? While generally nothing keeps you from initiating both, unless you have the resources you’re going to get to a point where the two fundamentally different concepts get mixed up blowing the cover of the unbranded community wide open, most likely subjecting you to ridicule. Beside the above there are several other, more unique ways in which a community can help you get brand-visibility and knowledge exchange, yet covering these in this paper would prove to kill the concept. Below are a few of various benefits which general community building can provide you with. Free Market Research Spending huge budget on market research is inevitable and probably always will be. But why not think outside the box for a while and have your community do the market research for you? As we’ve figured out above social media portals offer great opportunities to engage the community and some of the largest brands are utilizing this approach already and very successful as well.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Simple product related questions like “What are the problems you’ve been having with this product” will prove to get you 100s of answers in a few hours. While these answers are not nearly as representative as market surveys and studies they give you information directly from the base. And because the information you get there is not anonymous, you can engage with the people who’ve answered your question directly and follow up on issues they’ve been experiencing with your products. One example is Coca-Cola, which is doing a tremendously good job involving their community and thus spreading their brand, particularly on Facebook. A simple example was one question they asked their 5 million members strong community on FB: “Where have you had your last Coke?” – Within seconds replies started to come in, followed by pictures uploaded from around the globe. While this does not necessarily represent a valid market research study it does show the strengthening of the brand in context to community-involvement. Improving Your Products & Services (crowdsourcing) It’s really worth wasting a thought about why not more organizations are utilizing this grand opportunity of getting their hands on inevitable information from those that actually use their products, specifically after two best seller books were written about the issue. One would believe that at least 20% or all marketing staff would have read “Wikinomics” and “Knowledge of the crowds” based on the astronomical number of copies sold. However, implementing crowdsourcing into an overall strategy does prove to be complicated, particularly because you have to be careful not to reveal too much information about the upcoming product or your intellectual property in general. In crowdsourcing there are two approaches 1. The proactive approach in which you engage your community to give ideas about product improvements and 2. The passive approach in which you take the information already on the internet and utilize it to improve your products and services. The passive approach has proven to be exceptionally valuable in automotive manufacturing. Because of the high quantity of third-party OEM components being built into a modern car the manufacturers themselves have no real insight into which parts may conflict during operation after a certain period of time. Enhancing Customer Support Beside all of what we have covered in the prior chapters, your web strategy can also help you increase your customer service level while reducing costs for customer service. While only 2 years companies did whatever they could not to put a form of contact on their websites, modern web strategy needs to convey transparency and accessibility of an organization. This has not changed the fact that inbound customer-service is expensive, but cleverly placed customer-self-help concepts can help you reduce these costs significantly.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Another positive aspect is that the expectations of customers have been lowered to a standard at which they prefer to search the internet for a solution instead of calling an operator. The concept basically implies that the community of customers on your site help themselves to solutions which others have had with the same product or service. These discussions are indexed by search engines. So the next customer with the same issue submitting a query to a search engine will be directed to that specific discussion; even if they are a customer of your competitor. Your Community on Your Portal Particularly issues like customer-self-service to reduce personnel costs for customer support issues can be the primary initiative for you to consider implementing a community aspect to your own website. Further, the content contributed by the community’s members will lead to search engine traffic being directed towards your online presentation, increasing your chances of sales from it. PROOF OF CONCEPT One of our clients experienced their reputation being compromised on a large scale on third party discussion forums, which were out of their sphere of influence. The solution we implemented consisted – amongst others – of a moderated discussion forum, directly integrated into their website which led to Increased search engine traffic resulting out of the masses of user contributed content which generated more sales Increased customer transition from their competitors because of better impression in context to customer service Step 5: Putting it all together The important part is not having each and every one of the above and other segments in place. It’s about strategizing your efforts uniquely to find the most efficient combination of the above. The assignments we have completed outline that there is a very thin line between success and failure when it comes to implementing a web strategy. No matter how thoroughly planned the entire strategy is you will never be able to cover all necessary factors. Viral campaigns, for instance, have to be scrutinized and can easily be compared to the fundamentals of quantum physics, meaning there are too many metrics and dependencies between these metrics which let the project succeed or fail.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM
  • CREATING THE LEADERS OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Risks Up until now we’ve primarily talked about the benefits of web strategy and the opportunities associated to the few instruments we have pointed out above. Where there are opportunities, there are risks even though in this case they are – for the most part – hidden and in some theaters can even entirely be neglected. The most important one to understand is that there will always be other channels you have to pay similar, in some cases even more attention to alternative methods of marketing, lead generation et. al. Compliance and Regulatory Issues Especially the financial industry is subject to harsh regulations by authorities in context to internet marketing. These regulations go as far as to limiting financial service provider’s participation in successful marketing tactics like social media marketing, blogging and more. Based on our experience there is always a chance to work together with the authorities to find ways around the implied regulations which usually consists of efforts involving the protocolling of conversations led on platforms like Facebook or discussions initiated by comments on blog posts. In multiple cases we were able to negotiate major parts of our intended measures together with the US based SEC and FINRA and the British FSA. These negotiations resulted in competitive advantage for our clients and gave them a head-start of several months until their competitors figured out similar ways. General, Legal Requirements for operating a Website Some countries have strict regulations in context to privacy issues or the publication of website operator’s data. Mentioning the regulations of each country in this paper would surely exceed the 100 pages so the general advice is this: before you start operations in another country (regardless whether your operations are “only” web based or not) make sure to contact a foreign attorney in that country, experienced in the field of law practice, or contact their local government and ask them for documents they have about operating a website in that country. When moving into Europe you have to keep in mind that there is both EU and domestic law of which both apply to certain aspects. In some cases there is no clear line drawn, stating whether EU or domestic law overrules. In any case it makes perfect sense to contact the according EU department along with the government of the country you intend to start operations in.Lars Hilse – Web Strategy & E-Business Development US +1 206 203 5212Eichstr. 10 B | 25767 Bunsoh | Germany UK +44 845 5089559 DE +49 1801 5557775788 WWW.LARSHILSE.COM