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Thinking About Customers

So you have read the books and taken the words of experts like Nielsen to heart, so you think you are ready to create and market a web site.

So what is the purpose of your website? The simple answer is that it is a service to give the customer what they want quickly, whether that is finding information or purchasing socks on-line.

Stop thinking of people that use websites as users but more as customer, if we all start referring to them as customer then we will be in the correct mindset to give them what they want. The key word is service you will be providing a service so you need to think of what type of customer your site will have.

When thinking about the type of person visiting your website the first question that information architects ask is what are they looking for and can we get them to it within three clicks and that is the basis for the site, giving the customer what the customer wants fast and effectively. We need to think of websites like bricks and mortar shops but in a cyber high street.

Think of the home page as the shop window this needs to be informative uncluttered and display the best of what is on offer. The navigation should be thought of as the shop doors. Shop doorways are always in the same place, so navigation should follow know patterns we know this, so why do many site have drop down, pop up window or collapsible menus, we must think of how our navigation will direct the customer.

We know that once the customer has decided to click on the navigation they have made their decision so why do we then present them with drop down menus, if you went to walk in to M & S and as you went to opened the door and a huge drop down sign blocked your way what would you do?

We need to entice the customer in to the website, lead them to the information or service they require as well as keep them interested in the site. How do we do this? Design but hold on tightly to your designer as the have a habit of trying to show off what they can do this is the nature of a good designer.

Design is a very important part of website creation and with all things that are created there is the chance of mutation and there are a few mutant websites on line at the moment. Designers will try to wow you, give them strict instructions on how you want the site look and feel and make sure that they stick to what has been agreed, but remain open to their input as the do know what the are talking about. Remember that a site must be functional and quick loading so compromises have to be made. Think about what your site what can they live without or what it doesn't need.

If your site is for a business market there are a few things that your site can do without one of which is flash animation, this is because the customers to your site will be accessing information from work, and as most companies don't feel that flash viewing soft ware is needed in the office environment. If the site purpose is to appeal to the generation X market then let the designers create very visually stunning sites give them the freedom to be expressive, their talent flare will work well for the market the customers that is aimed at.

Content for any site should be wrote for the customer, not for the company supplying the site. All content is marketing opportunities poor content equals poor marketing. Direct your content to the customer write it as you are talking to them, do not over complicate information with technical details. But remember to give the customer what the customer wants if they want technical data give it to them, but make this into a service with either a link in the navigation to technical information or a text link in the content.

Do we need an on line community on the site? A lot of experts refer to communities but what are they in short? They are service that a website provides to it customers such as newsletters chat rooms and bulletin boards just like shops that have restaurants or notices boards. So do we need them the simple answer is no, but we want them, as we want to provide a good service to our customers and get them to return to the site.

Once the site is built and is now line how do you get your customer to the site this is the job of the SEO's the unsung heroes of website marketing if they are any good, your site will get a good ranking on the search engines. But it does not stop their website marketing has many tools at hand, Affiliate and affinity marketing, e-mail marketing, TV ads and word of mouth.

Word of mouth can be a power full tool but how do get someone to talk about a website? That is not such a hard question if the site is dynamic and easy to use and give the customer what they want or has some thing new customers will automatically without thinking mention the site in conversations, but you can entice the customer to tell someone else about your site by simple providing a email service from the site the simplest form of this is email this article or sent a e-card.

You should now have people coming to the site but what is making them stay the simplest answer is the hard work that you have put in to make your customer happy. The marketing for the site started when you say yes I will build a site for you, from that moment on you need to concentrate on the sites potential customers needs not your client expectations.

Remember that you are the experts in your field you by now should know what clients, customers needs and wants are. Your clients need to understand that if they want the site to work properly then they will have to trust you. You will also need to listen to your clients needs and hopes for the site and be realistic in their expectations. You and them must understand that this is a three way partnership you, the client and the customer. One of the biggest mistakes that we make is that we can forget that we are part of a team.

This is a good use of the word team as an acronym: -

T is for triangle, as they're three sides to this story
E is for evaluate your customers needs.
A is for activate their interest,
M is for marketing.

Copyright Mark Marshall 2001


About the author Mark Marshall works for www.sumitmedia.co.uk in the Marketing and Business Strategy department. Summit media provides a comprehensive service to all types of business wanting a presence on the internet. this includes business strategy, Marketing, Domain name registration, Web site Hosting and design, Internet flash animation, e-commerce solutions and web site maintenance for more information email: info@s... Mark Marshall Marketing and Business Strategy -Summit Media Rye Hill Media Centre tel. +44 (0) 1788 523307 fax. +44 (0) 1788 523306


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