Business starts with ideas and everyone has them, but a successful business can take an idea make it a reality. While this is obvious and could be found in any less-than-thrilling textbook, it doesn’t mean that people are successful in resolving this problem. Organizing strategy and ideas into information that can be used for successful a web strategy will maximize your Return on Investment (ROI) and will spare a headache for everyone involved.
Generally speaking, the obvious and common solution for problems requiring specialized skills is simple: hire an expert. Businesses hire experts all the time for a range of problems, but no matter how knowledgeable web marketing and development ‘gurus’ might be, mind-reading usually isn’t a billable skill. In order to make an idea a reality, it is important to make this idea understandable and usable by the resources necessary to implement it.
Web developers have the knowledge to provide solutions for your business, but are limited by the information with which you provide them. The first step in getting your web expert the right information begins with you. Your web project will be a direct reflection of your business so you’ll have to do a little soul-searching.
Get the creative juices flowing and your ideas into the open by asking yourself several questions to get yourself prepared to work with a web firm:
• What are your online goals and why?
• What are the problems that you are having, what is causing them, and how will you determine who can help you?
• What is your competition doing online, how can you use their ideas, and what differentiates you from them?
• How does doing business online fit into your overall business strategy?
• How will you measure and define a successfully met web-based business goal?
• Evaluate your ideas: which ones are better than others, which ones are a priority and why?
Now that you have all of your ideas out of your brain and into the open, you’ll have to get this organized and intelligible. Web developers and marketers love to help clients brainstorm–it gives us a chance to be creative and is one of the best parts of our job–but chasing down information, can be like pulling teeth. The more time that a firm has to spend organizing information means less time is being used to use the expertise for which you are supposedly paying them.
Some tips on how to organize your information so a web developer can help implement your strategy:
• Explain everything…because the devil is in the details. Define purposes, explain business processes, and analyze how these relate to each other.
• Put yourself in the shoes of the person to whom you are explaining your project. Many times they know very little about your business. Walk them through how you do business and help them develop the perspective someone would have who works for you or a customer that you would have.
• Categorize information and use different methods of presentation for different information types. For example: design ideas need examples so a designer can visualize the concept, sales processes should be grouped together, etc.
• Put the information in one place. Having information scattered in emails, your mind, phone calls, or notes leaves more room open for mis-communication and/or information loss.
• A sitemap is the bread and butter for organizing a web project. Make one. You can try something like http://bubbl.us/ to help you think about what each page will contain, how it will connect with other pages, and why.
• If a web design and marketing firm has an online quote or system, use it…most likely they know what they are doing and don’t do it because they wake up every day excited about building forms.
While it’s best and standard practice for web development and marketing firms have some kind of system to gather project goals and information, businesses consistently fail to provide it. Why it matters…time is money.
• Having good information helps web marketing and development professionals estimate and scope a project. The better and more accurate the proposal, time estimate, and quote, the more likely your project will be on time and on budget.
• You get what you give. Clear communication of your ideas and goals puts web professionals on the same page and helps them deliver the results you want.
Organizing and communicating project information does not have to be painful. Many firms, like ourselves, use an online quote. This tool is here for a reason and isn’t meant to be feared. Don’t think of it as ‘filling out a form’ but as a way to communicate the information a firm needs and as a way to lay the groundwork for a successful project.