The Integrated Approach to Strategy
I have a theory that winning businesses have a strong business strategy. But more than that, I believe the best businesses re-evaluate their business strategy to stay fresh and relevant. We need to look no further than the smashing success of Apple, Netflix and Amazon; or on the other end of the spectrum, to companies like Kodak, Blockbuster and Borders, to see how strategy drives some companies to great heights while others quite simply fail. Even startups pivot their way to success. And though redesigning and redeveloping your website may be a piece of a larger communications plan, doing it right means integrating the strategy behind it with your business strategy as a whole.
So, a website strategy entails four core things: design, content, technology and marketing. You can think of these as four interconnected strategies each with a bend towards your overall business strategy. I am fortunate to work here at I.S. which was founded over 10 years ago on the very principles I discuss in this post. And like I suggest here that the best businesses re-evaluate, we continue to evolve our approach to building clients’ websites by thinking of them as web ecosystems across paid, owned, and earned media. From responsive design of the main hub to personalization, we are approaching websites as platforms of content, wherever that content resides.
Your design strategy means ensuring that your website supports your marketing materials, your business personality, and your business goals. If you wear suits and speak in industry jargon, should you go with pastels? Bright colors? Floral art? Photos of the sky? There is an argument for and against each, and other variables must be considered. Will the design drive your website visitors to action? The fact is that each design decision should be made strategically. Designing on a whim just won’t get you the results you desire. Your design must leverage assets to reflect the brand. At I.S., we understand that if all you have is a logo, you simply don’t have a brand. We have content and design work closely together to package work that reflects a cohesive brand package – that tells a story both directly and indirectly.
Your content strategy means a lot of things. The Wikipedia article on the Web content lifecycle defines up to seven stages. Here is just one possible content strategy approach:
Where will the content be developed?
What is the structure of that content?
How will it be managed and archived?
Where will it be published?
You may note that Cory and the team took a view last year that focused on the message, structure, and words. This has not altogether changed. The website still needs messages, structure, and words, but I would argue viewed more dynamically than it has in the past, as what you post on Twitter or Facebook, campaign sites, and so on are promoted and an integrated part of your website platform. Cory described as much several months earlier that "site content is strategically developed to give users the right information at the right time, and content management systems are built to support the plan." So, what does it mean for your company to produce a case study? For some it means a text-based approach, for others it means a video reel and for others it means visuals from charts to screenshots to photographs. The content you post on your website not only deserves this attention, it requires it.
Choosing a technology platform is never a simple task. A content management system is largely a given, but they come in all shapes and sizes. What your larger technology platform will do versus what it will connect to other tools and databases to do isn’t a question for a “programmer,” it is a question for an advanced technical director- someone who knows systems and vendors and who loves flowcharts and use cases. Think strategically about your technology and you will obtain a system that can scale with your growth. We grapple with and then advise our clients on selecting the appropriate CMS. In recent days, we have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of Drupal over WordPress, and have encouraged clients (and potential clients) to explore features largely unique to Sitecore.
The marketing strategy should never be the last item to consider. Too bad I left it to the end of this blog post! If you can think of your marketing strategy as glue between the other three strategies, that is a great start. Your marketing strategy can ensure that your technology platform includes customer feedback mechanisms and that your design is influential for the bottom line. Your marketing strategy can also ensure you have landing pages that will drive organic traffic and even more landing pages to deliver visitors from paid search campaigns. It can mean the difference between embracing emerging platforms like Pinterest and being left trying to catch up to your more nimble competitors. But if your marketing strategy is glue, combine it with content strategy for superglue. Then you will have the plan, the resources, the design, and the technology for ongoing (and improving) outreach and marketing campaigns.