Being in business development, I speak to many potential clients about their website needs. To align our potential clients’ websites with their business goals, I begin our introductory conversations by focusing on the business objectives of the new website rather than on the desired features and functionality.

Understand the Need
Initially, I start the discussion by asking high level open-ended questions that will give me a sense of the business reasons behind the project. Questions such as the following are a good start:

  • What is driving the need to redesign your website now?
  • What are the top business issues you want to address with your website? Is it that you’re losing market share and clients to your competition? Or is it you’re trying to generate leads for your sales team but you don’t know how best to spend your marketing budget?

The answers to these questions will help identify the business drivers, and guide the client to envision how their website can have a tremendous positive impact on their overall business goals. The questions move the conversation away from new and cool features and instead, force us to explore the critical business needs of the company.

Examine the Problem
Once we’ve identified the compelling business reasons, the next step is to dive deeper and ask “why is solving this business issue imperative to my company?”

I’m often told that the reason for the redesign is due to any of these reasons: “We want our website to perform better/have a better user experience for our visitors/generate more leads/make our brand stand out.”

These are all great goals for a new website, at least on the surface, but the critical question that needs to be asked is “Why?”; Why is “make our brand stand out” so critical to your business’s success? Is your message not rising above the clutter? Is your competition taking market share from you? Are you finding it difficult to retain your current customers? Has your pipeline of net new customers been drying up? Has your target market become more demanding/knowledgeable since your last website launch? These are the types of questions you need to have answers to before embarking on a website redesign or website improvement project.

Implement Solution Requirements
Here’s a great example I’d like to share with you about a website enhancement project that illustrates the point. A community hospital came to me and asked “can you take a look at our landing page for a particular campaign and help us figure out how to improve it?” If I had just said “Sure. Here are a few landing page best practices” without asking “why is this important to you?” I would not have understood the real business issue behind the request, and my recommendations would have been generic and just scratching the surface.

After further conversations and asking the right questions, I discovered that the compelling business reason for the campaign was to: (1) gain a competitive edge by promoting its award winning doctors and cutting edge medical technology, and (2) avoid losing market share to its big-city competitors. With a full understanding of the compelling business issues they were facing, I was able to provide recommendations that were specific to these business goals, rather than simple landing page best practices suggestions.

Conclusion
The moral of this blog post is that before embarking on a website redesign project, make sure you have identified the business issues your company needs to address, and understand why those business issues are important to the success of your company. Then you can work on the sitemap, features and content of a new website or define the enhancements to a current website.