Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 600,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
Text:  A A

3 Questions to Ask When Planning Your Website

by Helena Bouchez  |  
January 11, 2011

The following is an excerpt from "Make the Website Work: The Small Agency's Guide to Creating Effective Marketing Sites for Themselves and Their Clients," Mark O'Brien's forthcoming book to be published in 2011 by Rockbench. O'Brien is the president of web-development firm Newfangled.

You've heard from O'Brien before.  I interviewed him last October for “Five Web Development Myths Debunked.” And on Feb. 10, O'Brien will present "Cure for the Common Website: Using Personas to Boost Site Performance," right here at MarketingProfs---$129 well spent, free for Pro members.

O'Brien says planning a website is hard to do, and most people miss the mark because they jump right into "doing" before giving enough attention to the planning. He suggests that the next time you start a web project, try starting by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Who am I trying to attract?

  2. What do they want from my website?

  3. What do I want from them?

These deceptively simple questions will get you started on the right track for planning your site and the criteria by which you'll measure its success for years to come.

1. Who am I trying to attract?
Your site is your most important marketing asset and as such it has one primary audience: your prospects. Whether you realize it or not, every audience consists of many subgroups. Each subgroup can be defined by its “persona.”  To fully understand your audience, you’ll want to undertake an exercise to identify and understand each persona. For now--- so we can answer the next two questions---let’s just agree that your site exists to serve those who might eventually hire you.

2. What do they (those who might eventually hire me) want from my website?
They want answers. The better job your site does of answering the questions that prospective customers have about how they can solve their marketing problems, the more leads your site will generate. Once buyers realize how thoroughly your site answers their questions, they will begin to see it as a valuable educational resource and will become willing and even eager to sign up to receive your input on a regular basis in the forms of newsletters, blogs, web seminars, white papers, e-books, podcasts, videos, etc.

That’s assuming buyers can find your site. To lure in prospects that desire your expertise but don’t yet know you exist, you must diligently add content to your site that describes your expertise in detail so that Google can direct the right sort of prospects your way. Your prospects find your site essentially by asking Google about the marketing questions they are struggling to answer.

3. What do I want from them?

You want two things: their information and their attention. Both of these things are acquired via “calls to action”--- copy on your website that tells people to do something very specific. Working off the example above, the prospect that found your site through a Google search, and then identified it as being an educational resource should be presented with a clear, concise, and a compelling offer to receive your content for free on a regular basis. If they landed on a page from one of your newsletters, for example, they should see a call to action in the right hand sidebar, above the fold, that invites them to sign up to receive your newsletter via email. They should be asked to give you their name and email (and that’s about it) in exchange for a promise to send them an email alert every time you add a newsletter to your site--- along with a solemn vow never to sell their information to anyone else.

However, if they haven’t identified your site as a valuable educational resource, there is not a thing you can do to entice them to sign up for anything---iPad giveaways be damned. So work on making sure your website is a good resource, first.

Getting prospects' information is valuable but actually it’s the getting of their attention that is invaluable. Even if subscribers only read a portion of one out of every ten newsletters, they will be reminded of your firm and your expertise every single time. At the very least (if they do not unsubscribe) they will see your name at least once monthly. This regular, subtle and helpful reminder will help keep your firm at the top of their mind when the need to hire a firm like yours arises and confirm the value of your website as a powerful marketing asset.

Sign up for free to read the full article.Read the Full Article

Membership is required to access the full version of this how-to marketing article ... don't worry though, it's FREE!


We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:

Helena Bouchez is principal and owner of Helena B Communications ( Reach her via or follow her on Twitter (@HelenaBouchez).

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • Not rated yet.

Add a Comment


  • by Scott Paley Tue Jan 11, 2011 via blog

    Good list, and inline with a somewhat longer list we posted back in September:

    There is a ton that goes into the initial planning of a successful website and it's easy to be impatient and want to jump right into design and development. That's usually a mistake.

  • by Matthew Simmons Wed Jan 12, 2011 via blog

    Really useful advice Helen, most of the hard work is done before a single line of code is laid down - or should be! We advise keyword research based on the product/business positioning even bofore the domain is chosen - if you can get a keyword into that even better.

    Point 2 is really soooo important and a hard one for clients to swallow - most prospective clients dont realise that people are not searching online for them personally - prospects are searching for solutions to problems. Often the best TLD is not necesarily the company name. We wrote a blog about this which other readers might find useful.

    Thanks for sharing


  • by Mark van Loon Wed Jan 12, 2011 via blog

    sometimes, especcially smaller companies, forget how they get traffic on the site, and how much thal will cost. This is probably an important issue to consider too.

  • by Jennair Gerardot Wed Jan 12, 2011 via blog

    Great points!
    I find that you need to educate some clients that building a website is a lot like building a house. You definitely have to take a step back and plan it all out before you jump into it. You also have to stick with your budget. You may want it all and instant sales, but you need to build the website according to the budget and time frame realistically according to your internal marketing strategies.

    Changes don't always come easily, either. When building a house, everyone knows you can't just go around willy-nilly making changes to the building plans, i.e., adding windows, room extensions, etc., especially after the blueprint was submitted and framing has already gone up.

    Well, you can't do that with a website either. Change orders made after the initial production and execution of the site can cause delays and expense for the same reason. Not all website are built the same, either. Some have more web development and highly designed style sheets which need approved up front. So have it all planned out in advance.

    And if you want the website to be successful for the reason which you created it, you have to plan out the content and navigation in a strategic manner. (All the bricks and mortar that creates your "Home" page and site). Websites are no longer online brochures but clear investments and assets, like a house, to be taken seriously.

  • by Cathy Burrell Fri Jan 14, 2011 via blog

    I have just started working on a website for my new company. I have a designer, and he has been asking me alot of design questions...but I have been asking myself alot of 'Who am I?' questions. Your article is pushing me a little further yet...and I Thank You!

  • by Helena Bouchez Sat Jan 15, 2011 via blog

    Good point, Mark. This actually has happened to me before. Really important to have a good relationship with your web host!

  • by Helena Bouchez Sat Jan 15, 2011 via blog

    Jennair, I love the architecture analogy for web development and use it all the time. Good stuff. HB

  • by Patrick Zuluaga Sat Jan 22, 2011 via blog

    Hard hitting 3 questions that any business owner needs to think about for their own online web business presence. Perhaps most challenging for most is applying the wisdom into real business action after getting the answers to the questions!

  • by Jann Mirchandani Tue Jan 25, 2011 via blog

    Really good article and great comments. A lot of clients expect that the web design process starts at "this is what I want it to look like". The reality is those decisions can't be make until the hard work of planning is done first. It's not sexy but it's vital for the site to do it's job properly - which it can't do if you haven't articulated what that job is.

  • by Melody Lewis Wed Jul 27, 2011 via blog

    Great prompting questions! Even in 2011, people just throw up websites just to have a "presence" on the internet, but the sites do little good. Firms should take the time to ask these three great questions and develop a solid plan. It amuses me that some companies will go to great lengths to plan out all aspects of their business, except for their website.

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!