Setting realistic objectives for your website

When asked what are your main reasons for commissioning a new website, most clients say to increase sales. In most cases this isn't a realistic objective and if taken on face value will ensure the website will never succeed. So how do you define what your B2B website objectives should be?

Note: the below article talks mostly about B2B websites although most is very relevant for B2C websites as well.

Initial discussions

During the first discussion with most businesses the conversation goes something like this:?

What are your main objectives for your website?

To increase sales

Can you sell your product or service without speaking to them?


So, how can you expect your website to sell your products or services?

We don't.

OK, so if your website can't sell your product, what are the main objectives?

At this stage most business realise that their website is more about creating opportunities and generating leads and we can start bashing out the details. This obviously isn?t true for all websites; e-commerce website are more likely to measure success by the number of sales generated, but even then clients should consider other factors like customer loyalty.

Defining your objectives

website launch flowchartSo how do you define your objectives (bearing in mind we are primarily focused on B2B websites selling products or services)?

For a two or three years now we have had a flowchart on our notice board (shown on the right) that I found. It is pretty good and covers most things, but misses what we consider to be the most important step, that being setting the objectives. Perhaps I am being unfair, because the first two steps are defined as: "

  1. Meeting & consultancy
  2. Proposal and specification

They then launch straight into the development of the website with a Kick Off Meeting; I can just imagine it know, diving straight into the creative process and dazzling your with loads of ideas.

But before you let the designers go mad take a step back and ask yourself a few questions: "

  1. Who is your target audience (describe them if necessary)?
  2. What are they looking for?
  3. What language do they speak?
  4. What will hook them in?
  5. What should the calls to action be?

Lets have a closer look at these as they might appear a little abstract at the moment.

Who is your target audience?

You need to identify who your ideal client is, something no business finds easy! The best way to establish who your target audience is, is to look at your existing client base and look for common traits. If you are a start up you need to define who you would like to work with (and be realistic).

Lets use an architect as an example. His audience could be any one of the following: "

  • Individuals looking to extend / renovate their property
  • Individuals looking to build their own property
  • Companies looking to extend / renovate their commercial property
  • Individuals looking to build their commercial property

There are obviously many more examples, but you can see that straight away the architect could focus either on private or commercial, and for goodness sake don't say both.

What are they looking for?

We have already touch on this in the example above (getting ahead of myself again) as their are two clear options: "

  • Extensions and renovation projects
  • New build

So by this stage we have now know our architect is focusing on commercial extensions and / or renovation projects.

What language do they speak?

Parlez vous francais? No, we are talking about the diction we use. The sales pitch you would use to attract private individuals would be different from that used to appeal to commercial property owners and you need to be able to define this so that your website becomes instantly recognisable to your target audience. In short you need to talk their lanuguage.

Our architect has decided his audience know what they are talking about, so he can use technical approach as we have made the assumption that his commercial clients have experience of extending and renovating commercial properties.

What will hook them in?

If you are able to get this far, it should get easier as you know who you are talking to and what they are looking for, so you need to position your business so that you stand out of the crowd, because lets face it these days your proposition is rarely going to be unique.

For some businesses it is going to be price, for others quality or perhaps confidence in their ability to deliver something your target audience believes is difficult to achieve (even if you don't think it is).

For our architect this could be: "

  • His portfolio
  • His experience within the target audiences sector
  • His expertise in a specific type of building (e.g. brown field site renovations)

What should the call to action be?

For most B2B websites a call to action will initiate some form of communication, but it is still important to give clear direction. Sites use a variety of techniques to engage the client, but essentially this is the stage at which the prospect becomes know to the website.

It is important to establish what you want your prospect to do: "

  • Download information (after registering their details)
  • Request a call back (negates the need to provide their email address, but still encourages contact)
  • Traditional form to email
  • Follow us (social media)

There are too many to name, but hopefully you get the idea. Make sure you explore all the different options and understand the potential barriers that would prevent a prospect from falling at the last hurdle.

What are the Objectives?

Unless I am very much mistaken we have set the objectives of your B2B website by defining the calls to action, although they may be other objectives, but always keep in mind that your website is not about you, it is about what your website visitor wants.

You now need to make sure the objectives are realistic and to be quite honest this is mostly Googles fault. Businesses often say I would like to be number one for XYZ service and sometimes this is simply unrealistic (especially when their resources are taken into consideration). A few years ago I even had a business owner say he expected his site generate the equivalent of ten physical shops (based on what on of our other clients has told him). His product was totally unsuited for an internet based business and the other client has traded on the web since the early nineties.

I most cases realistic means achievable and the best way to do that is to go niche which means being focused. Our architect isn't going to be found on Google using the phrase architect, but he will when searching for commercial renovations architect or brown field site architect.

Measuring success

Once you have established what your objectives are, you need to determine how you will measure them. The majority of clients we speak to say that their existing website generates n number of leads a week, but when challenged they don't really know. This is because an awful lot of businesses don't measure anything beyond costs / turnover / profit / etc.,

Do you know where your last sale lead came from? I do, it was via Google and the client typed in bespoke software solution and we were No. 2 within the organic results. And the one before that came from an answer I responded to on Linkedin.

We'll take a closer look at measuring success in another article, but their are a myriad of tools that include Google Analytics as well as the more obvious, your sales team. Make sure your sales team ask where prospects heard about your company, you will be surprised. Don't take everything on face value, a client recently told me they where stopping a long running advert in a industry specific publication as they never got any leads from it, but had not realised that the advert had become so established that readers started searching for the company name, rather than quoting the reference within the advert.


Our architect can now clearly define his target audience; there are commercial organisations that are renovating / extending properties, primarily within brown field development areas. He know that they will speak in technical terms and be driven by his portfolio that enforces his area of expertise. We also know that he wants them to pick up the phone or email him so that he can have an initial discussion about their project that will still be at conceptual stage and in most cases the client will have either just purchased the property or is looking at purchasing it.

Having established how you are looking for we were also able to create one or more objectives and also determine how we'll measure these, so we now have some realistic objectives that can be delivered via your B2B website. You can now let the designers in on the party; just make sure that the designs stay true to the objectives you have just set. I think one of the best stories I heard was a website that was launched without a contact form, because the designers forgot about it!

Date: 25/11/2010


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