How to Have A Successful Website Strategy Meeting
Posted by Corey Smith on Nov 16, 2023 6:50:00 AM
We'll give it to you straight- the success of a website development strategy meeting depends mostly on YOU. How you respond to and work alongside both internal and external teams will greatly affect the tone, efficiency, productivity, and overall results that come from the meeting. However, there are some other aspects to take into account as well, which we'll cover in this blog.
What Does a Successful Web Strategy Look Like?
Over the years, I've worked with clients large and small to help build successful websites. I've seen just about all the requests from fancy animations to video hero banners. I've seen good requests and bad requests.
Many of the feature requests have a common thread. They are often related to what looks good rather than what performs well. Often these requests are not based on any strategic thinking as to what will help them accomplish their goals rather will help them look the part.
Be Wary of Cheap Websites
There are so many cheap website providers out there.
Years ago when I was asking a general contractor how he charged for a house, his response was simple, "$2 less per square foot than the last guy you talked to."
His point was that you can always find someone who will build it for less... as such, while cost should be a determining factor, it should never be the determining factor.
You can learn more about how to understanding pricing of a website on my blog post Is a Cheap Website Worth It?.
By the way, one of the most common ways to identify a cheap website by a developer who really doesn't understand strategy is overuse of animation. Animation and movement are good but only if it specifically meets your goals. Over-built templates use animation to hide the lack of strategy.
The most important part of understanding why a cheap website is a bad idea is that typically there is no strategy involved. The questions in your meeting for starting a website with no strategy are typically something like:
- Which design do you like the best?
- What images do you have that we can use?
- When will you get us your content?
- When would you like to go live?
Occasionally, you'll be lucky and they'll ask you about your goals. They might tell you some anecdotes about why something might work and why something might not work, but more often than not, the cheap website provider is relying on you having figured out how to accomplish your goals and then will simply do what you tell them to do.
A Real Strategy Is Hard
Strategy is a much harder part of the website process than most people realize. In my post linked above on how much a website costs, I mention that we plan about one-third of our budget for strategy. That means, if you pay $18,000 for a website, at least $6,000 should be devoted to strategy.
The real question comes... if you find a web provider that charges you $1,000 or even $5,000 for your website, how much strategy are you really getting? The answer is, virtually none. At that cost, strategy just prevents them from having enough budget to actually build your website.
Roles in a Proper Strategy Meeting
All website projects should start with a strategy meeting. If the site is a template site, then the template covers some strategy but don't discount the work that gets put into it... even if you aren't discussing that strategy. Even on our template sites, these roles are present whether you meet these people or not. Also, sometimes multiple roles are filled by the same person... but beware if one person is wearing too many hats... many of the skills required in these roles are not compatible with the others... that's why we want to see more team members to perform these functions.
The Sales Consultant
This individual has already established a relationship with you and has scoped out the project based on the goals you've previously outlined. This person also ensures a clear transition for you to their project team. He or she should also be available to solve any issues that crop including mismatched expectations throughout the process.
The Web Strategist
This is a person that should understand the big picture... a business-minded individual who understands enough about development, marketing, business, and people to make sure that everything comes together right. This person is usually a web generalist but very strategically minded. This is the person who should understand that when you say you want something done that you might mean something deeper.. his or her job is to help understand that deeper meaning.
As an example to finding the deeper meaning, you might say that you want search engine optimization, but the strategist should understand that is a means to an end... you likely really want increased business. This person should help you reach your end goal by ensuring that your intermediate goals are set properly.
The Project Manager
This is a professional who helps streamline the process of the project. He or she helps simplify communications by being the single point of contact between you and the project team. The project manager also provides oversight for project costs and timelines then ensures that everyone on the team is on the same page and receives the same direction.
Your project manager's goal is to keep the project moving on time, within budget, and in alignment with your goals.
The Content Strategist
My opinion is that content is the cornerstone of your website. The content strategist is a vital part of your project and will advise on content structure and the suggested strategy for your main menu navigation. Your content strategist will lay the foundation for a site that will help your business get found by search engines and help ensure your content will be read and digested easily by site visitors.
The Website Designer
Your designer is the person responsible for making your website pretty. Sometimes you'll find a designer that can also think strategically. The strategic designer is more often an art director. Don't be fooled by a title. An art director isn't just a fancy way of saying designer.
Most small agencies may say they have an art director but really that person is just a designer. Making things pretty yet effective relies on two elements,
- Understanding your business and marketing goals.
- Making sure that the art directly addresses those goals.
The Website Developer
The developer is the person that puts everything together. He or she translates the business strategy, content strategy, and design strategy into a website that accomplishes your goals. Every step along the way, the strategist should be helping you know what is possible and guide you to solutions that can actually happen. The developer in the implementer of that strategy.
Sample Agenda for a Web Strategy Meeting
There are many ways to conduct a web strategy meeting. This agenda might be tweaked or adjusted to fit the needs of a particular client but you can use this as a guide to know if you are on the right track.
Process is important. The steps you take in building your website can make or break how a website project will come together. Process planning can mean the difference between a project taking 90 days and being amazing to taking a year and being mediocre. The longer your project takes, the more likely it becomes that your goals and messaging will become muddled in the process.
Understanding your company
If the team you are working with doesn't understand you or your company then it's an exercise in futility. Your web team should spend time understanding you before you come to the office for your kickoff meeting, but then take additional time within that meeting to learn everything they might have missed initially or to more clearly define your audience.
Your goals should be understood in three categories... and, in this order.
- What are your business goals?
- What are your marketing goals?
- How should your business and marketing goals translate to your website goals?
As your web team starts to understand you and your goals, only then are they ready to start talking about website features. These features fall into three categories:
- Wishlist: What are the things you want long-term on your website. It's important to discuss things that you want even if this project scope doesn't include that in the budget. When your web team understands where you are going long-term, they will be better suited to help you short term.
- Content Outline: This is the bulk of your content strategy. This outline should define how all the pages interact with each other and which page templates you might need and use. It should be expected that the bigger your website is meant to be, the longer this process should take. Note that many web marketing pros will call this your sitemap. There are some minor differences but often can be used interchangeably.
- Home Page Strategy: Your homepage is your most important page. Take time to fully flesh out how the homepage will be laid out and the content/imagery that will live on that page. The process you go through on your homepage should be the same process as any important landing page. Most smaller budget websites won't take the time on internal landing pages but a larger budget web project should expect at least some wireframes for internal pages and a full mockup for your homepage and possibly some internal pages.
What you should expect in any web project
Your strategy meeting should kick off your web project in a successful way. If your web team misses any of the key steps above, it could be a red flag... so just ask if you think something is being missed.
I believe that there are two things you, as the key stakeholder, should always know:
- Target date for when your website will go live
- What the next step is
In the end, there are likely to be setbacks. There are likely to be issues that arise that will cause your timeline expectations to shift. A good web strategy will allow for adjustments in the plan as needed. A good web strategy will help to mitigate future risks. A good web strategy will help you see amazing success in your final project.
Written by Corey Smith
Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Managing Director for Tribute Media. He is also the VP of Web & Creative for Hawke Media.