By Rob Smith, Digital Director at Blueleaf
It's the age-old story of marketing vs. operations and how companies think vs. how their customers think.
Imagine a website from a school that's being redeveloped. How should the content be structured? How can we categorise where each piece of information goes? What we know is that the school has two primary departments, the junior and the senior school. We also know that within that there are a number of subjects and other areas.
That makes sense as a structure – first junior and senior school, and then subjects and other areas after that to display the information. The major flaw with this approach is that it's absolutely nothing like the people visiting your website. It is projecting the way you see the school to everybody else.
In truth, the school is actually perceived in very different ways by the different stakeholders that visit the site. If we think for a moment we could identify at least three stakeholders important to the site:
Parents (prospective or current)
Pupils (prospective or current)
Teachers (prospective or current)
If you think about being a prospective parent, the website needs to cater to your needs in terms of finding out the schools performance, it's teaching style, it's fees (if applicable) and so on.
If you're a current parent then you are well past that information and probably looking for current events or closure information, term dates or a myriad of other pieces of content.
Your website needs to appeal to your stakeholders directly. Instead of section for the junior school, there could be a section for current parents – equipping them with everything they need from the website.
This stakeholder-based approach to content delivery has a number of advantages.
Website journey and usability
Imagine yourself in the prospective parent's shoes. You visit the website, and see the section that's been built just for you. You go into that section and find what you're looking for on that visit.
So much easier than going into the site and having to make the decision about which department contains the information you want. Finding out that decision is wrong, and then back tracking.
The easier the journey for the visitor, the more satisfied they would be with the site, their experience, and the overall brand experience. People generally have very little time for their visits to websites – make sure your time counts and they spend more time digesting information than they do finding it.
By structuring by department or organisational structure, you need to deliver content for that department in a way that tries to satisfy more than one stakeholder group. By it's very nature, this means that the content is more general and less targeted than it could be.
A current student visits the website. They are looking to find out what after-school clubs are available to them. Would this student prefer to see a page that is written for them by a fellow student of the club, or a page written by marketing trying to show the parents how good the club is / how great their extra curricular programme is? You know the answer.
Analytics and measurement
You obviously need to measure your website visitors, what they are doing and where they are spending their time. Using the organisational structure model, you have no idea who is visiting the website, all you know is that they seemed to be interested in the junior school.
By using the stakeholder approach, you know who is putting up their hand and identifying themselves as prospective parents. It's a much closer look at who is visiting the website. Of course, it's not hard and fast numbers, but it's a much better idea.
How can you accomplish this for your business?
So now you know the reasons for adopting a more stakeholder centric approach, and the positives of adopting this method – but how can you implement it?
If you already have a website, it will mean a pretty major redevelopment of it's structure, so this is best done at the same time as moving the website on anyway; for example adding more functionality.
1. Identify your stakeholders: an obvious first step, we need to know who we're talking to. Depending on your business, very different groups will pop out. You want to identify the three major groups you wish to target.
2. Don't worry about edge cases: This is important. You won't cover everybody in 3 groups. There will always be a new type of person to cover. You will always present some more generic information. We have presented sites and used one final group as 'I am someone else' and given as much information as possible to help. Sound like a cop out? It's not – it's just being realistic.
3. Identify what those stakeholders need: On a detailed level, investigate what they need from your website. As an example, if I'm producing a website that sells security systems, and I specialise in care homes as one group and prisons as another, the copy selling the benefits of the product will be very different (and should not be confused!)
4. Identify what's generic: there's always generic information, for example where you are based, who you are and what your values are. Don't be afraid of having generic sections alongside your stakeholder information.
5. Keep evolving your offer: As you get feedback on your new structure, keep evolving it. If there's some information missing or hard to find, make it easier.
This approach will not work for every business. Your stakeholders may be a little too diverse or too similar for this approach to make any difference to your business. However, if you can identify that you have 2-3 major groups of people who need to be targeted using different language and approaches, this method can work excellently for your new website structure.
Check out 12ahead, our brand new platform
covering the latest in cutting-edge digital marketing and creative technology from around the globe.
12ahead identifies emerging trends and helps
you to understand how they can apply to modern-day companies.
We believe 12ahead can put you and your
business 12 months ahead of the competition. Sign up for a free trial today.