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We hear so much about Business Strategy. What does that mean? I just want to make some money and get rich quick. Isn't that my strategy? Much as we might all like to get rich quick, and as much as that might be part of our business, most businesses and organizations have a bit more to say about why they are in business. Business Strategy covers the mission of the organization, its vision, how it conducts business, its plan for the future, the markets in which it competes and the people it serves.
Your client should be able to tell you their business strategy. If they don't have one, it's a good idea to have them think about that strategy a bit before starting to build a website. After all, the website doesn't drive the business strategy. The website is a piece of the puzzle of the implementation of the business strategy. You should ask your client some key questions about their business. What product or service are you selling? Who are your competitors? Who are your customers or clients? What is your competitive advantage in offering that product or service? Why are you better than your competitors? Where will your company be in five years? Does your company have a mission or vision statement, or do you have a statement of company values? How are you marketing your business? Notice not one of those questions had to do with the website or what shade of blue they'd like in the logo.
These are all fundamental questions to understanding a business. If your client has unclear services or ill-defined products, no idea who their competitors are and if they're not sure who's going to buy this product, a website isn't really going to help them at all. In fact, they're just throwing away their money. You'll also want to get a good sense of who your client is. Sometimes this is the business owner or senior manager. Sometimes it's the head of the marketing department and other times, it may be a committee of people.
Understand where the website fits into their job priorities. Its unlikely the client hired you to build this site if they have a full-time IT staff or webmaster working for them. If it is a business owner who's just launching a business, they may not have the time to update the site regularly. They budget for maintaining the site as well as how much they have to spend on the initial site redesign and you'll want to understand who specifically will maintain that site and what their technical skill set is.
Understanding your client's business strategy will give you lots of insights into how a website should be constructed to market to potential customers and clients effectively. You'll better understand your client's strengths, which you can show in the best light while minimizing their weaknesses. You will start to think about good tools to include on the website that will be effectively used and will support that business strategy. You'll also get a sense of how much time is available to maintain a completed website. There is no sense in including technologies that require constant maintenance if they don't have time to keep them up-to-date.
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