Strategy. You hear about it all the time. One must have a strategy/work on a strategy/follow a strategy and so on. Business types like to say "strategy" a lot as it sounds big, complicated and important.
And it is important, but there is no need for it to be complicated. Quite the opposite.
At the heart of it all "strategy" is just about having a plan for the thing you are working on. Or as Wikipedia puts it "a strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal".
Getting the Strategy Right
If there is ever a time to look at what's important in a project, it is early on, in the strategy stage.
Let us assume that your client doesn't have a strategy for their next web project.
Before you build, design, code or write anything you need to think about what the project needs to achieve.
This is in part because strategy can mean almost anything, depending on the needs of the client, the size of their audience and ultimately the goal of your client. And it will mean different things at different times during the life-span of a project: you may have one strategy to launch with, another for the ongoing management of the site and so on.
Thinking the project through, seeing how one thing leads to another on the way to the project's goal is a very healthy thing to do.
The one thing all strategies must have in common is that they tie in with your client's overall business goals. (You'd be surprised how often clients themselves forget this simple fact!) If it doesn't, the client will never be happy with your work even if they were the ones who ignored the business goal connection.
That's why you should be thrilled when a client asks for your help in developing their web project strategy (or asks you to help them find someone who can create it for them).
It is an excellent opportunity to make sure that you, or the people you choose to collaborate with, create a to-the-point strategy that helps the client reach their goals and in the process makes you look like an absolute star who deserves lots more commissions.
Strategy as a Sales Tool
Before we continue, you may wonder if you really need to bother with all this strategy stuff. The answer is yes you do, especially if the client asks you to help craft it.
A strategy, even one that is just a paragraph in length, shows that you have understood the task at hand. It shows the direction you will take the project, and it is an effective way to put your client’s mind at ease.
How to Do It
A good web strategy should always cover the following five points.
What you are doing
Who you are doing it for
Why you are doing it
How you are doing it
When you are doing it
Here is an example:
Your client, the Think Vitamin Dairy, tell you they want to sell more of their orange flavored Think Vitamin Milk.
To make sure you have enough information to cover the five points above you ask the client loads of questions, including:
Who currently buys the Think Vitamin Milk?
Why and how do they buy it?
When do they drink it?
What do they think of it?
Have the sales changed over the past year, if so how and why?
The client tells you that Think Vitamin Milk is mostly gulped by web people who like the energy kick they get from it. They buy it online in crates of twelve bottles and according to their tweets some of them have started drinking it when they go hiking in the Cotswolds on the weekends.
After a spot of thinking you come up with a plan, a strategy, which suggests the client invest their budget in creating a smartphone app to reach a new audience instead of buying advertising. You flesh it out with a few pointers:
Think Vitamin Dairy should build an iPhone app aimed at ramblers to help them plan hiking trips – The Think Vitamin “Think Hiking” app. (A new audience, with existing customers mixed in is golden.)
The app lets users plan hikes and share them with their friends to get everyone ready for the excursion (virality – always a good thing!).
The app would show where along the trail the energizing Milk can be bought and plot the local independent dairy farms who provide the cow juice. (If you like hiking you probably care about food sustainability too.)
The app is supported by a small teaser and signup site that, after the app has launched, displays tweets from hikers and shows where the most popular trails are.
Instead of throwing money at advertising, the client’s milk brand would be known for a very useful app that is associated with good friends, good times and days off in the country.
There it is, a good simple and easy to understand strategy tied to the goal of selling more orange flavored milk.
Strategy is important, but it’s not rocket science. It is really just about having a plan.
The more you work with strategy, the more you learn and the more you will want to learn. You will find new ways of approaching old problems, and it can be just as addictive as the work you are already passionate about.
This post was all about the basics, but to be honest that’s where many clients and us web creators go wrong. Get the basics right, and keep your eyes open and you will become an even better web professional in no time.
Best of all, the more comfortable you get with the strategy portion of your work the better you will be at understanding the client’s needs and the more valuable you will become to them.