Defining Success: How to Set Web Goals for 2008

Congratulations (hopefully) on a successful 2007, and welcome to 2008. As you reflect back on the last 12 months, have you accomplished all of the things you set out to do on your Web site or your portion of the Web site?

Wait a minute! You didn’t have specific goals going into last year? No, accomplishing a redesign or launching a new product line on your site don’t account for a success. Did you go into the year with specific revenue goals? Conversion targets? Did you increase the average value of a site visitor? Or increase leads by 10 percent?

It’s true most companies don’t establish overall agreed upon goals that are shared across the Web team, and then track to them. Instead they’re focused on accomplishing a huge list of projects or initiatives on time and on budget that have been thought up throughout the year by the team.

As you go on as a team knocking out each of those projects, you celebrate when they launch on time (or close to it), then move onto the next initiative. There are never enough resources or time, so you don’t have much of a choice but to move on. We used to be the same way. Then, we found a better way. Often in any redesign of a site or section you’ll find some things improve (when you fix things that weren’t working well), but at the same time things that were working well can get changed to a method that doesn’t work as well. Of any 10 things that are changed, five may improve and five may not. The problem is most people don’t know which five are which. Again, how can you now if you aren’t setting specific goals and sharing them with your team and then targeting improvements and initiatives based on those goals?

So how do you know if you were successful in 2007? Comparision to 2006 most likely isn’t a good metric, as the tide’s rising online for everyone. Not just retail or commerce, but B2B and lead generation, too. More people are spending more time online, researching, shopping, and communicating. If you don’t take the time to define what success means to your organization online, the change you take full advantage of it is very, very slim.

So how do you change this for 2008? The good news is the time is now. You need to pull your Web leadership team together and define what success means to your company online. And it won’t just tie to the transactions that complete only online or only on your site, but will need to span outside of just the Web. What relationships start online and continue offline or vice versa? Once you have defined success, you can begin to establish the Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs) based on those goals. Now you need to determine which ones you want to focus on in 2008. Often it helps to monetize the different desired behaviors on your site that lead to overall business goals. I’ve written a number of columns over the past few years on monetization, if you haven’t monetized the key behaviors on your site make sure you do that as you set things up for 2008.

Now that you’ve defined success, established KPIs, and monetized site behavior, you can determine where to focus efforts and establish targets. While this sounds easy to say, it takes time. There will be disagreements. You’ll get pushback. If you’re the executive or manager in charge of the Web channel, it will be much easier. If you’re not, you need to enlist an executive sponsor to help. You could print this column out, slip it on their desk, and request a meeting to discuss how you can do this for your company. Going through this won’t be easy, but can greatly improve your company’s effectiveness online.

Onto the next challenge. Halt all open projects for 2008. At least halt all the projects slated to kick off after February. Now, take an inventory of all the initiatives under discussion for 2008 and open up talks for new ideas based on the goals you just established. Take special care to prioritize 2008 initiatives based on potential impact to those goals. Which are simply bet projects that are nice to haves, and which really will move the bar? You can do a simply ROI calculation based on an estimated dollar impact (a range is OK) and the rough cost of doing the work.

This won’t be easy either, but again it’s worth the effort. The team will kill some projects that don’t make sense, but that people are emotionally invested in. The first time is much harder than future exercises.

One part of this new way of thinking is to ensure you have a simple, easy to use testing platform to try different things and to measure the impact of tests based on goals. If you haven’t invested in an A/B or multivariate tool, 2008 is the time.

Welcome to 2008. Now, go shake things up and change the focus of your Web team. Let me know how it goes, or what problems you run into!

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