Why Can’t We Just Start Building the Site Already?
Your company’s website is not just an external-facing marketing tool. It is a functional aspect of your organization. You can use it not only to engage and inform your audience, but to assist and streamline both internal and public-facing processes across your organization. In order to build a web application that can speak to those processes, we need to understand them. That is why we conduct stakeholder meetings.
Stakeholder meetings are most effective when they are scheduled early in discovery, and before any planning documents are created. It is an opportunity for you to dream big about the short-term and long-term goals for your website, as well as to inventory and prioritize audience, content and functionality.
The Three-Legged Race
Most companies – whether for-profit, not-for-profit, large or small – are complex, multilevel organizations. Stakeholders may range from upper management, to marketing, to sales, to support staff who interact with your audience throughout the service or sales cycle. Often these stakeholder groups are layered, depending on the types and range of products and/or services you offer.
We often find that while your organization may be generally on the same page there is varying visibility between departments, both in the goals that you champion and the pain points that create challenges. This isn’t to slight the quality of your internal communications; it’s an inherent aspect of leading teams with unique goals. For example, to the marketing department it may be clear that the primary focus of your website should be on new product launches, but internal support teams are struggling to connect new members or clients with crucial resources.
The more we know about both, the better the odds that we can create a website that speaks to both, effectively.
Who Should Attend?
We have hosted stakeholder interviews with several key personnel from each department, separately. We have also hosted stakeholder interviews with one representative from each department, together. Who attends really depends on the size and complexity of your organization. And while we don’t need everyone on your team to attend a stakeholder meeting, it is ideal to have at least one representative from each department present. Even better: ask a point person from each department to gather key information from their team members prior to the meeting, and condense it in a document that you can refer back to. The more input we have to work with, the clearer the picture you will provide.
We need the big picture in order to provide on-point structural, content strategy and functionality recommendations.
You may be thinking: why not just pass around that survey you mentioned? Why do we have to take time out of our day to meet?
It is when your team and co-workers begin to really converse about your goals and pain points that we get the best sense of your needs as an organization. Things come up in dynamic conversation that might not be apparent when answering a scripted set of questions on paper. It is in these dynamic conversations that we really get a sense for your passions and pain points.
What to Expect
Stakeholder interviews can be formal or informal, structured or open flow. It really depends on your business and what you are most comfortable with. There are a few key questions we will want to touch on, regardless:
- What do you do within your organization?
- Who is your audience? (There is likely more than one.)
- What are you trying to communicate to your audience?
- What goals or tasks do you want users to complete on the website? Is this different for a first-time visitor versus a return visitor?
- Who are your competitors?
- What do you feel is currently lacking in your online representation, and what do you feel is working well?
- What resources do you and/or your site visitors use, that you need to distribute or interact with online?
- What departments do you collaborate with to accomplish your goals?
On the most basic level, we are mining for information about what website content is related to you and your department, and how to best communicate it to your target audiences. But we’re also looking for internal pain points that we can address.
Resulting solutions range from a custom dashboard to track enrollments or sales conversions, document repositories that deliver audience-specific resources to your website users and that double duty as a resource for internal or sales staff, and contact forms that are customized for each point of contact across your organization. If we can leverage a system that you already use to simplify your workflow, we will. If we find that you subscribe to multiple third-party systems we may be able to simplify them for you, or at least tie into them in order to reduce tedious data entry or data manipulation from online entry points. We can often integrate them seamlessly into your new website, so that visitors are empowered to sign up, donate, pay or volunteer with ease – reducing your internal workload.
In stakeholder meetings we often find ourselves saying: ‘We have a solution for that.’ (Actually, we get really, really excited when we discover these opportunities.)
Our goal is to build a website that reduces the amount of time that your users have to spend investigating your product or service range before they convert, and that streamlines and focuses inquiries before they come to you. We strive to provide the best visibility possible, so that you can focus on tangible goals, rather than guesswork and redundant efforts.
Some days it’s hard to find time for lunch, let alone an afternoon-long (or longer) meeting with your web development company. But starting your web project off with good communication, consensus and a solid game plan is the foundation of a successful web project.