Every Web plan has to fit the needs and situation. You must be able to customize your Web plan to fit your company, rather than follow a recipe to build a cookie-cutter plan. Even so, there are standard components you just can’t do without. A Web plan should always have a market analysis, website strategy, specific development plan, sales forecast, and expense budget.

  • Market analysis: Normally a Web plan will start (after an executive summary) with a market analysis, which should be a fundamental part of any business effort. Plans should almost always set the context in terms of the benefits offered to a specific target population. The market analysis will normally include a target market analysis, market research, and a market forecast.
  • Website strategy: This should include the strategic focus, mission and objectives, development strategy, and Web marketing strategy.
  • Sales (or benefits) forecast: One important point on Web planning is that not all websites produce sales, but all should have some business or organizational benefits, like sales. Maybe this is reduced cost, increased customer satisfaction, leads generation, or community communication. Whatever the target benefits, sales or not, they should be put into numbers and projected into the future. For practical reasons, we refer to this as sales. The plan should include enough detail to track sales month by month and follow up on plan-vs.-actual analysis. Normally a plan will also include specific benefits as sales, cost reduction, or other benefits in concrete terms, such as by product, by Web section, by user type, by manager responsibilities, and other elements. The forecast alone is a bare minimum.
  • Expense budget: This ought to include enough detail to track expenses month by month and follow up on plan-vs.-actual analysis. Normally a plan will also include specific Web development plans, back end, front end, tactics, programs, management responsibilities, promotion, and other elements. The expense budget is a bare minimum.

Is this enough?

The minimum requirements above are not the ideal, just the minimum. In most cases you’ll begin a Web plan with an Executive Summary, and you’ll also follow those essentials just described with a review of organizational impact, risks and contingencies, and pending issues.

Include a specific action plan

You should also remember that planning is about the results, not the plan itself. A Web plan must be measured by the results it produces. The implementation of your plan is much more important than its brilliant ideas or massive market research. You can influence implementation by building a plan full of specific measurable, and concrete plans that can be tracked and followed up. Plan-vs.-actual analysis is critical to the eventual results, and you should build it into your plan.

A plan outline example

Of course the exact nature of your plan, and your marketing situation, dictates its contents. You add detail or take it away to suit your needs. This standard plan is a good starting point.

In the real world you’ll want to customize your outline according to whatever your company needs. Variables include whether you are a content, a community, a commerce site, or something else; whether you are selling products or services, to businesses or consumers, or if you’re a nonprofit organization. Although the outline does change in some respects as a result of these variables, this is a good standard sample outline for a basic Web plan.

A. Executive Summary
Keys to Success
B. Market Analysis
Market Segmentation
Website Demographics Summary
Industry Analysis
C. Website Strategy
Business Model
Site Positioning
Traffic Forecast
Development Requirements
Front End
Back End
Resources Needed
Future Development
D. Strategy and Implementation
Competitive Edge
Website Marketing Strategy
Online Sales Strategy
Online Sales Forecast
Strategic Internet Alliances
E. Financial Analysis
Break-even Analysis
Expenses and Contributions
F. Controls
Organizational Implications
Risks and Assumptions
Contingency Plan
Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.