How to target your next website’s North Star and give your project the best possible start.

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Website Planning Guide #2

This one simple task is the keystone to your next business website.

You are probably familiar with the business term North Star Metric (NSM). It’s a term that originally emerged from Silicon Valley, and was created to give fast-growth companies a single metric with which to guide and measure all business decisions. It states the direction of travel so that various working parts of the business have a singular focus.

These three classic examples of North Star Metrics give a sense of how simple and yet powerful they can be:

  • Spotify – Time spent listening
  • Amazon – Purchases per month
  • Airbnb – nights booked

A high performing business website is a key part of the ecosystem of any business, and it should set its path by the same North Star Metric. This is easier said than done though…

… some companies don’t have a clearly defined NSM. Some do but don’t really use it. Others might think they have one, but they are little more than loose words in a dusty leadership team presentation, pasted alongside a set of core values that no one really believes in. Sound familiar? Obviously, none of those tired old words are any good to you as you set out on the task of replacing your ailing business website with something that does a proper job for marketing, sales, customer retention and your brand value.

So, in this post, I set out some simple steps you can take to discover, shape and use your organisation’s North Star Metric to take the first and most important step towards success and your next website. And, if your company already has a decent NSM, this post will show you how to use it to set the keystone for website project success.

Any classic North Star Metric should have three elements. It must:

  1. Result in revenue
  2. Mirror your customers’ values
  3. Measure the progress you make

If we shift this a little into typical B2B website territory, it must:

  1. Generate engagement and enquiries
  2. Satisfy your customers’ needs and answer their questions
  3. Increase trust in your brand

By the way, it should also be measurable in every aspect, but that comes in the next stage. You can read more about that in my article on website KPIs. But for now, I want to focus on the keystone of your website’s North Star.

Any agency worth their salt is going to need this information from you, about your business, before they can start work on your new website. You can work with an agency to generate your North Star, but in this post, I’m assuming you want to move forward with a fast and efficient project and you don’t have the luxury (or time) of getting the Board around a table for a branding workshop.

Three questions you must ask to generate your website North Star

  1. What is the single most important thing that the business needs from this website? This should be as elemental as sales, or leads, or downloads, etc. Keep it simple and focused.
  2. What drives this activity, and what do your users want from your website? Your website is likely to have more than one user, so for now, try and identify at least the top three.
  3. What metrics encapsulate all of the above? These are measurable activities that flow up the chain leading to engagement. In many B2B websites, this equates to trust in your brand and can be measured by website activity analytics.

The answers to the three questions above really come together when arranged in a hierarchy with your North Star at the top of a pyramid. This way it becomes a visual tool. Here are two examples from our portfolio, so that you can see it in action:

North Star hierarchy diagram for the British Oncology Pharmacy Association

The British Oncology Pharmacy Association – 

North Star hierarchy diagram for SearchFlow

SearchFlow –

Once you’ve created your website’s North Star put it at the core of your next website project. Share it with your agency. And, test everything they do for you against it. After all, it is the heart of your project’s success.

Have a go, and see how you get on. If you want any help in shaping this for your business, why not give me a call? I’d be more than happy to spend some time with you talking through what your organisation’s website North Start might look like.

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