“What’s your online strategy?” I recently asked a group of business owners this question, and heard everything from “I don’t think I really need a website for my business” to “I’m number one in Google for ‘widget installation’ and my Adwords ROI is over 200 percent” – quite a range of tactics, quite a difference in results. But these business owners all shared one thing in common – not one of them had a complete online strategy.
It’s a pretty good bet that you don’t have one either.
You may already get some good business results online. You may already use some smart online tactics. Congratulations for being ahead of the curve. But you can’t afford to be complacent. The competition is about to get a lot tougher, because every day more of your competitors are using the same online tactics you use.
Not only is your competition getting tougher, but the online environment continues to change. Every day more people use online search as their primary way to find a local business. Search engines like Google constantly adjust the way they rank sites in their search results. Endless new web-based applications are invented that could streamline your business operations. Business owners who stay on top of the changes are rewarded; those who don’t are punished. Which are you?
How do you stay on top of a constantly evolving webscape and a step ahead of your competition? You move beyond tactics. You think and act strategically. You consider how every thing you do (or don’t do, or could do) online relates to everything else you do both online and offline. You develop an integrated online strategy that determines how your entire online presence and all of your online tactics fit into your big business picture.
What should your online strategy address? More than we can cover in a short article, but you should consider at least these issues:
Your Online Presence
Your online presence includes not just your website, but also your listings in online business directories, your posts and comments on relevant blogs & forums, your customer newsletter, articles you write, and more. Is your online presence working for your business? Is your website more than just an online brochure? Your site’s users include not just potential customers, but also existing customers, employees, prospective employees and vendors, among others. Is your site useful to all of your visitors? Do you give them what they are looking for? What’s in it for them?
Nothing is possible online without traffic. What traffic is available in your market? How do you know? Should you consider a market with more traffic? How much and what kind of traffic do you want? Broadly targeted or narrowly targeted? Locally targeted or geographically targeted, or neither, or both? Consumers? Info seekers? What traffic are your competitors getting? How are they getting it? How will you get traffic? How will you test, track & analyze your traffic? What will you do with “excess” traffic? How many ways can you profit from your traffic?
The Big Picture
How does your online strategy integrate with your business and marketing strategies? What can you do online that you can’t do offline? What business or administrative functions can you perform cheaper, better or quicker online than you can offline? How can you stay informed about new online tools and opportunities? How do you decide which online applications to use? What additional markets can you reach online? How can you use your online presence to find out what your customers and potential customers want? What additional products or services can you provide online?
This list just scratches the surface – we’ll expand it and get into details in future articles. The important takeaway for now is that you improve the results of what you do online by acting strategically; that individual online tactics should fit into a larger strategic scheme including all your online and offline activities. You can’t afford to take chances online without an integrated online strategy for your business.