Online strategy

Let’s start with what an online strategy is not. It is not a nebulous concept. It is not a thinking exercise. It is not a motivational or aspirational statement. It is not a mix of individual tactics (SEO, PPC, web design). It is not something you set and forget. It is not a quick fix – there are no shortcuts to online success.

Your online strategy is an ongoing process – a long term plan to get good business results online by integrating your business goals with your online objectives. It is an action plan, a sequence of questions you ask and decisions you make every time you do anything online.

These are the steps you take every time you publish a new site or redesign an existing site or create a new type of web presence (such as a blog or a client newsletter) or adopt any short term tactic – in short, anything you do online. This is the sequence you should follow and the questions you should answer.

  • Define your outcome. Exactly what business purposes and online objectives do you want to achieve?
  • Identify your traffic sources. Who do you want to visit your site, and how will they find your business online?
  • Create focused content. What kind of content will best serve your purposes – and where will it come from?
  • Plan your Web presence. Which online properties – website, blog, newsletter, social network – will you use to create relationships with your targeted audience?
  • Track and test your results. How will you track and test your online efforts to get better business results?

It is a simple process, only five steps. Make it your habit, and you will achieve long term, sustainable improvements in your online business results.

You can begin implementing your online strategy immediately – no technical expertise required. You define your business objectives first, and then get whatever technical assistance you may need to achieve your online objectives within the context of your business goals. Remember, you don’t need to become an online expert yourself. You only need your business to act in expert ways.

Let’s get started.

Define Your Outcome

Everything you do online must have a business purpose coupled with a defined, measurable online objective.

Business Purposes

You may be able to achieve a wide variety of business purposes online, including advertising, public relations, promotions, marketing, sales, lead generation, branding, customer service, reputation management, recruitment and training, among others. Every business is different – your ability to serve any specific business purposes online depends on your industry and your business model.

Your primary online business purpose is likely to be either direct sales or lead generation – getting a qualified prospect to contact you for an estimate. But don’t overlook other possibilities. As a business owner your task is to determine which of your business objectives you can accomplish online (and also to consider new possibilities – what new things might your business accomplish online that it can’t accomplish offline?)

Online Objectives

There are really only three online objectives, but they apply to every type of business – and you must achieve all of them for online success. Regardless of your industry or business model, and in addition to your business purpose, everything you do online must focus on one or more of the following:

  • Traffic – the means to your online success: Targeted traffic is your online currency. Without traffic, nothing else is possible online.
  • Relationships – the reason for your presence online: It is through your relationships – with customers, potential customers, referral sources, suppliers, employees, potential employees – that you serve your business purposes.
  • Conversion – the measure of your online success: A conversion occurs any time a visitor takes an action that you have defined as important to your business.

Your online strategy requires all of your online activities to serve both a business purpose and at least one of the three online objectives. Consider every online action by first asking “what will this do for my business?” and “what will this do for me online?” If you can’t answer both questions, then reconsider. When you have a good answer to both questions, then you’re ready to move on to the next step.