It’s the time of year when we reassess and make resolutions, and it’s a great time to set goals for growing your business. “Today’s reality is that the online space is the preeminent place where business research, communications and transactions occur, even for the most niche enterprises,” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about the most important actions that companies should be taking to get to and stay on their “A-game” online.
What are the smartest online resolutions for my business this year?
There are many vital facets of a business’s online presence, initiatives and technologies that affect bottom-line outcomes. In truly effective enterprises, these are aligned, interconnected and coordinated. Here are 12 top areas to consider and act on to keep you in the game, and winning it, in 2012:
1. Plan Your Online Strategy
The first question to ask: Is your web presence and online activities strategic to your business?
If the answer is no, then you’re likely risking extinction. If the answer is yes, then what is your online strategy? You absolutely need one. Develop goals, a plan to reach them, and ways you will measure progress and success.
2. Invest in Your Growth
The web is significant to business success today and is often a core business asset. Competing successfully requires investment of time, talent and money. This investment in your growth can be cost-effective, but when done right, it is usually not cheap. Core business assets rarely are.
3. Conduct a Competitive Analysis
How does your website (and your brand online) stack up against your competition? There are many tools to that can help uncover this information. Start by simply searching your brand name, products or services in any of the search engines (and social media platforms). What you find may be surprising, and may even lead you to re-define what you consider ‘the competition’.
4. Review Your Optimization
Online optimization best practices are always evolving. Now is a great time to initiate periodic reviews of: Are you leveraging the latest best practices? Are your current keywords still the best choices? Are you optimizing in a coordinated manner across all your online footprints (videos, blogs, platforms, profiles, content syndication)?
5. Web Designs Have a Shelf Life, Check Yours.
If your website design is over a few years old, not only is it likely to be functionally dated, but the visual and interactive presentation is likely to be perceived by visitors as ‘a step behind the times.’ Your web presence (on all platforms and profiles) is often your business’s first impression, and could be your last if the message it portrays is: ‘We’re not up to speed with the competition and the industry.’ Internet-users continue to grow more sophisticated in judging your professional credibility via the web. If your website design is more than three years old, it warrants a review.
6. Assess the Human Element
Conduct a usability study on your website and other online properties. This insight from real people compliments algorithmic analytics. It can help you see the forest for the trees and fine-tune your best online presentation.
7. Go Mobile
Offering a mobile website is no longer an option. Over 50 percent of internet users are accessing the web via a mobile device (including phones, iPads and tablets). Smart businesses will ensure their target audience can access them from any device. Really smart businesses will develop their mobile presence with the unique dynamics of mobile usability and mobile marketing best practices in mind.
8. Be Strategically Social
The correct social media strategy and engagement level is different for every business. Brand monitoring, reputation management and relationship building take a front seat to overt sales in this arena (other than placing paid ads in these media, which can be a great targeted opportunity). Examine your social media engagement to ensure you can listen and appropriately respond to your audience, and that you add real value to the group.
9. Critique Your Website Content
Ask a client or colleague to read through and critique your website. Was their experience and understanding what you meant for them? Content analysis and refinement is also essential when updating your website. Plan and prepare your content right alongside the design process so it is ready to make your best first impression at, not after, your website’s debut.
10. Use Content Marketing
Develop ways to regularly generate content (a blog and articles like this one are a great start). Then deploy this content in measurable and optimized ways both on and offline. Content is critical to differentiation and success in digital marketing.
11. Connect Your Integration Efficiencies
When you integrate web analytics, web content management systems (CMS), Customer Relations Management (CRM), and marketing automation, it enables quick, accurate insights to online performance metrics. It also creates the dynamic connection needed for nimble web and email marketing, lead nurturing, and sales process workflows. Time and money-saving integrations are a cornerstone of successful digital-age businesses.
12. Measure and Manage the Right Metrics
A myriad of tracking measures are available to scrutinize your online performance. A successful online campaign is not necessarily one that gets the most impressions, clicks or visits. Those that convert the most leads, receive qualified proposals and become sales are usually the true winners. Use your online strategy to define the goal of tactic, and select the best metric to indicate and benchmark that success. Whether you utilize in-house resources, or partner with experts, addressing these 12 online resolution areas will prime your business for success in this digital age.
For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method
Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.