An Introduction to the Series
An online presence can serve as a shop window, a sales force and a checkout - with seamless transition from one stage to the next.Once a functional and effective website is in place it can almost automatically convert leads into prospects and prospects into sales without the need for much (if any) human intervention on the part of the company.
With the Building an Effective Online Presence from the Ground Up series I hope to provide an overview of the major stages and processes involved in evolving an existing business into a successful online brand. Although this series will undoubtedly help those looking to establish a purely online business from scratch - my focus is upon two different types of company:
1 - Established businesses who presently operate in a purely offline capacity but are looking to build an online presence.
2 - Businesses who already operate online but who are not experiencing the results they would hope for (and are willing to make radical changes to remedy this).
Having established my aims with this series it's time to get started:
Before jumping headfirst into website creation it is essential to thoroughly consider the reasons why you're building an online presence and what you intend to gain from it.
If you're a retailer then your primary aim will likely be revenue generation through e-commerce sales - for some industries however, the goals are not quite so clear-cut. Those who operate in the B2B arena may wish to build a website which serves as a sales brochure to elicit enquiries from prospective clients, whilst other organisations could well create a website purely for increased brand exposure.
Specific goals and aims must be established before anything else is done to ensure that all aspects of your website and online marketing are tailored to best serve the business and achieve your stipulated goals.
With goals and aims freshly established there remains the vital task of assessing whether the market exists for you to achieve a high enough volume of conversion (completions of established aims) to justify the cost of entering the online arena. Examination of competitor websites and use of tools such as the Google Adwords Keyword Research tool will help you to understand the demand for your product, service or offering. Essentially, the more people using search engines to search for terms (referred to as 'keywords') which are relevant to your industry: the more of a pre-existing market there is.
If there does not appear to be a significant pre-existing market, then you will have to be especially ruthless during the course of the next stage.
Establish Budgets, ROI + KPIs
Unless you have web design, web development and web marketing specialists in-house (in which case this whole series of blogs is unlikely to be of much use!) the creation and development of a website and the subsequent digital marketing services will require capital. How much capital is dependent upon a vast number of variables; not to mention your available budget. At this stage the services of a digital marketing agency are likely to be incredibly useful. Digital marketing specialists are able to outline the website functionality you'll require to achieve your goals, the cost of website design, development and maintenance and the cost of SEO and other online marketing services to ensure success.
By consulting closely with a digital marketing agency - or indeed utilising your own experience you will be able to establish two vital acronyms: ROI and KPIs. The Return On Investment is essential - if you can't foresee an ROI which offers definite benefit to your company then it may be necessary to re-think your aims and market. Key Performance Indicators serve as benchmarks - basically a series of targets which demonstrate that you are on course to achieve (or better) your desired ROI. Any digital marketing company worth their salt should be able to assist you in formulating and ultimately facilitate the attainment of KPIs spanning from website development through to 12 months from launch.
If the figures add up so far then it's time to move on to the next step - Getting Online.
Written by Jamie Rock Lyons of Web Vitality Digital Marketing Manchester in conjunction with DG Office Supplies