A 7 Step Web Strategy to Save Your Business

March 01, 2009
Is your business struggling to survive in the current economic environment? Are you seeing your cash reserves dwindle as new business drys up? Even if you are doing well I have the same advice- Use the web to save and grow your business.

Here's a 7 step strategic plan that should fit most small businesses. Naturally a good deal of hustle will be needed to implement this kind of plan while doing everything else you need to do to keep your business afloat. There are businesses that can help you implement this plan as well- wink, wink. But if you can dedicate the time and resources I have no doubt that you will see serious ROI. I have seen it in my business and with many of our clients.

  1. An Effective Website- your website is really your front door and sales floor. If you had dozens of people coming to your door everyday, looking around and leaving then you would probably freak out! This is happening right now on your website. Your prospects are sticking their heads in, looking around, finding nothing of interest and moving on. An effective website is one that knows its audience, guides them quickly to where they want to be and removes obstacles for conversions or contact. An effective website is also an active one, updated often and doesn't look dated. Think of a grocery. If you went every week to find the same thing wouldn't you shop somewhere else? Don't underestimate the importance of a fresh website. So make sure your new website is built on a Content Management System (CMS). This way you don't have to pay a web company to make the updates you should be able to easily make with a CMS. This is really important since it plays into all your other efforts.
  2. Email Marketing- now that you have an effective website it's time to build on your contacts. Now you have somewhere to link to without shame. Send out monthly email newsletters with specials, updates and useful information. Once you have this rolling you will want to divide your email list into interest categories in order to tailor the emails to different audiences. I also recommend doing some A/B testing with your email titles. It can really impact your open rate. There are many email list providers. I've been really happy with Constant Contact and have used them for the last 8 years with no major issues.
  3. Search Engine Marketing- time to step it up a notch. You are confident in your website and communication so now is a good time to increase your site's traffic. There are many ways to do this but the most effective is using search engines. If you are a company serving a local audience then chances are people are already looking for your products or services. If you sell Widgets then people are searching for "City Name Widgets Store". Make sure your site is optimized for this. Are you on the top of page one of Google for this and other related searches? If not then someone is eating your lunch. It doesn't matter if you are best Widget maker in town. Google doesn't know this unless you tell them. If you can't get to the top organically (meaning showing up in the unpaid listings) then you can pay to be there. Regardless, you need to be there. Local search is increasingly important and there is a land grab going on around you. Start paying attention now and it will be much easier to get your spot on the first page of Google for your local search.
  4. Blogging- your website and email newsletters will get you some good results but in order to take it to the next level it's time to establish yourself as an expert in your particular field. So if you know widgets better than anyone else around- prove it! Talk about what you know, share your knowledge. This benefits you two ways. The first is that it adds valuable content to your site. Your existing visitors will appreciate your insights and your site will become a destination for them if they need your knowledge/information or share your passion. Blogs really help create a comfort level with your prospects. Remember, these are real people so the more your site feels like a real person is behind it the more comfortable that prospect becomes. The second benefit is that your blogs will create new content that is indexed in search engines. So if you blog about "10 Tips on Installing Widgets in your House's Thingabob" then you run a good chance of showing up for a related search. The people typing that search in are probably looking for the goods or service you offer so you are well on the way to gaining a new customer.
  5. Social Media Engagement- with an active blog you are well on the way to jumping in the Social Media waters! What is Social Media? It's Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. It is also a Webinar or Instant Messaging. Anything that using the web to create an environment for people to gather and have a conversation. So chances are you are already using Social Media on a regular basis. But I also bet you aren't really finding it a good lead generation environment, yet. The key to Social Media is to focus on the relationship and not the sale. Sales as we once knew it is in danger of extinction. Instead of pushing products and services on people you must now enage them in a conversation. You will need to listen as much as talk. I personally find Twitter a great environment to quickly share information with others, get their feedback, join in their conversations and build relationships. Some relationships will never result in business, some will. That's ok, I still get value from the conversations. Focus on meaningful conversations since those are the ones most likely to bring value to your life and business.
  6. Press Releases- time to toot your horn and blow the trumpets! You have really made some exciting changes that others should know about. Maybe you've set up a cool microsite for a special promotion or sponsored a series of events that you promoted across all your different platforms (website, email, social media, etc). So now is a good time to go after some earned media. Put together a concise but exciting press release letting everyone know about the cool stuff your company has been up to. How you've shirked the industry trends to grow in a downturn, how you've launched a new product and used these New Media tools to get the word out. Send it out to the local/industry press and also promote it using PRWeb.com. Make sure to add links back to your website when you send out the release!
  7. Analytics or Tweak and Repeat!- by now you should really be rolling with great website traffic, lots of leads or sales coming through your site, an active and meaningful online conversation with colleagues and prospects, good buzz in your industry, an overall increase in business and new energy in your team. So what now? Make sure when you set up your website and email marketing that you have good Analytics set up as well. For the web I recommend Google Analytics and Get Clicky. They give you two different ways of looking at traffic and both are valuable. For email I recommend using Constant Contact or another email list provider. This will let you see what emails were opened, what links clicked on, etc. Valuable stuff all around. Not everything you do will get the same return. So find out what works, tweak and repeat!
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