The Step By Step Guide to Online Success
The mere thought of trying to find "success" online in today's digital world can be overwhelming. With so many self-proclaimed "marketing gurus" and questionable peddlers of Internet-based business guides populating the web, it's often difficult for small business owners to cull sound professional advice from this swelling sea of snake oil.
Still, if you're planning to start a small business or expand its reach into digital marketing, there has never been a more opportune time to seek success online -- a journey that begins with several small, but crucial steps.
1) Define Online Success
Finding success online first requires you to determine what "success" actually means to you. Are your goals financial, promotional, charitable, just for fun, or perhaps a combination of all the above? Before expending any precious capital or labor, decide precisely what you want -- or need -- to achieve from your online efforts and pursue every subsequent step with this determination in mind.
2) Clarify Your Strategy
According to many small business owners now thriving in their online efforts, the hardest step in reaching success was making the initial decision about how the Internet could best be leveraged to promote their unique brand. Investing exorbitant sums of money into building the best website and amassing the latest digital marketing tools only to expect those tools to do all the legwork for you is foolhardy. Clarifying a strategy entails deciding what tools are right for you and your customers, and then determining how much time you will have to actively employ those tools in pursuit of "online success."
3) K.I.S.S. Is Critical
Perhaps the biggest misconception about growing your business online is that doing so involves highly intricate tools and methodologies. In reality, however, the concept of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is particularly important here. Simple, straightforward solutions -- like utilizing social media for customer service and building a client email list -- are often the most effective and profitable.
Engaging consumers via mobile platforms is now widely seen as being every bit as important as having a website. In fact, mobile marketing has become a preferred mechanism by which customer bases are built and consumer loyalty is fostered. Many small businesses find immediate success with SMS programs. SMS, or texting, is a simple and cost effective way to engage willing customers through their cell phone. Whether you utilize SMS to offer discounts or to inform customers of upcoming promotions, nearly 30 percent of U.S. consumers say they are interested in mobile coupons, according to a recent joint study by the Mobile Marketing Association and Synovate, the MMA's official research partner.
A November 2010 study from digital agency Covario said that social media will be a high priority among U.S. advertisers in 2011, and it should be for you as well. Whether you tweet your way to the top via Twitter or invest in targeted ads on Facebook, the possibilities of social media have to be part of your strategy in some way.
6) Observe More Than You Act
Securing your niche online and cultivating a successful presence requires you to watch more than you do. Following the latest trends in mobile marketing, the hottest practices in digital advertising, and the efforts of your competitors equals invaluable research. Digest as much information as you can about the constantly-evolving practices in online marketing and business development. Tweak, modify, or wholly revamp your own efforts accordingly, but only after thoughtfully considering what works -- and doesn't work -- for others during an extended period of time.
Return on Investment -- or ROI -- is defined as a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment. Consider your efforts in the digital realm as the investment. Before you launch any endeavor, determine the criteria by which you will evaluate your strategy's success or failure. Commit to overhaul or ramp up your efforts based on careful and consistent evaluations.
Michael Essany is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.