Every day decision makers take the plunge to take on the Internet to create a new online business or grow their existing one in the digital world. Some will succeed but many of these ventures perform poorly or fail in the short term. We take a look at the typical route to disaster, and hopefully draw some lessons for it all.
How It Starts
It is always exciting when an initial idea sparks into life and starts taking the shape of a business plan. Many times this is driven by one (or very few) individual within the organisation with a vision to invest in digital to build a profitable business. This stage is crucial because what should happen is that the basic business goals are identified.
This leads us to the first common mistake. The lack of clearly defined and known business goals can lead to the project going astray. With money and energy spent on the wrong areas and in different directions it will be hard to achieve good results.
Business goals are there to remind everybody why we are doing this and where our energies should ultimately lead. They should be clear and concise and they should translate into hard measurable facts, such as sales figures!
Passing The Test
Businesses that pass the test of producing sound goals move on to the next stage, that of developing a (digital) strategy. Sounds complex, but the strategy will answer the basic question; how will we attain our business goals? This is where we start looking at technology, marketing, social media and so on. Your in-house marketing people can pool in with their ideas and industry insight, or you may easily outsource this phase to experts. Some time (and money) later you will have your very own online strategy, hopefully designed to meet your business goals.
At this point in the project’s short life, you must bring in and involve other people within the organisation. They must understand, like and support your plan in order to make it real. Here lie some dangers.
Chris from sales doesn’t quite have the time to learn the new software so he prefers to reply to web enquiries directly by email, bypassing the new tracking system.
Sarah from marketing came across this new social media site and stopped updating the Facebook company page.
Karl from accounts forgets to mention the website as a payment method and only suggests payments by cheque to his clients.
Tony from purchasing has received new SEO recommendations from his supplier and is busy replacing all the meta tags on the website pages.
What is wrong here is that different people in different roles create their own goals and priorities. Each sub-goal somehow dilutes or destroys the original plan which will ultimately not work.
The best way to roll out your online strategy is by ensuring that the plan has an owner. The owner may be an internal resource or it may be an external company, however the job of the owner is there to keep the strategy from going off at a tangent. Here is how you do it:
1. Clear Goals
This may be obvious, but goals must be clearly defined in your plan. This will help you assess your direction towards your goals as well as measure your success.
Example goal: Generate 100 sales leads per month from our website.
Whatever your goals, the strategy owner should be tasked to measure the results achieved very often. Make sure that your strategy includes the tools and systems needed to collect and report on these indicators.
Example measurement: Use Google Analytics to measure conversion rates per month.
Your measurements will provide constant feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Month after month you will have the data to back your hunch of what is being done and what is left to chance. Use this data to revise your original strategy every month and to track your progress against your goals.
Example adjustment: Provide training to help staff adopt the new software systems.
In the end, your strategy is just a blueprint for success but does not guarantee it. On the other hand, a correct implementation, measurement and tuning of the plan over time (through ownership) can produce the desired results, in the medium term at least.
Webcraft provides all the tools and advice your organisation needs to build and run an online business.