Five steps toward a comprehensive online strategy

by Ron on July 15, 2013

Picture of a browser with headline: What's your online marketing strategy

How prepared is your organization  to meet customers online wherever they happen to be and however they choose to interact with you? Every company at this point should have a comprehensive online strategy that includes the company website, mobile, social media, content strategy and even apps; but too many aren’t even close to having a presence across each category.

This post looks at five ways to sure up your online strategy at your midsize business.

1: Update your website

What’s your general reaction when you come to a badly designed website? Chances are you decide to leave and not come back. Given the importance of the web in any company’s business strategy, you don’t want a dated website holding back your business.

If you haven’t looked at the design in several years, chances are it looks dated, possibly even dowdy. That means it’s time to do a comprehensive design review.

If you don’t have anyone in-house who can do it, and chances are if you did, it wouldn’t look that way, then look to hire a good designer. You don’t have to spend a fortune to do this, but you want to make sure that you hire a professional who knows what they’re doing and has a strong track record in the form of an online portfolio of sites they have designed.

And check out the designer’s own site. If you don’t like what they’ve done on their own site that’s there as showcase for their business, chances are you’re not going to like what they can do for you.

2: Refresh your site content regularly

You need to keep your site content fresh. Ideally you have a blog for this purpose as part of your social media strategy. A blog gives you an outlet to show off your expertise as an industry expert and serves to freshen the content on a regular basis. Search engines like new content and when you have great posts on the site, those rise in the search engines organically and you drive people to your site where they are very likely to want to learn more about you.

If you don’t have anyone in-house who can do this on a regular basis as part of their job, not as an afterthought, consider hiring a content marketing professional or a journalist for this task. They ideally should be know how to generate quality content quickly, understand how to aggregate content related to your business and should be able to help you define your overall content strategy.

Also, try to make sure you review the other pages on your site periodically and ensure they are up-to-date. Have you had a turnover on your executive team? Do you have a new product or service? The web site needs to reflect these changes. And if it’s widely known that you have changed, and the website doesn’t reflect this, that looks bad to visitors.

Also, make sure you have up-to-date contact information on the site including a name and phone number for press contact. As a journalist, I can tell you it’s frustrating to go to a site and not have a clear contact. I don’t want to fill out one of those web forms, which nobody is probably checking anyway. I want to know how to contact a real person whose job is dealing with the press. Similarly, customers want to know they are sending a message to a real person who will get back to them with an answer.

3: Take Mobile Seriously

You need to tune your website for mobile access. Research has shown that mobile users are extremely impatient. One recent study found that 76 percent will leave if the website hasn’t been optimized for mobile, and another third said they would never come back if they are unhappy with your mobile website.

As more people carry smartphones, many people in the world will be using these devices as their primary means of accessing the internet. That means, you need to be sure your website can be seen on a mobile device without a lot of pinching and scrolling. What’s more, ideally you should set it up so there is less content than your desktop website and you should provide means of interacting with the website to limit the amount of typing required and generally taking into consideration that you working on a small screen.

4: Sure up your online social media strategy

If you’re not online with your customers, chances are they’re there talking about you anyway, and that’s why you need to be there too.

Your online strategy, especially your content strategy has to be implemented within the context of a wider social media strategy. You need a Facebook page, and your company needs to have a presence on Twitter. LinkedIn is growing in importance as a content sharing outlet and don’t be afraid to use other tools like Instagram and Pinterest.

You need to develop an overall strategy with goals just like any other aspect of your business that tie back into your business goals. And remember that social media gives you a way to talk directly to your customers and get information about what they like and what they don’t.  Who wouldn’t want that ability?

5: Think about apps

Finally consider an app strategy if it make sense for your company. Apps provide a simple way to interact with your company when done well and can give customers a convenient way to get information.

Make sure when you develop apps, you have a purpose and goals for the apps and that you design them well. They shouldn’t do 50 things. They should do one or two things well, and simplify something that was complicated for your customers. That means hiring app developers who know the platform you’re designing for well.

If you aren’t thinking about this overall online strategy across the web and mobile, you are going to lose a key channel for communicating with your customers. Your approach needs to be comprehensive and it needs to tie into business goals. If you’re not there now, you need to get there quickly or you will face a significant competitive disadvantage.

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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