The Web has been around for several decades and physical businesses have been utilizing it since they could. So how can you take your business online and succeed? So many freaking ways. Seriously, I have no idea how many different ways because there are probably 1,000’s of 1,000’s.
So how can you begin to take advantage in this vast digital world? It’s hard work, but more simple than you might think. I’m going to outline a few easy steps that you can take to get your business rolling down the path to success in your online adventures.
  1. Do some research.
  2. Formulate a plan of action.
  3. Build a dang website!
  4. Hire a professional to help you. ( Consultation or Design & Build )
  5. Setup Social Media Accounts
  6. Create a content strategy. ( Should be informed by your plan of action )
  7. Post & Engage!
Do Some Research
You’re a smart business owner, right? Always looking for ways to improve the strength of your business and gain an edge for the future. Well the first step to online success is research. Yeah, I know. Research? Like, as if! I get it, you’re a busy person with a business to run. I’m sure everything will just work out fine if you don’t do any research and just put a website together and start posting about cats on your Facebook page. No, it won’t. The biggest thing for anyone starting out with a business on the Web is grasping that everything has been done before. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. You have a good business, you just want to enhance it with an online presence!
Starting this whole thing out with some research of your competitors is how you can do “it” better. Whatever your business is, dog treat bakery, insurance sales, saving the whales, you can find another example and figure out how to make things for your business work best! Find successful competitors in your market and analyze what works as well as what doesn’t. When you’ve got a list of things that work and don’t you can then begin to figure out why they do or don’t work.  That’s where the magic is.
Say you’ve got a business based on a product or service; maybe in the hand-made sector.  You are just getting started online and know that you have direct competitors in your market that are doing well online. Maybe they’ve got a killer website, with all the wiz-bang features like parallax scrolling, fancy slideshows, and even some video content. Dang dude, that’s some heavy competition. But you notice that it’s really hard to figure out how to learn more about their products and buy them. Positives to add to your Plan of Action and some negatives that you know you can do better on. Boom! You just hit the road to online success.
Bottom line, don’t skip the research. It’s time consuming and tedious, but so very worth it in the long run.
Formulate A Plan Of Action
Once you’ve taken a good look at your competition and found some things you want to include in your Web presence and things you can do better on, you’re going to want to formulate a plan of action for getting that stuff done. I mean, after all you need to bring your business online and you want to do it right. Don’t you, Morty? Of course you do, Morty.
When you build your action plan, be sure to start with your goals. Why are you taking your business online in the first place?  Do you want to acquire more clients or customers? Are you entering a new market space and need a more global exposure channel to get the word out? Maybe you just want to engage with your current customer base by being available online. Whatever it is, write it down and never lose sight of that goal.  It may change once you’ve reached a certain level of success online and that is expected. Just don’t lose focus until it’s beneficial to do so.
Your plan of action could one that starts with your goal and works all the way back in finite detail to how you’re going to publish content to the internet, that involves hiring new staff and building a new wing on your building. More likely though is that you’ll have your end goal and a couple bullet points for channels of communication online, such as “Build a Website and incorporate a blog”, “start a Facebook Page and a Pinterest Board”, and/or “Set aside 30 minutes a day to respond to people on Facebook”.  Whatever level of detail you want to build into this plan is up to you. The point is that you have a plan.
Build A Dang Website!
This step isn’t always necessary and I’ll explain why a little later. However, the majority of people and businesses will require a Website. Keep in mind, none of this is easy work. Just because you build a website doesn’t mean you’ve thought about why you have one or how you’re going to use it to help you and your goals of online success.
There are plenty of tools online that can help you get started quickly, but be sure to remember a couple of things before you use the first one you find. The most important option you can look for is that the tool you use to create your website should be building it “Responsive”ly. Responsive Web Design basically boils down to this:
  1. Can be viewed and interacted with easily and intuitively on a Mobile device, such as Smart Phones and Tablets.
  2. The content is the same on every device, but displayed in the best way for consumption on each device.
  3. You can learn more about Responsive Web Design here: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/responsive-web-design
  4. Get ready for Accelerated Mobile Pages. More on this in an up-coming post.
Hire A Professional To Help You.
When you are beginning to get a grasp on your online presence, you will find it extremely helpful to work with a Web Consultant. Be it design or marketing issues, I know you will have at least one or two questions for someone who knows the medium. Most Web Designers that are independent or Freelance need to be paid, so don’t expect to get free advice. Their time is worth a lot to them, so offer to pay for a consultation so you can get some feedback on your new website.  By offering up front to pay them for their time, you are committing to two things. One, you are spending some money to better your business and by doing so you are creating the mental drive to not want to waste money. Two, you are telling the consultant that you know his or her time is valuable and you are not here to waste it.
Be honest, accept criticism, and be willing to make changes to how you view your website and online business. Often times we cannot see what is right in front of us because our businesses are our babies. Remember that the only constant in the universe is change and be willing to accept that. If you do not accept that you may need to get out of your own way, especially online, the online success of your efforts won’t matter much.
Setup Social Media Accounts!
Yep, social media. It’s a beast and could be the entire focus of one’s job and “aint nobody got time for that”. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start doing it. You need to make the time for it. One big tip for keeping your costs low when starting out online is to reach your audience wherever they are. Most of the time, they are on a social media network every day and you can connect with them for no money at all. Sure it takes time away from your already busy schedule, but there are ways to get around that.
When you start out, don’t feel like you have to sign up and create accounts for every single social media site out there. You don’t. The audience for your business will most likely be best reached on 2 or 4 networks/channels.  Take some time before you get started and see where your competitors are doing well with your target market. This will inform you on where to start first.
Also, keep in mind that in order for your new Social Media profiles to reach existing customers, new customers, and those who are just checking you out, you’re going to have to publish content on them. And most importantly you’re going to have to engage with people. Social Media for businesses works best when you’re not selling to your fans 24/7. They are connecting with you and your business on a more personal level and want to be treated as your friends. Not many friends want to hear a sales pitch every time you get together for drinks or dinner, right? Right.
Create A Content Strategy.
Now that you’ve got yourself a website and you’re getting your social on, it’s time to really get focused. This is something that many people and businesses forget, but it’s so very important. Why is it important? Well, there are many reasons so let me elaborate! Creating a content strategy can help keep you on the path to success by being your continuity director. When you strategize how you’re going to approach your brand online, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Some people don’t realize that when you are forming an audience, or when you have a well established and large audience, you have in essence a tribe. Your tribe comes to you for very specific reasons. If you start sharing content with your tribe that doesn’t speak to why they came to you, they are likely to leave your tribe. No one wants that. Work on a plan and stick to it. However, always be evaluating your plan to make sure you are on the right path for success. Strategies can change, but try not to change it every day, week or month.
Post & Engage!
Now that you’re set up with all the basics, use all your tools and use them often. Keeping a consistent flow of content, information, and offers coming at your audience via your social media accounts, blog posts, news updates, videos on YouTube, etc. is super important. Equally important is engaging with your tribe. When you get comments and questions on your content channels, be sure you engage with them. Something that I’ve found to work extremely well over my years online is no matter the situation, “Kill ‘em with kindness.” Often, this statement is usually brought up when things have gone wrong somehow, but I don’t believe that it has to be that way. When you remain composed and courteous even when someone is fumingly mad with you, the situation can quickly be turned in your favor and you’ve maintained a relationship, built upon it, and most likely made a long lasting tribe member.
So research your market and demographic, formulate a plan of action and attack, build a website, start your social media accounts and profiles, work on your content strategy, and create and share all the content you can that is directly impactful to your tribe.