When it comes to the web and business, perhaps no question is as discussed (and argued) as:
“What should my business be doing online?”
Of course, the question can be asked in many different ways. Some common variations include:
- How will being online help me bring customers to my offline location?
- Do I really need a website? How fancy (i.e. expensive) does it need to be, does it have to have a blog and what about that search engine optimization stuff?
- Do I need to get going with that social media stuff? On which social media sites should I be active, what should I say, how often should I say it and to whom should I be talking?
- Can I really manage my business online? How secure is it? Can I do some things and not others? Is it hard to learn how it’s done?
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this complex question and unfortunately, there are no simple answers.
The “What your business SHOULD be doing online” Formula
Just kidding! There are still no simple answers however, there is a formula which, if followed, can walk you through the process of answering the question again and again:
What you CAN do online / What you NEED to do =
What your business SHOULD be doing online
This formula really sums-up my thinking about using the web to manage and market your business:
- By learning what you can do online (all the myriad management and marketing tools and approaches) and then
- Determining what you need to do for your business right now (get folks into your store, manage your finances, etc.) you can
- Divide out (i.e. remove) all the distractions and focus on what you should be doing to achieve success!
Putting the Cart Before the Horse
You see, the main problem is that many folks decide what they will do online first and then try to tie in their efforts to specific business goals.
This approach often, if not inevitably, leads to wasted time and money, frustration and failure.
For example, you cannot go online these days without reading about social media and how your business needs to get active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the rest.
This has led fictional Company A to conclude:
“We need to get going with social media – let’s set up a Twitter ID and work hard to get thousands of followers nationwide by starting conversations with folks about what we sell. We’ll be the product experts to the world, folks will think we’re a great company and our reputation will grow!”.
But what Company A should be doing is thinking about the business goals they need to achieve and then learning and evaluating which online methodologies, approaches, tools and software would be best used to achieve those goals.
In the case of Company A, they need to increase in-store traffic during slow times. Twitter is not a bad way to achieve this goal, but a different approach would likely work better:
“We need to get more people into our store during slow times so we should really only care about getting local folks to follow us on Twitter. That way, when in-store traffic is slow, we can tweet out limited-time deals that will drive our local customers to visit.”
Company A now has a goal which will really impact their success (increase in-store traffic during slow times) and a clear methodology for achieving the goal (send limited-time deals to local Twitter followers).
Next, they will need to work on how to get locals to follow them on Twitter (such as in-store sign-up and handouts, local ads and flyers, etc.) and then start planning out their deal offers on the calendar.
They are on their way.
It’s All About Focus
The advantage of using the “What Your Company SHOULD be Doing Online” formula is FOCUS.
By working in this direction (CAN do / NEED to do = SHOULD do), you are much more focused on achieving the goals which your company needs to meet.
By planning your actions with your business goals in mind, you will avoid spending time and money online doing things that look and sound neat, and may even be fun, but do not bring your company closer to success.
Over the next few posts, I dive deeper into each of the three parts of the “What Your Business SHOULD be Doing Online” formula.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments below.
I’m in the process of writing a book that will walk you through the “What Your Business SHOULD Be Doing Online” formula step-by-step. Due early next year, it’s called:
Figuring Out the Web: The Step-By-Step Formula for finally knowing exactly What YOUR Business SHOULD Be Doing Online – even if you hate technology”