The most important aspect of the plan is the setting of goals. Naturally, turning a profit is always goal #1, so we need to work together with figuring out how to turn lines of code on a computer screen into money.
The best way to understand your goals is to ask yourself what you want visitors to your site to do while they're visiting - your goals for them will determine what kind of marketing tools are most important for you.
Do you want them to purchase something directly off the site? That's pretty straightforward - we'll collaborate with the designer to make sure that your products are displayed attractively, then set you up with an affordable and easy to maintain e-commerce platform that makes it easy for customers to buy. We can ignore or downplay a lot of peripheral features - for you a newsletter may be merely a way to alert customers to sales and promotions.
But what happens if the transaction isn't so direct? Say you're an accountant - most people won't hand over their credit card and tax documents because we put a "Free shipping!" decal next to your picture - you'll need to be a little sneakier. Your goal for the site should be to influence visitors to call or email you. So we'll prominently display your phone number and make sure there's a 'contact us' form on every page so we can drive them to seek out a free consultation. A blog and newsletter will also help keep the interest of potential clients and keep you in the minds of your returning customers.
But what if you're a business broker, dealing in multi-million dollar transactions with a highly select client base? What if your transaction cycle is measured in months or years and your line of work demands a tremendous amount of trust? It may be that even a heartbreakingly beautiful website full of glowing client testimonials and a blog full of witty observations may not move someone to pick up the phone to put their life's work in your hands on that first visit.
Then content will truly be king. At that level, a blog and a newsletter aren't merely useful accessories - they are essential. Your goal is to convince your rich and business savvy clients that you know what you're talking about and that you will be able to properly represent their businesses to other equally savvy buyers. To do so, you need to showcase your expertise at every turn. Your blog should be bursting with insights about business conditions in their industry and marketplace, demanding that the visitor add your feed to his RSS reader. Guide every possible visitor to sign up for your newsletter, which will be brilliantly written and always conclude with a call to action - "Call us today for a complimentary and confidential consultation."
In those cases, we set our clients up with a stellar designer who will create a site geared towards refined tastes, a content management system (CMS) that allows for hassle free updates, we coach them in how to write an effective blog (and point them towards professional web content writers if they aren't confident bloggers), and we provide them with highly capable CRM and newsletter management software that allows them to virtually bombard their clients with pithy wisdom. If you can do that, you'll be able to build trust with that client that may compel them to come knocking on your door.
The point of all this is that we work closely with our clients to make sure that their site is appropriate to their needs and can generate a desired ROI. If we can't find a way to make it work, we'll tell you up front and refuse the job rather than waste anybody's time. If you would like some help coming up with an online marketing plan for your business, give us a call and I'd be glad to help you out. Shiny metal briefcases optional.