8 Project Plans to Get Business Results Online

In business, nothing happens until someone sells something.

Versions of this quote are variously attributed to Arthur “Red” Motley, Peter Drucker and IBM’s Thomas Watson, and it is as true online as it is in any outdoor cattle market — if you aren’t making sales with your business website (directly or indirectly) then you’re just making noise.

And in order to make sales, just like in anything else you do, you need a bias towards action. By all means plan out your next steps, but don’t plan too deeply or for too long; try and achieve something and then use the feedback and experience to improve your approach for next time.

I’ve called this process turning your online marketing into a “Value Factory” and the essential idea is that without a closed feedback loop, and an approach that enables you to make moves and try things, your efforts won’t necessarily be cumulative.

So how do you get started? How do you collect those first data points?

Well, I asked a few experts to give me their ideas and then I put them together with some of my own in this post to make a list of eight specific project plans. Hopefully it’ll give you plenty of ideas and options for kick-starting your own online growth.

1. Don’t just do stuff — decide on the best stuff to do

Taking those first strategic steps after weeks, months or sometimes years of uncoordinated campaign actions can be tricky, but Chris Wright, Founder of Fifty Five and Five, explains how to take some of the guesswork out of the process:

“All too often the temptation is to dive into such a project and start making fixes, changing things, and ‘doing stuff’. The best choice, and something we practice here at Fifty Five and Five, would be to take a step back and analyse the current site first. What is and isn’t working?
Spend half a day really digging into Google Analytics, to see what current visitors are doing. Use one of the many online tools to get a real person to Usability test your site. Even sit down with your team and ask them. Once you have a bit of useful data and analysis, then you have something to actually act on.”

This is great advice. Google Analytics is a natural place to start when planning out a project as it can give you data at various different levels. Perhaps you’re just interested in general traffic to your site, or maybe the behaviour of visitors on a few keys pages is important — the data is there for you.

In addition, usability tests can give you insights into where that data is coming from. Using online tools and techniques it is possible to get a better idea of how visitors and prospects are interacting with your site, what they find easy (and hard) to do on it, and what the overall feeling that they get from it is.

It is important to be clear exactly what behaviours or information you’re interested in when doing this sort of testing. Relate the tests to the triggers that drive sales and you’ll have an excellent basis for optimising your content or implementing a new campaign.

2. Document your journey in an optimised video

Video is synonymous with the modern web. More users than ever are accessing YouTube and other platforms on their phones and computers, and consuming video content at a rapid rate.

And it doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task. As Edwin Dearborn, author of Power Branding Secrets says;

“The best content that someone can create for their business is by creating a YouTube video using their mobile device. Optimize it for local search and you’ll find more people finding your brand.”

Edwin has an excellent video of his own that goes into this in more detail, explaining the benefits of using YouTube for SEO purposes and going through the steps.

Edwin isn’t alone in advocating this strategy; Gary Vaynerchuck, CEO of one of the largest and most successful social media agencies, has also talked about the power of documenting your journey in his own videos (warning, explicit language). He explains that starting is more important than getting all of the preparation perfect, and the potential benefits to your brand are larger than ever.

So why not give it a go? Pick one product, one process, one aspect of your business, and shoot a short video with your phone or digital camera.

If it’s terrible then you don’t have to upload it! But make it better and try again — it could be the shot in the arm your online promotion needs.

3. Support, and learn from, your salespeople

Your sales department are on the front line. They know who your customers are, why they buy (and don’t buy) from you and what their common questions are.

Take the time to sit down with your salespeople and find out how you can better support them with your website and online marketing. The insights could be very useful.

There are many ways that this conversation could turn into a project that improves your results online, for example:

  • Collate all of the common questions they receive into an FAQs page or section of your site that deals with objections, misconceptions and knowledge gaps your prospects have.
  • Uncover a case study that has been shown to be useful in making sales, and expand the story into a piece of content (a PDF download for example) that can be shared online.
  • Change how you communicate and refer to your products and services online based on the terminology that your salespeople hear from your customers every day.
  • Access new markets by learning about current buying trends (e.g. if your sales staff report that a growing percentage of new customers are in laboratories on the east coast — create a campaign to target them).

Information on how your customers are behaving today is invaluable, but make sure that you also factor in forthcoming product launches and company goals that are about the future too.

4. Simply send out a quality email

Carolyn Frith, owner of Carolyn Frith Marketing, provided an overview of an excellent campaign that could lead to some pretty fast results. She said;

“Most online marketing projects take time to build results. If however, a small company wants to test a quick, easy online tactic, I would recommend they send an informative email. For B2B companies, its best to include a case study that shows how they’ve helped one of their clients.
It should have an intriguing subject line, such as, “How ABC Company Increased Leads by 256% in 90 days,” or “How DEF Company Reduced Energy Costs by 15%.” The email provides just enough detail to create curiosity and encourage people to call.
If it has one, the company can send the email to its list. If not, they can send it to their LinkedIn connections. They should, however, sort through their connections to ensure that they are only emailing those who might have an interest.”

An email constructed in this manner can open doors to new connections and prospects that you didn’t know existed. If it is really good, then your contacts might also thank you for giving them something of value.

I would add that you also need to follow up. People are busy and, no matter how good their intentions, some will forget to respond. A gentle prompt after about a week can work wonders!

5. Improve the workflows

So far the projects discussed have detailed what you can do with your website. Another approach to take in order to get results is to look at how the website functions.

By examining the workflows in place to update and manage your site content it can be possible to identify opportunities that can lead to better all-round performance.

You might not have thought about “workflow” before when considering your online marketing, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting task.

A simple way of querying what you have in place is to get a piece of paper and document the exact steps that currently need to be take in order to:

  • Change one word on one existing page of your site,
  • Change one image on one existing page of your site,
  • Change one link on one existing page of your site (or carry out a similar edit to content that may involve code),
  • Publish one new page with a paragraph of text and an image.

If you want to extend this then you can also look at similar social media tasks (e.g. create and schedule one tweet) or back-end business processes (e.g. add a new email list subscriber to your CRM).

Once you have the relevant processes mapped out it will be possible to look at bottlenecks or areas in which you are poorly resourced, identify single points of failure and over-reliance on individual staff members (e.g. Stephanie is the only person with access to the image library, and she’s in Vegas for two weeks! Classic Stephanie….) or spot technological solutions that are no longer fit for purpose.

I advise against making too many changes too quickly; make a few tweaks and improvements and then test it out (close those feedback loops remember!)

Improving workflows also has a compound effect — once up and running, a better workflow results in better content and better results from then on.

6. Restructure for SEO

The right search engine traffic brings fantastic benefits to a business, enabling you to get your message in front of people who are actually searching for your products.

Steve Wiideman, President and Senior Strategist of the Wiideman Consulting Group, explains that to really make progress with SEO you need to step back and focus:

“Internet marketing can feel overwhelming to a small business, but it doesn’t have to be. With a limited budget, a comprehensive SEO Audit can be a great first start to identifying the issues that need the most attention, ours starts at around $99. Services such as UpWork and Freelancer.com offer affordable to resources to help resolve many of the technical search engine optimization issues (as low as $8/hr).
Website owners should take inventory of all the services they offer, and then create a single page on their website for each. Perform a quick search to see the competing pages for the service offered, and then create a page that is more helpful, useful, and really shows off your industry knowledge. Pay close attention to patterns of words used in the titles seen in the search results, the headings on the pages themselves, and the words used within subheadings; all of these help address basic SEO.
Finally, reach out to similar businesses in your vertical that are not direct competitors. Figure out how to work together to promote each other, avoiding using explicit keywords in any links pointing to either website, and continue to focus on the individual webpages and visibility from external websites at least a few minutes per month. Over time, search engine “bots” will find more links to your website and will recognize that users prefer your page over the other results, creating more trust and ultimately higher rankings.”

This is a very thorough and detailed approach that could lead to some excellent results over time.

Viewing your website as a collection of individual pages that each give the best and most relevant result to a searcher inputting a specific query might involve a minor change in strategy online, but the potential upside is significant.

In addition, if your products are complex or highly specialised then although descriptive search terms will have less traffic, they will also have less competition. And the handful of people that are searching for them are more likely to buy then those just interested in acquiring information.

7. Upgrade your content for additional channels

A “content upgrade” is an established content marketing technique that can boost the success of any site.

The idea is to take a highly trafficked page on your site, create an “upgrade” for it and then offer that upgrade in exchange for an email address on the page.

This approach succeeds as it begins with a topic that you know your audience is already paying attention to, and simply adds more value to it.

You won’t need any extra traffic in order to get more people in to the top of your sales funnel — simply make an existing page better and collect email addresses for doing so. Easy!

8. Take a content-first approach

Your website content should be treated as a business asset. It is your always-on, 24/7/365 international shop window. And its content deserves respect.

Gareth O’Sullivan, social media and digital marketing expert, explains how to take a content-first approach to generating results online;

“To drive the right targeted traffic to your website you needs to sit down and come up with a content plan. Research successful content in your industry and jot down some ideas around that content.
After doing so, get cracking with writing content and come up with an engaging successful blog title. I’d recommend checking out CoSchedule’s headline analyzer.
Lastly, share regularly on various channels, ideally you should post your article around 3 times in the first day with intervals. Don’t forget to always include hashtags! Research quality hashtags before using them to get maximum engagement.”

Gareth’s excellent process is easy to understand and follow. By beginning with research into content that’s already out there you can spot best practices and opportunities.

And bear in mind Pablo Picasso’s alleged quote “good artists borrow, great artists steal” — I’ll leave it up to you how literally you take this…

Make a choice and make a start

A bias towards action gets results, and in the article above I’ve provided 8 different ways that you can start to take action today.

Close those feedback loops and iterate your way to success by tracking and focussing on the metrics that demonstrate real progress in your business. Make success just a matter of time and effort.

I’m in the process of developing an in-depth content strategy guide for small science and technology businesses that goes through processes like this in more detail, discussing how to make strategic decisions that accelerate results. If you’re interested then please join the guide’s mailing list at this link.

In the meantime, if you have any feedback on the project plans in this article, I’d love to hear it!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Chris Wright, Edwin Dearborn, Carolyn Frith, Steve Wiideman and Gareth O’Sullivan for the great insights, and thanks to you for reading.

Photo credits via photopin: wocintechchat.com: Women In Tech — 67 (license), yasuhisa: I love iPad Pro and draw, but sometimes I just want to spill out ideas and look a whole picture. #process #design #stickynotes #brainstorm (license) and Flickr.