DISCLAIMER: This is very seriously, an introduction, so don’t be spooked if the language is somewhat simple. This article explores business growth strategy fundamentals, as more of a refresher, because we know that you have to be reasonably knowledgeable to have started your business in the first place! Everyone could use a spruce-up on the baby-steps every once in awhile (especially in the ecommerce world), so prepare yourself for a light and breezy read.
You’re welcome. Let’s begin, shall we?
Given the ever evolving nature of the interwebs, it’s tempting to chase the hottest trends in an effort to capture the massive traffic and potential profits that seemingly await those companies able to capitalize on present day fads. Besides that being a mouthful, it’s not the type of thinking embraced by the Fortune 500 companies that continually and consistently outpace and outperform the competition.
While the world’s top companies do invest considerable time, effort and money in researching and exploiting new and emerging technologies, the market dominance of today’s top performing online businesses is largely due to a mastery of solid business fundamentals, aka: the basics. The key difference is how these fundamentals apply in the digital domain—in contrast to the bricks-and-mortar world where the rules of business were first established.
Tactic 1 – Start With Optimizing Your SEO
Most of us intuitively understand the value of ‘visibility’ as it applies to terrestrial businesses. We all understand that businesses must make it exceedingly easy for their prospective customers to find them. Basically, visibility aligns as number one with how to grow your business as a strategy because without it, no one can be aware of who or what you are.
For conventional bricks-and-mortar businesses, this means:
- Setting up shop in a convenient and visible location.
- Making the business inviting to the public through effective signage and branding.
- Advertising the business broadly to draw customers to your location.
Ensuring the visibility of your website is every bit as crucial to the success of your online business, and the most cost effective way to ensure your visibility online is the implementation of an effective SEO strategy as a core component of your overall business growth strategy.
If you aren’t a master in SEO, don’t stress, we are covering the basics afterall. In simple terms, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of designing and building your website so that it is easily found and indexed by the world’s most popular search engines. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your site lands at the top of the results page when prospective customers are searching the web for products and services comparable or relevant to your offering. In other words, an effective SEO strategy has a huge impact on boosting the ‘visibility’ of your business—particularly amongst motivated online consumers actively searching the web for their next transaction. Managing SEO can still be a little complicated as there’s also off-page SEO’s that are compiled outside of the website, so having an experienced team or familiarizing yourself with all the variables of SEO is really important.
When considering an effective SEO strategy, it is important to remember that Google is the world’s most popular search engine by a wide margin, with over 90 percent of global search traffic originating from Google searches. Thus, getting the biggest bang-for-your-SEO-buck is as simple as focusing the bulk of your energies on building a website this is, in every way imaginable—‘Google Friendly.’
Fortunately, Google makes this easy by providing clear and understandable guidelines that define and detail the best practices to follow when building your website.
If you’re an SEO newbie, be sure to familiarize yourself with their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide to get yourself pointed on the right path to Google visibility. More experienced ‘optimizers’ will want to take advantage of the full suite of tools and the related knowledge bank available in Google’s Webmasters Tools site.
The key to this business growth strategy is staying informed. What Google likes in a website evolves over time and it’s important to stay informed on these changes, so you can update your website accordingly. For example, the two biggest developments at this time are:
- An increasing focus on responsive web design to ensure the compatibility of your website across all devices including tablets and mobiles.
- Additional emphasis on semantic search in Google search results. What does ‘semantic search’ mean? In simple terms, many web searches are phrased in the form of a question. Those websites providing the best answers to these questions will naturally find themselves atop the search results for suggested answers.
Tactic 2 – Customer Experience Trumps All
Look at this elated customer. You think this just happens without effort?
Seriously, customer success is everything. Your clients are the reason your business exists! Treat them by making their experience everything that they’ve dreamed it to be. Now that we’ve got you in that happy place, let’s get to it. Your prospective customer has found your website via their search engine query and you’ve reached your first major objective—they’ve landed on your website! But hey, don’t celebrate just yet. Traffic doesn’t automatically equal sales.
Here’s where the real fun begins, and where the biggest wins can be achieved in realizing your business growth strategy goals. This is the exact place where the efforts you’ve made to create a professional, memorable, and convenient ‘Customer Experience’ will pay huge dividends.
To see how, let’s look at each of those adjectives a little more closely.
The most important factor in achieving an exceptional customer experience is trust. Put simply, if online consumers don’t trust your brand or your website, they’ll never transact online with you and all your efforts to make yourself visible will have gone for naught.
Fortunately, the key to establishing trust online is much the same as it is for terrestrial businesses—you must appear professional in everything you do.
From the quality of your logo to the readability of your content; from the speed of your website to the clarity of your navigation, every element of your website must be designed with the customer in mind. Much as a successful hotel pampers its guests from check-in to check-out, your website must do the same, making sure that every step of their online journey from initial entry through to shopping cart is easy, convenient and above all—professional. Doing so ensures trust. Trust engenders loyalty. Loyalty guarantees success. You get where we’re going with this.
To ensure the success of your business growth strategy, it is not enough just to be professional. To truly rise above the pack and become a market leader—we must be memorable. But keep in mind that people remember their bad experiences just as much (if not more) as their positive ones. So even if you end up with a disgruntled client, address it and try to prevent them from having that association in the future.
The good news is this is the fun part, because this is the area where creativity is encouraged, and your team has the opportunity to make your company or brand stand out from your competitors.
Think about the things that truly differentiate your business from the competition, and especially focus on those attributes that your customers continually mention as their favorite things about you. Then dovetail those attributes within your overall business growth strategy. Doing so will help you define your ‘unique selling points,’ your ‘brand proposition’ and the key ‘positioning statements’ for your products and services. Much more than simple marketing buzzwords, these are the key elements that make you memorable in the marketplace.
Take Dove’s “Real Beauty” Ad campaign from 2013. There’s literally thousands of hair and body product companies out there, but they found a way to stand out. Tugged at the heart strings. Making themselves memorable.
It doesn’t have to be an ad, but you get the idea. It is vital that you articulate these elements and then subtly and seamlessly integrate them into your online customer experience. Do so and you will be well on your way to achieving both a beloved brand and a memorable customer experience.
The final key to an effective customer experience is convenience. In every way possible, strive to make your customer’s journey as simple and easy as it can possibly be.
- Got your shopping cart process down to four steps? Try to get it down to three steps, and then two. Distill it down to only the absolute necessary pieces. Make it easy. Conveniently enough for you, we just wrote an article on the toils of cart abandonment.
- Does it take your customers three clicks to get from homepage to their chosen product? Minimize that, and you’re going to do nothing but make your user happy, because you’ve saved them their favorite commodity, time.
Focus on convenience in every aspect of your customer experience and two things will happen. Your customers will perceive your website as professional and memorable.
Tactic 3 – Data Driven Marketing
Here’s a hard fact surrounding the very broad, ‘how to grow your business’ strategy:
We can do everything right when it comes to increasing our visibility with intelligent SEO, and then delivering an exceptional customer experience, and still not realize our objective of facilitating a customer transaction.
Window shoppers exist online just as they do in the real world. When this happens, it is time to turn our focus to data driven marketing.
Data driven marketing is simply the process of compiling and analyzing every bit of information available to you about the visitors to your website, and then reacting to that information to facilitate effective ongoing communications with both your existing customers and those window shopping prospects. By doing so, you’ll ensure every visitor to your site receives follow-up information that is timely and relevant to them. By doing that, you’ll ensure maximum engagement and revenues with your repeat customers and optimal conversion from your new prospects.
While it sounds daunting on the surface, getting started with data driven marketing actually starts to feel quite natural once you dip your toes in the water.
Here’s how you can get started in four simple steps.
- Visit the Google Analytics website and open your free Analytics account.
- Once your account is open: copy and paste the pertinent Analytics code into the source code for every page of your website.
- Browse many of the free Google Analytics tutorials on the web including the hundreds of youtube videos on this topic to familiarize yourself with the types of data you can analyze.
- Let your natural curiosity take over and explore the data to reveal reams of interesting facts about your site visitors.
Master The Fundamentals
As you can plainly see (we hope), with so much competition in the global marketplace, you have to get the basics right to succeed which means—mastering the fundamentals.
The good news is, it has never been easier to do so.
Just as the Internet offers businesses so much opportunity for visibility, exceptional customer experiences, and unprecedented access to customer data: so too does it offer untold free resources to learn about and exploit these technologies and tactics.
In many ways, succeeding in the online era means having the curiosity to learn new things the persistence to leverage this new knowledge. Once you’ve succeeded with that basic open mind approach, the question is no longer ‘how to grow your business,’ and instead transforms into ‘how to cultivate innovative business growth strategy.’
Remember when curiosity killed the cat? No more. Now, your curiosity can kill the competition!
Read more: Thinking About Your Business Strategy