Before you launch online! BusDev and the SME #4

Putting out fires

Among the many challenges (cash, order book, keeping up with legislation, cash, putting out fires, health & safety, cash, people problems, cash…….) faced by owner managers and SME management teams is the perennial problem of there being too many things to do and too few resources available. Add to that the potential for a skills gap and it’s easy to see how almost half of UK SMEs might have no effective online presence, as indicated by the GO ON UK study referred to in my earlier blog.

The fortunate SME CEO will either recruit a top flight digital team or appoint a quality digital marketing agency to achieve the company’s online objectives. Unsurprisingly few SMEs are in this enviable position and often rely on the CEO, FD or IT Manager to handle the project.

Websites You May Like

A website will be of little use to your business if all you do is secure your preferred domain name, buy a hosting package and arrange for a few pages to appear online. It’s an involved process and to be effective requires that you consider a number of integrated elements from strategy, design, structure, optimisation and, possibly most crucially, what will happen once your “killer site” is launched.

So before you even think about going online take a while to consider the following:

1. Define your objectives

Objective

What will online success look like? What do you hope to have achieved online in, say, 3 years time? A website is part of the overall marketing strategy of the business, not an isolated project. It should therefore be integrated into the way the business takes its products and services to the various markets.

Almost anything can be sold on the internet now, and already is. If online revenues are expected then you will need to consider content management systems, e-commerce capability and payment options in addition to strategies to attract visitors to the site. If you wish to generate useful leads or enquiries online then you will be

interested in how best to communicate your value proposition, provide clear product and service information, case studies and client testimonials.

In both case you will be keen to drive traffic to the site, develop effective ways for your visitors to connect with you and innovative approaches to turn them into brand advocates.

2. Define success

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

What are the metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators) that will help you measure if your online investment is delivering? At the minimum KPIs for e-commerce websites should enable you to track the effectiveness of the funnel of the online sales channel. Although there are a number of other service providers in this area, you should ensure your website includes the required code snippets for Google Analytics and Webmaster tools.

Top level KPIs will include: £s Sales & £s Margin; # Unique visitors; #Signups, Subscribers or Accounts and Conversion or Abandonment rate.

There will be some overlap with top level KPIs for a lead generation website:# Unique visitors, #Signups, E-mails or Downloads, # Leads or #Enquiries and Conversion rate.

Metrics should be visible to the business, reported regularly within the monthly management information and will be underpinned by other metrics at a more detailed level.

The direction and trend of these indicators should lead to either celebration of success or adjustment of the tactics being used.

3. Appoint an owner

Developing and launching the website is a project in itself and requires a coherent plan, effective project management and appropriate resources. The important task begins when the site is live.

Appoint an internal owner (ideally also involved in or responsible for the website launch project) whose role will be to maximise the effectiveness of the online channel and drive the KPIs or metrics in the right direction.

This may provide a welcome internal career opportunity for someone and if the individual is new to this type of role provide training in analytics, optimisation techniques and online marketing. They will also need a budget to spend which should be derived from a well thought through digital marketing plan.

Alternatively it may be more sensible to recruit externally. In that event take the opportunity to appoint an experienced digital marketer. This is an important investment and may be crucial to future business success.

David Karp wearing Google Glass at the Tumblr ...

Wearing Google Glass    (via Scott Beale)

This person will also require content for the website and will look to the wider organisation for assistance in this. So communicate the need for people to actively contribute and lead by example.

Yes, SME CEO, you need to get yourself involved online and please stop telling folks that you don’t understand it. The internet is here to stay. Your business success WILL depend on it and before too long you’ll be seeing people wearing their internet on their faces in the form of Google Glass! Happy days!

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About This Week in Business

I'm CEO @YesGrowth a leading AltFin company which provides syndicated, short term working capital to UK businesses in any sector. Connect with me on LinkedIn or Google+ and follow me on Twitter.
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