6 Principles for Improving Your Online Presence

Your online presence is big. It consists of your website and search engine rankings, social media accounts and followers, paid search engine advertising, email newsletters, eCommerce products, Amazon, eBay, Google My Business and other local search properties. In our last blog article, we discussed our belief that doing big things and working on big projects requires long-term thinking composed of many small, well-placed steps.

Most business owners don’t think this way. In an effort to have a big immediate impact, most businesses try to take too big of steps and find themselves with projects upended, incomplete, over budget and behind on scope.  Thinking of your online presence as a long term process, composed of many small steps, prevents your brand from becoming a liability, and allows your company and online presence to grow together.

Chances are your business isn’t in marketing or technology. But the expectation is that you understand marketing and technology well enough to put together a plan. Where do you find the time to learn all of this? How do you know what you should do? Where do you start?

Here are 6 principles that we believe will help any business make decisions for building and maintaining their online presence.

1. Have fun!

Building a business is fun, why shouldn’t it be? We all know your online presence should make an impact on your future customers, but why not let it be a fun and exciting experience also? Enjoy the process.

In the same spirit, choose some problems to solve just because they are fun. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be on the radio. Have you considered starting a podcast? Maybe you’ve always enjoyed fashion. Consider a set of videos or photos promoting your brand and have fun selecting clothing or doing makeup.

The energy of fun is contagious. If your team is having fun with an online initiative, you likely already have a higher level of buy-in and involvement. And that makes it fun for your audience to watch.

2. Create the right relationships

Your #1 goal as a leader is to build a team that can function without you. This means hiring the right people, but it also means finding the right businesses to partner with when you’re ready to do something different.

The fastest way to make an impact with your online presence is to hire a company that does it every day. They often work with businesses across many industries and have built their business by solving problems like yours. They know the technology, resources, and strategies and they have the people to help you go from 0 to 60.

Your agencies may be able to help you make decisions beyond their field of work. These agencies have worked with your competitors. They have worked with great organizations and well-managed businesses. Having strong relationships gives you the chance to talk about problems you share and their experiences with creative ways to solve those problems.

  • How should you structure your department?
  • What roles do you need in your department?
  • How should you transition from a team of 1 to a department of many?

Your agency partners have wide networks and may know someone that would be a good fit for your company. Connect on LinkedIn and network to find mutual contacts with your interviewees. Your next hire may be a recommendation from an agency relationship.

3. You don’t have to do it all

There are lots of great ideas out there and pressure comes from everywhere, telling you that you need to do everything. All the industry leaders, articles, and even your colleagues are quick to tell you what you’re missing.

Steve Jobs was famous for asking his colleagues, “What have you said no to today?” Saying no recognizes that not all good things are equally important. Saying no to good ideas for the sake of your biggest problem requires clear vision and thick skin.

Let’s simplify it all.

1 – Take inventory of everything you want to do – every improvement, upgrade, and extra task possible when starting a new project.

2 – Isolate the biggest problem you have. Take inventory of all the problems you would like to solve in a list. Circle the #1 problem, your top priority.

3 – Solve your biggest problem first. On your list of improvements and upgrades, circle the smallest number of steps that must happen in order to solve your biggest problem first.

Say no to the rest.

4. You don’t have to know it all

What if your top priorities are all outside of your comfort zone? The best answer is to start with your relationships and see what progress they can help you achieve. You can’t be shy. Be willing to talk to those people you haven’t spoken to for a long time.

If you don’t have a connection who can help, the same principle applies: take small steps. Learn the most important or the most interesting thing. And of course, always be looking for relationships to help you out.

5. Should I start fresh or fix what I have?

Are you ready for a fresh start or a symbolic change? Do you have the wrong contact information or outdated employee photos on your site? Is your technology is no longer supported? Have you had a change in brand?

You have a decision to make: Do you want to fix the immediate problems? Or do you need to start over?

Any neglected system will require lots of work to clean up, but that doesn’t mean you must start over. If your online presence has been neglected, but there isn’t anything fundamentally broken, you can focus on fixing the immediate problems. Examples of fixable immediate problems are:

  • Do you have massive email lists that need to be consolidated and sorted?
  • Are there tons of old pages and blog posts that need to be cleaned up?
  • Is there confusion about multiple or redundant admin accounts that are causing confusion?

When considering rebuilding, evaluate your system itself, not the amount of work required to clean it up. Even if you start from scratch, you’ll have to clean up these messes. You want a system that can grow with you.

  • Is the system inherently robust and extendible?
  • Is it constantly breaking?
  • Does it require specialized knowledge to operate?

Those are the types of questions that will help you decide if you should rebuild.

6. Plan to maintain your online presence

It’s always expensive to fix anything that has deteriorated. Like everything in business, your online presence will deteriorate if you neglect it. The good news is you can decide on a maintenance plan. It’s ok if you’re in a season where you want to do less. Make a plan that covers the basics.

The point is, no matter how mature your online presence, you need to maintain it. Maintenance is what prevents it from deteriorating.

You see, there is a lot of freedom. You don’t have to be an expert and you don’t have to do it all. Consider what is right for you and your business. Where are you already strong online? What resources do you have available? Commit to maintaining your online presence and take the first step.

 

Solve Big Problems with Small Steps

You became a business leader because you’re a problem solver and you have a big idea. Big ideas are transformative. You are here to transform the world with your business! But why is it so hard to make progress? Why does it seem so easy for other people to get results?

Each time, you take the first step but have a hard time finding the next steps. So what is missing? The solution shouldn’t be smaller goals or solving smaller problems.

Stepwise Improvements

In 2001, a group of software developers faced the problem of how to “do it all.” This group worked on huge software projects that were exciting and promised to solve complex problems. But they were frustrated by unrealistic expectations from management and clients. “Feature updates” often upended projects and forced them to start over.

The developers’ frustration moved them to come together after-hours to find a way to work better. At these sessions, they developed what is now known as the Agile Manifesto.  The Agile Manifesto “uncover[ed] better ways” of working where completing small tasks repeatedly produced projects that were more frequently done on time, in budget and made their clients happier.

How does this apply to my online presence?

Remember your offline business 5-7 years ago? Look at how much has changed! Most likely, the biggest differences between then and now didn’t happen in one day or week or even one month.

When it comes to maintaining your online presence, we encourage you to view it as a long-term process composed of many small stepwise improvements.

Most business owners don’t think this way. What usually happens is the business’ online presence is either neglected or isn’t set up as a robust system that can accommodate ongoing change.

Eventually, a business owner may realize their online presence has become a liability for their brand. Maybe they want to promote a new product but are afraid to send people to their website. Maybe a competitor has a 3-year head start with marketing and they can’t imagine how to catch up.

At JM Online, we often discuss with our clients how to make progress on seemingly insurmountable projects. There is no silver bullet approach for every problem, but it usually comes down to breaking the work into small, doable tasks and then taking the first step.

Don’t solve smaller problems. Break down big problems into achievable tasks.

In our next post, we’ll discuss the approach we take with our clients who have big projects ahead of them. We’ll talk about the power of relationships to help you in times of need.

We believe this should be fun and you don’t have to do it all or even know it all.