The Art and Science of Growing a Successful Web Business
Growing a successful web business is both an art and a science. There are many moving parts which must be successfully bound together and over the years we’ve experienced both the good and the bad. The important thing in my opinion is to learn from our lessons and continuously evolve.
There are some steps to success which when applied will eventually bring the right results. I like to say “do the right thing enough times you will get the right results.” What is important to remember is that it is usually not going to be simple and fast as it is m0re a process of incremental efforts applied consistently over a continuous period of time that leads to success.
Success as I define it is simply that we are continuously improving our clients position in the marketplace and doing so cost effectively to their bottom line.
One lesson I’ve learned is we (meaning the professional and the client) do not always have the right answers. Constantly remembering this is valuable. What we do have is the tools to find the right answers, best as they are. Too, there is usually not a “magic answer” for anything we do but there are best practices which lead to continuously improving results.
One of the first ingredients to success is in the web property itself. Are we continuously refining and perfecting the message using the correct tools? I believe a website is like a river. If it is not in motion then it will stagnate and die. It must be in constant motion to be vibrant and alive. Properly maintained will serve two vital functions. One, the customer experience will continue to improve and evolve and this will ultimately lead to better and better conversions. Two, with the correct continuous improvements the site will continue to grow and improve its rankings in search engines and across the internet at large which also will grow the bottom line.
Tools to help us achieve this ever evolving growth are communicating with our customer and visitor, split testing web pages, landing pages and the like, and web analytics. Data is our friend, lack of data is our enemy.
Learning how to gather insights from our visitor traffic and our customers is a much better solution than thinking we know what to say and how to say it because in aggregate our visitors and customers will tell us what they like and do not like about us and what will make them respond more heartily to our offering. So we have to know how to ask and how to listen when they respond. Too this is where service comes to mind and how we can show our visitors and customers that we are service oriented and we care about their needs and feelings and thoughts. There are many ways we can do this. Some important ones are:
A contact number such as a toll free number that is professionally staffed so our visitor or customer can reach us easily. In such case we must insure there is a communicative process between the front line fielding these calls and the marketing and development team otherwise important insights will simply be lost. Also in this area, especially for a retail site, having an online web chat system can be important. We have a client in the online retail space that has built their business form 6 to 7 figures annually. Their online chat service is vital to the business as it helps to close the sale at the moment of most interest by the visitor by addressing visitor questions and concerns real time. Roughly 30% of their business is either by phone or via the chat service.
Another important ingredient is a visible contact point for visitors or customers to report any issues or problems, wants or expectations with regard to the website at large. In other words a communication channel directly to the webmaster or web team that is clearly defined. This is another area where your web visitor can be your best friend by reporting any errors on your site that might have been overlooked or unrealized or otherwise providing suggestions which are meaningful to your long term success. Of course, it matters that you have a webmaster or web team that is actively involved in your success. Simply hosting your website somewhere in static mode with no involved webmastering or ongoing website development means you are missing one of the perhaps vital ingredients to continuous growth.
Along the same vein, follow up to existing customers after the sale is important. a brief questionnaire asking for response about the process of the sale can be very useful. Asking questions about their experience on the website, their expectations and if they were fully met, and anything they’d change if they could will help you to be the best you can be. We know not everyone will respond but not asking is never going to get a response.
Google Analytics is our friend. It is the best program ever for getting deep into the data. It can be very complicated, almost overwhelming to understand how to use it effectively and not consume all of your time but when properly utilized it will help you grow your business with the insights it provides. And the fact that it is so comprehensive yet free of charge is a huge bonus.
Having a comprehensive program that applies the above tools then continuously evolving the website with the data gained by applying it at the website level vis a vis split testing of your web pages will grow your business over the long term. Search engine marketing unto itself is not the answer. You must have a proper program in place and do the right things enough times then you will get the right results.