A few months back, I received an email from a friend asking for advice to promote his business online. He along with his partner run a coaching institute and have built the business mainly through reference. During the peak season, they got around 5-10 sales queries per month through the website. At the initial stage of discussion, he told me that they want to generate more traffic so that they can get more inquiries and hence can increase sales. A quick analysis of Google Analytics shown that on an average, 250 users visit their website per day with a bounce rate of around 46% which is pretty decent in a B2C setup. They were surprised to know that the current traffic of the site has the potential to increase sales inquiries by anything between 50-100%. I developed a strategy in which the immediate goal was to improve conversion rate and not traffic, and the long-term goals were to increase organic traffic by X% in Y months. This is a typical case of having no or skewed online marketing strategy. Many small businesses face this challenge. They start a social media campaign without having a solid marketing strategy in place. So, even if their marketing efforts bring incremental website traffic, their top line don’t increase. After trying for some time, many small business owners give up thinking that online marketing doesn’t work for them. Therefore, no matter what business you are in, you must have a sound online marketing strategy before you start promoting your website. It directs your efforts in the right direction. The following is a quick guide to developing a concrete plan #1. Goal Setting Setting business goals is the most discussed concept in business management. However, it is one of the most underutilized techniques to generate excellent marketing results. The direction of your marketing campaigns will solely depend on your business objectives. Your marketing goals may fall under some broad categories such as lead generation, blog views, website conversion, more traffic, reputation management, branding, etc. Based on your business objectives, you can choose the right goal and assign a target that must be achieved as a result of your marketing efforts. A marketing campaign for generating leads will be way different from a campaign for increasing website traffic. Thus, make sure that you have established right goals before you start your next marketing campaign. #2. Decide the Budget After setting the goals, the next step is to allocate a budget to accomplish these aims. Many business owners decide a budget on an ad hoc basis. However, there is a scientific way of determining the marketing budget. The overall marketing budget is usually measured as a percentage of overall turnover. According to a Gartner study, In 2014, companies spent around 10.2% of their annual turnover in marketing and advertising. US Small Business Administration suggests spending 7 to 8 percent of the annual turnover on marketing and advertising. Although the marketing budget varies across various industries, you should try to allocate a specific budget which is efficient for your business. Many times marketing budget is also decided based on growth and expansion plans of the companies. If you want to grow faster, you may have to spend more in marketing. #3. Work on Media Mix The next step is to prioritize the online marketing channels which are relevant to your business. Don’t use many channels at a time as it results in the inefficient utilization of resources. It is recommended that at one point in time, you should not use more that three channels. Also, the selection of channels must help you accomplish the marketing goals which you established in step #1. Selecting right media mix is crucial for marketing success, but is easier said than done. For instance, if you have established a target in terms of leads, traffic or sales, SEO can’t help you achieving these goals for the first few months. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t opt for SEO campaign. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will be extremely helpful in achieving long-term traffic or lead goals. Thus, you must take short, medium and long-term perspective to select the right channels. Once you have decided the media mix, allocate a specific budget to each channel. Over time, you must measure ROI for each marketing channel to decide which works best for your business. #4. Campaign Execution Flawless execution of strategy is as important as the strategy itself. Whenever you can, use tools and software to automate repetitive tasks. There is a tool for almost every activity that needs to be done to run an online marketing campaign efficiently. If you are hiring an agency, make sure that you established a communication process that helps them achieve your vision. Don’t use the same content for every channel. Rather create tailor-made content which is relevant to a particular channel. If you are looking to generate immediate sales or leads, you must give priority to website conversion. #5. Measurement and Optimization You need to monitor the effectiveness of each campaign as well as the channel. Initially, you can review the campaign on a weekly and then gradually move on a monthly review system to save time. Google Analytics and Search Console are great tools to track campaign performances. Don’t forget to customize Google Analytics dashboard to get an actionable insight quickly which will help you tweak the campaigns to improve performance. Define a metrics to measure the performance of each channel. For instance, the relevant parameters for the first year of SEO campaign could be the number of quality backlinks, SEO ranking, and page impressions, etc. Similarly, you can define metrics for each channel. Conclusion Most of the businesses want to increase their site traffic and sales. And it makes sense as one of the primary goals of marketing is to acquire more customers. However, online marketing landscape has become increasingly competitive and crowded. Thus, unplanned marketing efforts to generate immediate sales may lead to disappointments especially for small business owners who have limited marketing resources. Therefore, it is crucial to develop a sound online marketing strategy and ensure its efficient implementation to succeed in marketing. The steps mentioned above should give you a right direction in developing a marketing strategy for your business.