A week ago we returned from a very productive trip to the Adobe San Francisco office, where we met both our SVP, as well as a couple of very influential partners – Brent and Jason. One action item that we took from that trip was to make sure we very clearly and openly state what is our strategy and roadmap to the whole Business Catalyst partner community.

This blog post is about these concepts, explaining them in the simplest fashion possible.

Business Catalyst Mission

Our mission is to enable online businesses, not websites through a vibrant partner network.

Value Proposition

All in one as key differentiator, both for you as partners as well as for the business owners.

For you it’s the one stop shop that enables you to meet all your customers’ demands, allowing you to grow to be a successful agency, and for the business owners it’s the one place where you go to manage and grow your online business.

Business Catalyst Strategies

  • Treat our partners as real partners, not simply resellers of our solution.
  • Invest in the all-in-one aspect of business catalyst as main differentiator.
  • Reinventing Business Catalyst into a great platform that enables you to make your customers successful online, allowing the right engineering team velocity, scalability and elasticity.

All in one, explained

It's all about integration. It's not about how well the e-mail marketing side of Business Catalyst compares to our competitors (feature-by-feature comparison), it's all about how we can take advantage of the fact that our system offers e-commerce, analytics, CRM and CMS next to e-mail marketing, and how we can combine ALL these to make the world's best e-mail marketing tool by taking advantage of these integrations.

It’s about workflows that will enable partners to sell the integrated solution and all in one vision to business owners.

Tactics / Roadmap

September 2012

Better e-mail marketing/CMS integration, start working towards the platform vision.

  • Enable better integration between e-mail marketing and CMS and e-commerce, by allowing CMS content to be reused in e-mail marketing campaigns.
  • Start executing towards our platform vision, by improving the extensibility of the list layouts on web apps and e-commerce modules.

November/December 2012

Better e-mail marketing/CRM integration; advance e-commerce.

  • Better integration between e-mail marketing and CRM, by enabling things like list exclusions.
  • Expand e-commerce stock capabilities to product attributes.

February / March 2013

Better e-commerce integration; continue working towards the platform vision.

  • Enable better flexibility for e-commerce by enabling liquid in a production-ready fashion.
  • Better e-commerce reporting.

May/June 2013

Platform reinvention.

  • Enable flexibility for our webapps by enabling liquid and web apps API enabling partners to further extend Business Catalyst to SBO needs.
  • Enhance webapps up to a point where an average BC partner will be able to recreate and enrich most existing BC modules (blogs, photo galleries, etc) using web apps.
  • Enable webapps import/export to fuel an ecosystem of partners helping each other.

If you want to learn more about our strategy and focus for the near term, please attend our September 24th partner conference in San Jose, where the BC team members will be present, and more than open to get into more details.

- Bogdan

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[Updated 30/04/12: Full details of Day 2 social event announced - read more and register at: http://www.prettypollution.com.au/business-catalyst-partner-event]

We're hosting the first official Australian BC Partner conference on 4th June 2012 in Sydney, with a full day of Partner presentations lined up. If you weren't able to make it across to Adobe MAX last year, don't miss out on this great opportunity!

The Adobe-sponsored full day event is free to attend for all Partners and is bound to be a great community building event.

To attend, simply book your spot below. We ask that each staff member from your team who'll be attending fill out the form, so we can best cater and manage the event. Once registered, we'll send you through location details and keep you updated.

 

We'll have special guests Jason Tinnin and Cesar Keller from Simpleflame, plus Brent Weaver from BC Gurus from the US presenting, who in co-operation with leading Australian Partners Brett Stockley from Pretty Pollution and Brendon O'Sullivan from Bosweb Systems will also be organizing a full 2nd day of community building activities.

4 June, 2012 (Day 1) Schedule:

Time

Presenter(s)

Topic

8:30 Jackson Palmer
Welcome and schedule outline
9:00 Liam Dilley Getting started with Liquid markup
9:45 Jason Tinnin  Taking Business Catalyst to the next level - case studies and examples
10:30
Morning tea break
11:00 Brett Stockley + Matt O'Malley Best practices with Business Catalyst
11:45 Jeff Perlman Application smorgasbord - integrate with 30 plus applications via a single portal
12:30
Lunch break
13:30 Mark Barrett Going up the food chain - using sales strategies and internal systems to increase projects value and lock in on-going revenue
14:15 Brent Weaver Positioning and selling your Business Catalyst services
15:00   Afternoon tea break
15:15 Declan Reynolds Effectively outsourcing your Business Catalyst projects
16:00 Tim Gentle Expand your reach - setting up an educated BC sales channel 
16:45 Brendon O'Sullivan Customer care and support best practices
17:30 Jackson Palmer
Thanks and closing
17:45
End of day

5 June, 2012 (Day 2) Schedule:

Join your fellow Partners for a day of fun and networking. We'll have barefoot lawn bowling and open-mic presentations throughout the day at the Balmain Bowling Club, then an after party not-to-be-missed at the CBD Hotel, Sydney.

A big thanks to our Master Partners, Simpleflame, BC Gurus, Pretty Pollution and Bosweb Systems for organizing and sponsoring Day 2. It's free to attend and bound to be a great day of community building.

 

Register your spot at: http://www.prettypollution.com.au/business-catalyst-partner-event

Time

Presenter(s)

Topic

11:00AM - 5:00PM
Balmain Bowling Club
Barefoot bowling, networking, open mic, and a sausage sizzle
6:00PM - 9:30PM
CBD Hotel, Sydney Partner after-party, fully catered, buy your own drinks
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What is Business Catalyst v3?

Hello BC Partners!

I am Bogdan Ripa, running the Business Catalyst product together with Alexandru. I complement and enhance Alexandru's vision, defining and implementing the BC product strategy - basically I make sure we build the right product. It was a pleasure meeting some of you at MAX this year, and I really look forward to similar opportunities.

Only a few months ago you have probably seen Alexandru's blog post about his new role with our product, and I hope you've started to feel that the energy and passion is back! We're right in the middle of executing and expanding that vision -  because we believe in our product and platform, and we are proud of the exciting results that we see coming out of your hands. And for that, we thank you all, Business Catalyst partners.

We think the future is even brighter! At Adobe MAX, I presented a sneak peek of Business Catalyst v3. It's not necessarily an exact roadmap, because I want to maintain agility as we adapt to the market changes - but it's more of a vision, a collection of high-level improvements and innovations. It does begin with a UI redesign, but we are going to take this much further.

We've prepared a small video highlighting some of the improvements in v3:

UI v3

We have been working for a while now on a new Admin Console UI, focused on the usability of the common workflows. I am glad to let you know that the new UI v3 is released in Alpha, available today to partners. We've created the new UI infrastructure first, and are still conducting UI and usability reviews and listening to your feedback, before releasing it to everyone in Public Beta. When we do this, we'll make sure that we still let you switch back to the existing UI for a period of time while getting used to v3.

If you want to play with the new alpha UI today, you just have go to http://mysite.com/adminconsole instead of mysite.com/admin on any BC website. On the right side of the interface, you'll also find a "feedback" link that will let you share with us your concerns or praise our work (yes, our engineering team thrives on positive customer feedback :)

As I said, the UI redesign isn't everything. We will invest in improving usability, screen by screen. We will take the most used screens and improve them to provide a "perfect" user experience. Managing customers, orders, editing web pages or e-mail marketing campaigns are high on this list.

Of course, we'll continue fixing all those annoying bugs and wishlist items. Little hassles like the inability to add special characters to product names, and import products challenges will be a thing of the past.

To get us there, I've asked one of my product owners, Cristinel Anastasoaie, take the lead on this project and drive it to completion. Expect to see more progress report from him in the near future.

Liquid Markup

Your productivity on BC is paramount - so we're investing a large chunk of our engineering team taking BC's markup language to the next level. Earlier this week, Marius announced BC's support for Liquid Markup. Liquid gives you all the flexibility you need to create the most amazing websites out there. We're received many wishes asking for yet another Web App list template or adding the "cart view" text to resources, and instead of fulfilling them piecemeal, we took a leapfrog approach and decided to give you total customizability of all BC websites with Liquid Markup.

As it stands today, we have Liquid support implemented for the majority of our eCommerce modules, and Lucian's team is working hard to make sure we finish off eCommerce as soon as possible. Soon (within the next few weeks), we'll open this up to our Prerelease community, and enable our cutting-edge users to start playing with it.

Once we're done with eCommerce, we plan to enable Liquid Markup for Web Apps. Imagine what that will enable you to do... Liquid isn't the only enhancement planned for Web Apps. Once we've enabled Liquid Markup, we will also work on enabling more robust relationships between Web App items, letting you build truly relational Web Apps.

We aim to finalize the Liquid Markup implementation for all of Business Catalyst (Web Apps included) by mid-2012. I have asked Marius Andreiana, one of my Product Owners, take on the lead role for this project. Let's wish him good luck in achieving this and expect more updates from him on this blog!

Enabling Productivity

BC v3 will also help you be more productive while developing online businesses. 

Simple tasks like importing an existing site and converting it to a BC template, or extracting a BC dynamic menu from a simple <ul> <li> structure are already possible! (check out our MAX sneak to see how). We want to take this even further, and let you extract web forms from existing HTML <form> elements, or automatically create a BC blog (including templates and content) when importing a site that already has one. Of course, we have to ensure that a reliable implementation of this is technically possible, but we're optimistic. A detailed announcement will come next month.

Another request we've been hearing is for a more robust file manager and code editor in the cloud. We envision support for editing multiple files at once, line numbering, tab support, syntax highlighting, and code hinting. This is all part of the v3 vision - and we will continue improving the BC Admin for partners to really accelerate your speed of new site authoring.

Integration with your favorite code editing tool, Dreamweaver

Based on what you told us in our most recent Partner survey, the vast majority of our Partners use Dreamweaver to build their BC sites. We are working hard with the Dreamweaver team to enable Liquid Markup and a new module insertion concept - and if you watch my MAX sneak, you can actually see me using a prototype of this. We are doing our best to make sure this will make it in to the next version of the BC extension, available for DW CS 5 and 5.5, but we expect to have the best integration built-in to the next version of Dreamweaver. (that will also include a better support for managing BC sites natively in Dreamweaver).

For the Coda die-hards, all the APIs you need to develop a plugin are available today and documented on the prerelease site. You'd be rich and famous (well, famous among BC partners at least, and rich in adulation) if you developed such a plugin and released it to the community.

Web Forward

One of our product principles (more to come in a future blog post) is "web forward". This translates to the fact that our platform should really lead the web revolution (HTML5, CSS3, etc), and not follow it. Today, I am not proud of the fact that not every Business Catalyst site validates on http://validator.w3.org/, especially since I've been serving web developers for more than 10 years. Not only will we change this, but we'll invest in bringing the future of the web to BC users now.

One example worth mentioning here is LessCSS. I am happy to let you all know that in the near future, you will be able to upload your .less files, and BC will automatically compile them to CSS on the fly when accessed through a browser. You will still be able to see the source of the file through FTP or through the Admin Console interface - but this will bring new capabilities to BC templates and template skinning.

Many of you know that being a multi-tenant SaaS product, it's hard for us to let you run your custom code on our servers - which is an important limitation of our platform. We're looking to fix this - through libraries such as Node.js, and enable you write custom code in a language that almost every BC user is familliar with (JavasSript), directly on our servers. There are tens of thousands of use cases our modules won't support - but you'll be able to write a custom module to fill that gap code that adds a custom watermark whenever someone uploads an image, listing information from the disk, connecting to custom payment gateways, or a nightly task that synchronizes your inventory. We're imagining a reinvention of Web Apps that, on top of data structure definition, HTML templates, and some client-side scripts, will also add server-side code that validates, processes, or maintains the data as well. This really opens up endless possibilities and we're excited exposing this to you.

While we are very excited about Node.js, to be frank, we won't be able to work on implementing this until late-2012. Still, you should know it's on our radar, and this is where we'll take Business Catalyst.

I hope you guys are as excited as I am about the future, and I am really looking forward to next year.

2012 will be the year for Business Catalyst!

If you want to learn even more about BC V3, sit back and relax while you watch the our Adobe MAX sneak peek. you might see I'm probably not the greatest presenter on Earth :), but in terms of passion for BC, technical depth and web vision, I am your man :).

- Bogdan

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If you want to turn off a potential client, talk about HTML, CSS, Javascript and technology features. 

BC Partner Fraser McCulloch shares his thoughts on plain talking and owning the deal.

Read on over at Adam Broadway's BC Evangelist blog.

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In the last two posts, we've taken you through some easy steps for establishing better client communications.

Today, we'll talk about how you can create a solid action plan and sow the seeds for a long-term relationship with your client.

Create An Action Plan

You've gained an understanding of your client's business, talked strategy, and set some business targets. By now, the client is probably asking "How are you going to pull this off?" and you're most likely wondering that too. This is where you can demonstrate your expertise by giving the client an understanding of the Online Business you're about to build for them and outline how it will achieve their goals.

Once you've explained the motivations and what the goals are, you need to provide a documented timeline of where it goes from here.

1. Short-term
Your clients most immediate need is for you to build a website to roll-out and go live. The goals tied to this are all structural:

  • You need to provide suggestions for what content is required (and a mini plan for your client to deliver that content)
  • You need to discuss with your client what features are going to be implemented e.g what questions they need to ask in their contact form to qualify their customers? Do they need an online shop? What about a blog or forum?
  • What about the navigational structure of their website?
  • Other features and widgets or integration with social media?

2. Medium-term
Talk about launch and post launch marketing activities. These might not be done by you, but you need to give them a plan so they know how to nurture and grow their Online Business. Remember that a failed website often boils down the website owner having a "set and forget" mentality to maintaining their site.

Maintaining your client's website is an on-going process - think about eCommerce updates, new revenue generation, Email Marketing, SEO, SEM, utilizing the CRM Database and Advertising.

3. Long-term - What's next?
This is all about looking to the future and achieving long term goals. Websites need to stay dynamic or they quickly appear static and fall behind. What are you going to do to help your client overcome this?

Provide them with a plan for yearly site redesigns and encourage fresh, new content. Sow the seeds for future promotional work, email marketing templates, or advertising creatives - all of which you can provide them with in the future.

What's Next?

After working with their Online Business for a while, your client will figure out what works and what doesn't and they'll be much more involved in the next iteration of their site.

The key here is to establish yourself as an expert who will enable their business to succeed online, so in the future, they'll seek out you on-going assistance and require your services.

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Jackson Palmer | BC

Your Guide To Better Client Communication (Part 2)

Communication In the last post, we ran through the first two steps toward better client communications, beginning at your initial meeting. So far, you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of exactly what they want to acheive online.

Today, we're looking at how you can start talking strategy, and set business targets.

Talk Strategy

You need the business owner (your potential client) to see that what you're talking about is of strategic value to their business.

We've talked with them about what they want to achieve, so now we'll take a step back and paint a bigger picture. Show them that it's about more than a website, explain to them how they can use Twitter, comments on products, email marketing, or SEO to help achieve their goals.

At this point, we're aiming to make it clear - a simple website doesn't cut it anymore. A website is an integral part of their overall business strategy

As part of this strategy, their website requires a marketing plan. Websites need thought put into to how they will convert their visitors, meet business goals, capture leads, and make money. Expressing this truth to your client is what makes the difference between them seeing you as overpriced vs. them believing your services are worth every cent.

A business owner who treats a website launch just like they would treat the opening of a new office or branch is almost sure to be successful. Just like their brick and mortar store, their online store is a business that needs on-going attention, planning and strategy development.

The two goals here are to:

  1. Help the client perceive how important a website really is
  2. Make them to see you as an expert, offering a valuable, strategic service which will help them succeed.

Set Business Targets

On a piece of paper in the meeting, try and draft 3-5 basic and easy to understand business oriented goals for their Online Business.

Try for a short term, medium term and a long term goal. Here are some example of great goals that will excite clients:

  • 10 new customer leads from the web per week
  • $300 of online sales per week
  • Building a marketing database - 1000 subscribers by years end
  • 50 entries in their online competition
It's important here to avoid setting a goal for site traffic, as it's not meaningful. Always relate goals to something with meaning for their business - leads, revenue and costs.

You need to make sure the targets reflect what the client said they want to achieve, that they are buying into these goals and they don't feel like you're rushing through the process.

What's Next?

What is next? So you've opened your client's eyes to the need for stategic thinking in doing business online and set some solid business targets.

The key here is to establish yourself as an expert in what you're offering and show the client where you can help take their business.

In doing so, you're building the trusting relationship needed for better client communications well into the future.

In the next post, we'll be capping off the series by looking at how you can create an action plan for acheiving the goals you've just set and stick to it in the long-term.
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Jackson Palmer | BC

6 Online Business Strategy Showcases Part 3 - Amplify Your Voice

In the last post, we looked at some great examples of Online Communities running on BC. This time we're looking at "Amplify Your Voice" as a strategy for your Online Business. This means that you're selling a solution to increase publicity for a cause or organisation. In particular we're focusing on sites using Blogs, Email Marketing and RSS, in synergy, to achieve this. Check out what we had to say last October, as part of our 6 Online Business Strategies.

Blogs as a Marketing and Publicity Channel

Small business owners and organisations are now using blogs to publish content to attract new customers and keep them interested. Blogs should be used as part of a broader, integrated Marketing strategy, where customers are alerted to blog and announcement updates via Email Marketing, and RSS Feeds.

Here are some cool examples of BC powered blogs:

Artsprojekt - reaching artists worldwide...

Artsprojekt
This stylish site by Level9 Design aims to "liberate artists worldwide" and keeps in contact with it's community by way of blogging. The Artsprojekt team use a BC Blog to post interviews, promote competitions and announce new products. If you look at the bottom of the right-hand side bar you'll notice a 'Email This' form which is an example of the 'Refer-a-Friend' module being added to the site template.

Dubbo City Council - media releases via blogs...

Dubbo City Council
Created by Bos Web Systems, this local Government site uses blogs and announcements to publish media releases and news, bringing the local community together. New content is displayed on the home page via an Announcements module, increasing blog visits. It's a great way for Dubbo council to keep in touch with it's constituents compared with the traditional mail-out that most other local Governments have.

Rob Munnik Productions - creating a media stream using a blog...

Community Productions
Joi Design has customized a BC blog that Rob Munnik & Community Productions use to post embedded video episodes of their weekly Television series called SchoolsInc Television. Embedding video on a blog is an easy (just copy and paste the HTML embed code from the video site of your choice) way to create your own media stream, like having a personal TV Channel.

Using Email Marketing to Increase Blog Traffic

Don't expect people to automatically come and visit your site when you make updates. You'll need to use Email Marketing and RSS to push updates to your audience. As part of an integrated marketing approach, "Subscribe Me " and "Tell a friend" forms can be used to capture users in your CRM database, whom you can email on a regular basis to tell them about site updates and news.

If your audience isn't interested in giving their email address to you but still wants to be updated then you still have the option to provide an RSS channel for them to subscribe to. 

Selling the 'Amplify Your Voice' Strategy To Your Clients

This strategy is about keeping an open and constant flow of communication between your client and their customers, so prospects are not forgotten, and neither is the business. Nothing is more powerful than fresh, high-quality content in attracting an audience. Make sure you make the most of it by using a combination of of Blogs, Announcements, RSS and Email Marketing so you can regularly update your audience on what's new!

In the next post of the series, we'll be looking at how BC Partners have built sites that automate Customer Service for their Clients.

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Brett Welch | BC

Marketing vs. Money & The Brain vs. The Brawn

I was thinking today about the uphill battle that many small business owners face. They're fighting for business against larger, better funded competitors. How can you win?

In war, you can amass the biggest army and throw your soldiers at the enemy. The bigger the enemy is, the more soldiers you'll need - but hey, it works. Mostly.

In business, if you want to solve a problem, you can throw money at it. The bigger the problem, the more money you'll need to throw - but hey, it works. Mostly.

Big companies tend to throw money at problems, just like big guys are more likely to muscle their way through conflict. Little guys prefer to talk their way out of conflicts, like little companies attack their competitors with smart and efficient marketing.

When I say "marketing" I'm not talking about advertising and spending money on billboards. I'm talking about having a conversation with your customers; about making deals with like minded companies; about letting your customers spread the word for you; about making your product that much better than anyone elses; about making your service shine and delight.

History shows us that the biggest armies can fall to superior strategy and tactics; think Henry V and the battle of Agincourt. History also shows us that diplomacy and negotiation can achieve better outcomes than any war, and hence the saying that "the pen is mightier than the sword."

Well, I say Marketing is mightier than Money.

Right now, times are tough. And I've heard many business owners wish that they had more funding, or the resources of their larger competitors, so that they could weather the storm more comfortably.

That's fair. But the true winners out of this are going to be the smart, little companies who figure out that this a storm that they can talk themselves out of.

In this climate, smart marketing is a thousand times better than deep pockets.
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You don't need another reminder that we're working through a period of slow economic growth and a jittery business climate. But amongst all the doom and gloom, this stormy cloud comes with a silver lining for people working in Online Marketing and Web Design which are traditionally B2B consulting services.

Your prospects and clients probably realise that when times get tough they need to get creative and innovative with their products, their services and, most importantly, their marketing. It's a time to invest in the future and look inwardly at how you can improve, all so you can prepare for the next boom.
Despite this fact, it's no secret that you're finding it harder to close deals. But lets go back to basics: your pitching needs to begin with education, and education begins with asking the right questions. Here's some questions you should be asking your prospects to clinch your deals:

1. What's In Your Marketing Inventory - Is it working for you?

One simple activity I like to do is pull out a spreadsheet and line up all my advertising spending and how many leads each one is generating for me. 'Leads' can range from anything to phone calls, inquiry forms, direct emails, site registration for forum participation, leaving comments - whoops, there's one problem - I don't actually know how many customers I'm getting from all my offline advertising...

The point is that print ads like classified ads in the local paper and yellow pages ads are expensive and have declining reach and readership.
Most importantly, it's hard to measure how much business they generate for you. This is not to say they're valueless - but contrast this with an fully fledged online business. With concrete and clear metrics, you know the exact ROI of your online marketing campaigns. Best of all, you can optimize and redeploy online campaigns in a few hours - dollar for dollar, online is where the smart money is.

2. People are staying home, and staying online more - what are you doing about it?

Tight belts and high gas prices mean people are spending a lot more time at home in front of the TV and the computer. Where are they hanging out online? Have a think about this - you need to be advertising in their space, participating in their blogs and becoming an authority in their forums.

For example, let's  imagine you sell model train kits. You could be sponsoring some train modelling blogs and forums in return for some inexpensive and targeted advertising. These banners can link back to pages on your website which could be designed to educate, sell and encourage online community participation. All of which is 100% measurable, so if it's not effective - just cut the spending.

3. What's your Freemium Strategy?


People love free stuff and they love it even more when they haven't got much to spend. I'm not asking you to give away your products for free but what about online 'cash' coupons or discounts that they have to register on your website to receive? And once they've registered you'll be able to market to these customers in a monthly e-newsletter. We all have to move stock and attract new customers - so think about some clever online marketing strategies to do it...

4. Have you Cleaned your House yet?

Back to basics once more - now's the time to be pushing business branding and website makeovers. Is the website from 2003 looking a bit tired? Does it match up with your bricks and mortar branding? Does your customer service live up to your promises? Is your content up to date? Are your landing pages and catalogs well laid out and easy to use? Lets spring clean your whole online business 'house' and entice those customers back.

5. You are the Online Business Hero.

Working in a B2B industry, you're going to get worried business owners looking for advice and solutions to their problems. You can gain their trust by giving your expert advice for free. And to your clients?

Well you can tell them that anybody can make a dime when times are good. But true to the old saying, when times get tough...the tough get going.

So ask them: What are you doing to toughen up your (online) business?
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Edward Chan | BC

5 Goals For Online Businesses and The Strategies To Reach Them


I was recently called in my capacity as a GoodBarry online marketing guru to give some advice to a friend who wanted to get a web designer to build her website. In the same way medical doctors get asked at dinner parties by friends for free medical advice or a 2nd opinion, mechanics about cars and computer engineers about...well you get the idea. My friend runs a make-up studio and she was one of those people who only knew that she needed a website...

She had no idea what Web Designers charge, she didn't know how her website would work for her, she hadn't thought about what content she was going to put there, she just knew it was 2008 and every small business needs a website like they need a yellow pages advert. Well, it was time to teach her a couple of things as a favor and correct her brochureware perception of websites.

Here's 5 Online Business goals I went through with her when I explained to her what she needed from her website:

--
Goal 1: Selling Online
- The most well known goal for Online Businesses where you're looking for an extra channel to push your products whether it's make-up, clothes, shoes, pet products etc.  

Strategy: To reach sales targets and reduce shopping cart abandons, you'll need to focus on an all-in-one eCommerce site complete with catalogs, products, shopping cart, shipping and a payment gateway and that provides an immersive and seamless shopping experience. Don't forget to add extras like upselling, recommended products, product galleries and plenty of credible product information to help meet your sales and orders targets.

But what happens when you can't sell online because what you sell is a physical service or you're not running a for-profit business? There's 4 other goals you can set for your Online Business to get return on investment...

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Goal 2: Build Your Community - this goal applies particularly well to non-profit organizations like Churches, local Government organizations, Community organizations, Charities etc - they need to have online conversations/discussions with their current members and attract new ones.

Strategy: To build an online community, you'd need to nurture a social site with a discussion forum and post regular news on a blog to keep visitors coming back. Make a space for photo-uploads to show what's going on in your community, post podcasts of speeches or presentations for your visitors to download in a members-only area. Make sure members know about your site and that they contribute as well!

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Goal 3: Automate Your Customer Service - are you spending a large part of your day getting interrupted by customer care phone calls instead of working on your business? You need an Online Business to be automating some of that for you.

Strategy: Some simple ways to to build a online self-help portal you would be to build a highly customized webform that qualifies your customers requests before they reach you. It would be good to focus on publishing a well organized FAQ page and direct customers to how-to and do-it-yourself articles on your site that you've published before they ask for live help. Not only is this good for your customers but it's good for search-engine optimization too!!


--
Goal 4: Generate New Leads - if you're a business that's selling high-value high-margin products (especially in the B2B arena) and you're having a tough time with the cold-calling and outbound marketing then you need your Online Business to be generating leads.

Strategy: A bit like automating customer service, you'll need customized webforms that qualify sales with questions such as: what products is the customer interested in? Price-range? Intended purchase period? Focus on publishing high quality information on your products and your services (features, price, value proposition) with calls-to-action to make an inquiry after which you can follow-up with a phone call. Set aside space to publish customer testimonials and positive customer feedback, websites make it easier for your customers to refer you onwards because they just pass your URL to your friends.

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Goal 5: Amplify Your Voice - need to get your message out there at minimal cost?

Strategy: You need to focus on email marketing and blogs. Does your site have a incentivized email subscription box like a "Sign-up Here for our monthly specials?" or a "Sign-Up Here for our 5-part email series on recession proofing your small business". This will get you visitors opting-in to receive communications from you which you need to follow up with email-marketing. Too much push-marketing for you? Don't forget you can use your blog to publish material and pull visitors as well by posting your blog headlines on small and niche blog/news-aggregators and slowly building up from there!

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Have you thought about your Online Business goals yet? Which ones apply to you and what strategies are you using to reach them? Just remember your website is so much more than an online brochure or an online catalog - it's an essential part of your business that can integrate your sales, support and marketing channels for you!
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