Internet marketing tips for your small business.

The Secret Ingredient to success online: Goals

Tactics are the tools and methods you deploy to take action in support of a strategy. In the kitchen, you might set out with the goal of making the pasta a bit more salty. Your tactic is to add salt, and you do this by strategically adding some, then tasting, and then adding more where appropriate. Managing a web presence is much the same in that you have to add tactics (ingredients) into the mix, and then measure (taste) and then respond accordingly.

What so many small businesses miss is that, without clear goals, a strategy and its related tactics are difficult to develop (what ingredients do you add if you don’t have an idea of the flavor you seek?)…and even harder to measure in terms of success.

I started this conversation a few months ago in a post entitled “Why do you have a website?”. The purpose of that article was to help you determine what you ultimately want to get out of your web presence. That’s not to say that you are locked into a goal forever. As you’ll see below, even companies like YouTube start out sort of “making it up as they go”. But for the most part, clearly defined goals are a key ingredient of any marketing effort—whether it be the design of a site, developing copy for an advertisement, or planning your PPC campaign. No matter what media you are engaged in, your marketing team should be asking, “What do we need to accomplish with this?” and “How will we define ‘Success’?”.

The beauty of goals is that they allow everyone in the creative process to have a measuring stick by which to gauge the effectiveness of their work. This is an effective principle to apply in the middle of the creative process as much as it is a tool to measure effectiveness once a campaign goes “live”.

Goals-setting during the creative process:

The creative process can often be viewed as linear. In fact, our own process for developing a brand flows like this: Discover, Develop/Design, Deliver. But with an active internet marketing campaign, the process often looks more like a loop…where the “Discovery” is not just planning and prep, but also a mid-stream measurement of what just happened and a corresponding readjustment going into the next phase of development. With that said, goals-setting can happen at any point in the creative loop.

Just saying “its a continual loop” with a couple of phases may seem like an oversimplification. To that end, the Alberta College of Art & Design has published an incredibly helpful and illustrative diagram of the process which lays out the intricacies of each phase as well as the transitional steps between them.

For the serial entrepreneurs out there, it CAN work to start out with no clear goals…just get the concept up and online and then discover/analyze and establish new goals based on the measured response. In this way, its definitely not a linear process but more of a “loop”. Take YouTube for example. As told by Chad Hurley, the CEO of YouTube, in this video, the founders of YouTube didn’t set out with the goal of creating a video portal specifically. Instead, they started out with a broader goal of creating a social community. They basically bought server space, set up a site, and encouraged people to join. It wasn’t until they encountered massive traffic levels and saw that people were eating up the free server space with video content that they began to readjust their goals to develop what is today, one of the most widely used online video tools.

So, in that way, its easy to see where measurement and creation of goals can happen AFTER the initial concept launch. But most of us don’t have the luxury of investment funds to take new and untested concepts online. We want the gratification of immediate results…and that requires goals.

Goals-setting in Google Analytics:

When it comes to website-specific goal-setting and measurement, you should definitely get familiar with Google Analytics. Here is an incredibly helpful post in understanding and even setting up Goals within GA. But in short, its a powerful (and free) tool that lets you track and measure visitor behavior on a website. You can see what pages and contents are most popular, how long someone stayed on a page, and you can see from which page they lost interest and exited the site. Most of our clients come to us with GA already installed on their site but, in most cases, they have no idea how to break the numbers down into something meaningful. Goals within Google Analytics does just that.

No matter what you use to track or measure your website’s performance, make sure that you have established clear goals for the experience. It’ll help make the numbers make sense, and it will surely guide your creative team in the development of that next iteration!

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May 17 2011 in Blog, Strategic Advice, Website Tools

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