What is an online presence?
Your online presence is anywhere that your audience interacts with you online (and in digital as a whole). Often your website forms the centre of this but it can encompass anything from social media pages to banner advertising to directories.
Why is it important to get it right?
It is important that your brand is represented in the best way possible and that nothing exists online that weakens your proposition or dilutes your offer. It is increasingly hard to control & track what people are saying about you, but by ensuring your message is consistent in everything you put out, you will be doing as much as you can do to ensure your brand is properly represented online.
Having a well-considered, strategic presence will help you stay one step ahead of your competitors and ultimately lead to increased profits and a higher profile in the minds of your peers and customers. If done properly, both of those outcomes will ensure a return on the money you have invested in online (plus your return is easier to measure with online than in any other area of marketing).
Where do you start?
Digital is only one channel (but it is becoming an increasingly important one). Working out how to use it to your advantage amongst your marketing mix can be confusing and time consuming. You need a proper digital strategy to make sure you are investing your budget wisely and tracking what works and what doesn’t.
Your digital strategy should flesh out:
- What are your marketing objectives? – E.g. increasing revenue, raising your profile, getting ahead of a particular competitor, reaching a wider audience, etc.
- Who are your audience groups and what are their profiles?
- Where do they interact with you? – E.g. how do they behave? Where and when do your comms fit in to their buying cycle? What else do they visit online? etc.
- What do they want from you and how can you help them get it?
- What do you need? – E.g. what are your commercial drivers and in-house requirements? What limitations do you have in terms of resources or buy-in from stakeholders?
- What is your budget? – Be honest. It is never advantageous to keep this guarded as your agency will need to know what is available so they can work out how best to direct spend and create realistic targets.
Your website will probably form the centrepiece of your digital comms and will certainly provide the window on your organisation. It could be the first and only time a potential customer interacts with you, and needs to make a good first impression and convert them to a customer.
When tackling your website, you should:
- Listen to your audiences, prioritise usability – remember you’re providing something for them not you. What information do they need to help them buy from you or contact you? What are their anxieties and how can you overcome them?
- Think about your story and invest in your content – it can be tempting to blow the budget on whizzy functionality and content management capability and leave no budget left for content creation. There is no point in investing in functionality if the homepage is populated with copy cobbled together by the receptionist and images from a stock library that say nothing about your organisation.
- Take time to get the design right – A great piece of design can transform a business by connecting brand with audience and reaching them on an emotional level. Design should engage, inspire and inform – and that’s something we live and breathe at Positive, as well as the message we give our clients.
- Get what you need from the technology – Your website could make a real difference to your back-office processes as well as the image of your business.
- Do less, rather than cut corners – If budgets are tight it is better to do less and get it right, than try and do everything and have to scrimp on the design, the content or the thinking behind it.
The rest of your digital comms
When it comes to choosing which digital channels should support a website, marketeers can find themselves bombarded with different channels, varying approaches and opinion, so they can’t see the wood for the trees.
Things to think about:
- Choose channels that will work for your objectives and connect with your audiences – don’t choose them simply because everyone else seems to be doing it
- Which channels will continue your story and enhance your content?
- Which channels will drive traffic to your site and how measurable are they?
- Which channels will raise your profile?
- Where are your audiences most likely to interact with you?
- What are your competitors (not) doing?
The world of digital comms is big, complex and ever-evolving, but it is bristling with opportunities to help build your business. Creating an online presence that helps you raise your profile and gain competitor advantage isn’t about how big your budget is, it is about using it strategically.