Why Most Businesses Struggle Online
Many businesses struggle to utilize the Internet to generate more revenue. Most know they need to but do not know how. Here are some of the major reasons I see businesses failing to generate significant revenue from the Internet.
They don’t get Content Strategy
An online marketing campaign and website without a content strategy is a ship without a rudder. It will be guessing at what works without an actual plan and strategy behind the content that is driving the online presence. A website must convey a message to the users that go to it, and if that message does not properly align with the goals of the company it will not be effective. Most businesses fail to put enough effort into content strategy and lack the expertise to develop an effective online content strategy.
Find a content marketing expert to learn from or start reading as much as you can about content strategy and content marketing.
There is a major problem with businesses not understanding the cost of succeeding on the web, and I see it on a small, medium and even enterprise level. With solutions like Squarespace, Wix, and cheap WordPress or Magento themes, there is a misconception that building a website and online presence is cheap or inexpensive. Building an online experience and presence that has significant business value is extremely difficult requiring both immense expertise and technical prowess. Most IT projects fail according to many studies and can cost businesses extensive resources in wasted time or lost opportunity.
Yes you can easily install WordPress and a theme for a low cost, but can you actually configure everything you need and scale the websites to ten or even one hundred thousand visitors per month. Additionally, will those visitors be useful to you or are they coming from ineffective traffic sources? Lastly, does your site convey the right messaging and convert those visitors into eCommerce sales or valuable leads that you can convert into tangible sales? Doing this is incredibly hard, and most businesses completely lack the strategy and actual financial resources to do what it actually takes to accomplish this.
Consider your online business as expensive or more expensive than your offline business. Why? A successful online business is more scalable than a non online business and has more upside. Ask yourself, how much did you have to invest into the work in building up your off line business? Thousands upon thousands of man hours and thousands if not millions of dollars in investment. Thats what it takes to build a successful business and online is no different in terms of human and financial capital.
Be prepared to spend double what you initially think it will cost to do something. That will help you come to terms with the costs of becoming successful online rather than underestimating what it takes.
They lack web knowledge and experience
Trying to succeed at something you know very little about is incredibly difficult. In today’s high tech world the only way to be up to date with online technology is to follow it and use it consistently everyday. Even having a degree in computer science does not mean you are up to date with the latest web technologies that businesses are using. Therefore, lacking this knowledge makes it extremely difficult to evaluate what the best options are for your business.
Hire a digital strategy expert to consult on your options or spend a significant amount of time researching the options and costs associated with what you want to accomplish. Do not just call a bunch of companies requesting quotes, without a solid request for proposal you are just shooting in the dark.
Not Enough Internal Resources
Building an online presence requires substantial time and effort. A major mistake I see many businesses make is that they underestimate the internal resources required to make the online channels successful for their business. Simply hiring an agency is not enough to do everything you need because you will need to provide them with some level of support regarding the specifics of your industry and business.
Make sure you have the appropriate internal resources before investing in a third party
Lack of time and preparation
Although it may seem that doing things online should be fast and quick because the high tech industry is so fast paced. However, building up your online business requires substantial time and preparation. Trying to launch a website in a week or even a few months may not be enough time to properly plan for all the pages, content, sitemap, images, features and whatever else may be needed to make the new website successful.
Expect to spend as much time planning and preparing for each online initiative as the actual work it will take to execute that plan.
Not underestimating how long things take
The web is complicated, estimates are complicated, timelines for web projects are complicated. Many businesses many vastly underestimate the timeframes and efforts that need to go into a project. A custom web design project can easily last three or four months if not closer to a year or more if there is heavy eCommerce and customization involved. To many business owners months or even years may seem like a long time but that can be a normal timeframe for large or complicated web projects. It is important to understand how long projects take.
Research as much as you can about how long similar projects that you want to execute have taken for other companies and do not just go with one or two examples, find as many as you can.
Not choosing the right technology
Choosing the wrong technology for your website or marketing initiatives can be a devastating blow, and the worst part is many business owners do not even know they have chosen the wrong option. Thorough research regarding all of the top and even non prominent options, whether it be a new CMS, SEO software, or any other type of web technology is critical for making the right decision. Simply put, the wrong technology could be the difference between a successful or failed website or marketing initiative.
Spend significant time research all of there options such as receiving demos or anything else that will help you make an informed decision.
Not preparing for future trends
Part of what makes the web so difficult is not doing what is right for now, but what is right for the next three to five years. Many business owners made the mistake of not investing in a responsive website years ago, but that would be nearly unthinkable if you were to initiate a new website project today. Preparing for future trends and where the Internet will be in the future is just as important if not more important than doing what is important right now.
Use tools like Google trends and Builtwith to look at technology and trends that demonstrate what you want to do will be around in the future.
Failure to look at the big picture
Many business owners get hung up on one traffic channel like Facebook or SEO because they see it as the next big thing. You really need a big picture strategy to be successful on the web. Relying on one or two things is too risky and could be a major problem down the road, therefore having a big picture strategy that covers your technology, design, branding, future initiatives, traffic acquisition strategy, conversion optimization, and many more things that are required to be successful on the web is critical for success.
Use tools like Google Analytics acquisition overview as well as take the time to understand the value of many different web initiatives like inbound marketing, content strategy, UI / UX and more so that you can have a birds eye view of what is possible and what is not.
No scalable traffic acquisition strategy
Generating more traffic is an incredibly hard think to do for any website. There are six major traffic channels, organic, paid, direct, referral, email, and social. Finding ways to generate more traffic from those channels in a way that is profitable is difficult. You could simple pay for more search traffic or social traffic with advertising platforms like Google and Facebook but if it is not in a profitable way that could be very detrimental.
Take the time to make one of the traffic channels highly profitable such as building a blog that consistently increases your websites SEO traffic and then move on to another channel you think will be most effective. Trying to make all profitable at once could spread you too thin and wind up making all of them not profitable.
Inability to create a profitable conversion rate
If you website doesn’t convert visitors into calls, email leads, in store sales, or online sales it is unlikely to be a valuable asset for you business.
Track your conversion rate with Google analytics goals and eCommerce tracking to see what is improving the conversion rate or hurting it. Look at user flows to see where users are dropping out of your site. Consider conversion optimization software like Optimizely.
Lack of commitment & persistence.
Becoming successful online takes time…a lot of time. It took me years before our blog and website became a consistent and useful tool for our business. A domain name takes years to build up SEO value, and it takes years to build up a large social following. There is no way around the fact that it simply takes a long time to build a successful online presence for your business and without commitment and persistence it simply wont happen.
If you see traction in a positive direction keep going, even if it is not quite at a point that is profitable or has a serious value to your business, eventually it will.