As some of you know, I set up and ran an online business back in 1999 and ran it successfully til it was sold in 2010. I now work for my new masters, deploying what I learned over the past decade or so, on a much larger scale. I’m having lots of fun.

Today, I had a coffee with a client, who runs a subscription-based online business, and he wanted to know how to build traffic to the site (and hence add value to his clients, and get more clients on). What I have learnt over the years is not all that earth shattering – most of it is intuitively obvious – but yet when you look at many online businesses, they are simply not doing the basics.

Assuming you have a well built and interesting site (most traffic will come from word of mouth and referral – have you ever seen an ad for Facebook, Google or Twitter?)… then try these 10 steps

1. Have someone coordinate the site and really run with it, drive it, full time (they can’t do it on the side) – make sure this person is incentivized to get more clients on and upsell them. It’s a key appointment. It might be you doing this, it might be someone you bring on. Get the best you can afford!
2. SEO & SEM – have an expert do this – building offsite links into the site is important; as is getting your title tags right, and analysing your keywords. (if you don’t know what SEM and SEO are, Google it!)
3. Engage your first/early clients – that means speaking with them, getting feedback on making the site better (back and front end), engaging their assistance to push the site (sticker on their door/car and brochures to distribute to their clients, links on their site if you can); meetings, forums, enewsletters … as appropriate/possible
4. Print stickers for their offices, and one page A4 brochure and any other relevant marketing collateral for clients to distribute out. INSIST they use these; print more and more of them; referral business is huge on the web, don’t leave this to chance.
5. Enewsletter – once a month to clients talking up the site, early successes, acting on feedback; build your own momentum
6. Facebook advertising – very targeted, only pay per click!
7. Facebook page for your ebusiness, and a BLOG site (both are free) – you need someone to post something interesting on the Facebook page once a day, and post 2 blogs a week, continually, persistently. Most people give up on social media, don’t give up!
8. Develop a mobile site (10% of traffic will be mobile and more so over time – don’t neglect the mobile users)
9. Develop a smartphone app (for iPhone, Android and Win7/Nokia)
10. Advertise/Promote where your users and clients SEE the ads (not just where you end users see it, but those who are paying for the site). I found outdoor billboards were the best for my business, as my clients drove past them everyday, as did 30,000 other cars. It helped us stake our territory. However, the business was 8 years old before we had our first billboard. Don’t rush into ads with a pot of money best used elsewhere (steps 1-8).

The last 2 are expensive, and can be done last. Do the other 8 first, and they can take you a long way.

About the author

Charlie has spent more than 20 years in Perth’s tech and startup sector, firstly as a founder himself, through to exit, and more recently as a writer, advisor and investor. Originally from the UK, Charlie worked in Singapore before arriving in Perth in 1997 to do an MBA at UWA. Graduating as top student in 1999 he set up online real estate business, running it for 10 years before selling to REIWA, whereupon Charlie ran In 2013, he moved to Business News to lead their digital transformation as CEO, and then worked for the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, funding pre-revenue startups and innovative businesses. He now works in an advisory capacity for multiple tech and other businesses, is managing editor of Startup News and co-host of the Startup West podcast. He also writes a column for Business News on startups. Charlie sits on the advisory boards of WA Leaders, TEDxPerth, WAITTA, the Perth Symphony Orchestra, and the full board of Rise Network.

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