12 Steps For Planning Your Web Business Strategies to Catch The Trends

Feb 11, 2011 3 Comments by

Answering a question today about web strategies reminded me once again of the importance of clarifying right up front that web strategy should be business strategy, and not technical strategy.

Catching The Trends

Catching the trends means working WITH the trends and using them in your business planning.  Business growth happens faster, easier, with less stress  and is more fun when you’re working with big picture long-term trends of the digital online world.   (Discover more on the 25 trends here).

After all,  the use of online systems is changing the way business is being done in every business sector.  The impacts of  the online world vary for different types of business – but online has been changing the game for the past 15 years – and we’re really only getting started.

So, we all need to understand the big picture of where the digital online world has come from  and where it is going.  Learn to “zoom out” from today, see the past and more importantly, see the future.  Zooming out and stepping  back from the day-to-day short-term confusion and taking a long-term view helps clear your mind and open your eyes to see new and better opportunities.

How long is “Long Term”?

More importantly, you can learn to select the opportunities that make the most sense for you and your business – both for the long and short terms.  Long term business planning means different things to different businesses. Some people and some businesses may think long term is 5, 10 or even 50 years.  For  others, long term may be 12 months.

Know Your Purpose & Strategies, but Stay Agile With Tactics and Tools

Knowing your mission, your purpose and your strengths is important, but so is remaining flexible and agile in how you carry out your mission.  Your purpose and mission may be constant, but your strategies will change and evolve.

The tactics you use to carry out  your strategies will change more rapidly.  And the tools you use will almost certainly change far more rapidly again, so don’t get “locked in” to any particular tool or tool set.  Use the best tools that are right for you,  but don’t assume that these tools will be right forever and watch out that you business is not becoming reliant on tools that are themselves becoming obsolete or redundant.

We use the tools of technology to help us on our business mission to achieve our business objectives.  If we’re clever, we use the right tools really well, but we don’t let the tools dictate or determine our strategies. New tools emerge almost every day, which only adds to the overwhelm and confusion. You can’t base your business on the choice of tools, but you can learn how to choose and properly  use the best tools available.

The 12 Vital Steps

Here’s an overview of  12  key steps for planning of your web business strategies to catch the trends.

  1. Review your  business including your objectives and positioning. Work out what you want your business to achieve, and by when.  (I call this the “What By When?” approach to strategic goal-setting. )
  2. Review your business operations, your current website and your  current web tools.  How are you using the web at the moment?  Look critically at your website.   What has worked?  What hasn’t worked?  Why? How do you know?  (List and check your assumptions.)
  3. Make sure you understand the long-term trends, and how you can best work WITH then and not against them.  Think about which trends have already directly impacted your business and which are likely to in the future. These impacts could be to you, your customers, your employees, your suppliers  or your competitors.  Look at trends in combination, not just individually as multiple trends multiply the impact as well.   (Working with the trends makes business growth faster, easier, less stressful and more fun.)
  4. Look at how you can better use the web to improve your productivity, products and processes.  (There are plenty of tools available, and it’s smart to think about this holistically as part of your overall strategy.)
  5. Benchmark your business and website against others to gain valuable insights. (You really can learn heaps from others if you know how and where to look.)
  6. Understand the wants and needs of your key customers, and how you can deliver more value to them through the web.  (Think how you can improve the way you are using the web to communicate, build relationships and trust with these people who are  lifeblood of your business.)
  7. Plan how to grow your business within your community or various communities.  (Join, belong, contribute, communicate, add value,  gain trust)
  8. Plan how you can work better with others more collaboratively for the benefit of your customers.   (Use the abundance of the web to add value for your customers and build better relationships with them.)
  9. Understand your key competitors and how they are evolving.  Think about how a new competitor on the web could threaten you in the future.  Think about how you could  make yourself obsolete before someone else does.  (Read more here on how you could become your own revolutionary competitor.)
  10. Bring it all together to develop your set of smart web strategies that are best for your business.  (Make a road map that lays out why, how and when you will implement each strategy.)
  11. Utilize various tactics for each strategy for greater chances of success.  Learn how to choose and use the best tools to implement those tactics.   (These will vary depending on your own resources, capabilities and constraints. Remember, having an effective website is usually a key part, but only a part.)
  12. Then get started. Getting started without overwhelm and confusion can be challenging.  Overwhelm is normal especially with the information overload and such variety of choices. Start small, stay focused, stay agile.  Use the best tools well, but stay flexible.  Be careful of your investments in transient technology.   Plan, Implement, Test, Measure, Review and Improve.

There’s a lot to do if you want to do it properly, which is probably why very few businesses seem to bother – and most don’t get it right. Some get it disastrously wrong which can get  stressful and expensive with lost opportunities and wasted time, money and resources.

Be wary of being sold stuff

Many businesses  make short-term ad-hoc decisions about their use of the web based on what someone is trying to sell them at the time or what their web development or IT staff know best at the time.   This ad-hoc approach almost always adds to the confusion and causes other unhelpful  outcomes.  Here’s an article on why many people get their choices of technology wrong.  And here’s a checklist of 20 criteria for choosing technology solutions.   Check them out for some handy tips.

Be wary of buzz-words

Be wary of buzz-words and new industry jargon, even if they seem to be used by so-called experts to describe the flavor of the moment.  In fact, be wary of them especially about  the flavour of the moment. Learn to tell the trends from the fads.

Many businesses choose their web strategies, tactics or tools based on the latest buzz-words. They become “buzz-word compliant” without really knowing what they are doing or why, or they decide not to use tools because they don’t understand the scary new buzz-words. There are plenty of examples, but think how many business people don’t use or mis-use Twitter and other social media.

On-Trend Buzz-words you’ll  want to understand

The critical buzz-words for you will vary depending on your industry, but there are some that will affect most businesses if you want to work WITH the trends,  catch them and ride them in your strategies.  Let’s start with  Location-based Marketing,  Mobile Marketing, Social Media Marketing,  Social Media Monitoring, Collaborative Communities,  and Cloud Computing.   You’ll find plenty on these topics  at Digital TrendCatchers – and plenty more coming soon.

Maybe get some good guidance

Finally, it does take time to develop a coherent web or digital strategy for your business.  There are some short-cuts, but there are also plenty of pit-falls. You don’t have to do all this by yourself and it pays to have someone to guide you and help you navigate through the maze.   (And yes, that’s what I do. Please let me know if you would like some guidance.)

Love your thoughts on all this.  What works for you?  And what keeps you awake at nights?

All the best

Richard

Featured, Strategies & Roadmap, The Big Picture, Trends
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  1. Leigh Stafford says:

    Richard, this is a brilliant article and if any one is thinking of re-doing or up-grading their website, it’s a must read. Thank you for posting it.

    One of the things that is so important is to know the right questions to ask in order to be, and feel, fully informed at the outset.

    You have clearly articulated the questions that need to be asked before before taking the leap into website development. Easy to read, great links, sound advice and friendly.

    This is empowering stuff to help navigate through the web-development maze so that you can plan with foresight, not hindsight. I’m grateful and thank you again Richard.

    • Richard says:

      Leigh, thanks for your feedback. Yep, part of the problem many people have (myself included of course), is not knowing the right questions to ask when we are doing something new. That’s where a guide comes in handy to navigate through the maze.

      It’s not just web development though. Web development needs to happen for a purpose – and the purpose is part of the rationale for the digital strategy.

      thanks again.

      All the best
      Richard

  2. Richard says:

    I’ve just come across a great article on web development planning from web usability specialist Mark Garner.

    It’s on http://www.stonesoup.com.au

    http://bit.ly/erD400

    Well worth a read.