As with most business practices, the first step in taking your business online is planning. Simply building a website and expecting consumers to find it will not necessarily help your business. We suggest answering the following questions:
- How will people find your website?
- What will they be looking for and how will you provide it?
- What do you want them to do once they’re on your website?
The answer to these questions will form the base for your online business plan.
Creating an Online Business Plan
A traditional business plan gives business owners the opportunity to analyse the situation in which their business currently operates, and where they would like to see it in the future. Your online business plan should do the same; it is a place to outline your current online presence, and develop defined goals for the years to come. When creating an online business plan, begin by outlining your online goals, or Key Performance Indicators, to give you a reference point for review at a later date. Online business plans differ greatly from business to business however, following a simple approach to start with can help you create a plan that suits your needs. Start by addressing the following questions:
- What goals do you have for your organisation? These can be long or short term, and can involve any aspect of the business, not just your digital plans
- Which online activities could benefit your organisation? What is your goal in going online? For example, if you are interested in creating a new platform for taking bookings, developing a website with an online booking form could be your goal. If you already have a website but would like to provide better customer service, then creating social media accounts could be your goal
- How can your online activities help achieve your goals? Be as detailed as possible here, as this will form the bulk of your plan. In the above examples, developing an online booking form could help achieve your sales goals. Engaging with consumers on social media platforms could increase your customer service levels by giving consumers an alternative avenue for expressing their thoughts.
See our Online Business Plan Template for help in structuring your own detailed business plan. This comprehensive template will help you itemise several aspects of your business in one document. Alternatively, we have also developed a short form template. This shorter template is designed to provide you with a basic online business plan that can be tailored to suit your business needs. You can use these documents to assist in creating an online business plan. As you work your way through each section, you will be provided with information on each issue to help you create a plan that best suits your circumstances.
Generating Goals: A Checklist
After creating your business plan, the next step is making sure you achieve your goals. It may help to use our Goals Checklist, to note when you have achieved your goals. The checklist contains milestones common to the industry, but you can also add your own milestones specific to your business.
Download Goals Checklist
Moving your business online doesn’t have to be costly, in fact, there are web solutions to suit nearly every budget. Whether using a template to design your website, or outsourcing the entire process to a web developer, your budget should reflect both the initial start up costs of going online, as well as the ongoing costs. See more about these choices in the Creating A Website module. Start up costs can differ greatly between projects, but generally include:
- Developing a functional specification document. A functional specification document details the desired functionality of your website, such as booking forms, e-commerce solutions or a contact form. This can be completed internally by yourself or your team, or outsourced to a developer who understand your needs. See the DIY vs. Outsourced section for more details
- Content development costs. Creating the content for your website, from copy to images, can be costly in a time sense if you create them yourself, or in hard dollars, if you need to outsource the project. See the budgeting section of Creating A Website for more
- Building costs. Depending on your requirements, you may be able to reduce the cost of building your website by utilising a template design, either from an external company or a blogging platform such as WordPress. See Creating A Website for more details.
Ongoing operational costs are fairly standard between digital projects, and include:
- Marketing costs. Once you have created your online presence, you will need to tell people about it. You can build this promotion into your existing outlets, by adding a URL to printed material or commercials. You could also consider creating a Search Engine Optimisation strategy and/or a Search Engine Marketing campaign to take advantage of search engine opportunities. See the Search Engine Optimisation module for more on this
- Hosting. This ongoing service fee is paid to a provider who “hosts” your website on their server. See Creating Your Website for more details
- Service fees. These may need to be paid to developers for the maintenance of your website, or to providers of your e-commerce solutions. They will be a contracted cost that should be worked into your yearly budget
- Ongoing content management costs. Once your website is created, you should aim to update content regularly to ensure it is up-to-date. Digital elements such as search engine optimisation or social media accounts will need fresh content, which needs to be factored into your overall plan.
DIY vs. Outsourced
There are many tools that can help you create an online presence for your business, many without associated establishment costs or the need for education levels beyond basic computer skills. For example, if you do not possess graphic design skills and cannot afford to employ a graphic designer, you may wish to use a design template to create a professional website yourself. You may also be able to use a content management system such as WordPress to create webpages yourself and decrease the need of a web developer. These tools however, may not help you reach complex goals such as taking bookings online or allowing for online sales. In these instances, you will require the assistance of professionals. You may wish to consider the following factors when determining how much of this work can be completed yourself, and how much – if any – should be outsourced.
Your budget will be a strong indicator of whether or not you can afford to outsource your digital projects, however it is important to remember that outsourcing may not always be costly. You can keep costs down by outsourcing the design of your website and asking for it to be based on an existing template. This way, the designer doesn’t need to create your website from scratch. They may also offer training that will enable you to learn the process of updating your website yourself, eliminating the need for you to pay your developer for this service.
Do you or someone in your office already have the right knowledge and tools to implement your online business plan? It can be cheaper to invest in training your staff rather than outsourcing all of the costs.
Will you have the time to maintain your online presence long term? If you or your employees are too time poor to give the correct attention to online practices, then you may need to outsource the management of your online assets.
One of the benefits of digital work is that is can be completed anywhere by anyone, as long as the digital infrastructure allows it. For instance, even if your business operates in one location, you can still use the services of a digital service provider elsewhere. This will depend on whether or not you require face to face meeting with them, or whether you are happy to converse online or via telephone.
A recent study of the electrical industry uncovered:
- 34% of electrical contractors don’t have a website
- 59% don’t use social media
- 86% don’t have a digital strategy, and
- 34% consider themselves to be behind or in trouble when it comes to the adoption of digital technology with 41% rating themselves as average in adoption.
The last two results suggest that electrical businesses are hesitant to partake in the challenge of digital technology due to a lack of confidence and a lack of resources. It also shows huge potential for growth throughout the industry. Throughout this kit we will highlight ways in which you can resource your business with the tools necessary to compete in the digital world, including outsourcing work when necessary. The first step in the process is using this Digital Business Kit! You can use this website to learn about digital strategies specific to the electrotechnology industry. Each section contains facts about each topic, as well as tips, tricks and how-to guides that will help you create a digital presence for your business. You can also see our real world case studies for details of how other industry members are using the web to enhance their business. If you have a question, post a comment on any of our pages – we encourage you to join in the conversation and learn from the community.