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11 Things You Need to Invest in Right Now to Grow Your Business Online

By: Jeff Bullas


There is a seismic shift in how you as a business should be creating, thinking and evolving in the 21st century.

It revolves around the virtual world that cannot be touched but it is as real as any physical object. It is such a big shift that many business owners are ignoring it because they either don’t get it or are afraid of it.
It’s also called digital technology.
Here is a tale of two retailers. In it we can see a glimpse of what the implications are of either embracing the digital world or just playing at the edges.
In the USA Nordstrom is a brand that is investing heavily in  technology and building its online brand assets. Over the last 3 years it has invested more than $2 billion in technology primarily aimed at making it easy for customers to buy online. That is 50-65 per cent of its cash flow. But sales have increased 50%. Its share price is up 200%. It is obvious that they get this social digital web.
The department store Myer on the other hand has invested very little in its digital presence and assets over the last two years in comparison. Its sales are flat and the share price is down 50%.
Which one would you invest in? Is business extinction a real possibility for one of them?
Hard assets and virtual assets
In the past retail was all about bricks and mortar street fronts. Investing in the physical location was a habit that has been with us for centuries. Buy or rent the shop and invest big in fitout, paint, walls, partitions, design and fittings. The budgets often go beyond hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. But it’s still the honeypot for the shopper to spend.
In traditional print media it was all about physical magazines, newsprint and mainly local distribution. It required hard physical assets and expensive printing presses. Now bloggers, online magazines and new breed news sites are producing online content without a printing press to be seen or a delivery van or a corner store.
But we are moving from an industrial age where the assets that were valued were physical but with the rise of the global knowledge economy the importance of virtual digital assets and technology is becoming paramount.
This can be broken into two online media asset categories:
  1. Owned Media: This starts with the website, online store and blogs
  2. Earned Media: This where you earn online attention and includes earned media from customers, fans and advocates
Why are these important?
Your brand can now be everywhere in a digital world. Google, Facebook and Twitter make that possible. Search engines can find you from an iPad in a coffee shop in Paris but your physical presence might be in Helsinki.
  • You are defined online: Online your content now defines you. That’s it. If your website has little content then it will position you as light weight and maybe not all that serious.
  • You are discovered online: Building online assets means you turn up in search engine results, be found on Facebook and other social networks as people share your content.
  • Trust is created online: Multiple views of your brand and content creates online trust. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that being seen 3-5 times online takes your trust factor to over 50%.
  • Global scale: A small brand can be global online. It means that you have worldwide reach without leaving your office or shop.
  • People buy online: This trend isn’t going away.
  • Content is consumed online: Entertainment, education and inspiration is expanding on the web.
So what are the 11 digital  assets that you should be building and investing in today to remain relevant, continue to grow and scale your business. Here is how to grow your business online.
Owned Media Assets
This includes the following:
1. Website
Websites are your digital platform and the customers gateway to your brand. It maybe a corporate site or an online store or both.
It needs to be well branded, easy to use, intuitive and designed for a social web.
2. Blog
Blogs are your content hubs and attract loyal readers. Its role cannot be underestimated in positioning your brand as a thought leader in its industry especially in the B2B space.
In B2C the role of the blog is more about engagement, entertainment and improving search engine rankings.
3. Social media networks
Social networks aren’t strictly an owned asset but rented (you don’t own Facebook or Twitter as you are there on their terms and conditions) but they are are seen by the consumer as part and an also an extension of your owned brand platform.
Placing a stake in the ground with the major networks with your brand name is now an essential digital asset to start and keep investing in.
4. Content that you create
Content is now a multi-media asset that needs constant investment. It includes articles on blogs, infographics, podcasts, images, videos and more. The challenge is to create the best content possible that will beg to be shared and spread your brand online.
This is a constant marketing continuum that needs consistent and persistent feeding. It’s a hungry beast.
5. Email list
Email is not a shiny new technology toy like the social media platforms, but  it is still the primary business communication tool. Your email list needs time and patience to build. It also provides the means to reach your customers and prospects when you want.
6. Mobile
The rise of high speed wireless and the mobile phone and tablets has made information accessible from anywhere. It can be a mobile app or a mobile responsive website that adapts to any screen size for easy media consumption.
Ignoring this can reduce sales for online stores, engagement on blogs and the viewing on corporate websites.
Earned Media Assets
Earned media cannot be bought or owned, it can only be gained organically, hence the term ‘earned.’ This applies to “word of mouth” offline and online, building followers, connections and fans on social networks, building an email list and ranking high in Google organic search for the key words and phrases in your business niche.
This includes the following:
1. Conversations about you
One of your key objectives should be to create conversation on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. You need to earn this by building your following and creating epic content that starts the conversation.
2. Content that is created about you
Brands that provide great user experiences create raving fans and advocates. These include Apple, Lego and Red Bull. They will create content for free that mentions your brand. Octoly research revealed that 99% of all the content created on YouTube about brands is fan-created. That’s free marketing.
3. Search engine rankings
You don’t own search engine ranking but earn them. It’s built on the original premise that Google created in 1998. It’s called pagerank. If your content is so good that the New York Times mentions and links to you then Google sees that as search engine authority.
Keep building those with other websites and you have earned the right to rank high in search.
4. Partnerships
Online partnerships are earned.
People and other brands will want to work with you in online joint ventures because you have built and earned online authority. This includes reach, trust and social proof.
5. Influencers
As your earn online attention, influencers with large global online networks will also want to partner up. This is where it starts to get exciting.
It’s a long term game
The relentless pursuit of  building your online assets and earning digital authority will be the work of decades. It needs that mindset, understanding and vision of how the digital economy is panning out for the next century.
It’s not going away.
What about you?
Are you investing in building your digital assets? Could you do better? What do you need to work on today?
Look forward to your insights and feedback in the comments below.
This article was originally published by Jeff Bullas
Published: December 10, 2014

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Jeff Bullas

Jeff Bullas is a consultant, blogger, strategist, and speaker. He works with companies and executives to optimize their online personal and corporate brands through the use of social media channels. Author of the Amazon best-selling book Blogging the Smart Way—How to Create and Market a Killer Blog with Social Media (Jeff Bullas, 2012), Jeff's own blog is included in AdAge.com's Power 150 ranking as a top 50 marketing blog.

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