16 Steps to Building a Comprehensive Plan for your Business

We’ve brought you lists in the past, such as 27 Things That Help and Hurt SEO, 8 Skills and SEO Must Possess and 4 Areas of Search & Social Focus.  They’ve been, in general, pretty focused.  Now we’re going to bring forward a broader view of a general plan designed to help businesses set up a reasonable starting point from which to grow.

We see this type of planning lacking in so many businesses today, and with some time and effort, you can build a plan that will help your business grow in the years to come.  No business should be without a plan, but it’s tough to know how to build that plan sometimes.

And while a typical business plan includes things like an economic assessment of the market, a business profile, your marketing plan, details on people and skills and more, the list here is a bit more focused.  It’s designed to help a business at any stage of planning – whether the business is a concept, or a going concern. So let’s take a look at where to focus.  These lists are in no order as where each business is will differ, and some points may be more important at various times.

Core Strategies

  • Goals – these are the big picture levels you need to reach.  Could be revenue, sales numbers or whatever KPIs (key performance indicators) matter most to your business.
  • Targets – stops along the way, at specified times, that when completed, contribute from across the business to work towards your goals.
  • Products & Services – defining exactly what you will and will not bring to market.  Time here can help refine revenue targets and goals as you will discover efficiencies and opportunities.

Operational Strategies

  • Content – what will you produce.  Also defines how you will create the content.
  • Differentiation – what makes you different from your competition?  Invest time here as mild differentiation is not a solid strategy in many cases.  You need to have a clear and obvious difference that explains why a customer should do business with you.
  • Review – set a plan in place with multiple touch points from across your business to review content, products and services as they approach the time when they will be made public.
  • Calendar – build a calendar to list out when each piece of content will be produced, reviewed and made ready for publication.


  • Paid Search – some products just naturally work well in the paid search area.  Others, do not.  Are you selling a product?  Paid search is useful.  Are you spinning ad son content pages? Paid search is much less effective here.
  • Display Advertising – still lots of value to be found in buying banner ads in select locations.  Find the right audience, build (test and refine) ad units with a clear call to action to maximize the ROI here.
  • Paid Social – been around a few years and has very useful applications for the right business. Don’t invest here unless your plan and campaign is clear.  Adjust as necessary and as close to in real time as you can.
  • Email Marketing – still an excellent way to drive sales.  But it does require a good list.  The best approach is to build your own list, then build a dedicated marketing plan just around email.  Test, test, test and be kind to the list and it’ll treat you well with long-term, repeat business.
  • Public Relations – seriously – not everything you do is worth a press release.  Most small businesses won’t have a big use for PR, but many are tempted to abuse PR by sending out pointless releases trying to attract attention and grab some links.  Unless you have something actually newsworthy, spend your time elsewhere.
  • Conversion Optimization – for many businesses, they’ll see more impact on their bottom line investing in CO than with PPC or SEO.  If you don’t know what this is, clear your calendar, start researching and become the hero of your business.
  • Usability – if you’re not already doing usability testing, you’re failing.  Plenty of tools exist to assist in this work, so whether you hire a company to manage the testing, or select areas of your site and roll your own tests, get started.  This is eye opening work that can have as big an impact as conversion optimization.
  • Organic Social – tried and true.  Social is about building relationships through conversations.  Avoid using this as a one-way broadcast medium. If you step into social, be ready to respond, or watch as your competition pulls ahead by being there for your customers when you ignore them.
  • Search Optimization – good ol’ SEO.  Still valuable, still worth investing in.  As time marches on, though, there is so much more to building a successful business that you have to be careful you don’t sink all your time into chasing SEO nirvana.  Cover the basics and invest that time elsewhere.

Now, every one of those points above is worthy of more detail.  This is simply an overview designed to get you thinking of a broader plan to grow your business.  For small businesses, tackling so many areas might not make sense – or even be needed, depending on the actual business.

But everyone will have something that’s in these lists which isn’t getting the attention it deserves.  Ask yourself where your time is really going, and why it’s going there.

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager

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