I won’t pretend for one moment that it does not take A LOT of time, effort and hard freakin’ work to develop and maintain a profitable online business.

In the beginning, you don’t realize how much of a strategic thinker you must become when you’re developing your brand and creating your marketing strategies.

Then you have to follow that up with being able to implement and execute on those ideas that you masterminded. Whew…the hustle of it all!

Some ideas will bomb and some may eventually blowup.

If you ever feel yourself hitting a brick wall or you know you should be further ahead than you are, check out the four key elements to a successful online business. This could trigger some creative solutions you may have overlooked.

1. Strong Brand Foundation

When I say a strong brand foundation, I’m not talking about a cool logo, amazing headshots, beautiful social media cover photos or a stunning website.

I’m talking about “defining” your brand. Most newbies in business start working on creating the brand experience before defining the brand.

The clearer you are about your brand and business (what you do, how you do it and who you do it for), that clarity will help you build a brand “experience” to match it.

Take, for example, a fitness trainer. Being a fitness trainer seems pretty straightforward. For that fitness trainer to build a “brand” around her fitness training business, she needs to define specifically what kind of training she focuses on and what kind of client she wants to target and work with before creating her marketing strategy.

Here are some key steps to define your brand.

1. What unique skillsets or attributes do want your customer to think about you?
2. Who are the customers looking for your unique skillsets or attributes?
3. What differentiates you from similar options (your competitors)?

Communicate your credibility, experience and personal story. Know how you solve problems and/or how you help you target audience to reach their ambitions.

People won’t buy from you if they don’t know or understand what you do.  A key part of a strong brand foundation is to create a “money message”.

Let’s revisit that fitness trainer example. A fitness trainer building a strong brand wouldn’t just say she’s a fitness trainer.  She will be definitive and specific if she wants her customers to see her as a brand. So instead of just a “fitness trainer”, she may define her brand as a “faith based fitness trainer specializing in helping ambitious women who struggle with achieving a healthy lifestyle.”

See the clarity?

Even if people don’t know who you are or know your business, when they come across your brand they get a feeling for what your business does and is it right for them.

Attraction Strategy

The internet has really revolutionized the way we can “attract” new customers. So, when you hear people are successful using social media, hashtag targeting, blogging, SEO, online media, webinars, email marketing or Facebook ads…they are all correct.

The person you don’t want to listen to is the person that tells you that you have to do things one kind of way. Or this is a platform or strategy you have to use.

On the internet there are so many “channels” to reach your target customer. The part that hangs most people up is the ability to attract them.

Whatever channel or channels you choose to use, there needs be a method to attract users on that platform.

Let’s go back to our fabulous fitness trainer example, she may choose to use Pinterest as her main “distribution channel” in her business.

If she just hops on Pinterest because she knows her target audience is most likely on that platform and starts posting anything related to fitness, this likely will not get her the results that she wants.

Now because she did the brand foundation homework, she is so clear about her brand she can create a content marketing strategy tailored to attract her target audience. She knows exactly what type of content she should post.

Her content can include a mix of blog posts, inspiration quotes and guides for download to collect their email addresses.

What turns this in an “attraction strategy” is that the way in which she communicates is attractive. It’s attention grabbing, magnetic, persuasive and authentic. It’s good copywriting.

You might have to tweak your strategy several times until you find your sweet spot.

If you don’t know what your target audience wants, ask them!

Online Traffic

Getting online traffic has the same importance as having enough foot traffic into a brick and mortar store. No traffic, no business.

The most professional way to get traffic is to pay for it, hence the rave about Facebook Ads. However, if you’re new to online marketing or have a limited budget then spending money for traffic doesn’t seem feasible…yet!

Let me drop in this important note before I go further: Having a budget for marketing doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get more business. If your brand foundation or attraction strategy isn’t well put together, no amount of buying traffic can fix that. Those two key elements are crucial to your business success.

So where do you get this traffic from?

You know about the different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or LinkedIn. You can “buy” traffic from all of these platforms.

You can also get traffic with strategies like blogging, guest blogging, search engine optimization (SEO) or paying influencer to endorse your products or services.

All of these works, but…

After answering the question of who your target customers are, you then have to answer the question, “where do I find them?”

Once you have determined where to find them, you job is to master driving traffic from those sources through free and paid marketing.

Automated System

So where should that traffic to your business go? Into an automated system.

Automated systems will transform the way you do business and help you grow and scale your business much faster!

Here are some key ways to take your business to the next level with automation.

1. Use your website as more than a brochure about your business. Your website (and landing pages) should be used as marketing machine, strategically designed and developed to turn visitors into leads and leads into paying customers.

2. Automate your social media with tools like HootSuite, SocialPilot or Commun.it. Nothing can replace real engagement, genuine responses and authentic interactions but you can schedule your posts or target followers with social media automation tools.

3. Email marketing should definitely be in your business toolbox. Email marketing has the highest ROI when it comes to online marketing. It falls under the umbrella of relationship building, follow-ups, customer education and so much more! Create automated email marketing campaigns to stay consistent in your marketing.

4. Automating your customer service processes can save a lot of time. You can add solutions like online scheduling, customer intake forms, FAQs or autoresponders. Automation is key to leverage your time and streamlining your processes.

Automation is especially helpful when you’re starting out and doing a lot of the business tasks on your own. Automation can be a dream come true!

In closing, these are the four key elements to a successful growing online business. You can see that they are cohesive and work best when they are all working in sync. If you’re not strong in one area, it can be the missing piece to getting to your next level.

What have been some of your best strategies to grow your online business?