When it comes to marketing yourself online as an independent entrepreneur or business professional, there is an abundance of tactics, tools, and advice out there.

Where do you start? What do you focus on? What really works?

I certainly don't have all the answers, but I have found a few things that may help you in your online business building efforts if you have a client relationship and referral-based businesses.

A few pre-requisites:

Build Your Online Influence

First and foremost, my number one rule in digital marketing is to make sure you have a “build influence” mentality as you work to build your business online.

When you build online influence, you don't have to actually market your products and services. Instead, you will be moving your ideal clients through the trust-building process where they seek out more information and advice from you.

If you build online influence effectively, your ideal clients will begin to see that you truly understand their situation, goals, challenges, and dreams. They will begin to trust you and seek your advice.

Manage Your “Digital” Time Wisely

Secondly, your time is very valuable when you are running a business or a professional practice. It's the one resource you can't get more of. Your digital business building efforts need to be both time-efficient and impactful.

It is way too easy to get sucked into social media sites or mobile apps and waste countless hours of valuable time. You need to be as disciplined as possible and protective of your time. [I call this EWIFDEngage With Intent, Focus, and Discipline]

Get a strategic plan in place for building your business online that serves as your roadmap to follow. From there you can tweak it over time as you gather data, feedback, and intelligence.

Once you have the above pre-requisites in place, it's time to focus on those digital business builders that can actually yield results over the long-term. (If you're looking for silver bullets there are none 🙂 )

I believe there are 4 major digital business building activities that help you build your online influence and in turn, grow your business. These 4 activities can also make your online marketing process much more linear.

The 4 C's for Building Your Business Online

1. Content

A digital business strategy without content is really not a strategy. Your content should be the hub of your strategy, even if you're challenged to produce it frequently.

Your content is the conduit for telling your story, and sharing your experiences, insights, and guidance online. It's your content that has the power to move your ideal clients toward wanting to do business with you.

Choose your favorite content formats (text-based blog posts, podcasts, videos) and start publishing that content to a blog if you're not doing so already. You will also want to distribute your content strategically online.

Assuming you've done the work to define your ideal client, the content you create should add value to their lives. It should help your ideal clients answer their questions, address their pain points, solve their problems, or help them achieve more in their personal or professional lives.

Your content is the bait to attract and cultivate relationships with your ideal clients online. It can also be leveraged to retain and strengthen existing client relationships.

2. Connections

Social media offers a tremendous opportunity to connect with clients, prospects, and business advocates. Building your online network is the first step to gaining more access to your connections through the channels where they like to spend time and communicate.

Expanding your online network will expand your visibility, influence, and reach.

The higher quality your network is, the more golden opportunities you will have to add value to the members of your network and build your influence. 

You will also attract more visitors to your blog and subsequently more inquiries into your business if you grow your online network intelligently.

Don’t let a day go by where you’re not focused on growing and improving the quality of your network. If you do this, things will happen for your business as more of the right people learn about who you are, who you help, and how you help.

3. Conversations

It’s great when you have a robust network that is in place and growing, but it’s the actual online networking that can really make an impact on your business.

While you do need to share your content with your network regularly (see #1), don't forget how important it is to actually engage and network with your connections. Connections are not relationships. You have to nurture and develop them into relationships.

Each and every day try to create meaningful dialogue with a handful of your connections. Figure out who within your network that you can connect and introduce for mutual benefit. Reach out, share resources, acknowledge, congratulate, and promote the members of your network. Ask questions and ask for feedback, and send personalized messages to your connections. Ask for advice, and offer something of value in return!

Networking effectively really involves the human touch and adding value to your connections on a 1-to-1 basis. This is a strategy that many online business marketers neglect and it's a way for you to stand out. Show your connections that you are aware and that you care.

Focusing on conversations with your connections will make you more memorable, valuable, and trusted by your network.

4. Campaigns

Ultimately you will want to lead your online connections through a process that helps them realize you are the trusted professional they should be working with. Digital business development campaigns are a great way to do this. Your campaigns can be organic or paid.

Your campaigns can be strategically designed to help you grow your network of targeted connections, followers, and fans. Your campaigns can also be designed to directly convert members of your digital network into actual database contacts through unique online offers and events.

The ultimate goal of developing targeted online campaigns is to move prospective clients into your database and toward a more intimate relationship with you. 

Leveraging digital business campaigns (organic and paid) will move potential clients along a continuum where they are comfortable and confident with contacting you when they have questions or need help.

Once you have a prospective client in your database, you can gather more intelligence about them and you can communicate with them in multiple ways such as private social messaging, email, direct mail, phone, video calls, or even face-to-face meetings.

You will know when you are on the right track with your campaigns when you start receiving consistent opt-ins for your special value-added offers or even inbound inquiries into your business.

Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all solution for which campaigns will work best for you. You will have to test and experiment.

It takes a lot of time, energy, and effort to build your business online, but focusing on these 4 C's will help you create a more linear and scalable path to success!