Plants require all of the following to be healthy: soil, water, air, light, and fertilizer. Certainly, it is possible for a plant to exist without one of these, but only when all of these are provided does a plant really flourish. The same is true for online businesses. Let’s examine the corresponding elements on the Internet.

Soil: The foundation of any online business is a website. It may be possible to run an online business without a website using eBay, Amazon, Craigslist and other sites to sell products for you, but a website allows you to capture emails, post information about your company, brand yourself, and highlight relevant information about products and services. Its makes you credible and allows you to tell customers why they should do business with you.

Water: Incoming links feed visitors to your website. These can be accomplished using blogs, articles, coupons, directories, press releases and even advertising. The more incoming links you have, the more popular you become, so this also benefits your search engine results. A steady flow of links coming into your website is necessary for growth.

Air: Social media sites like Facebook are like air to your online presence. Both air and water contain the same elements (oxygen and hydrogen), so there is an overlap here as well – using social media to provide links and drive traffic to your website. But Facebook and other social media sites also allow you to breathe new life into your marketing efforts. With Facebook driving more traffic to other websites than Google, it is critical to your overall marketing success that you create a fan page and fully embrace social media as a way to interact with customers.

Light: Video sharing sites like YouTube provide the mechanism for you to grow your marketing efforts by providing how-to information, product demonstrations, testimonials and reviews. YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the Internet, with millions of people looking for information. By embedding these videos back on your own website, the effect can be a rapid generation of customers, just like light causes a rapid generation of plant cells known as photosynthesis.

Fertilizer: Email newsletters, tips, coupons, specials, and reminders can add critical food for growth to your online business. Plants that are given fertilizer (organic or otherwise), produce better foliage and larger fruit than those that do not, and the same is true with websites that are complimented with a regular email campaign.

All of these elements work together to grow your online sales. You’ll notice that search engine rankings are not listed as a marketing element – search engine rankings are the result of doing all of these other things well. More importantly, getting new customers and improving customer retention are also the result of doing each of these things well. Only by using a blend of all these elements can you really grow your online sales.

Detailed information on how to implement each of these elements can be found in my book “Grow Your Online Sales”.