By Nicole Glynn, Constant Contact

Whether the busy season is just around the corner or you're right in the middle of your busiest time of year — having a plan to make the most of your email and other online marketing programs is the clearest path to success.

That's why we put together this checklist for online marketing success. This guide will help you answer the following questions so you can get the most from your online marketing efforts:

1. How will new customers find your business online?

When you think about how people find businesses today, it usually starts with an online search. At this point, you most likely have a website for your business. That's the first step in making sure you are found. But often times a website is not enough. The ways consumers find information has changed.

In addition to search engines like Google or Bing, consumers are using city guides like Citysearch, review sites like Trip Advisor, and other mobile apps to discover new businesses. This is great news because there are now even more ways for new customers to find you. But, it also creates a bit of problem. There are now more places for you to manage. Many of these listings are automatically generated and can often contain incorrect or out of date information. This incorrect or out-of-date information is not what you want as the first impression someone has with your business.

What this means is that you need to stay on top of your business listings to make sure all information is correct and current. That way you're not missing out on potential new business because of an incorrect listing.

Action items:

• Do a search for your business online using a search engine like Google. Also, search for your business on popular sites like Trip Advisor and yellowpages.com.• Make a list of the places your business turns up. Are you in all the places you expected? Do any of the results surprise you?• Confirm that all of your information is correct and current.• Make a list of any places your business isn't listed but should be.• Update your information regularly to keep listings current.

2. How will you build relationships and stay top of mind?

As you know, customer relationships are crucial to the success of your business. When you're able to keep your business top of mind, you'll be their first choice when they're in the market for what you offer. Great relationships also mean people are more likely to refer you to their friends.

But how do you stay connected with someone after they visit your store or website?

We call it 'engagement marketing' and it works like this: you provide your customers with a "WOW! Experience" in store, on the phone, at an event, or online. Next, you entice your customers to connect with you by joining your email list or interacting with you on social media. Then, you engage with them to deepen existing relationships and create social visibility and word-of-mouth referrals for your business to bring in repeat and new customers. The cycle repeats from there.

Action items:

• Map out your customer process and trace their experience. Look for bumps and glitches that you can easily smooth out. Then, look for one or two places where you can create a WOW! Experience. It doesn't have to be something big. It can be something as simple as how you answer the phone.• Give customers a good reason to connect with you. What's in it for them? Is there something you can offer to sweeten the deal? This could be a special discount, whitepaper, or something else your customer would find valuable.• Make it as easy as possible for customers to connect with you. Include links to your email sign-up form on every page of your website. Make sure every employee is trained to ask people to join your email list. Promote your email list at your place of business — this can be as simple as a paper sign-up sheet on your counter or more high tech ways like allowing people to scan a QR code on their mobile device or send a text message to join your email list.• Keep all of your contact information in one place. This lets you collect more information about your contacts over time. You'll also be able to keep your contacts organised so you can get relevant information in front of the right people

3. How will you get customers to come back again and again?

Engage regularly with your customers; it’s smart business. The more customers engage with you, the more they get to know, like, and trust you. And once you deepen these relationships, these people then become your biggest supporters.

So, how can you keep these customers engaged and reward them for their loyalty? Here are a few ways:

- Use an online survey to find out what information your customers will find relevant- Organise a special event to bring more people to your store- Run a Facebook promotion or sweepstakes- Offer a special deal you know your customers will love and share with their friends

The key is to create a healthy mix of content and promotion. A general rule of thumb is to offer 80 percent content that adds value for your customers and make an offer 20 percent of the time. When you focus on adding value for your customers, they are more likely to act on your offer.

4. How will you encourage customers to tell their friends about you?

You already know how important word of mouth is for your business. The friends and connections of your existing customers make great prospects for new business. Until recently, word-of-mouth referrals happened on a one-to-one basis. But now, thanks to social media, these referrals also happen on a one-to-many basis. As you saw in the "engagement marketing cycle," this increases your business's social visibility, which can lead new business through your door.

So, once you have your great offer, you'll want to make sure you ask people to share it. This could mean forwarding your emails or even sharing them on social media. You could also think about adding an extra incentive to those who take up your offer and share it. Just make it easy for them to share.

Action items:

• Identify which social media networks make the most sense for your business. Start with one to avoid getting overwhelmed. You may also want to survey your customers to see which social networks the majority of them are using and start there.• Follow the 80/20 rule of thumb for your healthy mix of content and promotion on social networks.• Check to see if all of your promotional channels have sharing capabilities

5. How will you track your success?

When you created your offer, you should have also set some goals for your efforts. You'll want to check in to see how things are going. What worked? What adjustments can you make so that things work better? Once you set benchmarks for yourself, you'll be able to implement adjustments moving forward and once again evaluate your success.

Action items:

• Review reports from all of your promotional channels. Look at things like email opens, clicks, forwards, social shares, and registrations. You'll also want to look at how many people claim, buy, share, and redeem your offers.• Identify the things that worked really well. What can you apply in the future?• Identify what didn't work so well. How can you make improvements?• Put together a plan for what you'll try next time to have even greater success