When most people think about marketing, they think about the creative aspects of it. (Really, is there any one of us who hasn't imagined how they would create a commercial for their favorite product at some point or another?) But the fact is, creativity is only a small part of strong, responsible marketing. The majority is numbers—figures, statistics, averages, results, metrics, goals—they all play a role in how you market your business.
Now, chances are your company's going to be a bit smaller than, say, Apple or Pepsi, so you probably won't need to get too steeped in research. But there are some baselines you'll want to establish for yourself in terms of setting goals and measuring your success in reaching them. That way, you can understand what's working, figure out what's not, and take any action necessary to improve results. (Goals are typically measured monthly quarterly and/or yearly.) These baselines are as follows:
When you first get your site up and running, some of the goals you'll set will be a bit of guesswork. Of course, you should have an idea of minimum targets you'll need to reach to generate a profit, but setting goals will be easier once you have a better idea of how your audience is behaving on your site. Then you can set goals against previous markers—for example, you can have a goal of increasing this month's time on site by 10% over last month's.
The more detailed you are in keeping track of these goals and measurements, the more power you'll have to make important changes to your site and your marketing that will help improve results. To that end, keep diligent notes of changes that you make to your site and your marketing. If you stop running some ads, for example, and notice an almost immediate drop in unique visitors, then you may want to consider running your ads again. If you promote an online sale and don't see a measurable difference in the number of purchases, it's possible that the sale you're running isn't particularly appealing. The next sale should be more exciting.
Tracking these goals is a simple matter of installing an analytics tracking code into your site (every page of your site, actually). The most popular, by far, is Google Analytics (google.com/analytics ). It's free, and will give you practically all the information on your site that you'll want—at least until your online company gets quite a bit larger. (At that point, you'll want to look into a more powerful tracking system, like WebTrends, comScore or Omniture, but these can be quite expensive. As you get started, Google Analytics will do just fine.)