Overseeing an offline company’s first steps into online marketing can be challenging for even the most experienced project manager.

Yet I keep meeting hardworking but inexperienced small business employees who’ve found themselves suddenly thrust into the world of online marketing, usually after heading up the company’s offline promotions.

Not only do they suddenly have a lot to learn about the technical and PR challenges of the online sphere, they also have to project manage the creation of a whole new set of campaigns and commercial factors.

If you’re one of these people, here are some vital tips.

Manage expectations

There’s a prevalent belief that a small amount of investment in online marketing will result in instantaneous success.

Perhaps your boss has received one too many spam emails offering the chance to reach the top of the search engine results pages within 10 days.

Maybe the company has an unworkable idea of the budget required to launch a successful online marketing campaign and expects unrealistic bang for its buck, or perhaps you’re the only employee with vision enough to call for a greater online presence – so you’ve hammed up the potential benefits to your co-workers and even to yourself.

Whatever the case, your first steps should be to work out some realistic goals and deadlines.

Then make sure you communicate those to the rest of the company. Otherwise any later successes could be misinterpreted as mediocre results.

Secure realistic resources

If spending depends on people who don’t understand the online channel, securing a decent budget can be a pain.

But there’s no point starting a project if you aren’t confident that you’ll have the funds in place to finish it. Don’t rely on early outcomes impressing your boss – online marketing like organic SEO can be very slow-burning but requires plenty of initial effort.

So, when you’re drawing up your goals and deadlines, make sure you’ve costed them fully in advance and present the business case for each.

Don’t embark on a project with an unspecified budget; doing so robs you of any control.

Determine your project’s lifecycle

Setting up your company’s online marketing presents a very different set of challenges to managing and improving ongoing campaigns. Treat these phases as very separate.

Do so by setting a deadline for having all your initial tactics in place, whether they are pay-per-click advertising, the beginnings of an organic search strategy, a regular email marketing campaign, or whatever.

Not only will this keep you focused and prevent you drifting from your initial goals, it also draws a line underneath the early days of your campaign.

Otherwise it can be tempting to blame any failures on the newness of the work until your expectations are gradually lowered.

Have a risk management strategy in place

Some online promotional work, such as social media marketing, presents an element of risk. Be confident that you understand the risks involved, have allowed for them and have a coping strategy should the worst happen.

For example, a negative Twitter storm can cost a company its reputation, so ensure there is guidance in place for anyone able to make corporate tweets and plan how you will respond to negative customers in advance.

Don’t assume the biggest agency is best

Chances are you’ll be bringing in some agency help, especially for the more technical aspects of SEO if there’s no in-house expertise.

Finding the right agency is vital – and I don’t just mean finding the most experience for the best price.

You need to find a company that you can work with effectively. Sometimes, a big agency might not be the right fit for your small business as you’ll only be a minor customer to them.

Don’t just consider the presentations these companies make when pitching, think about which individuals you’d prefer to work with.

Communicate all your results

Online success requires buy-in from pretty much every department within an organisation, or every individual if you’re a really small business.

Your colleagues can do a great deal to help you, but a lack of support can be a real hindrance.

That’s why it’s so important to communicate what you’re doing regularly. Send a monthly newsletter, invite people to presentations about your tactics (by the way, providing lunch is a great way to get people along to these), tell co-workers how they can get involved.

All these things engage your colleagues and maintain company support for your work.