By Biron Clark
At the beginning of this year, I was generating less than half of what I currently make via my online business, a content website in the career advice and employment niche. When I look back at the difference between now and then, there are six specific changes that stand out as the key drivers of this change.
Here are the six changes I made, and how you can use these same tactics to boost your revenue and profits.
1. Collaborate with competitors
Up until this year, I viewed everyone else in my industry as a competitor. I didn’t attempt to build relationships, and I was always trying to outcompete them. The reality is there are going to be a lot of businesses in your vertical that offer something similar, but that you can work with to mutually benefit. As long as you don’t offer the exact same thing to the exact same audience, it’s likely that there’s room for both sides to grow together and mutually benefit.
So the first key change I made was building stronger relationships with other business owners in my industry, whether it was to create content together, refer customers/leads, or something else. This led to more leads for my business, more exposure online, and more links coming to my website, which led to a higher ranking in Google and even more leads coming in each day.
2. Fewer things, done better
I’m convinced “Shiny object syndrome”—the constant appeal of chasing new opportunities rather than sticking with what you’re already doing—derails more entrepreneurs than anything else in the first one or two years in business. So this year I became great at saying no to new opportunities that didn’t fit the direction I was heading in.
I adopted an abundance mindset and realized there are virtually limitless opportunities and directions I could go in, but that I’d find success only by picking one or two things and perfecting them in my business. I said “no” to everything else, and doubled down on what was already working—and when something wasn’t producing results, I quickly dropped it.
So while it may sound counterintuitive, this year we used fewer social media channels, launched fewer products, produced fewer types of content (and on fewer topics). We became laser-focused and “doubled down” on what was working best, while leaving everything else behind.
3. Talk to your customers
This year I put a consistent effort into reaching out to customers and asking their thoughts of our existing products, as well as their biggest challenges and needs in general. This could have been done by an employee, but since I had never done anything like this before, I chose to do it myself rather than delegating the task to somebody else.
Getting this information from customers completely removes the guesswork from product creation. Now when we create a new product, we know it’s addressing the concerns of our audience. We developed a large file of customer responses to the questions we asked so that we can sort and make sense of the all the data—whether it’s compiling the most asked-about topics, or making note of the specific words/phrases our audience uses. Then, we use those same phrases on our sales pages and other marketing materials. This had a very significant impact on our conversion rates and profitability this year.
4. Measure everything
We never make a change to our sales process (whether it’s our website, an email series we send out, or anything else), without measuring the results before and after. This means we always know if a change was an improvement, or whether we should revert back to what we previously had. The end result has been a boost in conversion rates, email signups, and a lot of other key profit-driving metrics.
If you commit to this process of testing and measuring for a full year, you’ll be able to make “small wins” throughout virtually every part of your sales and marketing process, which will add up to a large gain in revenue and profit by the end of the year.
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5. Working on the business, not in the business
Many small business owners and startup founders are reluctant to give up control or do less day-to-day work—I was one of them. It’s often an issue of not trusting people to do as good a job as you would, or being reluctant to offload a piece of work that you know you’re capable of doing. Why pay someone else to do a task that you know you could do, right?
However, the question isn’t whether you can do it yourself. It’s a question of whether your time is best spent doing it. Ask yourself: Is this task utilizing your main strengths, and is this the role you want to play in your business? If not, find a way to outsource it or delegate it to somebody else.
Eliminating day-to-day work from your schedule will free your time and mental energy to focus on working on your business: building relationships, making high-level strategic decisions, etc.—and that’s where the real money is made. If you’re doing certain tasks in your business each day—answering emails, doing small daily tasks, and taking care of routine duties—you’re losing time that could be spent on those higher-impact activities.
6. Systemize and automate
This has been a bigger key to our success than anything else: We automate with software whenever possible, whether it’s customer onboarding, following up with leads, etc. This has saved everyone in our organization time and energy
If something cannot be automated with software, it should be systemized as much as possible with templates, SOPs (standard operating procedures), etc., and if a task is going to be done more than once, you should create a template or SOP. This includes customer service email responses, content creation, social media, and more.
Having SOPs in place won’t just save you and your team time each week, it will also help you train new staff as you grow, and recover quickly if someone on your team resigns unexpectedly.
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