Want a repeatable sales process? You’ve got to track metrics.
But not just any old metrics. Track the numbers that matter – the ones that help you really evaluate how you’re doing and give you insight so you can make better decisions.
You don’t need to go overboard and track everything – unless that gets you excited, in which case you have my permission. (And let’s hang out.)
But there are 5 key metrics you don’t want to forget:
Moola – revenue and profitability
Ah, revenue. We love you. We get excited about “six-figure launches” and sustainable, high producing sales processes. Revenue is easy to track (just look at your bank account) and it’s fun to watch and report. The more revenue you bring in the better you’re doing, right?
Not necessarily. Revenue alone is only part of the equation.
Along with the grand total revenue number, there’s a little thing called profitability. It’s easy to ignore in all the excitement of a sales campaign, but it’s really the more important of the two metrics. It’s the amount of revenue you actually get to keep and spend (ahem – reinvest) in the future.
If you want a repeatable sales process, track sales expenses right alongside revenue:
- What did all those Facebook ads cost?
- How many labor hours did you add to the budget to support this campaign?
- Did you buy new software or pay for graphics?
- What about payment processing fees and hidden expenses?
Add up the expenses and subtract them from the revenue. That’s your profit – and it’s a super important metric for decision making. That six-figure launch of your dreams might not be as profitable (after the advertising spend required to get that revenue) as a simple promotional campaign to your existing list or a joint venture with a strategic partner.
List Growth – who they are and how they found you
Promotion (done right) does more than sell your products and services. It expands your reach and grows your audience. In fact, list growth can be the most important result of a sales campaign in terms of creating a repeatable, reliable sales process for your business.
So make sure you track the numbers, okay? But don’t stop there.
I suggest you take the time to dive a little deeper and get to know the new people on your list. Some may fit your ideal client profile for this campaign while others may be looking for another of your products or services. Still others joined because they were intrigued with your mission or message but they aren’t ready to do much about it yet.
When you discover who they are (and how they found you) you can begin to build a closer relationship with them – and create reliability in your sales process.
Traffic – it’s not all created equal
Traffic is a good thing, right? More eyes on your website, more people engaging with your promotional materials, content, and webinars. You can find lots of advice from sales gurus and experienced marketers encouraging you to drive more and more traffic to your stuff so you can get better results.
Sorry, I’ve gotta do a little myth busting here.
You want more sales and more brand engagement, not necessarily more traffic. Volume doesn’t matter as much as quality – and quality is all about engagement.
There are a lot of tools to help you track the sources of your online traffic – which I call traffic paths. Google Analytics is one of my favorites. With just a little practice you can dig into the details – and get insight into how people engage with your stuff once they land on it. Once you’re armed with that information, you can make decisions about which traffic paths to expand which to move away from or minimize. After all – the more you know about which of your traffic paths is the healthiest, the more reliable your results will be.
Conversion rates – break down the results strategically
Okay, let’s get serious about marketing metrics and take those traffic numbers we’ve just talked about and put them to work. (Caution: Math Trigger Warning) Time to figure out the conversion percentage for each main marketing channel you usually use.
Hang with me, this is good stuff. I promise.
Let’s talk hypothetically about a typical promotional sales campaign with traffic paths that include Facebook advertising, email marketing, a free webinar, and a series of blog posts. All this stuff can feel like a ton of work – especially when you only have a small team to implement all of it.
Many people I speak to (post campaign) use words like “simplify” and “avoid burnout” when sharing goals for future sales cycles. They want to scale back the effort without scaling back the results. But, it’s pretty tough to do that without an analysis of conversion rates by tactic.
Here’s how you do it:
- Determine your traffic numbers by tactic (i.e. how many people came to your site from Facebook ads).
- Determine how much of that traffic converted into a sale (i.e. how many of the Facebook ad people bought your stuff).
- Divide the conversion number by the traffic number for that tactic to get the conversion rate (the math part).
Yes – it takes a little planning (so you can gather the information you need) and a little math but the results are rich. Once you know that your email marketing campaign converts at 11% but Facebook ads only convert at 2% (for example) you can make decisions on how to invest your resources – and spend money building and nurturing your list in between promotions rather than buying ads during the campaign. Powerful stuff, isn’t it?
Customer Acquisition Cost – not for the faint of heart
The big kahuna of sales campaign metrics is this one – How much did you pay to acquire each new customer? It takes a little more math to get this number, but it’s worth the effort because once you know this you can create a reliable, repeatable sales process for your business.
One you know how much money you need to invest in Facebook (or email marketing, blog content creation, promotional webinars, etc.) to get a single new customer you can totally scale your sales system.
- If every $5 you spend on Facebook ads yields one direct sale of $50 is a pretty good deal. You may want to invest more heavily in Facebook ads. (CAC = $5)
- If it takes $500 in Facebook ads to fill a webinar (with 100 people) that yields 10 sales of $50 each (CAC of $50) you might need to think a little longer about using a webinar in the future.
It’s not the size of the customer acquisition cost (CAC) that is most important. It’s the size relative to the revenue generated per sale. A CAC of $5 that represents 10% of revenue generated per sale is just fine. It’s okay to have a CAC of $50 that represents 10% of revenue generated per sale too. But when your CAC is 100% of the revenue generated per sale, you’ve got a problem.
Head spinning with numbers and not sure where to start? That’s ok! Let me help you create a Simple Sales System to get repeatable results (without too much math). Learn more here.
Finding the right business coach is a tricky thing.
A few weeks back I came across an interesting discussion on Facebook. Someone had made the decision to move forward with getting support with growing their business. They met a popular business coach and everything sounded great! It was an investment, but this business owner knew she needed to invest in their business to take it to the next level.
But as their coaching experience started it felt… off.
Instead of a personalized approach, she got a series of calls full of exercises and homework that were time-consuming and didn’t get results. She sometimes felt like she was being sold to, and at the end of their time together she hadn’t met any of the outcomes she and her coach had agreed would be exciting goals.
I was sorry to hear this story of underwhelming results from business coaching, but unfortunately, it’s not unique.
Many women I speak with have spent thousands of dollars on disappointing coaching experiences. Their coaches ask them to set intentions, track results and do basic ideal client exercises but unless you’re a beginner, their work doesn’t get big results.
There’s a simple reason for this that we need to talk about:
Most business coaches are life coaches with business experience. They have little to no training or experience in improving business results.
Does this mean that a life coach can’t be helpful to a business owner?
Hell no! A skilled life coach can help you stop sabotaging yourself, process your feelings about your work, and design a way to work that feels better to you.
Does that mean that your life coach should help you with your marketing or profitability problems?
Hell no! Someone without business or marketing training – life coach or not – may be helpful if they’ve made a study of business and you have a similar style of business and target market. Otherwise, at best you’re getting armchair psychology and personal opinion.
Fact: Marketing, profitability and conversion optimization – turning views into customers – are specialized, learned skills that take years to understand and apply in real time.
When we ask for advice from people who haven’t studied marketing, that person does not have the tools to tell you why your sales page doesn’t sell, why your launch is faltering or why your social media fans aren’t turning into customers.
Their good results will not necessarily become your good results. You may not pass Go. You will be lucky if you only spend $200. Believe their lengthy disclaimer.
The bottom line is that we can all do better.
As customers, it’s our job to ask questions that make our consultants think. We owe it to ourselves to find out who sounds good, and who really is the right business coach for us. As ethical professionals, it’s our jobs to be clear about what we can and cannot help with.
That way everyone wins.
Here are five BIG questions I wish everyone would ask to make sure they hire the right business coach for them:
- “What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your business, or that you’ve helped clients tackle?”
Ask for specific stories or examples, beyond buzz words like “I’ve helped to increase sales.” For what kind of businesses? Over what time frame? How many people did they have on their team? Using what methods?
- “How do you market your business?”
What is the time commitment for them, and do they have support? What other approaches do they recommend for clients who don’t have the same expertise and support as they do?Inexperienced coaches apply one tactic to all clients. No matter what that client’s resources, target market, or work style is.
If a potential coach doesn’t have other strategies to suggest, it’s likely that their methods only work for some of their clients. Ask for clarification on why, how and when they recommend a specific approach. If it sounds like they don’t have other ideas or can’t explain the principles on the fly, run.
- “What kinds of activities do your clients do between calls to meet their goals?”
A potential coach should be able to name specific examples of actions would help you step toward your business goals. Setting intentions is a great first step in a first phone call, but you already have the intention to increase sales! You don’t need someone to tell you to cultivate that. Concrete changes like adjusting your sales page based on your work and monitoring conversion rates are what you should be listening for.
At the end of February, I had the chance to hop down to Mexico with some whip-smart boss friends I’d made through business and blogging over the years. Most of us hadn’t met in real life before the trip, but as soon as we arrived we slipped into a rhythm of sharing stories and ideas alongside with belly laughs and heart-to-heart moments.
We spent the week making meals in our hotel room, lounging in the private pool on our deck (yes please!), staying in our PJ’s all day and otherwise nerding out. We talked about having a long term online presence, personal branding, our dreams for the future, content marketing, online courses, SEO, conversion rate testing, publishing books, storytelling and Facebook ads.
You know. Typical internet girl talk!
These ladies are all exceptional humans and badasses at their work, so enjoy meeting them and a sample of their work to bookmark for later reading:
From left to right:
Katie Lee, author & lifestyle Designer from Hey Katie Lee (Read her post: THIS is your WHOLE life)
Kathleen Shannon, designer & podcaster from Braid Creative & Being Boss (Listen to: Being Boss, read How you do anything is how you do everything)
Sarah Von Bargen, writer & business consultant from Yes and Yes & her small business blog (Read: What you’re really seeing when you see success online)
Sarah Morgan, designer & online teacher from XO Sarah (Read: Seven questions to ask when your passion based biz starts to feel like work)
I learned so much from them. And so much about how writing is such a huge part of all of our lives.
Speaking with them made me realize that while I write here almost every week, I’ve almost entirely stopped telling personal stories.
While I want to share actionable listical posts that help thrive, I don’t want to do that without sharing more of the why.
I want to talk about why it’s worth pouring yourself into your passions.
And what it actually takes and costs to get a project off the ground.
About how the nuts and bolts of making a living from your blog, or from a business that’s tied to a blog truly work.
I want to talk about what it’s like to launch your thing and hope it soars.
Or, more realistically, how to launch your big idea by throwing it in the air as high as you can and then running underneath it, knocking at it with a broomstick to keep it in the air until it finally catches the wind and soars on its own. (Also known as the story of everyone’s first several passive income products.)
So keep an eye out for me. I’ll be in this story and in more to come.
Alright, on to the listical reflections you’re used to.
Here’s some of what the trip taught me:
Break out of your routine to shake up your creativity
There’s nothing like a change of pace to help you see what’s not crucial to your work. Getting a break from my routine (and the Internet, thank you Mexican providers) helped me remember how I can design and decide every aspect of my work experience.
In the past few weeks, I’ve pulled back from blogging to examine my choices, and what gets me results. I’m simplifying and focusing on what moves the needle in my business, and I’m saying no to everything else. I’m calling it an obligation vacation, and it’s been the best!
You can’t find your people without reaching out.
Spending time with people who have shared experiences – even if that experience is navigating online work and life solo for many years – is incredibly life-affirming. I filled pages and pages with notes, wrote down blog names to explore, books to read, and generated more ideas than I have in years.
Keep looking for your people, and to find them, reach out to people you aren’t sure are your people. Be yourself and reach out. Show up with your signature kindness, share your searing sarcasm. Like everything, or like nothing. Just be exactly who you are, but give people an opportunity to sign up for that by connecting with them where you already love to be. And that can be inside Instagram, at your favourite coffee shop or inside a boardroom.
When you find someone you click with? Make face time a priority, hop on Skype with each other, take a road trip and soak them up. They’ll light the best kind of fires in you.
Do what you love with tenacity, while checking what works.
One of the things that kept coming up was that everyone is figuring this out as they go along. We’re all learning about new ideas and tactics, and trying them out as best we can. We’re all following our interests and passions, and seeing where they lead. (more…)
Content creation is always on my mind. If you write online or communicate for a living, it’s probably always on your mind too. Especially if you’re a blogger, and most especially if you’re a new blogger.
I’m not a new blogger. I started my first blog in 1998, writing personal stories several times a week. Other blogs came and went before I started KylaRoma.com, but I’ve never stopped writing somewhere for more than a few weeks since.
For many bloggers & small business owners, the question “What will I post next?” is a constant, gentle hum in the back of their minds.
Over time, my relationship with that question has changed, and now it feels like a wise friend, gently checking in on me.
But for many of the business owners and bloggers (and for me in the past!) the question “What will I post next?” feels more like a threat. Or if not a threat then like a question asked by an insistent, judgemental distant relative.
As a blogger and business owner, the best way I’ve found to change my relationship with content creation is through planning.
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No matter how much or little I write each month, even 10 minutes of planning a week can make an enormous impact on its success and how much it helps my audience.
One of the hidden downsides of being passionate about what you do is that you live in the details. If you’re anything like me, that means that you see an enormous list of improvements, ideas and new possibilities to explore in any project you take on.
When you want to grow your small business or blog, it sounds like a dream problem – but endless possibilities are overwhelming.
That’s where many thoughtful business owners, creatives and bloggers get stuck.
If you don’t know what actions drive results for your business or blog, you’re stuck.
Stuck looks different for different people. For some brainy babes it means months (or years) of research, or taking class after class. For you it might mean pursuing many ideas at once, steadily drifting into social media, being chronically overbooked or not raising your prices.
Growth doesn’t happen by accident, so don’t leave yours to chance! Click to tweet it
In fact, I think you owe it to your ideas and the people they could help to get un-stuck!
If you’re ready to shake off the distractions figure out what drives your work forward, then here are three ways to spend your time that are a great start to getting unstuck.
Three ways to grow your small business or blog today:
Choose a single result to help your readers or customers accomplish
If you’re a blogger or business owner, you might be overflowing with ideas. You may also be drawing a blank because you don’t know where to start. My advice is to stop agonizing and start taking action, now.
Here’s the key: Choose one result that you’ll help readers or customers accomplish in the next two weeks.
You can use this to create a content upgrade for your blog or website, such as an opt-in freebie for signing up for a newsletter. You can also use it to create a paid product or service.
This next result you’ll help customers achieve produces ideas you can take action on now. They’re tangible, actionable and your new two week long production time constraint means they have to be compact.
Try to imagine a result you can easily create for your customer, like “an outfit she loves” or “her new brand colours”. These are easy for your customer to imagine and are intensely useful. And useful always wins.
Stop obsessing about the format
I get it. As a maker, it’s hard to imagine helping someone without imagining how you’re going to get that help to them. It feels necessary. If you’re going to write an eBook, you want to become and expert on eBooks before you start.
Here’s the problem: Your ideas are what’s crucial. Their format is a distraction.
If you don’t give your ideas the time and energy to develop, they will suffer. And if your ideas aren’t effective, their format doesn’t matter. Ultimately, your readers and customers don’t care how you create results for them, they just want the results.
If you’re a graphic designer, you can deliver logos by hot air balloon, but the logo is still what your clients will want once the hot air balloon lands. The logo is what’s crucial. Sourcing hot air balloons before you tell anyone you design logos is a distraction.
The simple truth is that the right format for your next big thing is any you can manage within two weeks.
If there’s a format that will make it easier for your customers or readers to succeed, go with that. Otherwise, choose a way to deliver your results that you already know you can pull off. There is no wrong answer.
Consider the format after you’ve spent hours working on your great idea. Know how you’re going to help, why your readers or customers aspire to solve this problem and how you’re going to sell the idea first. Trust that the best format will become apparent as you hone your ideas, and decide to skip spending hours on it before you start.
Remember: People care about results. Deliver a result and you build trust. Deliver a half-formed idea, product or result with a clever mechanism and people will still feel let down.
Get your good ideas in front of audiences the size of yours or smaller.
Complicated solutions make us feel smart, but most of the time a simple action is all that a problem needs to be solved. Even when it comes to growing your business or blog.
But for many small business owners and bloggers, finding new customers and readers feels like a mysterious task. That’s because it’s new and specialized, but they’re learned skills you can master.
The reality is that you don’t need to know fancy gatekeepers, have different skills or get published in Huffington Post to succeed. You can start thriving now.
If you can write a blog post and an email, you already have what it takes. (Really!)
Even if your audience is friends and family right now, you can to double or triple your audience with a little effort. And that kind of growth over time is what create big blogs and healthy businesses!
Start by emailing bloggers with an audience the size of your website or bigger with ideas for guest posts. Look for a way to fill a gap in their content or bring a different voice to the discussion.
If you can offer one-click subscription or a content upgrade (email opt-in freebie) on your website, so much the better. You’re already on the path to growth.
It’s easier to grow your small business or blog than you think. It might mean acting differently than you have before, but the pay-off is absolutely worth it!
Hop over to the comments and let us know: what’s one thing that works for your blog or business right now?
I never expected to become a small business owner, but I’ve been full-time self-employed since 2009. (I know, it’s a million years in internet time!) Still, how my work looks day-to-day has changed a lot over time. I’ve gone from having a studio, being a web designer and working with a big team of freelancers to now working from a cozy home office, just me and my clients. While most of those changes happened slowly, this year has been particularly big, stressful and exciting in my life and business. How much happened?
Just to name a few milestones, I…
- Ended my longtime business partnership
- Wrapped up work with my final web design clients
- Took a month off to explore Europe with my husband
- Apprenticed as a strategist under my mentor, Tara Gentile
- Launched my new business as a business strategist!
- Published as much useful, actionable content as I could muster while figuring everything out on the fly!
And no, I’m not super human. There were also many late nights, tears to dry and walks around the block to try and clear my head.
This is my last post for 2015 this year before taking a break until January. With that in mind, I want to share a few lessons I learned this year and the biggest takeaways that might help you learn from my experience, wins and missteps.
1. I don’t say yes to anything I’m not willing to do today.
What do you imagine when you think about what your life will be like in the years to come in the future? On some level, I bet that part of you imagines a life when you’ll have more free time, more hobbies and less stress. (I know that’s what I do!)
Since that time hasn’t arrived yet in my life, this year I tested a thought experiment that “tricks” me into making decisions that are a better fit for me.
Here’s the shortcut: When I make decisions about what I’ll do in my work or what goals I set, I ask myself if I’m willing to do that today. If it is, I move forward. If it’s not, I decline.
It’s helped me get really clear on my priorities, and on what commitments sound good in the moment, but aren’t really a fit for my life. I’m focusing on what I can do now, instead of what I might do later, and I’m adding daily habits into my life that reflect that.
Takeaway: Your success is directly tied to how willing you are to take action, even if you don’t feel like it. Taking action in a small way today, even with 15 minutes of your time, is a bigger accomplishment than the big dreams you never put into action.
2. Ending a business partnership with a friend is hard – but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think.
At the end of 2014, I ended a 5+ year business partnership with my best friend, Leigh-Ann Keffer. After running day-to-day operations of web design business I’d fallen in love with running the business, teaching online. I also fell out of love with design, and of being a small business owner with another person, no matter how much I like that person.
The initial conversation was hard, but we soon realized that it didn’t have to end our friendship. We resolved to make sure that we ended our work together in a way that honoured the spirit of our friendship. We ended the business by announcing it online with a joint podcast expressing our respect for each other and a mini-website to explain the split. Of everything we did together, I’m most proud of how we stuck the landing on ending the business.
It wasn’t easy, but going back to being a one woman shop has been wonderful. I love the independence, rediscovering how I work best and the glorious lack of meetings! Now when I see my former business partner we get all the great parts of our friendship without the stress, and that’s been a gift too.
Takeaway: Working with caring people is good for business, especially when the going gets tough, or things come to an end. Successful relationships can end without having a winner and a loser. Everyone can win if you pick the right people for your team.
3. You don’t have to wait for the right time, and you’re capable of more than you know.
If you’re a high achiever like me, you might fall into the pattern of wanting to do things right… so you decide to wait for the right time. Which may or may not never arrive. This year, it surprised me to find that “the right time” doesn’t matter as much as I thought. In fact, and there’s huge power in taking action now.
If there was ever a year that my business should have faltered in, 2015 was it. I took a month-long holiday in Europe, left an established business and spent most of my year training to become a strategist. I also wrote more than I had in years, launched an online course and mastermind program.
In the end, I exceeded my goals and had my strongest year in business yet. Now, I’m going to be real with your: I’m not super human, there were many naps and tears too! But it was a year of amazing change and growth.
The crucial change was that instead of trying to do more in my business, I focused on doing things that were more meaningful. I looked for what would make getting other things done easier (aka. Force multipliers) and focused on the big, meaningful goals in my calendar instead of dozens of tiny tasks. I often get overwhelmed by lots of little details, so the big picture inspiration helped me do more with a lot less stress.
Takeaway: Instead of trying to do more every day, try focusing on the big, meaningful things that you can work toward every week. As you break out the main events into tasks to work on each week, the smaller pieces along the way will take care of themselves.
4. Getting a mentor is much less expensive than being a part-time small business owner & part-time economist/mad scientist/marketing psychic/crying and stressed out person.
Becoming a licensed business strategist was wonderful and intense. It meant that every week I was working on my business live with my mentor and other savvy business owners. It was an exhilarating and eye-opening experience, and it was also the best money that I’ve ever spent as a small business owner.
It also helped me realize that reinvent the wheel is about as effective as having money bonfire.
A lot of the work that freelancers and small business owners attempt to take on, and often get stuck on, is incredibly specialized and really slippery!
Working in isolation and inventing solutions on your own takes dozens upon dozens upon dozens of hours. I used to do this too. I’d design my own systems and hope my business would change. What I didn’t add into the equation is that this approach was costing me a huge amount in lost income, year over year.
Taking courses and getting one-on-one support in my business this year has transformed my confidence and profitability. Putting someone’s experience to work for you lets you fast forward through a huge part of the learning curve. If you’re considering going full-time or trying to earn money from your project, a mentor is a fast way to make sure you’re on the right track.
Even better? When you find the right person, it makes work get really fun.
Takeaway: If you invest a lot of time in any area of your life – including business – consider investing some money. By learning from someone with a proven track record, you can fast forward your journey and shake off what’s holding you back.
5. Habits make worry obsolete.
The most helpful book I read this year was Better Than Before, by Gretchen Ruben. It explores how different people have respond to inner and outer obligations, and how to work with that through a personal approach. (Have you taken the official quiz to find out your habit tendency? I’m a questioner – share your tendency in the comments below!)
It’s fascinating, and has helped me start working out every day and start writing every day for the first time ever. Highly recommended holiday reading, if you need something to geek out over.
One of her points is that if you set and commit to the right habits, great outcomes take care of themselves. You can stop worrying about big areas of your life when you have positive habits that govern them.
This was a huge lightbulb moment for me. I’m an idea generator, and that can mean that I endlessly run through possibilities in my mind – including worries. (I’ve got an anxiety disorder, after all!) To change that I’ve shifted my mindset to stop looking at habits as obligations. Now I see them as a way to eliminate worry and automate my goals.
A small example is that I now write every day. It means I never have to worry about getting blog posts and content upgrades done, because they happen automatically. (more…)