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With another year behind us, 2017 shines like a blank canvas waiting to be filled; but whether it’s filled with successes or failures often comes down to whether or not we have a plan. We all have our new years resolutions to help us become better human beings but what about our businesses. How do we apply that same zest for self-improvement towards our our business goals? Let’s take a look at 3 business hacks to achieve exponential growth this year.
Not so long ago the concept of working from home was a bit avant-garde; while today “working from home” or working for a company with remote or distributed teams are common place. Automattic, Buffer, Zapier, Groove, InVision, and Help Scout are just a few examples of companies with distributed teams. “Why is this important for exponential growth?” Well, we’re glad you asked.
Since the 90’s the internet has been revolutionizing almost every aspect of our lives and one of the most profound ways is it’s brought the world together all browsing and buying on one big worldwide marketplace. The opportunities for small businesses online are as big as the world, and those businesses utilizing these opportunities are growing hand-over-foot.
The two biggest impacts distributed teams can have on businesses is 1) they help to utilize global talent and 2) they allow a business to cover multiple time zones.
Utilizing global talent
If you think of internet giants like Facebook, Twitter or Google you undoubtedly associate these businesses with Silacon Valley: The tech center of the world. But the irony of the situation is that for these businesses, and most internet businesses, having everyone in one place is absolutely un-needed. In theory, the large majority of all 60,000 Google employees could really be working from anywhere in the world that has access to the internet.
The larger issue for small business though, is how do you compete for talent when the average salary for a Software Engineer in Silicon Valley is making $134,000/yr. The short answer, you don’t! Although Silicon Valley may be home to some of the most talented minds, the world is full of exceptional people. By opening your business up to worldwide talent you can find equally brilliant minds at a fraction of the price. This means that you can spend your much needed extra cash on building better products in 2017; not bean-bag chairs and salaries that can afford $4,500/month apartments in the Bay Area.
With sites like Upwork.com, 99designs.com and yours truly: CodaStudio.com there are plenty of options for finding quality help from around the world.
Cover multiple time zones
With a distributed team you have the ability to support clients around the world in their timezone and if you wish even in their native language. This little shift can provide huge growth opportunities for your products or services. In fact, by opening yourself to larger worldwide markets you have the added benefits of paying lower costs for just about everything. At CodaStudio, we found that doing paid ads in the US cost about 3 times what they cost in Europe and Australia with the same effectiveness. That means that we were paying a third of the price to acquire customers that were outside of the US.
Managing a global team however is not all rainbows and unicorns and, if the thought of managing a global team gives you a headache, you’re not alone. Keep in mind however that there are countless technologies that help to keep teams connected and collaborating. Asana, Slack, and Intercom are just a few of our favorites for staying connected with our team and keeping things organized. It does take a bit of work and a slight shift in how you may be used to doing things but we’re convinced that with this business hack 2017 is going to be remembered as the year your business really took off.
Customer support has always been a major part of doing business. Since the beginning of time, business 101 has told us, “the customer is always right,” and” the mark of an exceptional business is exceptional support.” So why do so many businesses online seem to fail in this regard? Well, we think this needs to change and will be the hallmark of what separates those who fail and those who succeed in 2017. If you’re looking for exponential growth, this is probably a good place to start!
So, what does exceptional customer support look like? Well, it doesn’t mean just answering product requests once a week! It means being available and providing multi-channel methods for communication and feedback. It means finding ways of solving customer problems before the problems exist, and it means a constant refinement of your product or services based on the growing and changing needs of your audience.
New technologies and services are being created daily and how they effect our lives and businesses can sometimes be dramatic. Static businesses that make decisions by committee and pivot slowly are a dying breed. Modern businesses need to be able to adapt and flow with the changes in technology and this sometimes means playing nice with others.
“change is the only constant in life.”
This couldn’t be more true then for the world wide web. The need for “integrations”, “extensions”, and “plugins” has never been more important and if you’re business isn’t playing nicely with businesses your customer appeal diminishes. With so many services and options popping up daily, customers look to the ones the integrate well with the services they’re already using; and what really is “customer support” if not finding new ways of “supporting customers.”
While this may initially seem like a major hurdle for a small business, with limited resources, it can actually provide huge added value to your product/service. By not needing to do everything you can focus on what your exceptional at and then partner/integrate with the services that make your product even better. We’re only as strong as our weakest link and if we’re able to focus on what we’re exceptional at, and let go of those things we’re not, then we’re able to provide a product that truly stands out from the crowd. Exponential growth… yes please!!
We all know the importance of marketing, and although there are countless guides on becoming better marketers, the challenge for small businesses is choosing the most effective forms of marketing that drive results. What most businesses struggle with however, is that they spend money on marketing that doesn’t seem to do much of anything. But just how you wouldn’t buy the engine out of a car and expect it to take you places, marketing is rarely effective without approaching it from a holistic point of view.
Holistic marketing is looking at the pieces that make up online marketing and then prioritizing the most effective forms of marketing for the current stage and goals of your business.
Here’s a look at the pieces that make up Effective Online Marketing:
- Industry research (including keyword research)
- Targeted Site copy (including keywords)
- Paid ad’s (Googe, Facebook, etc…)
- Content Marketing
Below we’ll dive into each one of these forms of marketing to better understand it’s place and how you can utilize it for exponential growth in 2017.
Industry Research is pretty standard but it’s amazing how many businesses skip this step. Although you may be passionate about your product/service, it’s important to identify the ways in which your audience is going to relate to, and thus find, your product/service. This insight is going to help you stay focused, be more effective, and ultimately save money when addressing other areas of marketing.
Targeted Site Copy
Another major piece that most businesses simply overlook is the effective use of their site copy. The difficulty most business owners have in describing themselves and their product is that they’re simply to comfortable, knowledgeable and, in other words, too close to what they’re trying to sell. Thus, their site content tends to reflect this tone. Depending on your market it may be appropriate to have technical lingo on your site but this is the insight industry research is going to provide; who your customers are and how to communicate with them most effectively.
Without truly understanding your customers you can easily spend $1000 month on paid marketing, bringing people to your site, but if you’re not “speaking their language,” they’re not going to convert. In most cases it can be helpful to higher a professional copywriter to help you to speak to your audience in the appropriate way. Regardless of who does your site content, you’ll want to make sure that it’s rich with the relevant keywords you uncovered during the research phase.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is widely misunderstood. Most people, when talking about SEO are simply referring to keywords and making sure you’re using the appropriate number of h1, h2 tags. But, by definition, SEO refers to anything that optimizes your site in search and, in reality, Keywords and H1 tags are only a small part of what makes your site look good in the eyes of Google.
Turns out there are over 200 factors that Google uses to rank a website (here’s a link if your interested in seeing all 200) but for us mere mortals, here’s a list of some of the most important ones to pay attention to when addressing SEO:
- Site Speed
- Mobile optimization
- Responsive site design
- Quality site content (determined by how long people are staying on your site)
- Relevant keywords (as well as keyword placement and use)
- Inbound and Outbound site links
- Security (SSL Certificate)
We’re not going to take the time to dive into each one of these items and there’s enough out there on the topics already, but if you find yourself unsure of where to start when trying to improve your site SEO this list is a good place to start.
Most site owners have tried, and been burned by, some sort of paid ads. Meaning that they spent a bunch of money and nothing happened. This is because in most cases they skipped directly to this step, usually because it’s easy, before addressing the earlier points. So when a user clicks on their site and they find an unusable, slow to load, confusing site, they leave. More so, without the knowledge gained through industry research, your ads become generic and don’t effectively target your unique audience and their pain points. Assuming you have done all of the above, then and only then, paid ads can be a great source of immediate traffic for your otherwise invisible site.
When building CodaStudio we used paid ad’s, in the beginning, to test the idea of our business. One of the Lean Startup principles is to “Fail Faster,” which is essentially a way of quickly testing whether the market really want’s and values what you’re selling. In the beginning of CodaStudio, by using paid ads, we were able to acquire customers and more importantly customer feedback, to realize that our business wasn’t just something that sounded good on paper, but was something people were excited about.
Besides testing our idea, paid ad’s helped to draw traffic to our blog before it really was able to get going by itself. Content marketing, in the long term, is generally the more effective form of marketing but, where paid ads are immediate, content marketing takes time. Why we feel content marketing is the better long term approach to marketing is that not only does it provide immediate value to your customers in exchange for nothing it also helps to build your reputation as an authority in your given industry.
Though last, content marketing is far from least in the regards to marketing effectiveness. In fact, some argue that if you were to do one form of marketing it should be in the form of content. Content marketing is the creation of original content that generally relates to your brand or mission. Its the voice of your business and should be informative and creative not just demonstrating your knowledge in a particular field but giving personality and a voice to your otherwise life-less online business.
In the past 5-10 years content marketing has primarily referred to written content but with social media, and the rise of video, content is being created in all shapes and sizes. Though written content is definitely easier to produce, though good content is by no means “easy to produce,” we believe we’re going to see a dramatic increase in video content in 2017. If you’re looking for creative ways of sticking-out this year, video might just be your ticket to increased traffic.
With content marketing there is generally two ways to go about it. The first is to just write the content yourself. You are, in fact, the most knowledgeable person about your business but, on the other hand, it doesn’t mean your a good writer. So the second option is to hire a content creator. This is someone who helps to create content for you as either a ghost writer, where you take credit for the work, or a contributing author to your site. Either way you pay them, but depending on how you want to position yourself, both options have pros and cons.
At CodaStudio we decided to go both routes of writing our own content but also by working with professionals in the industry to write original content for us as well. The importance thing isn’t usually who writes the content but that it’s relevant to your audience and follows some sort of content marketing plan. You want to make sure your content is in line with your industry research and that you’re addressing the pain points of your audience, not just talking about what you want to talk about or your recent trip to Vegas. Keep is short, relevant and entertaining and you really can’t go wrong.