Don’t you just wish someone would give you a guide to a successful business? A roadmap that tells you exactly what you need to do in order to achieve sales growth?
I know I used to feel like that sometimes. Not when things were going great, but the other times.
The times when everything seems to go wrong and hurdles crop up left, right and centre.
The hours upon hours I spent “networking” in groups and forums trying to drum up sales. Or running small market stands that barely netted me enough sales to pay myself $5 an hour…
Those times, I wished I had a ‘how to’ guide, or a magic wand perhaps!
If you’re in that spot, read on for the 5 strategies that had the biggest impact in my business
I think being a business owner is sometimes a bit like being a parent to a new baby
You absolutely adore your business (or baby). But, like a newborn baby, your business can’t exactly tell you what it needs. And there’s never a ‘right’ way to do it – every business, just like every baby, is unique.
That said, just like a baby needs milk, sleep and lots of love and cuddles, there are some inputs that a successful business absolutely needs.
Here are the the strategies that had the biggest impact on my product-based business in terms of my sales growth and profitability. (Hindsight is a wonderful thing!)
1. Taking a Risk
Starting any business involves an element of risk. But when you start your own product-based business there is definitely a heightened level of risk. For starters, you’re investing large sums of money in stock compared to a service business.
If you’re like I was, and you’ve invented your own product and you’re commercialising that product, then it’s an even greater risk. There are a lot of unknowns.
I absolutely 1000% believed in what I was doing, but trying to convince a bank to give me a loan was bloody hard work! Admittedly it was right before the GFC, but after about 6 months of working with my bank manager I managed to secure some finance for the business.
This enabled us to expand our production and invest a bit in marketing. There’s nothing quite like having a lot of stock and a bank to repay to make you hustle like crazy!!
But in reality – getting finance and expanding production marked our first very big jump in sales growth. Sales growth literally quadrupled in that year alone.
The second part of the risk was following some age-old parenting advice from my Mum and applying it to my business:
“Start as you mean to go on.”
I knew I wouldn’t be able to pick-and-pack orders, for example, and still have time to focus on the marketing activities that would drive growth.
So I chose to spend my time on the highest-impact stuff (the sales and marketing activities that would drive growth) and I started to pay for help with fulfilment and other admin tasks. Even though I couldn’t really ‘afford’ it at the time.
2. Growing (& Marketing To) an Email List
I know I’m all about email marketing so it’s probably a bit predictable that this one would make my list.
But I’m so glad that I made email list building a priority right from the very start in my product based business.
Over time, as I tracked the growth of my email list and tracked the sales I made as a result of my email marketing, it became very obvious what an important asset it was to the business.
If I had a big manufacturing bill I needed to pay? No problems – I’d create an email marketing campaign and the sales would flood in.
Heading into a low sales season? No problems – I’d create another email marketing campaign and the sales would flow in again.
Top Tip: even today – in 2022 – email marketing produces the highest ROI of basically any marketing you can do (3800%)!
Of course, you need to grow that email list in order to be able to generate money from it. And for that, you will need to get traffic to your website using free and paid traffic strategies.
But email marketing remains the most effective way to increase your returns on paid traffic and increase your profitable repeat customer rate.
3. Investing in Photography
When starting out, my team and I literally worked from the dining room table and did everything ourselves. But it soon became pretty clear that a website featuring images we took ourselves looked pretty ‘home made’.
I knew that having amazing images would help position my brand in the minds of my audience. I was going for industry leader position, so we needed to come across in the images as being beautiful quality.
I also wanted my ideal customers (my ‘tribe’) to “see” themselves using the products. My images needed to show regular people in relatable, every-day situations using the products.
And because I wanted my brand to be memorable, I came up with a theme that helped inject a bit of fun, cheeky humour into our images.
I can pinpoint hiring a professional photographer as one of the key stepping-stones to accelerated sales growth.
From memory, I invested in photography about 1 year in and this marked another growth milestone.
The images she produced for us not only made our website look immediately more professional.
Importantly, they helped our website customers to understand what the product was and how to use it. This made it MUCH it easier for them to buy, leading to a big spike in sales growth.
- Sent new images to industry media, landing free publicity in numerous high profile publications;
- Used the images on product packaging, which helped retailers to sell the products more easily and therefore lead to growth in wholesale sales;
- Used the images on expo and trade show stands, again making us look more professional and helping customers to immediately understand what the product was and how to use it.
Getting photography right is absolutely critical to your business success. Humans are hardwired to understand more information more quickly through the use of images! It is one expense that will guarantee a great return on investment!
4. Creating Content Consistently
Anyone who sells online would agree that, without a constant stream of traffic coming to your website, you’ll struggle to make sales.
At first I tried my hand at Google Adwords, and this definitely helped increase our traffic and sales.
But from about my 3rd year in business onwards I also knuckled down and focused hard on improving my SEO (search engine optimisation).
This allowed me to start generating as much free traffic from organic search engine results as I possibly could.
I never noticed any of my competitors did this (at least not consistently), and it showed in our sales results.
Big results showed after about 6 months of consistent content creation and SEO work on my website. I got myself up to position 1 and 2 in the (free) organic search results for my top two key search terms.
From this point onwards, traffic to my website was pretty consistent. And because I also knew my conversion rate, this allowed me to predict with a fair amount of certainty what my sales would be each month.
If you’re running an eCommerce business and not consistently creating relevant new content, you’re definitely leaving money on the table!
Of course, the other side of the content-creation coin is: social media.
Social media has kinda become a bit like the beast that always needs feeding! It’s a constant news cycle.
However, nailing your organic content strategy for social media is an extremely effective way to build brand awareness and to attract and engage your target audience.
Even in my first business, I used ‘brand reps’ as well as photographers to create content for me to use in this way.
But now, I go even harder with brand reps and collecting user generated content (UGC) from customers.
Both kinds of content tend to be way more engaging for your potential customers when presented in the context of ‘social’ media. But also, this method of content creation is super efficient for you as the business owner!
5. Investing in Myself
Save yourself 10,000 hours by leveraging someone else’s success!
Starting a business can sometimes be a bit of a lonely journey – I’m sure I’m not the only person to feel this way!
Sometimes you feel a bit like The Cat In The Hat, juggling all the different balls and hoping you don’t drop one!
And the pressure to have an answer for everything is immense.
I do like having answers to everything but I’ve also always been ambitious and I’m not particularly patient!
So as soon as I could, I got myself a business coach and invested in my own personal development.
My skills soared in some pretty essential areas – from strategy and business planning, to sales and marketing, operations and managing a team.
Learning how to work ON the business instead of IN the business, putting systems and processes in place, saw the business make another big jump in sales growth.
Need help to achieve your own business goals?
It’s impossible to step back and get the objective perspective you need when working out the next big move for your business.
The right coach will support, nurture and guide you through the challenges of a high-growth business. The right coach will also help you lock in a workable plan to achieve your vision.
A plan that is sustainable and enjoyable too.
If you want to get more clarity on your business goals and marketing, jump on the phone and let’s chat! >> catherinelangman.com/work-with-me
Updated 2nd September 2022