Scaling to the next level isn’t just a matter of spending more money on your business. In fact, sometimes, it means spending less. Nor is it spending six months in counseling, building your confidence, or taking a multi-thousand-dollar Law of Attraction course. The good news about Scaling is that it is just a simple, seven-step business process that any entrepreneur can put in place. If you take the time to implement these seven steps, any confidence issues will take care of themselves as you see the results and bask in the knowledge that you know exactly where your business is at all times. And you’ll find that people will be attracted to your impressive powerhouse of a business. So, are you ready to hear about these seven powerful ways to scale your business up to the next level? Then let’s start!
Step One: Document and Systematize Every Process
Systems might not sound sexy, but the time they save you certainly is! For any process you do more than once – whether it’s sending a welcome email or setting up a new Facebook ad – a documented system will save you time and allow you to get more done. Why should you take time to document your business processes and procedures? For one thing, you only need to do it once. When a process or task is documented, you should never have to explain it again; never have to relearn how to do something, over and over; never drag your brand down by letting your business suffer from that real brand killer, inconsistency. Documenting your processes and procedures allows you to:
- Simplify and standardize repetive tasks
- Prevent miscommunication
- Streamline and free your time
- Avoid having to start over
It’s not good enough just to have your VA know what to do and how to do it: If she leaves or is suddenly unavailable due to illness or family emergency, and she is the only one who knew how to implement what you need done, the way you like it, you risk not being able to efficiently tell your next VA what to do — and what it should look like. This may be true even if you are using a VA who has back-up staff. If your VA herself hasn’t documented your system — and all the changes and tweaks you have made to it – you may still have to explain everything all over again to her representative. The result? You end up trying to explain a process you didn’t personally handle, or taking time out of your schedule to create and give detailed instructions. Part of streamlining your business involves making back-up plans for emergencies. These happen: Illness, tornados, hurricanes, power surges, hardware failure and the like. Most of us know to back up our websites and content – but have failsafe back-up plans for your systems and procedures too, so you can deal with emergencies – and be able to instantly expand your team at any time. Follow these two basic but sound practices:
|For every process you perform…||For every piece of software or online platform you invest in…|
|Record the steps and specs||Locate and download the official manual|
|Print out and enter these in your Master Business Manual||Save these in their own directory|
|Share the spec sheet or style sheet with your VA||Share it with your VA as part of her welcome package|
The rule is, document once for every new procedure, system or practice. And if you don’t have a Master Business Manual, it’s a good idea to create one! This is a record of all your important business documents, preferably printed out in a binder as well as online. Some information – such as your LastPass or RoboForm master password – you won’t want to keep online. A separate page for it inside your hard-copy MBM is a perfect place to store it. You can use your MBM to document:
- Logins and passwords
- Style guides for content and graphics
- Your branding information
- Guide sheets or specs
- Your mission statement
- File list for important files
- A copy of your Emergency Plan, in case anything happens to you
And any other core piece of documentation it might be vital for a team member or an executor to know. Make a list of every system or process you need to document. Refer to your business plan, to see if there’s any area you missed.
Step Two: Create Workflows for Hands-free Productivity
What’s better than the copy-and-paste ease of a documented process? One that runs itself. With tools like Zapier, IFTTT, Meet Edgar, shopping carts and member sites, making sales and delivering coaching programs will take almost no time at all — long as you set them up with scale in mind from the start. As your business grows, you will scale processes and operations to fit that growth, as well as your business budget and outsourcing needs. You need to build this in from the beginning. You need to know where you are going, as well as where you are now, so that you can plan for it. Here are three scaling scenarios. Only one of them is correct.
- OPTION A: Starting with a free third-party platform that only meets your start-up needs with no room to grow
- OPTION B: Starting with a simple platform, ensuring it can export data and integrate with other platforms or versions you plan to use later
- OPTION C: Investing in an expensive, massive third-party platform with features you don’t yet need because you will want it some day
Can you guess which one is correct? Options A and C are both classic mistakes start-up business owners make. Option A: Going with a “free” app, piece of software or platform without considering later needs as your business grows in scale. Another fatal mistake you can make here is choosing something that won’t integrate and allow you to easily export your data to a new platform later. Option C: Spending a huge annual or monthly sum that you can’t really afford on an immense system with a myriad of features you don’t need, because the sales page convinced you it’s the best there is. There’s nothing wrong with investing in the best, but make sure it really IS the best for your business. Option B: This is what happens when you do your homework, plan for the future but take your current needs, skill sets and budget into account. Option B:
- Respects and reflects the startup simplicity of the business
- Reflects planning ahead to minimize later growth
And if you choose intuitive apps and software, designed with streamlined, WYSIWYG processes, you will shave all sorts of unnecessary or repetitive steps from your workflows. It’s a great idea to create flow charts for your business processes: Ones you can print out and stick in your Master Business Manual for documentation purposes. But you really don’t want a gazillion print-outs: It’s better if you choose a system that eliminates unnecessary steps and walks you and your team members through the workflow of a process. When you think “workflow” from now on, don’t just think “steps” or “processes”: Think “eliminating or automating steps”, “syncing with people, other systems and devices” and integration. Think in terms of collaboration and growth; of leveraging the experience and skills of team members you are going to add, which in turn will add value to your services, packages, products and communication. Think of eliminating anything that weakens or doesn’t support your brand. For example, it’s great that you have five Facebook Groups for your five main membership sites, but what if you use that membership site mostly for general questions and discussions from all the related membership groups, plus you use it to tell them about new products or changes, then combine them all into one main group stamped with your main brand, as publishing coach Kristen Joy Laidig recently did with Facebook Groups specific to her different Book Ninja brand courses and products. Since many people were in more than one of those groups, due to purchasing more than one of her courses, she did this to simplify her process and make it easier and less confusing for everyone.
Step Three: Stop Being the Workaholic Who Never Leaves the Office
But it’s not enough to discard unnecessary aspects of your business. It’s not even enough to simplify, streamline and automate – necessary and great though such actions are. No plan for scale is complete without including the need to build a team of real, live experts whose experience and skills you can bring to your brand. No matter how efficient your systems and automation, there are still manual processes that need to be done, and if you’re stuck doing them all, you’re going to hit your limit sooner than later. We’ve all done it: Tried to do every single task in our business – often to save money, when we’re starting up. When you stop to think of it, that’s about as wise as a fast-food restaurant with only the owner to peel the potatoes, cook the food, assemble it, serve the customers and handle cash. If you were running a fast food restaurant, you just wouldn’t do that! Why would you think it’s okay in your coaching business to do the equivalent? Yet it’s a common trap that online entrepreneurs fall into, for far too long before they bring new team members on board. One of the flow charts you might want to start brainstorming now is who you are going to need as your business expands.
- What areas of your business will grow large enough to split into an actual department?
- What areas of your business are completely unrelated to each other?
For example, bookkeeping is a completely separate area from video production. If your bookkeeping is simple, your finance-savvy VA could do it for you; or you could literally outsource it to a bookkeeper. You can keep your videos simple by only making the odd Facebook Live video—but if you’re going to be doing heavy video teaching and presentations to VIP clients, you’ll need top-quality video editing, production and assistance. Video is an area that can easily expand to warrant a whole team in itself. Things that are good to outsource include:
- Business admin tasks
- Repetitive tasks
- Areas of your business you don’t enjoy or feel unskilled in
- Behind-the-scenes processes such as mailings, uploads and customer service
- Anything that requires specialized skills you don’t have
For example, it makes more sense, if you’re re-branding your business and upscaling it to attract VIP clients, to hire a professional photographer to take your photographs, and hire an expert web designer to give your ancient WordPress website a current, hot new overhaul. And there’s one other often-overlooked reason to outsource: Investing money in experts to manage processes or do tasks can actually not only save, but MAKE you money. You can be focusing on your unique areas of skill – your real income generators that earn you your reputation – while your VA is taking care of back-end processes such as editing videos or installing and testing webinar services, or backing up your files, or uploading articles into your blog for the month. Plus, you’ll suddenly find yourself with something you’ve probably never had, if you’re in the habit of trying to do everything yourself: And that ‘something’ is free time. Yes, actual free time you can use for some quality self-care. You can now:
- Plan regular leisure activities
- Have a date night with your significant other
- Get a weekly massage
- Go to yoga class three times a week
- Take those riding lessons you always wanted
- Go see your kids’ games!
And all those other good things important to body and soul. As with other areas of your business, pay attention to scaling when you plan your outsourcing. Start by outsourcing the most troublesome area of your business, or your most deadly tasks (the ones that make you procrastinate!) Otherwise, start at your goal and work backward. Answer these two core questions:
- How much do you want to earn, a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now?
- How large an audience do you eventually want to reach? To personally engage with?
- How big do you want (or need) your business to grow?
Hint: If you’re having trouble figuring that out, look at all the experts and top influencers in your field, and decide which of them you would feel most comfortable being. You might decide you really don’t want to be a second Marie Forleo: You’d be happy if you simply broke six figures a year, and eliminated speaking on national TV or traveling all over the world to spend more time with your children. Once you think about your ideal lifestyle – and think about it in detail – it becomes much easier to figure out what you’re going to need to do and invest in along the way. That’s when you’re in the sweet spot for working backward, creating your perfectly-scaled flow.
Step Four: Don’t Rely on Hit-or-Miss Marketing Techniques
SEO and social media will bring some traffic to your site, but you can’t beat the laser-focused targeting you get with a well-planned paid advertising campaign. Don’t be afraid to invest in Facebook or Google ads. Done right, the results can have a radical effect on your bottom line. Decide, first of all, where you want to concentrate most of your advertising. And understand exactly how ads work. For example, Facebook ads are wonderful for growing awareness of you and your brand, but they shouldn’t be your main strategy. First, focus on providing value to all your posts and content. Help your audience, make sure you have lots of tasty resources and narrow down that audience to attract and retain potential ideal clients. Facebook ads won’t bring you a positive ROI until you have identified the right audience and ensured your ads are targeting the latter. Sending out Facebook ads to a broad audience without knowing exactly who your target audience is, and how to identify them to your Facebook pixel, is a waste of your time and money, and will only weaken your brand. Finally, invest your time and money in platforms that automate testing, tracking and reporting for you. Some, like Leadpages®, even use your data themselves to help you get the best ROI on your landing and sales pages. Providing quality content, offers, free gifts and tips is the core of any type of marketing strategy – as is testing and tracking afterwards, to see what worked and what didn’t.
Step Five: Ditch the 1:1 Coaching
Sure, you get to dig deep and make a great connection with your clients, but at what cost? Most coaches find they burn out fast if their appointment calendar gets too full. The answer? Create group programs that offer limited 1:1 time. They allow you to focus on your clients’ needs without burning out. Many coaches have discovered the advantages of creating this awesome combination of passive income combined with limited-access one on one. Here are seven proven ways to include limited-access one-on-one time … that won’t burn you out or gobble up too much time:
- Offer a one-time strategy session to help your member define her USP and audience, if you are creating any sort of marketing challenge or course.
- Offer a walk-through session halfway through any course that involves systems or technology.
- Offer a one-time wrap-up session at the end of a course or challenge, to clear up any remaining points of stress or confusion, and make sure your member is set for maximum success. (Ask for a testimonial at the end of the session—point them to a survey!)
- Offer a one-on-one session as a unique and exclusive bonus – only for members who join during your promotional webinar.
- Provide 1-3 sessions at a heavily-discounted rate for those who sign up for your VIP programs (or pay annually instead of monthly)
- Offer a weekly one-on-one email, in which your member can ask questions from issues that arose during her week.
- Offer a live, weekly or monthly Q & A or Critique webinar. (Use Zoom—especially if you’re interacting with a smaller, more intimate group.)
If you want to keep just a handful of especially rewarding clients to coach in person, do so, by all means – but limiting your one-on-one coaching (especially replacing it with a weekly or monthly live, interactive webinar—or weekly Facebook Livestream) is a great way not just to preserve your own health and sanity, but also allows you to serve more of your ideal audience … without burning out! Which type of live interaction to use? There are advantages and disadvantages to both formal webinars and Facebook Livestreams.
|Webinars||o You can repurpose recordings of these as part of other packages or as paid offers. o Not suited to short, impromptu events o You can upload them to YouTube, Vimeo or another video platform||o Need a learning curve and practice with controls and tech o Forgetting to press “record” is possible o Can cause technology glitches and incompatibilities at client end (e.g. someone not being able to hear you) o Storage costs o Can be expensive, especially if you use them infrequently o Have to arrange for transcription|
|Facebook Livestreams||o You can see when your group members are online and do a quick Livestream o Get immediate response and reaction o Particularly suited to really short, impromptu Livestreams o Automatically recorded o You can upload them to YouTube, Vimeo or another video platform o Facebook provides you with a download and verbatim transcript||o Need to be careful of weak signals o Facebook glitches sometimes cause them to cut out o Less commitment from people to be there o Distraction factor: People popping in and out to read other posts|
The real questions it boils down to, however are (a) which platform do YOU feel most comfortable with and (b) which one has more appeal to your ideal audience? (Test them both, and find out!) It’s worth noting that Facebook itself really likes video and livestreams, and is in the middle of bending over backward to make this type of content more appealing to advertisers. Step Six: “Kill Your Darlings” There’s a famous quote attributed to Stephen King, who was actually quoting writer William Faulkner: “Kill all your darlings”. What he was referring to was not some torrid thriller, but to those pieces of prose that writers cling to tightly and are especially proud of – even if they don’t move the story forward. Thus it is with your existing offers, products, content and packages. We might be really proud of them – after all, a lot of sweat and passion went into them – but if they no longer fit your business brand and goals, they need to go. Tighten your product line, so that each package or product enhances the other, and all move your clients and customers towards that one major goal you’ve identified, or help them eliminate their biggest immediate pain point. You might think that giving your clients a choice of multiple programs makes it easier to scale, but the opposite is actually true. When you’re trying to maintain, market, sell and coach in multiple programs, you’ll quickly burn out. Instead, concentrate on one or two signature coaching offers and a minimum of bonuses, and put all your effort (and that of your team) into making them the absolute best in your niche. Another advantage to doing this: Narrowing your focus will also strengthen your brand. You do not want to be known as a Jill-of-all-trades: You want to be known for your core message and mission (your specialty). Specializing is crucial in today’s market, where there is a glut of similar offers. So is building a list – but it needs to be a targeted, highly-responsive list, and creating a targeted, highly-defined-and-focused brand message is the best way to attract the right list members. Go through your current offers and services, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this offer tie in with my brand? Does it boost it or detract from my core message?
- Am I getting a healthy ROI on this particular offer, product or package?
- Am I generating activity and conversations with this particular offer, product or package?
- Is this particular offer, product or package too labor-intensive for me? Are there too many one-on-one opportunities, for example? Does it generate problems?
- Is this particular offer, product or package displaying weak points? Does it keep people progressing through my sales funnel, or are do they exit here?
- Can I upscale this particular offer, product or package, and replace it with something better? More high-value? With a better price point and ROI?
The beauty of doing an in-depth analysis on an offer, product or package you’ve already created is that there usually will be hard data you can use, to quantify your responses and decisions. Besides, even though you have done the business equivalent of killing literary darlings, you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater: Examine the offers, products and packages you are considering scrapping, and see:
- Which individual parts or factors were a big success
- What people loved about them
- What questions they asked repeatedly
Then use this data – plus the content you’ve already created – to create bigger and better offers, products or packages: Ones whose value takes you to VIP Level pricing and value. Focusing on a tighter selection of offers also allows you to build in less maintenance work for yourself while enabling you to increase your prices, your reputation and your brand.
Step Seven: Fall in Love with the Numbers
Track everything. Know your conversion rates on your opt-in and sales pages, then split test to make improvements. Watch your email open rates and work diligently to improve them. And don’t forget your team. If the tasks you have assigned to them aren’t earning a solid ROI, then it’s time to rethink them. Here’s where what I mentioned earlier – favoring and using platforms that automate a lot of the tracking and reporting for you, like Leadpages® – really comes into its own. Unlike many other tracking dashboards (and even Google Analytics itself, Leadpages®’ dashboard is simple, giving you only the opt-in and conversion rate stats you need, as well as the number of visitors. But you do have to install Google Analytics first, in order for Leadpages® to retrieve that data. If you haven’t installed Google Analytics yet, and the thought of installing it intimidates you, your best strategy is most likely watching one of the many excellent Google Analytics YouTube videos on installation for beginners. People who find themselves boggled at all the written material within Google Analytics have often found visual instructions much easier. So, if you’re a visual or kinesthetic learner, YouTube is the way to go. Tracking tells you who is visiting your site and which pages they viewed. It also shows you where your visitors came from—specifically. Did they arrive as the result of a Facebook ad? Organically? From a link in a blog article or Twitter tweet? Or was it that joint-venture guest interview you did last week? Stats like these show you how your biggest and most active audience segments find you, as well as what is converting really well; what keyword they are responding to; and more. So even if you’re not ready for Leadpages® yet, install Google Analytics and track at least through your social platform Insights and reports. And develop the habit of regularly reviewing your stats and considering what they are telling you. One final reason it’s important to review your stats: This is the best indicator of perceived value. Used in this way, these results are not about what you think you can contribute to your ideal subscriber, but what sorts of packages, products and offers she is actually responding to in the most enthusiastic way. Don’t be afraid of the numbers: They can be your best, most truthful and most faithful friends and allies! Compare your actual stats—pages visited, conversions and click-throughs—against what she’s saying in your Groups and Page feed. Is she complaining that your prices are too high? If so, that definitely has a bearing on those “low conversion” stats for that particular offer. If one person is saying it, she’s not your ideal client. If everyone in your group is saying it, that needs serious attention. Don’t just instantly drop the price though: Make it all about value. Restore their confidence in your value by doing one of the following:
- Make your lowered price a limited-time, limited-numbers offer, a special offer ONLY to members of that group, positioning it as a reward (never as a “discount” or “sale”
- Re-package it completely. Upscale your low-performing offer by adding bonuses, a live component or whatever it is people are complaining it is missing, or doesn’t have enough of. Brand it with sumptuous graphics that truly reflect its new value
- Create a simplified, less-expensive form for those who can’t afford it—especially if you are new to the online product arena, or you are dealing with people who would like to invest or have trust issues. Position it as a “starter” package.
- Offer to split the payment into two or more.
All of these strategies have pros and cons. It is important to do your homework and figure out why the solution you choose is the best option for you, your people and your brand before selecting one. All the strategies we’ve talked about today are not only do-able, they’re necessary, if you want to lift your business out of its holding pattern, or from the low-budget, labor-intensive trapping ground. Make a plan. Get the right help at the right time. Think of the latter as “building a team” committed to your brand, rather than merely “outsourcing one-off tasks”. Implement systems that fit your goals and will grow with you – and above all, focus on tracking and value, if you are ready to upscale your business and take it to the next level.