One of the great things about having a baby, was that it forced us to create much better systems and training for our contractors and staff so that our businesses could run while Tess and I were off not getting any sleep. Tess totally switched off anything to do with our businesses from the moment she went into labour, and I took over everything, which took about 45 minutes per week to run (4 hour work week eat your heart out). Taking over some of what Tess was doing also meant that I could see things from a different perspective, and was able to find ways to reduce the time even further. Trust me, when you’re down to 45 minutes a week, finding a way to reduce that by 5 minutes is a big deal.
Now all that sounds very good, until you realise the “catch” in what I said in that first paragraph. While it now might take us about 30 minutes a week to run our businesses, that does not include growing them. Given that one of the most famous business quotes out there is, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”, that’s still a pretty big deal. So what does growing an ecommerce site mean?
For us, it’s about systemising outreach marketing, systemising content, systemising product tweaking (getting rid of stubborn slow movers and introducing new lines), and even systemising staying in touch with what’s happening in ecommerce. Now the idea that you can be sipping pina coladas by the pool while your business is actually growing is an awesome one, but it’s also been one of our biggest challenges. Here’s how we’re doing it:
For us, outreach marketing is about getting other websites/blogs to write about our businesses, with permanent, relevant, in-content links back to our sites. This has been overall the hardest thing for us to outsource, and we’re still in the process of making it happen. We’re currently training an Australian virtual assistant on where to find opportunities, and how to make them happen. The first couple of weeks have been quite promising, as our new VA has already secured a number of relevant, high authority links. Was it a fluke? Or can she keep doing it? Time will tell, but so far she has a great attitude, and natural inclination to negotiate, which is a great start.
This one is a tricky one for us. You can’t turn too many corners on the internet without hearing that “content is king”, yet that hasn’t been our experience in ecommerce. Too much content can also lead to a dilution of the authority coming into your site, so we’re quite careful about adding content for content’s sake. We do have a great writer standing by though, and if we think of a good topic that would provide value to our customers, it’s pretty easy for us to outsource.
Systemising Stock Turnover
This is also a tricky one. Teaaching our VA how to reorder stock is fairly straightforward, and we can systemise putting underperforming stock on sale, simply through the use of our platform’s (Woocommerce) sales report data. The single biggest challenge in outsourcing this part of our business is getting Tess to hand it over, because choosing new styles is her favourite part of the business! I guess we can leave that one until she decides she’d rather be doing something else.
Staying In Touch
While most outsiders think that the online business world is changing every second, once you’ve spent many years in the industry, and your businesses have caught up with most best practices, you could probably still take a year off, and not too much will have changed. The best way to keep up with what’s going on is to follow the right people, and the right websites. For us, we like sites like practicalecomemrce.com, and also follow guys like the “Ezra Firestones” of this world. Other ways to stay in touch is just by keeping an eye on Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and other giant ecommerce stores who spend millions of dollars working out where search bars should be, and what site layouts convert best.
We obviously do a fair bit of outsourcing to help make our business mostly passive (or at least as passive as we want it). I might do an article soon on how our outsourcing has evolved, and where we see it in future if anyone thinks that might be helpful.