Ready to grow your online business? Have a business that’s not growing as fast as you’d like? Here are 7 power tips that are sure to stoke the flames of growth and scale.
Jump to a Tip
- Tip #1: Stop trying to make money.
- Tip #2: Delegate things that aren’t in your zone of genius.
- Tip #3: Structure for profitability instead of revenue.
- Tip #4: Measure and target.
- Tip #5: Create scalable paid ad funnels.
- Tip #6: Partner with tangentially related businesses.
- Tip #7: Do things that don’t scale.
Stop Trying to Make Money
If you want to grow your online business, you have to stop trying to make money.
That might seem counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Let’s take a look at three important facts about most online businesses – especially online lifestyle businesses:
- The owner is doing the vast majority of the work in the business.
- The owner has to extract a large portion of money from the business to support themselves.
- The business is bootstrapped, so there’s not a lot of extra cash for team building.
Doing most of the work yourself, not having a ton of extra capital to invest in building a team, and the inability to take a huge personal hit to hire others is the biggest obstacle to growth.
The reality is that most online business owners haven’t built a business, they’ve built a job. Thus, their day-to-day focus is on making money. From their own efforts.
The reason you built a business in the first place is so you can stop trading time for money, right? Well … don’t fall into the trap of turning your business into another job then.
The shift that needs to happen – and I’m not saying this is an easy shift by any means – is to start focusing on how to build a business that makes money.
You do this by working *on* your business instead of *in* your business.
It’s a subtle shift in words but a massive shift in mindset and execution. Making money with a business isn’t the same as building a business that makes money.
Want to know how that shift begins? Let’s bring in tip #2…
Delegate Things That Aren’t In Your Zone of Genius
There are a few things in your business that only you can do. There are 10x that number of things that you spend time and energy on that you have no business doing if you really want to grow your online business.
These tasks that you have no business doing distract you from the growth you’re hoping for, for two reasons:
- Every minute you spend working *in* your business is a minute you can’t spend working *on* your business. E.g. tinkering around on your website is time you could have spent on networking, partnerships, planning, etc.
- Insisting on doing things you have no business doing means you’re putting a lower quality product into the world. Using the same example from above, doing your own website edits when you’re not a web person means your website won’t look as good and probably won’t convert as well. It harms your business to do this work yourself.
And this is all aside from the fact that when you do things you have no business doing, you’re overpaying for that labor.
A web person might charge you $50/hr to make changes to your website. When you insist on making those changes yourself, it costs $250/hr. Or $500/hr. Or whatever your time is worth to the business (this is why knowing what your time is worth is super important).
I did a podcast episode on knowing what your time is worth that you should listen to, to help you put this into perspective:
Use the Freedom Number Calculator to calculate what your time needs to be worth in order to truly build wealth and reach financial freedom.
Many business owners – myself included at times – pride themselves on wearing all the hats. That’s bad business, though. It’s not smart. It’s costly, it leads to burnout, and it puts an obvious ceiling on your business’ growth.
Identify your zone of genius – the stuff only you can do – and stay in that lane. Delegate everything else as soon as possible.
Structure for Profitability Instead of Revenue
Any business can become profitable practically overnight simply by changing your accounting/bookkeeping/money process.
It’s seriously that easy. Let me explain…
Most businesses follow the conventional formula: revenue – expenses = profit.
That formula totally ignores human behavior, though. More specifically, Parkison’s Law dictates that our demand for a resource increases to meet the supply of it.
Accounting for profit as revenue minus expenses means you’re giving yourself an opportunity to allow expenses to rise to the same level as your revenue. And in almost all cases, it does!
If I give you $10k to run your business, you’ll spend $10k to run it. If I give you $5k to run it, you’ll run it on $5k.
Be honest: if you’re an online business owner with limited experience scrapping and clawing to build your thing, it’s unlikely that you’re an expert at money management, business budgeting, hiring, and all the other factors that work into the expense report in various ways. Right?
So you know that your expenses are very likely to rise relative to your revenue. And in the worst cases, they’ll match or exceed the revenue. And in the most awful cases, your expenses will rob your revenue before you pay yourself a dime and before you put anything aside for taxes.
You can easily prevent all this from happening by restructuring your accounting formula. By using the Profit First model you can ensure profitability, ensure significant personal income, and ensure proper, timely tax payments.
That model looks like this: revenue – profit – owner pay – taxes = expenses.
See the shift? You take care of every single business essential before you start buying stuff to run the business.
If you can’t run the business on what’s left after all the essentials, you don’t have a healthy, viable business and big changes are needed.
I explain exactly how this process works and how to set it up on Episode 069 of my podcast (note that the brand name has changed to Digital Ambition since then)…
Measure and Target
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. – Peter Drucker
There are a lot of ways you can “grow your online business.” You can work harder, create new products, hit up existing customers and sell more things to them, etc.
These are the typical “growth” strategies online business owners focus on. The problem is that it doesn’t really scale. There’s a cap on working harder. There’s a cap on creating new products (not to mention it adds complexity that sometimes makes things worse). There’s a cap on how much you can extract from existing customers.
To truly grow your online business and keep that growth going, you need to start diving into data.
Data allows you to manage key areas of your business objectively. This empowers you to make better decisions and test the outcomes of those decisions. You can also keep a close eye on the overall health of the business so you can fix problems before they become emergencies.
The best part about data, though, is setting targets. When you stop flying by the seat of your pants and start focusing on measurable targets, your business grows faster and more consistently.
This is true whether your business is one person (you) or a small team.
What metrics should you track?
- Key website metrics
- Customer satisfaction metrics
- Brand visibility metrics
- Social media metrics
- Financial metrics
You can make it as complicated or as simple as you want. The point is that you you need to be engaged in this process every month at minimum. It’s simple, but it takes attention and dedication:
- Collect the data (for example, make sure you’ve installed Google Analytics so you can track website metrics).
- Set targets (goals for how you want to change the data to grow your online business) and keep a WEEKLY scorecard.
- Review the data and hold yourself accountable to the targets.
“But Kevin, this takes time! And when I’m paying this much attention to the data I can’t any work done!”
Correct. Go read Tip #2 again.
Create Scalable Paid Ad Funnels
In the early days of my online business career I didn’t do anything with paid ads. I had this idea in my head that I could build organically through high quality content marketing.
In other words, I was stupid.
I wasted a ton of time and effort across repeated failures. But I got so good at content marketing (read: How to Become a Prolific Content Creator) that I actually made it work, doing over a million dollars in the health and fitness niche with zero paid advertising and zero social media.
And I was still stupid.
If I had leveraged paid advertising I could have built an even bigger business with less time, less effort, and less stress.
Watch this and you’ll never look at “organic” or “free traffic” the same ever again…
This is one of the biggest mistakes new online business owners make. They’re afraid to invest in getting exposure. They want to use social media, Pinterest, YouTube, SEO, and all these other “free” channels to try and earn the traffic instead.
There are some BIG problems with that, though.
- It’s really slow. Earning enough organic traffic to create a viable online business takes time.
- It’s potentially a waste. Most online business owners go from idea to creation too quickly. They skip the validation phase and then they spend months trying to earn traffic to a website and a business that doesn’t jive with their target market.
- It’s inconsistent. Social media visibility fluctuates. It’s also very short-term. When the numbers start to decline, the only way to fix it is by ramping up your efforts again.
- You’re at the mercy of algorithms. You build a huge audience and then the platform decides it’s only going to show your content to a relatively small percentage of people. You have precisely zero say over that decision.
- It takes a ton of effort. So many online business owners burn out because their results don’t come anywhere close to matching the level of effort they’re putting out.
- It’s tremendously expensive. Watch the video above and I break down the real-world costs of trying to get “free” traffic.
Why go through all this when you can simply turn on a targeted traffic faucet with paid ads?
Grow Your Online Business With Paid Advertising
- You can get targeted traffic overnight. You create an ad, you set a budget, you turn it on, and traffic starts to flow. The better your ad is and the higher your budget, the more traffic you’ll get. But it’s instant traffic nonetheless.
- You can quickly validate your messaging and offers. Why spend months trying to get organic traffic from various channels when you have no idea how that traffic will respond to your messaging and offers? It’s best to invest some money up front to drive traffic so you can make sure your messaging and offers work.
- You get measurable and repeatable results. Remember Tip 3 and the importance of measuring? Unlike content marketing and social media efforts, paid ads are very measurable. The numbers either make complete sense (at which point you try to scale them) or they don’t (and you make adjustments).
- It’s relatively low effort and requires much less time. Compared to content marketing and slaving away on social media, paid ads require very little time and effort. That leaves you free to do other, more important things, in your business.
- Successful ad campaigns don’t have a real cost and you can potentially get leads for free. One of the barriers to not spending money on paid ads is the idea that they’re expensive and cost too much. But if you put $1 in and get $3 out, is there really a “cost?” And even if you only have a smallish item for sale (like an ebook), you can get leads for free by creating a self-liquidating offer (SLO) – an offer where the cost of the ads is offset by direct sales of an initial item in a funnel.
Also, paid channels are the only way for you to take COMPLETE control over The 5 Rings of Reach & Conversion…
Paid traffic is soooo much more powerful!
Partner With Tangentially Related Businesses
Traditional businesses have been doing this for a long time and there’s no reason why you can’t use the same strategy to grow your online business.
If you start a home cleaning business it’s probably a good idea to partner with a real estate agent. After all, they have a lot of houses that need to be cleaned and they know a lot of people who have houses that need to be cleaned.
You give them a kickback, or you give them leads in equal proportion to the leads they give you, and it’s a huge win-win.
See how that works?
Imagine for a moment that you have an online business that teaches people budgeting and getting out of debt. You find another online business expert who focuses on investing. You aren’t good at investing and they aren’t good at teaching budgeting and becoming debt free.
There’s a huge opportunity there!
If they have an email list of 15,000 people, you have an instant audience for your budgeting and debt freedom products. Just pay a commission on the sales your “competitor” (in the personal finance niche) sends you. And you can work a similar deal in the opposite direction.
It’s not rocket science, so why are so many online businesses reluctant – or negligent – when it comes to doing the same thing online?
You can also partner with people in your niche who might not even be tangentially related, but a direct competitor. You can co-create a product and leverage both of your audiences to make it bigger than it would be if either of you built it and marketed it on your own.
Obviously, you have to find deals and strategic partnerships that make sense for your specific business. The question is, have you even considered this? Have you sat down and made a list of direct and/or tangentially related businesses that you might want to reach out to?
Do Things That Don’t Scale
Too many online business owners are stuck in fantasy land. They think everything should be automated. They pride themselves in the fact that they can “make money while they sleep” and never have to interact with people.
What a terrible mistake and a really awful attitude to have.
First of all, if you’re passionate about making an impact in people’s lives then you should *want* to interact with your audience as much as possible. You should want to be in the trenches!
But the biggest issue here is the fact that the internet is already too impersonal. In a world where people can interact with bots, automated email sequences, and apps at every turn, they find themselves thirsty to interact with YOU.
This is often why people prefer small local businesses over big corporations. They don’t want to feel like a number, they want to feel like a person.
The same is true on the internet. People don’t want to feel like 1s and 0s. They’re not bits and bytes. They’re real human beings and you need to treat them as such as often as possible.
Here are examples of doing things that don’t scale, but that add tremendous personalization and personality to your online business:
- Respond personally to every legit email you receive.
- Respond personally to every comment on your articles and social media.
- Ask people to email you feedback instead of making them fill out long surveys – and then reply to them!
- Send personalized videos to subscribers and new customers with an app like Bonjoro.
- Offer high-level support for your info-products (and charge accordingly, but offer it!).
- Get a phone number that people can call or text.
- Offer free strategy calls and provide tremendous value for free so you can learn more about your audience and how to serve them.
That kind of stuff blows people’s minds when you do it consistently. It really helps solidify them as part of your tribe and it also drives strong word of mouth recommendations.
But that’s not where doing things that don’t scale stops. To grow your online business, you need to do things that don’t scale in your marketing activities, too.
Usually this means getting into the trenches and engaging in hand to hand combat to get the word out about your business:
- Provide consistent value in Facebook groups until people recognize your name and want to know more about your brand.
- Follow Gary Vaynerchuck’s $1.80 Instagram marketing strategy.
- Go to conferences and network your ass off.
- Join and consistently engage in online forums – be so valuable that people can’t ignore you.
- Do interviews on podcasts with small audiences or guest blog on lower authority sites. Every eyeball counts in the beginning.
Those are just some examples, but I think you get the point.
Stop trying to automate everything and stop turning down “small fry” strategies. If you want to grow your online business then you need to do things that don’t scale.
How to Grow Your Online Business: Wrap-Up
It doesn’t really matter what stage your business is in or how long you’ve been running it, the tips I’ve outlined in this article are requirements for breaking through to the next level.
Literally, these are the steps that take you from a five-figure business to a six-figure business. Or from a six-figure business to a seven-figure business.
If you have questions about any of the tips or want some insights on how you might apply them to your specific business, drop a comment below.
Kevin Michael Geary is the founder of Digital Ambition. After building three successful online businesses in three separate niches in less than five years, he turned his attention toward helping men and women all over the world start an online lifestyle business so they can escape the rat race, make an impact, and live life without limitations.