In 2018, we published a book entitled A Member Is Worth a Thousand Visitors.
The book is anchored by a discussion of the five forces of online revenue growth through focusing on your best end users. My team and I identified these forces over two and a half years through hands-on experiments with our clients, primary research and interviews, and a review of research projects done by academics. We’ve seen our approach drive 50 to 600 percent revenue growth.
We’re previewing each of these forces to give you a taste of what the book can do to transform your business. To start from the beginning, read Force #1: Focus on Your Whales, Force #2: Be Conversion-Oriented, Force #3: Upsell, and Force #4: Measure and Experiment.
To quantify an industry’s opportunity cost from not leveraging digital technology and data, we looked at the niche media industry. My team analyzed hundreds of companies and calculated how much money they were leaving on the table in terms of digital opportunity. The figure we arrived at exceeds the jackpot of any lottery in history. Businesses in this industry alone are leaving behind over $2 billion each and every year.
We then asked many clients why this is happening. Almost unanimously, they answered with some variation of, “We just don’t have the time/money/know-how to launch a better digital platform successfully.” Our response would be that in today’s environment—between software tools, freelancers, employees, agencies, and consultants—you can find the resources.
The first four forces of online revenue growth focus on whom to sell to and how to sell to them. The fifth force focuses on how to bring it all together with the right level of support.
Let’s talk about three ways you can create bandwidth to launch your new-and-improved online revenue growth strategy.
1. Prune Your Workflows
In the same way you might prune the dead branches from a tree to make room for new and healthy growth, you need to prune your workflows by eliminating tasks and processes that do not contribute meaningfully to the success of your business. In fact, in my experience, it’s possible for most businesses to eliminate as much as 20 percent of what they do to free up their resources so that they can work on new ideas.
CEO of FutureThink Lisa Bodell has many practical suggestions to help any leader evaluate their current workflow. She suggests that you start with a simple question: “What do I spend my day doing?”
If you’re like most people, your answer is that you send a lot of emails and attend a lot of meetings. How can you possibly grow your business if you’re bogged down with mundane tasks?
Once you’ve realized that you have this issue, perform an audit of your entire team’s outputs to see whether their activities are contributing to your bottom line. From your audits, you’ll know what to change or eliminate.
Pruning isn’t primarily about cutting people. (Though unfortunately, from time to time an audit can reveal that you don’t have the right person matched with a certain position.) It’s an opportunity to cut superfluous activities and optimize each team member’s role.
Do you have an employee whose job can be almost exclusively automated using a certain tool? Make use of the tool and assign them to be a key part of a new initiative instead. Do you have a weekly meeting that remains on the books more because it’s always been there than because it’s a productive, important team gathering? Get rid of it!
2. Work With External Partners
Hiring full-time employees can create bandwidth, and this is a long-term solution. But don’t rush to hire people. You should only bring people in-house after you’ve gotten set up and have a proven business model.
In the meantime, find a trusted external partner who can help you launch new initiatives. This approach allows you to try your growth ideas without having to budget for new headcount. It also empowers you to test your business theories without expensive up-front investments on a strategy that may or may not work.
Working with a freelancer, consultant, or other outside partner also means you can engage experts who would be too expensive to hire on a full-time basis. You may not have the sort of structure to support a full-time graphic designer, but contracting one to design a large ebook, which will serve as your initial email capture, could certainly be a worthwhile investment.
You have to do your due diligence before selecting partners because there can be flakiness, over-promising, and under-delivering when you work with someone who doesn’t necessarily have the company loyalty of an employee. And if this is your first time collaborating with a remote worker, as freelancers often are, there will naturally be bumps in the road as you manage your first virtual work relationship.
Ask colleagues for word-of-mouth recommendations or look for thought leaders in the industry at hand. Focus on finding someone with a strong business acumen who has the soft skills you’re looking for.
3. Hire New Employees
Hiring new employees is a big time and cost commitment. In addition to their salary, you have to consider onboarding and training, office space and equipment, your tax obligation, and other parts of their compensation package like benefits and paid time off. And at the end of all of that, new hires can have a short shelf life. The average tenure for a millennial employee is just over one year.
For businesses operating on a tight budget, you want to make sure your revenue is stable before taking the plunge. That’s why we suggest relying on freelancers or consultants in the early stages of your efforts to create bandwidth.
Once you are ready to hire, be prepared to ask the right questions. You need a team that understands the ever-evolving digital landscape. You’re looking for employees with the right mix of intelligence, natural curiosity, business acumen, and tech-savvy. Fortunately, there are traits you can scan for on resumes and smart questions to ask in interviews that will provide insight into a prospective hire’s knowledge base and way of thinking. Check out our tips on hiring for digital people here.
Putting the Five Forces Together
If you follow these three tactics, you can undoubtedly create bandwidth to generate necessary growth to your revenue streams. And with a robust strategy built on these five forces, you can efficiently make smart, calculated decisions that better serve your customers and meet their needs, boosting your own bottom line in the process.
For more advice on how to eliminate unnecessary work and recruit new members of your team, plus detailed strategic advice on all five forces of online revenue growth, order your copy of the book A Member Is Worth a Thousand Visitors: A Proven Method For Making More Money Online.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to build deeper relationships with their best customers, launch new products and membership programs, and execute smarter marketing strategies.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data supported methodology to discover your “spin”—a simple insight that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right technologies, marketing plans, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Throughout his career, his focus has been on embracing technology and analytics to spur strategic development and growth.
At the Sterling Woods Group, he and the team are passionate about helping clients understand their best customers through data, and developing products and membership programs that exceed expectations – and generate impressive revenues.
Committed to spreading this message, Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.