In the United States, over 50% of businesses fail in the first 5 years of operation. Only 15% have 10 or more employees, and the percentages decrease drastically after that. Medium sized businesses have already beaten the odds and found success with an ability to scale. You’d think they’ve already “figured it out”, but in reality they must constantly improve to maintain those high growth rates they experienced in their smaller years.
We work with businesses of all sizes here at Digital Position which gives us a unique perspective. From the local dentist down the road to the $500mm national companies selling many millions online every month.
In a nutshell:
- Small businesses just don’t know what they don’t know – they’re most likely in the beginning stages or haven’t done much online properly to grow.
- Large businesses (corporations) are often run by out-of-touch, older generations of adults who hire other, out-of-touch executives who become more and more disconnected with their true customers.
- What I’ve seen with Medium sized business is that they tend to be more knowledgeable but far too many get stuck at that size.
So why are Medium sized businesses getting stuck? Here’s what every mid-sized business needs to understand about Digital Marketing:
I’m a firm believer that ego is the #1 killer of all businesses. What makes this more crucial for medium sized businesses is that the CEO / leadership has already seen success doing things “their way”. Too often, new leaders & agencies enter the company and are told they must conform to outdated processes.
The problem here is two-fold:
- As you’ll see is a central theme of this article, Digital Marketing changes extremely rapidly. Most businesses don’t explode overnight (even the ones we say do take years). Digital Marketing has likely already evolved heavily by the time the business hits the medium size.
- You’re limiting new ideas. Nobody has all the answers no matter how much experience you’ve got. Hire people that are smarter than you and trust them to be experts at their craft.
Once the business gets to a certain size, leadership must start taking “steps back” and organizing strategy, focusing on prioritization and seeing the whole forest without focusing on the weeds. This transition might be very difficult for some.
Too Many Meetings
The worst aspect holding many medium sized companies back is the fact that they’ve started having too many meetings. Hey Jerry, let’s have a meeting about our meeting and then we’ll do a follow up meeting to discuss that second meeting.
Yikes. Stop it.
Communication is crucial (as you’ll see below) but useless, over the top communication can be killer to your bottom line. Every meeting should have a super simple, top-level agenda. Keep it on topic and form a clear list of action items out of the call. If everyone leaves the call with nothing to do and no accountability, it was likely a wasted call.
We use Monday.com as our task management software here, and slack for communication. If it were up to me I’d never have any calls…..ever. I hate them. There’s wasted time sitting waiting for someone to join, awkward back and forth delays sometimes, intros and conclusions, banter, emotional debates that waste tons of time, etc., etc. It’s just too easy to waste a LOT of time on a call.
But using a task management software and simply logging / discussing tasks in there, and slack to quickly message someone if you need help? Super quick, easy, and saves a ton of time. I recommend you take the time to truly evaluate the number of meetings your team has every week. Are they truly all necessary?
Progress over Perfection
Digital Marketing stops for nobody; thus, we preach progress over perfection here. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean we don’t provide a high quality of work. We just believe in the 80/20 rule; what’s going to provide the most value in the least amount of time? In Digital Marketing there is never any shortage of ideas, there are almost an unlimited number of strategies and channels you can be utilizing to improve your business. The best companies aren’t obsessing over one strategy, they’re trying more at once than you and finding the best ones more quickly.
Fail fast and cheap, move on to the next strategy, and when you find what works pour resources into it until you’ve tapped it out. If you get stuck trying to perfect one little thing, you’re losing valuable time that could be spent finding the true, winning strategy that drives more revenue to the business.
One of the things we do here is try to have every employee think about the value they’re driving to our clients. Are we doing a project because there is some need to see it done that way, or because we truly believe it will drive $X more revenue for the client? That simple thought exercise has allowed the best ideas to float to the time while bad ideas are filtered out quickly. We don’t obsess over the tiny details, we get the project done and measure results – if it’s working we’ll revisit and “perfect” the strategy.
Build a Brand with a Personality
This one is huge. It’s 2019, people don’t want to give business to faceless entities anymore unless you’re Amazon (*note – you’re not Amazon). To truly separate yourself you must create a brand, not just a “revenue stream with a trackable ROAS”.
When we work with big, reputable brands (i.e. – Peter Millar or Fleet Feet) we find they’re able to achieve a MUCH higher ROAS on their Google Shopping spend because of their brand recognition. This is sometimes 2-3-4x what we see with other clients. Creating a brand works. Customer service matters. Stop looking at what you’re “wasting” by focusing on branding efforts and start thinking about creating something that people love.
Sure, you can grow a business by just focusing on the numbers – but that’s what you hire us for. We can perform much better when you create a brand that people want to follow and engage with.
Take Crossrope for example, a client of ours. They’re not just selling jump ropes, they’re creating a lifestyle. They understand and communicate the muscles used when jump roping, they created a #wejump community, they created an app to track your workouts, they feature customers who have lost a lot of weight using the product, they engage on Social channels with their customers, they have incredible reviews, etc., etc., etc.
THAT is why their PPC & SEO performance kicks ass. THAT is why they rank on the first page for “jump rope” (along with our assistance of course 😉). They are more than just a retailer. That’s how it should be done.
Communication is Crucial
As businesses grow, communication gets more and more crucial. As mentioned earlier, the common problem is too MUCH communication (too many meetings). However, what I want to focus on here is organization. Organization fuels efficiency and makes you more money, so it’s extremely important. Take our Monday boards for example:
This is an actual screenshot of Monday, our task management software
We’ve got clients in a PPC folder with all the PPC related tasks we need to execute on with due dates, priorities, and who’s responsible. We’ve got goals, an “Ideas” board where we put all the great ideas our team comes up with until we’ve “fleshed them out” and assigned responsibilities and due dates into the “Projects” section. We keep track of the leads we have, everything.
It’s all in one place, perfectly organized so everyone knows what to do and when. If you go to “My Week”, you can see exactly what you need to complete these week (or next, etc.). It’s the lifeblood of our company and I would argue we couldn’t operate half as efficiently without it.
Now when I’m talking communication, it’s not just Slack and Uberconference. Monday is the most important because it eliminates all the unnecessary conversations that can happen on the phone or over a messenger.
You don’t need to use Monday (although I obviously recommend it), but you do need to be organized so you can be efficient with your communication. The less your team is on the same page, the more you need to “talk about it” to get on the same page.
Stop Obsessing over Attribution
We get it, you want to track every dollar and understand the exact value of everything. That’s great and all, but it’s just not possible yet in most cases. There are steps being taken such as Google Attribution (which may or may not roll out EVER) and other very expensive tools, but none of them are perfect and rely on some assumptions.
Different attribution models value revenue different ways, data sampling exists on the free version of Google Analytics, there are discrepancies between Adwords & Analytics, there’s overlap between channels, multiple devices being used that aren’t signed into Google so you’ll never know that it’s the same person on 2 devices, people using private browsers that block cookie tracking, etc., etc., etc.
Looking at channels in a silo can be a great way to tell relative performance up or down, but keep in mind what the real goal is – to maximize profit for the business long-term.
We’ve had clients ask if we think we’re spending too much, then we’ll ask them to look at their P&L. They’ll reply saying they’re having the best month they’ve ever had as a business, and we respond “exactly”! No matter how much we try, the technology just isn’t perfect yet to understand the perfect value of every channel so at the end of the day we just want to make sure the business is running profitably and is growing. That’s how we scale!
Find the Right Partners
This can include investors, agencies, employees, anyone who is involved in the business. We operate Digital Position as a true extension of our client’s marketing departments. Our communication is second to none, we poke and prod asking about website updates, we push conversion optimization projects, we give information from PPC & SEO that can inform your e-mail campaigns, etc., etc.
As medium sized businesses grow, they need to bring on more “enterprise level” resources that understand how to scale a medium sized business appropriately. You might know how to look into Google Adwords & Analytics and calculate a rough ROI on your spend, but do you understand how to track Gross Margin, implement a Yield Curve to your Adwords data to see performance more in real-time, layer on LTV, and more? That’s where partners in various forms come in. More experienced managers, more experienced agencies, etc.
Hiring is always one of the largest issues of any business. In fact, the following chart has it at #3 out of the top 20 reasons companies fail:
It’s crucial that you understand what types of personalities you’re looking for and find the right partners. We’re a super transparent, sometimes too straight forward agency. If you’re looking for a “super nice, bubbly” agency that just isn’t us. We stop at nothing to get results and do everything we can to lead every client in the right direction even if it’s not the most profitable for Digital Position. No company is a great fit for everyone and that’s OK! Find a team that is a great fit for YOU and hold them close, because finding great partners is quite the challenge.
Overall, medium sized businesses can still learn a lot about Digital Marketing and have vast room to grow. It’s extremely important that they don’t get complacent! Keep learning, keep trying new things, keep taking risks, and keep growing as a team and you’ll find that the P&L continues to look strong month after month.