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Friday, February 22, 2008

Keeping Up with Your Business Online

Doing business online requires managing and measuring lots of moving parts. And, I always say that what doesn’t get measured gets forgotten.
So, with all the metrics you could monitor, what do you assess? In short, everything. Here’s a list of at-minimum ‘think abouts’ to get you started:

website matrix

How many unique visitors do you have?

How many should you have based on your industry?

How many page views?

How many should you have?

Who are your top three referral sources?

E-mail mailing list.

How many people are on your e-mail mailing list?

How many subscribers do others in your industry with comparable experience have?

What is the percent increase from last month?

What’s a good percentage to increase?

Website lead generation

Does your lead generation tool deliver the “lead trinity”? 1)Positions you as an expert. 2)

Qualifies the lead as a quality lead for your business. 3) Gives you permission to market to them again.
If not, what lead generation tool would?

Does your web site automatically produce leads regularly?

Product/marketing funnel.

Do you put potential clients in the position of either working with you or not?

Do you have freebies for them to sample - without signing up?

How many should you have and what topics should they cover?

Blog activity.

How many visitors does your blog have?

How many posts per week do you post on average?

What are the industry standards?

Are you meeting your blogging goals?

Online marketing.

How many original articles are you posting online?

How much time are you spending adding thought leadership content about your area of expertise?

Online sales.

How much revenue do you make solely online?

How much should you make?

Which is your most profitable product/service?

Which is your least profitable product/service?

Overall direction.

Where are you going with your business online?

By when do you need to ‘get there’?

Who can help you get there faster, easier?

What are your KPIs (key performance indicators) - measurements you can use to see if you’re on-track?

Again, this is certainly not an exhaustive list but it’s more than good enough to get you started. This may seem like a long list of things to consider. And, if you’re just starting out, your answers to these many of these questions might be “zero”. But, that’s OK. Start at the top and take a section at a time. Figure out a way to keep the information you find pertinent on your radar *at least* once per month. Maybe it’s a report. A graph. A spreadsheet. Something. Anything.

Preparing For The worst

There is no crying in baseball, and there are no "sick days" when you run your own business.
Still, there are plenty of ways entrepreneurs can get sidelined--from sudden illnesses and travel delays to pregnancy and military duty. Without a well-defined plan, those leaves of absence can pose a dangerous threat.
"If something incapacitates you, it can be the death knell of your business," says Karla Leavelle, president of Human Capital Advisors, a McLean, Va.-based consulting firm that counsels small businesses.

How do you hedge the risk of lost leadership? Business insurance doesn't help. Property and liability coverage come in handy in case a customer slips and falls in your store or gets hurt using one of your products, and business-interruption insurance covers operating losses if a hurricane reduces your building to rubble.
If you really want things to run smoothly in your absence, you need other protection in place.

Here are some tips:
Have A Point Person
Be it the chief operating officer, outside counsel or even a trusted executive assistant, at least one person should have access to everything that keeps the place running--including passwords, bank account numbers and keys to safes. You might even consider handing over power of attorney in your absence.

Doling out that kind of trust isn't easy, but if something goes wrong while you're gone, you'll wish you had. "Owners are always scared that someone is going to steal secrets of the organization," says John Vyhnanek, a restaurant consultant in Boston. "It's a bit like walking a tightrope, but someone has to keep the business going if you can't be there."

map out the work flows in your organization.

Identify who does what and who can take over certain roles if need be. Start by having employees write out their own job descriptions and the list of activities they do on a daily basis.
"No one can duplicate the charisma of an entrepreneur," says Louis Celli, head of the Northeast Veterans Business Resource Center, which mentors military entrepreneurs. "But if the entire business is systematized, that can sustain the business until the entrepreneur returns."
Better yet, if you codify thoroughly and thoughtfully enough, you might even discover ways of making your business run more efficiently day to day.

Form Partnerships

If you own a medical, law or accounting practice, your clients simply can't wait for you to return. That's why you should draft a written agreement with a local competitor who can cover for you in the event of an emergency (and visa versa).
Hammer out the tough questions upfront, such as referral fees--both for your clients and any they might refer to your stand-in. You'll also want to make sure the fees are comparable, lest your clients blanch at getting a fatter bill than they are used to.

Go Mobile

Even if you aren't a gadget guy or gal, if you run your own business, you have to have access to critical clients and information at any moment.

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