This episode is completely actionable and these actions should take you less than 30 minutes to complete.
There are a few things that you can do in your business to make things SO. MUCH. EASIER. And that’s what we’re tackling today.
I have worked with businesses anywhere from “I’m going to start a business” to having a sizeable online following and revenue in the 6 figures. And regardless of where my client is at when we start working together, my first step is to make sure the foundations are present and working.
The foundations are 5 areas that need to be dialed in. We went in depth on these in episode 71 and to remind you they are:
- Your online home
- Email marketing and/or customer relationship management
- A mechanism for delivering free and paid content
- A checkout or payment system
- Scheduling software
I’d love for you to go back to episode 71 to hear a bit more about why I think these are the foundation pieces of every online business. Today all you’re going to do is categorize the tools that you’ve thought about using, have signed up for and are actively paying for.
Grab a sheet of paper and make four columns. Label them:
Tool Name / Foundation Area / Status / Investment
Now, go through all the tools you have in your toolbox and write them down in the first column.
Once you’ve finished that, go back to the top and assign each tool to the foundation area to which it belongs. If you’re unsure, think about what it does for your business and either write second tier or extends functionality – maybe it’s a tool like ConvertBox which is a more complex tool and doesn’t fall into the foundation areas I mentioned. This tool is extremely powerful and integrates with several other tools. I would just write “second tier” and move on down my list.
If a tool crosses more than one foundation area, like Acuity which can do scheduling and take payments, write both.
In the third column we’re going to list the status of that product in our businesses. You can either rate on a scale from 0 – 10 where 0 is not using the tool and 10 is using the tool regularly in the business or you can do this column with words such as “interested” “partially implemented” “fully functional” “need to replace” “need to improve” and so on. Either way, the goal of this column is to show how much you rely on the tool right now
Another thing that you can do with this column is to give it two scores, the first is present and the second is where you want this tool to be in 3 months.
In the priority column, we’re going to list the investment in terms of time and money. Just as with the last column, we will want to track a couple of things here… How much time have you invested and how much money have you invested. And then once you’ve listed those, you’ll also estimate how much more time and money you’ll be investing into this tool in the next 3 months.
Once this sheet of paper is complete, you’ll have a really good idea as to how ready you are to expand online.
Let’s take a look at what that really means with a couple of real examples.
First example is a ceramics studio. The studio just upgraded to using Square for their payment processing and product sales. They have a website that lists the address, hours and classes. People call the studio to sign up for classes and workshops. Inside the studio student registration is done with pen and paper and includes the option to sign up for promotional and informational emails. All this information is then entered manually into an excel spreadsheet. When the studio sends promotional emails, they use webmail provided by their website host. I would say that this studio is very much the most basic formula.
Of the five foundational elements for an online business, they have a mechanism for online payments (Square) and a website as their online home. Therefore, we know that at a minimum they’ll need an email marketing or customer relationship management system, a content delivery system and a scheduling tool.
If the owner has thought about any of those pieces, those would be on their quick listing, otherwise that’s the next thing that will need to be tackled.
Since this business has a lean online footprint, the owner was able to complete all columns of the sheet right away. It was easy to list the foundational area, status and investment for the tools that are already in place.
This list will change over time and I recommend that it’s revised a minimum of every 3 months – especially because we have investment and status metrics projected out 3 months.
Now, let’s flip over to another example. This one is an artist who sells their work at shows and online through a virtual storefront. She rents space at an art studio on a monthly basis for her own creation and teaches several courses and workshops there. She takes payment for these courses and workshops through the virtual storefront that she initially setup for selling her creations.
Now that she’s ready to offer her courses and workshops online, we’re going to run through the tools and create her quick hit list.
For the foundational areas, we’re good regarding an online home, a payment processor, and email marketing. And she’s given those all a confident status. So, the two pieces she still needs are the content delivery and scheduling.
Next week we’re going to be discussing why I believe scheduling software is a requirement for online courses and workshops and why I strongly recommend using Acuity Scheduling.
But for now, please trust me in saying that it’s a requirement.
This artist spends a lot of time interacting with other course creators and has a few content delivery platforms and systems listed on her quick hit list as potential tools to use. She hasn’t invested any money in them and only taken a cursory look at each of them. So they are all on equal footing which is a perfect place to be when thinking about expanding online.
I would guess that our ceramics studio owner is at least 3 months away from opening the doors to the online course and workshop space whereas our artist could likely get this new revenue stream up in as few as 3 weeks, just based on where they each are with regards to their tech quick hits sheet.
I encourage you to start tracking tools in your business. Even if your online products aren’t coming in the next 6 months, the sooner you create your tech quick hits list, the easier it’s going to be to take the plunge.
And it’s so much fun to take the plunge.
So, do yourself a favor and sit down with a piece of paper, split it into the four columns Tool Name / Foundation Area / Status / Investment and write down tools you’re actively using, tools you’ve signed up for and tools you’re interested in exploring.
I also love seeing a list of tools that you’ve considered but rejected or stopped using to make sure to not waste time in the tech stack development.
Let me leave you with this – expanding your business online is a fun and rewarding experience. It’s amazing how much impact you can make outside of your geographical area and there is no one right way to do the online product thing. Give yourself grace and space and time. It’s a lot like starting a new business, but you’ve already got experiences to learn and grow from.
So, whether you want to figure it all out on your own and lean on this podcast and other online resources or you want to work in a collaborative and supportive manner with a strategist (like me) or a coach, you can take what you do offline and create an online version that matches your vision!
Thanks for listening and reading these notes! And I love getting to know podcast listeners, so connect with me on any of the platforms listed here: