There is no magic bullet for success.
Soap box time! I feel like ranting a bit today. I really bristle when I read articles claiming “The 7 Tips to SEO dominance” or “10 ways to effectively market your business” or “Top 5 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Business”. It’s as if there are magic potions to running an online business. Hey, I’ve even written articles like this. Readers like lists. But I’m hoping today that you enjoy honesty a bit more.
The “Top 10” lists are essentially BS.
There’s rarely ever one thing that will catapult your business into triple-digit growth or kill it overnight. Obviously, there are black swan events to be aware of, but beyond that...
Business is a grind. You can’t “Top 10” the keys to building a business. It’s more like a “Top 10,000” list.
My business is successful. It wasn’t successful for more than years than I care to remember. It took many years of slow and steady improvement to get it to where it is today. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. However, I still couldn’t, with my current knowledge, start over and recreate its success much more quickly. I may be able to shave a few months off the past half-dozen years, but that’s about it.
The point is that business is an every day battle. It’s a marathon. That doesn’t mean you walk; marathoners are still running. You must possess endurance. Few businesses blow up overnight. It’s so rare that you shouldn’t expect it or be upset if it doesn’t happen. Businesses build up slowly. It takes time and a whole lot of effort.
Even if your business model is correct, it will take a long time to be proven right. Basically, you must outlast your own doubts and insecurities.
After 10 years of battling in the business world, here is what I believe:
I believe that SEO, in essence, is a waste of time. You’re playing a game against a computer algorithm. The problem is that your opponent (Google) has infinitely more resources than you. You’re going to lose. Also, Google doesn’t buy your products. Humans buy your products. Design for them. And pray to God that they’ll remember your name and bypass Google the next time. Relying on a third party to drive traffic to your site is a recipe for disaster. In a service-based business, you’d never want more than 10% of your revenue to come from one client because what would you do if they left for a competitor? Well... if Google represents 90% of your revenue, what would you do if they stopped sending you traffic?
I believe in me. I have my business’ best interest at heart and therefore I am skeptical of all outsiders, especially salesmen, “experts” in the industry, and even my own employees. I know my business better than anyone. Always do what you believe is right and forget what everyone else is doing. Just because everyone has a Facebook page doesn’t mean you need one. The only person making big money on Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg. So, don’t sweat it.
I believe in sweating profusely over the details that matter.
I believe in in-sourcing! Every crucial aspect of my business is self-contained for the ultimate in control.
I believe in over-delivering to the customer. I don’t want to leave it up to the manufacturer to replace defective parts for a customer. We send replacements direct from our warehouse and then we deal with getting reimbursed from the manufacturer.
I believe in giving new ideas sufficient time to become effective. I tried TV advertising for an entire year before I decided if it was worth continuing. It was “so-so” effective, so I gave it another year with major tweaks. The tweaks had no meaningful effect. Then I stopped.
I believe that if two customers contact me with a complaint, that there are 20 more with the same problem. Deal with the issue immediately.
I believe that my fear that my business could collapse tomorrow is healthy provided that it doesn’t stop me from being productive. It’s quite easy to become paralyzed with the fear of failure.
I believe that my expenses will be double my estimates; my sales, half.
I believe that free shipping is an untenable concept. Any time you have an expense that is rising steadily faster than inflation, you best not give it away for free!
I believe, all things being equal, customers will always buy from the person that they like more. Make your website that person.
Kerry Murdock says:
Terrific post, Jamie.