Business Advice: How Startup Founders Can Prioritize Efficiency

Forbes Publication

As an entrepreneur or startup founder, there are numerous tasks that you need to work on at any given moment. The skill is figuring out what to work on, when to work on it and what deserves immediate attention. Why is it so hard to prioritize in a startup business? At times:

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• A huge deal is in progress that requires collaboration. Employees’ attention is now diverted.

• Clients are unsatisfied. Employees are now focused on customer service.

• Stakeholders in the organization want to change things around. As the founder, you’ll have to placate their needs.

• Technical issues slow the startup down.

• A potential partner wants to invest in your business. This requires drafting contracts and meeting deadlines.

You may find yourself leaping between these tasks daily. So, how can you prioritize the ins and outs of your startup? Let’s discuss exactly what you should be focusing on to ensure continued success.

Why do so many startups fail? 

To understand what you should focus on, it is first important to recognize why so many startups fail — lack of proper prioritization is only the tip of the iceberg.

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One of the reasons startups fail is because they run into the problem of having little or no market need for their particular services or products. Typically, this happens because there isn’t a compelling enough value proposition to motivate consumers to buy.

Startups may also face improper market timing. Ideally, startups should be ahead of the market, with proper forecasting enabling them to deliver products and services strategically.

Lack of prioritization also contributes to startup failure. Improper planning manifests as an ineffective management team. Unfortunately, inadequate management is a problem for many startups. Weak management teams make mistakes, including poor execution and not prioritizing key projects.

A lack of prioritization can eventually contribute to cash flow problems, another reason why many startups go under. One of the key responsibilities of a CEO is understanding cash flow and whether it will carry the company from quarter to quarter.

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What do startups have to prioritize above all else? 

Above all else, I believe startups need to prioritize workplace efficiency. Startups in particular have returns that are under pressure. Put a spotlight on the value of employees carrying out the right tasks at the right time. By working efficiently, your team can produce more in the same amount of time. This will maximize productivity, contribute to positive cash flow, achieve more at a lower cost, and lead to higher returns.

Before tackling issues when it comes to workplace efficiency, it is important to recognize if your startup is productive in the first place. Productivity is vital for continued success, especially since the economic model of a startup can involve a lot of uncertainty.

You can measure your startup efficiency through several methods, with one of the popular methods being time management productivity. This method measures productivity by recording how employees use their work time. There are software programs that measure how much time employees spend being productive and dedicated to efficiency. Daily updates from employees, progress reports and transparency on daily tasks will not only measure efficiency, but also encourage dedication to the startup’s mission.

One of the best ways to encourage efficiency in the workplace is to properly onboard employees and respect their autonomy. Onboarding refers to the process of orientating new employees for success, and it goes beyond making a new employee feel welcomed.

Give employees the tools to familiarize themselves with their daily tasks and work culture. Then, give them opportunities to contribute to the culture. A successful onboarding program includes a thorough introduction to the startup’s mission, key players and roles that specific people or departments have.

Proper onboarding leads to autonomy. It is an essential element in an efficient workplace. I’ve found that it empowers employees to shape their environments and helps them realize that startup founders rely on and respect their contributions. Furthermore, it helps thwart feelings of disengagement, work dissatisfaction and apathy. An efficient startup includes efficient employees who feel like they are being understood.

Seven Ways To Optimize Your Business Website

Forbes Publication

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Have you been trying to increase your business site traffic, but you don’t know where and how to begin?

To start, it’s essential to optimize your site for conversions and search engines. This helps your business get higher rankings in search engines and improves your overall site quality. Additionally, it improves the user experience.

In this post, I will share the steps you can take to optimize your business site to increase traffic.

1. Analyze and audit.

The first step is to analyze your business website to diagnose the changes that must be made. Conduct an audit that summarizes site performance. During this process, your SEO team can evaluate the website’s content, navigation, aesthetics, back end SEO and layout.

Additionally, look at your competitors’ sites to assess the methods and features they have implemented, including site design, keywords and structure. Knowing your competitors’ strategies will assist you in determining your own optimization strategy.

2. Make necessary site upgrades.

After you complete the SEO and site audit, make updates to your website that were deemed necessary. You want to create a lasting impression that motivates users to visit your website, stick around and come back later. The primary objective of making site updates is to entice users to act, whether that means filling out a form or contacting you. This comes down to designing a funnel that encourages users to take action with a clear call to action (CTA).

Many searches are conducted on a smartphone, so make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Page load speed can also have a significant impact on SEO.

3. Conduct keyword research.

Keywords and phrases are the words people use when searching for information on search engines such as Google. Conduct keyword research to determine the most relevant search terms for your target audience. Including those keywords in front-facing content and the backend of your site will help your website rank higher on search engines.

However, it’s essential to remember that search engines will penalize your site for incorrect keyword positioning, such as keyword spamming. Understand these guidelines, and implement current industry best practices.

4. Focus on back-end SEO.

Back-end SEO is an on-page approach that involves the HTML source code of your website pages. This comprises incorporating keywords into meta data, title tags, headers, description and URL structure to assist search engines in determining the content of each page of your site quickly.

Back-end SEO involves complex coding, so I recommend hiring an experienced SEO expert to implement this tactic effectively.

5. Don’t forget about off-page SEO.

Off-page SEO is the technique of optimizing your site externally. Focus on maximizing your social media efforts, getting featured as a guest blogger on reputable sites, partnering with influencers relevant to your niche and link building.

Link building requires strategic digital communications to get top-notch links back to your site. If other websites that have high authority link back to your site, Google will interpret your website as more credible.

6. Remember, content is king.

Top-notch content and link building are indeed essential to position your site in search engines. So, make sure you have a strong and SEO-driven content marketing plan. The more reputable posts you churn out, the more likely it is that other sites will link back to you. This will help you to increase your organic search ranking and bring more visitors to your website.

Content marketing might be intimidating for most businesses because it requires time, thought and strategy. Create a calendar that outlines what to write every week so you don’t fall behind.

7. Analyze your site data.

A single piece of data may not show an effect, but when you accumulate lots of data, you begin to notice patterns. When a few people visit your website and fail to click on your CTA, that may not be a problem. However, if a huge percentage of users visiting your site fails to click on your CTA, it’s a sign that you need to make some amendments.

User habit reports and Google traffic data will assist you in painting a clear image. User habits will show you how users behave when they visit your website. Google Search Console will track essential metrics such as unique sessions, bounce rate and number of sessions.

Your website plays a vital role in lead generation for your business. Start by maintaining your conversion path and ensuring your content is of high quality. Optimize your business using the simple steps outlined above, and you’ll see your organic traffic improve over time.

10 Creative Marketing Ideas to Build Your Business

AllBusiness Publication

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When entrepreneurs are first starting out, they usually are not thinking of “rocking the boat” when it comes to marketing. Yet a very creative promotion can work wonders for a new business, generating a positive buzz that will get it noticed. 

To find out which approaches work best, we asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC Next and Young Entrepreneur Council this question:

Q: What is one out-of-the-box promotion that worked wonders for your fledgling business? 

1. Speed dating with potential customers

I would set up in a WeWork conference room for a day and let people book 20 to 30 minute time slots with me. Founders would come in for free and get growth advice from our growth team (me) on how to scale their business. My main goal was to get out of the office and talk to potential customers. This method doesn’t scale, but by doing it we formed some great relationships with people. —Jim HuffmanGrowthHit

2. Performance guarantees

When we first started out, a great way to get our foot in the door was to offer various performance guarantees that we felt we could, and should, be able to meet or exceed. This de-risked the choice for our clients, and it’s something we still offer to ensure our clients meet their demand generation targets. —Brandon PindulicOpGen Media

3. Get a little outrageous

We made a list of 50 of our perfect target clients. We then worked out a deal with a local pizza place to deliver free pizza to all of them. Out of each pizza, we had the shop remove one slice and replace it with a small printed graphic that was in the shape of a slice. It said: “Looking to grow your company? We are the missing piece. Give us a call.” —Frank BravataMarketing Rebellion

4. Radio interviews

By giving radio interviews, you get exposure, and potential customers get to know you and will remember you. Contact radio stations to promote your business and let them know you have expertise in a particular area and are available to provide a local angle whenever necessary. This is something I personally did in the early stages of Aligned Signs. It is still a good practice for free publicity. —Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

5. Public speaking

One of the best lead generation methods is public speaking—it’s inexpensive and very effective! Sharing knowledge is a great way to provide value and position yourself as an expert. Every time I present, I have multiple people approach me afterward who are interested in learning more about my services. We’ve closed many deals this way. —Zack HanebrinkHookLead

6. Alignment with trade associations

One of the best things we did was to strategically align ourselves with several respected trade associations by offering our services in exchange for being considered their marketing partner. By first proving our worth, we built a strong endorsement from them to their respected members within the organization. That opened the door to high-quality companies looking for a vetted marketing partner. Remember, most associations are non-profits that have limited resources but do great things for their communities, so they are always interested in expert help. —Matt BardenIndustrial Marketing

7. Third-party guest posting

In the world of digital marketing, this is nothing new. But for other businesses that aren’t so content-centered, the last thing they want to think about for a quick promotion is creating content for relevant websites or blogs within their industry. Start with the most influential sites and pitch blog ideas to them that discuss unique solutions to their readers’ problems, while not being self-promoting. —Ron LiebackContentMender

8. Tell your story

If people don’t know you’re up and running, they can’t hire you. Get the word out to your entire network, however is best for you to communicate (email, social media, in person, phone, mail, etc.). When you’re first starting out, you have the novelty of newness that people will pay attention to. Tell your story about who you are serving, what problems you solve, and why you decided to start. —Todd GiannattasioTresnic Media

9. Be very specific

Be laser specific and identify your most ideal 100 clients. Think of the companies or people you’d love to work with most and to whom you can provide great value, too. From there, I’d build a very specific outbound campaign to reach them, demonstrate value, and have a call to action to hop on the phone. Before this CTA, I’d work hard to establish rapport and trust. Think in terms of “What makes me different and how can I give before getting?” This campaign might look like: Email 1, Mail 1, Call 1, Email 2, Contact Us form, etc. —Zach BurkesPredictable Profits

10. Offer add-ons

Since we sell travel experiences, we offered promotions of free side trips, tours, and adventures to incentivize customers to take action there and then, rather than get lost among our competitors. We still do this to this day. As it’s a promotion of a product within the same space as us, we get industry rates and we can find “add-ons” that sound interesting and are cool that don’t necessarily cost as much as they sound. We found this makes a big difference to customers who are often seeking more and more value for their money. This is something many companies and industries could do with partners they already work with: Buy X today and get a free Y. —Jürgen HimmelmannThe Global Work & Travel Co.

Does Your Web Business Face One Of These Common Problems?

Forbes Publication

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It’s important to do what you love, or at least to find a way to derive pleasure from whatever it is you do to earn a living. But at the end of the day, if your business isn’t making ends meet, you’ve got a problem. A lot of people come to me for business advice and, most of the time, the problem lies in one of three areas: marketing, messaging and traffic.

Here, we’ll discuss common problems in these three areas and how to fix them.

Marketing Problems

• Leads and traffic: This could be a quality problem. If your content isn’t drawing clicks, you need to step up your game. Start by conducting research to find out what your audience wants.

• Insufficient return on investment (ROI): If your marketing efforts aren’t paying for themselves, you have a problem. If meeting your financial needs isn’t the problem, consider curtailing your spending. Otherwise, finding alternate hosting options or new partners might be called for.

• Budgeting: If you’ve nailed down exactly what you need to be spending on marketing, but you just can’t draw away enough funds from other assets to pay for it, something needs to be adjusted. Like ROI problems, you can try making money-saving changes. But better marketing is probably the real solution in the long run. Try turning your attention to your messaging efforts. We’ll discuss this more below.

Website management: Most companies have a website because it’s necessary to do business. If managing your web site is too time-consuming or isn’t your cup of tea, you could go with a full-service hosting provider. They sometimes have prefab site templates you can use. Another solution is to hire a web development professional. This doesn’t have to be terribly expensive, and you can ask a developer to deliver a product that’s designed to be easy to maintain by a novice user.

Messaging Problems

• Inconsistent or insufficient branding: Major brands discovered long ago that the purpose of branding is to make people feel that your brand is a person, a simple and consistent person who’s behavior is trustworthy and predictable. Think of Walt Disney. Disney has a very consistent branding profile. People know what to expect from Disney. It could be that your brand messaging does not communicate a simple, attractive and consistent brand image. If that’s the case, create a “branding bible” for your company. Another solution is to have all your content and marketing done by the same person.

• Failure to communicate your value proposition: If your audience doesn’t know what makes you special, then they might as well go to the next company that has a similar product or service. Make sure your messaging and branding clearly explain why you are different. It may be that you’re less expensive, offer better quality or superior service, and so on.

• Content quality issues: These days, your content should not consist only of advertisements. You need to give your audience information that they want or need. If your content does not entertain or educate, it’s not doing its job and it won’t draw clicks.

Traffic Problems

If your website isn’t drawing traffic, that’s a problem. If it’s not due to one of the problems mentioned above, then the fix might be pretty straightforward.

• Search engine optimization (SEO): If you’ve spent more than a minute looking into advertising online, you’ve heard of SEO. SEO is about researching terms that are proven to attract clicks to merchants in your industry. SEO is a full-time job. If you’re new to it, consider contacting the professionals.

• Too little or stagnant content: If your blog isn’t active enough, Google might give you a low search rank. Advertisers don’t like having their ads on inactive sites, so make sure you update your blog at least once a week. I recommend that posts be at least 750 words in length.

• Been to Quora?: Quora is still a great place to answer questions for people seeking advice from experts. Whatever your profession is, you’re sure to know many things about it that outsiders aren’t privy to. Congratulations, that means you’re an expert. By answering questions relevant to your industry, you’re advertising your expertise to a new audience. Quora isn’t the only Q&A site, but it’s a good place to start.

At the end of the day, as long as you’re plugging away at these common problem areas, you’ll make progress. Just put in a full day’s work and stay under budget — you’ll be A-okay.

Original Post: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2019/10/02/does-your-web-business-face-one-of-these-common-problems/#687ef269387e