How to Optimize and Prioritize Online Efforts with a Small Team

Why is it never as simple as it looks…

You’re browsing the web, looking for insights on your next campaign…

There’s an amazing guide for search engine optimization. There’s also an awesome eBook on content marketing. And there’s a video series with an actionable social media strategy.

On one blog, the author encourages business owners and digital strategists to focus on influencer marketing. Another suggests all that matters is your email list.

There appear to be credible, proven strategies for every single niche of digital marketing.

In fact, the overwhelming mess of promoted strategies creates apprehension in marketers and online business owners alike.

When jumping in with a new project, especially with a small team, it seems to be a crapshoot of choosing a “tactic” (or several) and “going with it.”

There are problems with this thinking that I hope to solve. This involves backing down for a second and thinking rationally.

Rationally = Economically

We need to generate profit online, otherwise there’s no reason for being here.

The problem is we get so wrapped up in new trends, popularity contests, and meaningless metrics that our strategy is often flawed, spread thin, or outright useless.

I want to set things straight here. This article is for small teams or individual marketers. I’ll be examining the points of friction for online growth, along with establishing an actionable strategy for moving forward.

Since the online world of marketing can be an unknown space, we often become confused by this convoluted mess of opportunities that often leads to assumptions based on theory alone.

But we need to step back and think:

What matters to our online business? How can we set up processes? Focus on growth? Find platforms/channels to leverage? Meet KPIs? Delegate, outsource, automate?

That’s a lot right there.

The point is, we need to determine a plan that remains focused on goals or objectives, understands those goals to reflect performance, and ultimately reacts or behaves in accordance to the understanding.

We can simplify:

1. Goals/Objectives

2. Measuring performance

3. Tactics

Goals and Objectives

You’re already saying to yourself, “Yes, obviously. Everyone knows this.”

Maybe it’s true, but many people build on meaningless goals. If this weren’t true, everyone’s online efforts would be extremely successful.

What actually matters for your online business at the end of the day is one thing.

And that one thing is generating an ROI on your efforts.

We need to meet a certain dollar amount to not only recover the money and time spent on creating content, launching ad campaigns, promoting articles, and more, but we have to generate a profit on top of it.

That’s hard. This space is crowded.

It means looking rationally at your offering and how it pertains to the market.

What do you offer, who are your competitors, what space can you succeed in, how many customers, clients, users do you need?

And when I suggest that it’s all based on a dollar amount, I’m creating a sweeping generalization of your goal.

Because we do have different goals. It’s just that they can all be represented in terms of their economic value.

Let me demonstrate.

For example, here’s an eCommerce company breakdown:

They need to generate $x to rationalize their online efforts. And that $ is represented by sales.

On the other hand, here’s a media publication.

They need to generate $x to rationalize their efforts as well. But that $ is represented by ad clicks, since they generate $ via ads on their website.

One last example for clarification.

Here’s a plumbers company breakdown (online only)

The plumber must generate $x to rationalize his efforts. But that $ is represented by contact inquiries, since each inquiry has a value of $.

What this explains is that at the end of the day, our absolute goal or objective can be nearly anything, but we should represent it as a dollar amount.

In a sense, it’s looking for this second degree objective.

You aren’t trying to make money online, you’re trying to generate page views, ad clicks, signups, contact inquiries, or sales. (These are the second degree objectives.)

You could call this your monetization method. But, it makes more sense to call it your value driver.

After all, remember that the plumber’s website wasn’t monetized in any way? Yet it still holds a dollar value when we calculate the value that a single inquiry represents.

In essence: You must determine the value driver. Nothing else matters to your business. This is now your absolute goal, and it should drive the rationale behind everything that you do online.

By setting this goal, we now have the opportunity to measure based on what actually matters, not just some meaningless number that lives up in the clouds (i.e. Newsletter sign ups, guest posts, social media engagement).

And I’m not suggesting that these are “bad” things, but when we approach them blindly, we lose.

If they work towards that value driver appropriately, there is a very good chance they will be a part of the overall compilation of tactics, which we will discuss soon.

Measuring

As mentioned before, now that we understand the goals we can reflect on performance appropriately.

This means measuring our efforts by looking at the priority of objectives and creating a reporting system that guides our decisions.

The most important aspect of this is defining the priority of key performance indicators.

For example, let’s say that our online efforts are represented as such.

The KPIs that flow closer to the value driver should not only hold a higher priority in your mind and with your efforts, but should be more precise in terms of measuring.

This means that conversion rates on your landing page for a product should be more accurately measured than social media engagements on your Twitter profile.

Most likely this will be easier as well.

For example, we can use tools like Google Analytics to see actions on our website such as conversions, but it’s very difficult to calculate the value of a retweet and attribute that to sales on our website.

A major element of measuring is the fact that it is intertwined with tactics. What we’re measuring more precisely is the events that are more conducive to our overall goal and value driver.

Therefore, if a certain KPI is more important, we have to incorporate the tactics to make it possible.

In a sense it’s a catch-22:

We want to measure that which is most important to driving growth and hitting our goals.

But the only way to determine what is most important to driving growth is to measure.

This leads us to a thrashing period in the beginning.

What this means is that we can hack together methods that are perhaps less precise but make tracking and measuring a bit easier.

We do this so that we can quickly make decisions.

Above, I cited a simple example. We wanted to be more precise with our measurement of a landing page than the engagement on social media.

But that’s obvious.

The difficult decisions come when events are close in the funnel.

For example, say you own a website in which you dropship products.

We obviously want to measure conversion rates on the website and shopping cart abandonment. These events are very close to the value driver (Sales) so it’s quite obvious that we track them closely.

But what about other online marketing strategies?

Perhaps you want to use content marketing to drive organic traffic to your website.

Content marketing, in your case, involves writing articles for your blog and creating video tutorials on YouTube that are relevant to your target audience.

This is all great, but what matters most is how we decide if these “tactics” are generating the value we want.

This means we shouldn’t focus on YouTube views or how many articles we write a month.

These metrics simply don’t matter because they aren’t tied to the value driver directly.

Here’s what I mean:

You decide that writing 3 blog articles a week is a “good thing”. You come to that conclusion based on what competitors do. If you produce between 2 and 4 a week, you’re happy with yourself.

But does this really matter?

Not at all.

All that really matters is that you are driving the relevant traffic that will lead to sales. Don’t measure how many articles you write, measure the traffic that the articles generate.

How much traffic comes in per article, which articles resonate with the audience, which articles lead to sales? These are the important questions to ask, and you can measure this as well.

Furthermore, let’s look at the YouTube example.

Views are great. Everyone wants more views on their videos because it feels good and it means that our content resonates with our target audience (hopefully).

But do the views translate to sales on our website?

Views don’t directly matter. What truly matters is the amount of traffic back to the website from our YouTube channel.

In this example, all that really matters is clicks on our YouTube links.

Of course, indirectly, views may matter very much. More views probably results in more clicks.

Nonetheless, if we focus simply on engagement within YouTube, we miss the entire point. We may end up cultivating a community but never driving relevant clicks.

In essence, the end goal or value driver must be top of mind at all times.

It leads the direction of all efforts. If our marketing activities do not align or work towards that goal effectively, we’re wasting time.

Tactics

We’ve discussed goals and measurement. Now it’s time to discuss the actual efforts that drive our online growth.

These are the building blocks of any success that we can hope to have in the online environment.

This may range from content marketing (as we spoke of in our example), to social media and cold email campaigns.

We can partner with others, run webinars, build email lists, and direct traffic to landing pages.

We can send out mass SMS messages, buy media placements, and use Google Adwords.

Obviously, there are a lot of options available, and this creates problems.

It’s difficult to determine the best place to be. Difficult because it means saying “No” to all the opportunities out there that are begging for our attention.

It’s nice to be everywhere, but if you’re part of a small operation, it’s impossible.

You’ll spread yourself thin, resulting in a lower ROI from your efforts.

This means we have to experiment, prioritize, outsource, automate, and then experiment again.

In reference to the thrashing period that I mentioned earlier, most likely you’re in this period if you’re new to the online world, or trying to take your presence to the next level.

Once again, our problem:

There’s a slew of tactics and even more tactics within those tactics.

Think about it:

What does online advertising include? Social media ads, display retargeting, media buys etc.

And within each of those categories are sub-categories.

Within social media ads are all the networks. And you can dive deeper too.

Think of all the types of Facebook ads you can run. Videos, carousel ads, lead ads, dynamic ads, and more.

And that’s only one network within one category…

It blows my mind when considering all the options for online growth.

This is where the research comes into play, along with testing.

Just because your competitors do something a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s right. However, it can be a great place to start.

What are they doing, and how can you do it better?

Or how can you use the same tactic, but differentiate yourself?

Just be sure that whatever it is you test it out, you measure.

And this can be difficult, with long term efforts as opposed to short term efforts.

For example, if one of your main goals is to rank for relevant keywords, you’re going to have to develop a keyword strategy, create a lot of content, and most likely wait months before you see any traction on your efforts.

On the other hand, if you choose advertising, you can immediately measure results.

Keep this in mind as you weigh your options.

As you take on more marketing activities, it can become overwhelming.

Perhaps you write content daily, run ads on instagram, and send out a newsletter twice a week. That’s a lot of work, especially if you’re only a one man show.

Hopefully you have an idea of the tactics that help you reach your objectives, because at this point it becomes a game of prioritization.

Where are you needed most in your marketing?

You can answer this question by looking at the activities that generate the greatest effect for the value driver.

Let’s say, for example, you sell digital information products.

You have courses and eBooks for sale on your website.

List building is very important in what you do. You create a lot of free content for your audience and offer tons of free downloadable assets.

In terms of what you do, you have to design an infrastructure that supports the overall goal and has a focus on lead generation.

You want to build a framework that increases the number of email subscribers you get so that you can promote your products now and in the future.

This means a whole lot of content creation and email marketing.

In fact, this is the heart of your business. You have effectively created a system that aligns with your KPIs and the overall value driver. (Sales of your products in this case).

Props to you.

But if it weren’t for automation and outsourcing/delegation, you wouldn’t be able to grow.

Lucky for you, you’ll be able to set up email autoresponders for all your downloadable assets along with drip campaigns to push your digital products.

Furthermore, look at the difference between the heart of what you do and the fringes.

In this particular example, we have identified that content creation and email marketing are essential. This is where you’ll be spending a majority of your time.

But what about the tactics that work well, just not as well. Most likely you’ll struggle to do these activities, even though they present an opportunity.

It’s time to either automate or outsource/delegate.

Source: Hostgate

Of course, if you have employees, you can delegate tasks to them.

For very simple tasks, you can set up automation which will free you up to focus on the most important KPIs.

In our theoretical example, perhaps you have noticed that some traffic is coming from Twitter and you’re starting to build a following.

That’s great, but you feel that you don’t have enough time for it.

How about scheduling Tweets for the next few months using Hootsuite?

Maybe customers have a lot of questions about your products and courses, but you don’t have time for that either.

This isn’t a priority, but it would certainly help to encourage future sales.

How about hiring a virtual assistant to take care of product inquiries and customer support?

The point to be made here is that if it isn’t an essential component of the value driver, you should probably find someone else to do it, or look for ways to automate it.

Because ultimately Twitter and customer support are a good thing, but they aren’t essential.

This holds true for a lot of marketing activities. They’re important, just not that important.

It can be difficult to make these decisions, but when you do, it means that you have the opportunity to focus on what matters most.

This means you can essentially level up. Growth is everything online. If you aren’t growing, you’re losing.

Make your move

Now it’s time for you to take a step forward in your online growth.

What strategies will work for you? What strategies won’t? What can you measure? Is the strategy aligned with the value driver?

If there is one takeaway from this article, it’s this:

You need to make money to make a profit, whether that is online or off.

Regardless, the closest connection to that financial transaction is what matters most to you online.

Anything from product purchases, to signups, to contact inquiries.

These are the value drivers, and your overall strategy relies on meeting their demands.

How you get to them really doesn’t matter, since there are literally millions of strategies at your disposal.

Regardless, figuring out what works best is your best interest.

If it doesn’t work, throw it out.

If it does work, figure out how to make it even more effective.

Remember, vanity metrics are the enemy.

If it doesn’t create the value necessary for your online business, it serves no purpose.

When you start to develop a better understanding of what works, take your growth to the next level by creating a framework that identifies the heart of your online strategy, and also identifies the fringes.

Then, work to outsource or automate the fringes in any way possible.

This means you’ll be taking the next step forward in your online growth.

Best of luck with your online goals!

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Author: Henry Foster

Henry Foster has built massive social followings, started and sold a small but profitable ecommerce business, and is an avid learner in the world of digital marketing. He writes about social media and content marketing at IgniteMyCompany.com.

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