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225. Why FOCUS is the Key to Business Growth & Success

225. Why FOCUS is the Key to Business Growth & Success

I’m not sure if you heard the news but Shopify announced it’s laying 20% of its workforce and that comes on the heels of laying off 10% last July. Like many companies that saw huge growth during the pandemic, Shopify hired aggressively to ensure they could continue to meet the demand but that demand didn’t hold once the world opened back up. Wayfair faced a similar situation recently as well.

But unsustainable pandemic growth isn’t what we’re here to talk about.

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How Shopify is Refocusing Their Efforts

With Shopify’s layoff announcement, they also announced that they are selling off the logistics arm of their business. Shopify spent the last few years trying to build up its fulfillment network by acquiring businesses such as 6 River Systems, a warehouse robot maker in 2019, and Deliverr, a last-mile delivery company in May of last year.

in the release, Shopify’s CEO said it was a “worthwhile side-quest” but that Shopify is refocusing its efforts on what they do best, helping merchants sell products on the Internet with eCommerce software. He also said, “Shopify has the privilege of being amongst the companies with the best chances of using AI to help our customers.” Shopify has already integrated the power of AI on its platform with Shopify Magic, a tool to help merchants write product descriptions and I imagine they have some other ideas up their sleeve.

What That Means for Shopify's Fulfillment Network

If you are using Shopify’s fulfillment network or had been considering it, rest assured it’s not going away. Shopify is selling the “people, technology, and services related to these operations, to Flexport, a leading tech-driven global logistics platform” Shopify will maintain an equity stake in Flexport, and will name a director to Flexport’s board. Flexport will become the official logistics partner for Shopify and the preferred provider for Shop Promise.

As a Shopify merchant, this is actually good news because it means they can focus their energy and effort toward innovating their product and optimizing the tools it provides its merchants. So I gotta say, I’m excited to see what they do now that they can better allocate their resources.

Businesses Need to Focus on What They're Good At

But there is also a great business lesson that we can take away from this move and that is… to focus on what you’re really great at.

It made perfect sense that Shopify tried to get into the logistics business. It was a great way to serve their merchants and on the surface seemed like the natural next step. They were smart about it too, acquiring existing business instead of starting from scratch. But at the end of the day, logistics is not what they do.

eBay has a similar sentiment. When I spoke to the Sr. Manager of Seller Marketing, Kristi she said… they don’t have any plans to create a logistics arm in their business. eBay adds value to their buyers and sellers in other ways, such as international selling, and Google Shopping feeds.

Why Small Businesses Need to Focus on Their Core Product(s)

Now, of course, we’re talking about big huge businesses here, so how does this apply to you?

Well, there are two ways focus plays out in your business. And the first is essentially what you’re seeing with Shopify. Focus on your core product or products. You’ve heard me talk about this before, but we all know how important it is to repeat ourselves, so let’s chat about it.

Why is it so important to focus on your core product? The short answer? Because it makes EVERYTHING else easier. From your inventory management to your marketing, everything is easier when you focus on one thing.

What if You Have a Wide Product Assortment

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that you only have a handful of products. It might. And that certainly would make your inventory management a breeze. But sometimes, especially if you don’t sell a consumable product you do need some newness to keep your existing customers shopping with you. That might be completely new seasonal styles or new variants in your existing items. Either way, if your business does warrant a wider product assortment, your focus will come into play in your marketing.

Use a Focused Marketing Strategy

That can be your overall marketing messaging. What does your brand stand for, who is your perfect customer, etc? It can also mean leading with your best-selling products from a marketing perspective. Bring them in with the best and then sell them the rest.

Instead of trying to market every single product you have on social media, focus on always highlighting the best of the best, and then let your website & email marketing do the selling once they get there.

This might also look like you taking your best sellers and putting them on other sales channels like Amazon or Etsy.

How to Balance Brick + Mortar & Online

If you have brick + mortar and online, this might mean paring down your online assortment. I talked about this in last week’s episode in one of the client examples I gave and I just gave this advice to another potential client.

She started her brick + mortar business 12 years ago and does great in-person. The eCommerce division of her business is mostly local customers who end up doing in-store pickup, so it’s not really getting her net new revenue. She’s interested in trying to scale the eComm side, but she’s also wondering if it’s worth it because it’s so much additional work.

Because she’s a boutique she has A LOT of products and does weekly drops in-store. I recommended she focused on the best of the best evergreen items on the website so they could put more energy and effort into optimizing those listings to increase conversion and reduce returns, and then do fewer drops online or keep those items a little more bare bones.

Her items don’t need to be online for her to market them to her in-store local customers.

Dial in Your eCommerce Marketing Strategy

As I talked about in the Omni-Channel marketing episode it might just look like highlighting specific products throughout the year in your marketing campaigns.

How exactly this looks for you is going to depend on a lot of different factors, but the main takeaway is to simplify your overall business & marketing strategy as much as possible. Not only will it be less stressful for you, but it will be less confusing and more impactful for your customers.

Follow One Course Until Success

The other way focus comes into play is how Robert Kiyosaki defines it, follow one course until success. Now this is a statement I believe in enough that I used to have the word focus on a sticky note at my computer at my day job… I also see where this can trip people up sometimes.

There is a fine line between giving something a fair chance vs. beating a dead horse. That is a terrible saying. Why are we always killing things? Two birds, one stone; baby out with the bathwater. How about we say, putting good money after bad?

Be Consistent

My point is. You can’t try a marketing strategy for 3 days or even 90 days inconsistently and say it doesn’t work. But if you’ve given it your all for a solid 90 days and it’s still not working… maybe that’s not the right strategy for you.

How to Know When to Give Up?

Of course, that’s not a hard and fast rule because magic doesn’t necessarily happen in 90 days. And most of us give up right before the magic is about to happen.

I wish I could give you some concrete parameters for when something is deemed a failure… but it’s just not that cut and dry.

Do Less, But Better

I think the best way to implement this concept into your business is to do less, but better and try to avoid shiny object syndrome.

You hear this a lot when it comes to social media, right? Pick a platform, go all in, and get really great at it, instead of half-assing all the platforms.

This might also mean putting email optimization at the top of your list for 90 days. Really looking at the data and each metric individually so you can optimize them. Check out episode 75 to learn more about this process.

It might mean launching or optimizing another sales channel in your business. Maybe you threw some items on a marketplace but haven’t really bothered to build out the platform-specific SEO.

It might be implementing a post-purchase cross-sell funnel with a tool like Reconvert* and optimizing it along the way.

Essentially, don’t try and do all the things at the same time. Don’t start new projects before completing old ones. And if you’re brand new to business, don’t give up after 3 months.

Manage Your Expectations

I see this a lot in beginner eCommerce spaces. People will say I went live a week ago and haven’t gotten any sales or I’ve had 50 people come to my website but nobody has bought. Yea, because that’s not how this works.

It also shows up a lot when people first start ads. Our resident FB ads strategist requires a minimum 3-month commitment because that’s typically how long it takes to get everything dialed in, optimized, and profitable. If you’re doing it on your own and don’t have as much experience, it could take you longer.

Or you invest time and money into SEO optimization and might not see results for 6 months to a year. That’s typical.

Again, I don’t want to throw good money after bad or continue down the wrong path, but you’ve got to give things a fair chance too.

As I said, unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules about when something is or isn’t dead in the water. It takes a little bit of data and a little bit of intuition. We also have to remember to be realistic about our expectations. Sure, maybe you’re not growing as quickly as you’d like, or that specific channel is contributing as much revenue as you hope… but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete failure.

How to Refocus Your Efforts

Maybe it just means it needs more time, or you need to reallocate your resources to focus on it less, while maintaining the results you’re already getting.

I feel like I talked about this not too long ago… I’m getting deja vu. But whatevs, let’s talk about it again and I’ll give you two real-life client examples.

Client 1 is known for her weekly newsletter. Her customers LOVE it and it generates a shit ton of revenue. It was taking her a really long time to put it together though because she was going pretty in-depth on each feature in the email. So we did an A/B test. Version 1 was her full newsletter as she would normally create it. Version 2 was a pared-down version of that newsletter. It still featured all the same things, but there was less copy inside of it. The results? Exactly the same. Literally. Version 1 and 2 performed exactly the same on all metrics, the two most important being click-through and revenue because those are what are influenced by the internal content.

Client 2 was posting a lot on Instagram. I think it was 3 times a day 5 days a week. She was getting a little burnt out always coming up with and creating the content so I recommended she go down to 2 posts per day and monitor the results. What happened? Nothing other than she had less content to create. Overall she was getting the same visibility and revenue contribution from the channel.

Testing Your Marketing Strategies

I’ve run similar tests on my own Instagram. Now I’m not a great example because I totally suck at being consistent on social… that’s definitely a do as I say not as I do thing. Ugh, I cringed as soon as I started to say that. I take it back! But seriously, my advice is better than my execution.

Anyway, what I noticed was that when I posted fewer times per week, each of my posts got better reach and engagement. Now of course it’s already hard to track direct ROI from Instagram but it’s even harder when you don’t just have products for sale on your website. But ultimately, I did see that posting more doesn’t necessarily lead to more results.

At the end of the day, marketing, in general, is a bit of a puzzle and you have to figure out how the pieces fit together. The thing that makes it hard is that we’re working on a different puzzle. So while there are some best practices, like starting with the edges, we have to test and try things to see what works best for us. We are in a constant state of flux, and optimization, and in the words of a very smart Lounge member… this is all just one big experiment.

Your Action Step

So, what are your next steps? First, get real with yourself and ask “Have I been focusing as well as I could be?” For me, that answer is no. I’d venture a guess and say it’s probably a no for you too.

Once you admit that to yourself, (like I’m doing here live on this podcast), you can start to prioritize what you need to focus on. Start with revenue-generating activities or things that support your revenue-generating activities.

What Are Revenue Generating Activities?

For example, if you want to focus on ads, make sure you have your email optimized first so you don’t waste money on traffic that you can’t convert.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about investing time into SEO, but you’ve also toyed around with the idea of listing your best sellers on a marketplace. You can’t do both, so in that case… go to the marketplace first since you likely see results from that faster than SEO.

Again, there are too many variables for me to give you the perfect example for your situation. But you get the gist, right? And if you do want me to clear the cobwebs for you and help you figure out where you should focus next, join the Lounge. We have a ton of tools in there to help you figure it out along with the resources to implement it. If all else fails you can always book a 30-minute strategy call with me for an exclusive Lounge member price.

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Episodes Mentioned

How to Create an Omni-Channel Marketing Campaign

Hey, I'm Jessica

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

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