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197. What to Do When Business Feels Hard, You Feel Stuck, or You’re in a Rut?

What to do when business feels hard? - Woman on bed with laptop

197. What to Do When Business Feels Hard, You Feel Stuck, or You’re in a Rut?

Last week I got a Voxer from a biz friend. I always get really excited when I see a Voxer come through from her because I know we’re either going to geek out on business strategy together or gossip about a specific guilty pleasure we share.

If you’re listening… thank you for inspiring the Instagram post where I go so fired about this topic that I ran out of characters in my caption which prompted me to create this episode and rearrange my podcast schedule so I could get it out sooner rather than later. You know who you are.

And If you saw my Instagram post some of this will sound familiar but keep listening because we’re going a lot deeper here.

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Her Business Story

For a little background… I want to say she’s been in business for 6 years or so. She started from scratch, knowing basically nothing about running a product-based business, eCommerce, etc. But she’s smart and scrappy and figured it out along the way; investing in support when she needed it.

Over the years she built up this little engine that eventually started to run almost on autopilot. She got the business to a comfortable place, where it took up just the right amount of her time so she could enjoy her family and pay herself a comfortable salary. She understood the levers she had in her business when she wanted it to grow, but she could sit back and let it run when she didn’t. 

But something changed… she can’t get her ads to work. Her email isn’t converting like it used to. Something is just… off. She was feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and didn’t know what to do next. 

Did Other eCommerce Businesses Struggle in 2022?

And the first question she actually asked was… are other businesses feeling this too?

And the answer to that is a definite yes. A lot of business owners I talk to had a rough go in 2022. It hit everyone especially hard because so many of them had seen really great business growth in 2020 and 2021. As I’ve said on this podcast before, 2022 was a correction after the huge increases during the pandemic. 

Yes, some businesses held onto that growth. They’re not growing at the same percentage year over year, but they’re still seeing increases. 

Don’t compare yourself to a business like this if you know one because that’s the unicorn. The majority of other businesses have seen either flat year-over-year sales or have corrected to 2019 levels. 

But that doesn’t mean we ignore what the data was telling us. There were still improvements to be made and we were gonna figure it out. 

If you are currently experiencing something similar, first know that you ARE NOT ALONE. 

Not by a long shot. And I know maybe not everyone is talking about how their business is down or they’re struggling publicly. But… they are sharing it in their inner circle…so trust that you’re not alone, okay?

5 Steps to Get Yourself Out of A Rut in Your Business

If business was easy, everyone would do it! Cliche because it's true. As an entrepreneur, you're bound to hit a few rough spots in your business. There are going to be days when you want to quit! There are going to be days when you feel like you don't know what to do next or you think you shouldn't even be an entrepreneur! Here are 5 simple steps to getting out of that rut!

1. Take a Deep Breath

Seriously, don’t skip this. It’s scientific. They calm your nerves, relieve stress, and will help you think more clearly. 

2. Look at How Far You've Come

You are doing what 70% of people are not doing… running your own business. 

It’s going to be some of the best and worst times of your life. The highest highs and the lowest lows. 

But you have accomplished soooo much! You overcame so many obstacles, have learned so many new skills, and you made money doing something you LOVE. 

Okay, so you’ve hit a rough patch. But it was probably pretty rough when you started too, right? When you basically had no clue what the hell you were doing and everything felt really hard. But you figured it out and got through it. 

The thing is… over time we forget how hard something felt when we were in the thick of it. We get through, we heal, we find joy on the other side and we keep going. 

I mean if we didn’t… it’s most likely people wouldn’t bother finding new relationships after their teens and 20s and people wouldn’t give birth to more than one child! 

It’s a good thing that we forget… it lets us continue to try new things and put ourselves out there. The downside is… when things get hard again they feel REALLY hard. As if it’s the hardest thing we’ve ever dealt with. Or like we’re not going to get through it. 

But we are. And everything that we’ve accomplished along the way is proof of that. So take some time to reflect. Write it down. Things are more powerful when they’re written down. 

Fuck it, put it on a sticky note and post it somewhere you’ll see it every day. 

3. Brainstorm with a Biz Friend

And it can’t be just any friend… it has to be someone who understands the business you’re in. If you don’t have any product-based biz friends you feel comfortable sharing with, reach out to a mentor like me! You can even join the Lounge for support. 

And this is probably the most important step of all because you are too caught up in the weeds of your business to see things clearly. An outside perspective is going to bring clarity fast. 

I’m getting Deja Vu because I used this same reference in an Instagram story this week, I already forgot what it was in reference to, but basically… think back to that crappy partner your best friend had. All you wanted them to do was dump that soul-sucking loser but they couldn’t see them for what they really were. But you, on the outside are wondering how they could be so blind to what was right in front of them. 

This is kinda like that…. but less dramatic. 

They’re going to bring a more pragmatic, less emotional view of your situation. 

I don’t know how long she’s been struggling, but hopefully not too long before she reached out to me because in about an hour, with some data research and coffee breaks… we had her go-forward plan all mapped out. 

4. Get to Work

Once you know what to do moving forward pick one or two main goals, depending on how big they are to focus on it over the next 90 days. Then prioritize the steps you’re going to take to get there. 

We’re going to circle back to this step with a few ideas of how to figure this out so just hang tight, we’ve got one more step to discuss. 

5. Lean back into WHY you started your business in the first place

Most often when I talk to business owners who are feeling stuck… it’s because they lost the spark they had for their brand and mission when they first started. 

It usually manifests itself in the way they market. They get caught up in checking off the boxes and just selling products like they’re on a hamster wheel… but the passion behind their message gets lost. 

and 99% of the time… it’s this passion that got them this far in the first place. 

Have you ever interviewed someone for a job? You know when they’re into it and when they’re not right?  Or maybe you’ve heard one of my podcast episodes where I don’t have quite the same energy as I usually do. 

That kind of shit comes through. 

And this one in particular… this one happens a lot. To ALL of us. I’ve had this conversation more than once in the last year. I’ve seen it happen at big corporate companies too. It’s happened to me. 

Reconnect with why you created your business. And it’s not necessarily your WHY in terms of feeding your family, having more time freedom, etc. There are lots of ways to do that. It’s why THIS business, THIS product. 

I created eCommerce Badassery because I wanted to put more money in the pockets of eCommerce entrepreneurs. 

You created your product because X, you opened your boutique because X, you create your art because, X. We all know, products are more than just products. Connect back with that. 

How to Figure Out the Best Next Steps in Your Business

Okay, now that you know the steps to get out of your rut… let’s talk about how we figured out what the best next steps in her business were.

It all starts with the data. We had to diagnose where the issues were. 

First, we looked at email. It was definitely generating less revenue than before… but after looking a bit more closely that was mostly because there were fewer people going through her flows and not as many fresh leads on her email list. So the real issue, traffic. 

I’m terms of her individual flows, there were a couple of optimization opportunities. Especially because her product price is at the high end of the market. While it may have been a no-brainer before… with the way people felt inflation hit their wallets last year they might be more hesitant. It’s not to say there aren’t people willing to pay that price. There is a customer for every price point. 

But it’s possible for some of her existing people it was already a bit of a stretch for them, and they’re probably prioritizing their children and family over themselves because that’s usually what emotional beings do. So on, we want to lean back into the importance of self-care, no matter how small a thing it is, and give them permission to treat themselves. 

And then she may also need to try and tap into a bit of a higher-income audience. Just one step above who her main customer is now. It’s possible they‘ve downgraded their spending a bit which makes her product a perfect fit.

She also has a new-ish product that can be offered as a down-sell in her flows to people who don’t convert on the main best seller. 

Her organic ranking data also told us that one of her products is ranking on page 1 for associated keywords. 

It’s a product that she’s never put much marketing behind but has huge potential. 

Focusing on that product, in particular, opens up so many opportunities for SEO optimization and PR coverage. I recommended that she create a sales funnel specifically for that product. From an entirely separate ad campaign to a follow-up email funnel.

The cherry on top… the person who would purchase that is very likely to buy her other best seller as well, so that opens up a cross-sell opportunity. But we still want to target this marketing messaging separately from her main brand because the REASON WHY they would buy this is different than her other product.

And best of all, her products are consumable. So all she has to do is get them in the door and then they’re in it for the long haul. 

And then lastly, we identified who on her list has been engaging with her emails and website, but hasn’t placed an order yet. And we separated them based on these two main products we’ve been discussing. 

Now she can create 2 email marketing campaigns, each featuring these products, to people who have already shown interest in them but just haven’t pulled the trigger yet. 

How to Prioritize Your To-Do List

Now that we’ve got the what… it’s time to prioritize. 

I recommended she implements the email campaigns first to capitalize on the recency of their engagement and to get a nice little revenue bump.

Then, she’ll tweak her existing flows to optimize their performance and conversions from the traffic she is already getting.

Now we have to decide, does she put her energy into creating the marketing campaign and sales funnel for the new focus product or try and fix her existing ads for her main product that haven’t been working?

It’s a tough call, right? Because you don’t want to abandon the main best seller that drives the majority of her business. It has been the thing stressing her out the most and this new product focus is going to take some time, energy, and effort to get fully set up and optimized, and the sooner she starts working on that the sooner she can start seeing some results. 

Oh… and there are also some SEO optimization opportunities on her site too. But she can’t do it at all once. 

So here’s how I broke it down. 

First, get help with the ads. Because she runs them herself I gave her a recommendation on who she could reach out to for another set of eyes. Once she gets their feedback then she can make the tweaks she needs to make but I didn’t want her to use too much brain power on it, she’s already burnt out with that. 

Then, when it comes to SEO… this is always a bit of a chicken and an egg situation right? It takes a while so should I do it first? But because it takes a while I’m not going to see the return right away. 

The answer to that depends on a lot of different factors based on your specific product, business, situation, and current needs. 

For her, I recommended she wait on the SEO and put her energy toward the new focus product marketing product campaign first. Why? There are a few reasons. 

  1. It will get her monetary ROI faster. Truth is, the product sells itself because it solves a common problem in a fun way. She just needs to get it in front of more people. 
  2. She loves the product and already knows how to do all the steps in the process. If she can turn off all the other things that are stressing her out and just focus on this, she’ll likely enjoy it and have fun… bringing a little joy back into her business. 
  3. Because her site has existed for so long and because she’s already ranking for her target keywords, it won’t take as long for her to see the results of her SEO efforts. Instead of 6 months, she’ll likely see results in 3. Plus, the changes she’ll be making to her site to amp up this new product focus will contribute to her overall SEO optimization anyway. 

Now of course, we literally just had this conversation a few days ago from when this podcast episode is going live… so it’s too soon to see any financial reward. But the biggest result from this conversation… her renewed clarity and excitement for her business. And that excitement and passion are going to come through in her marketing. I have no doubt it’s going to be amazing. 

Why You Need an Outside Perspective for Your Business

A bit of food for thought before we go. Did I tell her anything she didn’t already know? Well, actually yes one thing… that she would see SEO results faster since she’s been in business for so long. 

But the rest of it? Not really. It wasn’t necessarily about the information. The information can be found EVERYWHERE. The problem is that information is disjointed and not specific to your business or situation. There’s always a bit of nuance that’s missed when the person giving you the information can’t tailor it to you. 

The magic is in the outside perspective of YOUR business from someone who understands YOUR business. 

My point here is… don’t run your business alone. Don’t do it in a silo. You’ll get further, get unstuck, get inspired faster when you’re surrounded by people who understand what you do and can help you see the forest through the trees as they say. Sometimes business feels hard. There's no way around that… but having the right people in your corner can help you push through.

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