Whew. We have helped over 700 boutique owners in the last year and a half. Yes, I'm exhausted. But I've also learned a h*ll of a lot!
One thing I've learned is that it's ridiculously easy to make an investment in your business. Around every corner, there will be a new course, marketing strategist, storefront or mobile boutique opportunity, or designer offering a shiny new logo or website.
Truly getting an ROI on your investment, though?? Not so ridiculously easy! So how do you make sure that you get that ROI (whether you are working with Hot Mess on your brand and website or something else altogether)??
Let's dive in!
1. Make sure you actually know what your goals are. And make them specific.
This may sound so simple and obvious. But here's the issue! Goals like: 'increasing my revenue' or 'increasing my follower count on instagram' or even 'having a prettier website' are just not super useful.
Of course your goal should always be to increase revenue. But what is your revenue now (what has it been for the last 12 months, monthly, quarterly and daily), and what are your specific revenue goals for the next month, quarter and year?
And when you say increase revenue, on what sales channel specifically? On your website, within your Facebook group (via an app like CommentSold or manual invoicing), in your storefront, in your boutique truck? Just 'increasing revenue' leaves way too much up in the air. Get specific, because the stuff that will help you reach your goal in increasing your website revenue is NOT at all the same stuff that will help you increase your Storefront revenue. Will there be some overlap most of the time in terms of marketing strategy, of course! But you don't want to live in that overlap. You want to be intentional about everything you do (and every minute or dollar you spend on your business).
Speaking of being intentional, let's look at that 'increase my follower count on Instagram' example. First of all, f*ck follower counts. Your follower count should be a byproduct of the hard work that you put in, your goal should be what you actually want to get out of that. Because do you truly care about getting to 10,000 followers on IG? Or do you care about hitting $10,000 in sales per month from Instagram? Another way to think about this is, is there a certain follower count that will guarantee that you will hit your monthly sales goals? No!
It doesn't mean it's not worth tracking follower growth though, and actually setting a goal around this isn't a bad idea - as long as you know why you are truly wanting to grow your following (to increase hits to your website and increase revenue, for example) and what the relation is between your follower counts and your end goals. Meaning can you analyze your current Instagram performance (I know this gets into math here, #sorrynotsorry) in terms of click rate and conversion rate per post (or perhaps per week or per month if you are smaller scale)? Then if you know this information, you can start to make inferences about how increasing your follower count can actually increase your revenue.
But on this note, you will want to make sure that the quality of your new followers is comparable with the quality of your existing followers (and that your content stays consistent as well in quality and engagement percentages). Thus investing in a 'get 10,000 followers quick IG guru' or even participating in loop giveaways may not be helpful to you in reaching your real goal (which if anything should be to: increase my follower count on IG while maintaining existing engagement and conversion rates in order to increase the sales revenue coming in from Instagram).
Ok now let's dive into that 'having a prettier website' example. The horror. Look branding and aesthetics is seriously important (you know I'm all about it), especially in this industry. But it doesn't pay the bills all on it's own. Why do you want a prettier website, what will it do for you and your business. How does investing in something like this fit into the bigger picture for you of your short-term and long-term business goals?
2. Speaking of strategy. Make sure you have one and that you understand how this potential investment fits into that strategy.
Before you invest your money or time into something, make sure you understand how this 'thing' (whatever product or service it is) fits into your overall business strategically.
Now investing doesn't always = immediate financial ROI. ROI comes in many forms (could be in additional time available to you, or increased efficiency of your team). But the question remains, if you are looking at your goals - what will actually help you reach them?
If, for example, you have specific revenue goals in place for the upcoming year, and you want to focus (first) on increasing revenue specifically from your website. Then a website revamp may make total sense. BUTTTTTT only if it's part of a bigger strategy around 'increasing website sales revenue.'
And important to note here: You can't (and shouldn't) strategize about all the things at once, or you will be diluting your efforts and energy and essentially just wasting your time.
So your strategy could include revamping your website to make it: more aesthetically pleasing so it really stands out in a crowded marketplace, easier to navigate, and just better speak to your target customer. From there, your strategy should include the ways that you will work to drive additional traffic (lots of additional traffic) to that newly revamped website. And again, focus your efforts instead of diluting them, so using Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twittter, Emails and Youtube to drive traffic. Hmm, maybe if you have a marketing team of 5, girl! You cannot be absolutely amazing at all the things at once, but you can be amazing at one thing at a time. And believe me, you will get more out of focusing (and really going all in) on 1-2 marketing strategies or platforms than you will out of half-assing your way through several.
3. Make sure you are choosing the right investment.
Whether you are thinking of investing in a course, a coach or a done-for-you service provider, make sure you are investing wisely. Just like you want to focus your marketing efforts instead of trying to half-ass all the things. Well it's better to invest in the right help (what you really need based on your current strategy and goals) than to look for the cheapest solution or just pick a new project based on emotion, impulse or 'shiny object syndrome.'
As an example, let's think about investing in a Facebook Ads Marketing Expert. Is your business even truly ready for the investment of ads? Is the website you will be sending your potential (ly expensive new) customers to on point? Do you have enough inventory to even support the revenue goals that you have set for your Facebook ads? Do you have a shipping team in place (or you are ready to grow your shipping team) to handle the potential increase in revenue? Do you have strategies in place on how to nurture those potential customers until they are ready to purchase? Do you know your Facebook Ads revenue goals? And your conversion rate? So you can figure out how many daily visitors you'll need to your website? Or are you just going to wing it all and hope that your new Facebook Ads expert thinks of all these things for you?
4. Make sure you are also choosing the right freelancer, employee, contractor or agency to help you.
To continue on from my last point. Let's repeat that last question. Are you just going to wing it and hope that your new (insert type of expert here) thinks of all these things for you?
Don't get me wrong, there are many experts who WILL think of these things for you (or with you, I should say)! But not all. For example, there is a big difference between hiring a virtual assistant to post for you on social media, vs trying to find someone who is going to actually work with you on creating your social media marketing strategy and helping you actually reach towards your specific goals (this would include unique engaging content creation that truly encapsulates your brand, ongoing data analysis and subsequent adjustment of initial marketing strategy based on the feedback from that data). And hey depending on your goals and current needs, a VA may be just what you need. But you should be very clear on what exactly you need and realistic on who or what can really make that happen.
Let's think about an example I see so commonly. Brand development and logo design. Is your potential new logo designer going to dive in with you in terms of nailing down a color scheme, and choosing your other brand elements (textures, patterns, fonts, shapes, symbols, etc.)? Will they be creating several logo variations for you (so that you have a scalable vector format, a favicon/symbol, a wider banner width version of your logo and a square version as well)? Will they be creating something unique just for you or using a standard template? And do you need all of this at this stage of your business or not? Maybe you are just starting out and truly not profitable yet, it's totally ok to invest in an inexpensive 'starter logo' if that's what makes sense for your business currently. On the other hand, if you are about to pay $5K to wrap a boutique truck or order a large storefront sign - well it may be time to think about more professional branding.
Bring on the right help. Bring on the help that is capable of helping you reach your goals. Bring on the help that knows more than you do, and has skills that you don't. Bring on the help that truly understands where you're going and knows how to guide you in getting there (have they been there themself, or have they truly helped other clients get there, do they have case studies or examples of their work that you can review)? Do they specialize in YOUR industry?
To wrap this up...
Have you made significant investments in your business without any payoff? And was that because you invested in the wrong thing or with the wrong freelancer/company? Or was it because you didn't do your part to make the most of that investment? Look, you can't be afraid to invest in your business. Yes, you can get pretty dang far sometimes just winging it and hustling. But there comes a point where doing things this way just isn't sustainable. Do you really want to work this hard the rest of your business-owning-life? And are you really getting out of this business what you want and need to be (are you paying yourself a decent salary, is your business supporting a team so that you don't have to wear every single hat, are you able to take some time off while your business goes on without you, etc.)?
Anyway, the point is: do I recommend investing in your business? Hands down, absolutely. But do I recommend investing in your business without truly understanding what your goals are and what specific role this investment will have in helping you reach those goals? Absolutely not.
Always here for some tough love, I want you to succeed girl!!
Angela - Hot Mess Consulting