Late last year, I set a goal to double my revenue in 2016.
At the risk of sounding all braggy braggy – I have now officially achieved that goal – and it’s only the end of October.
In case you’d like to copy me, here’s how I did it. In 9 “not-so-secret” steps that you’ve probably already heard (and possibly aren’t doing.)
1. Believe it’s possible
Mindset is important. It’s hard to set goals and take action towards achieving them if you don’t believe they’re possible.
My new belief took root when I read an article that said in essence: “It’s NORMAL to double your revenue each year when you’re just starting out.”
Huh? Seriously? It’s NORMAL?
And here I was – growing slowly over the past 3 years. In that moment, I realized that I held the belief that “businesses are supposed to grow slowly.” I had unknowingly chosen the slow track by reassuring myself that lacklustre results were normal.
So I replaced my old belief with the new one.
2. Set goals (and write them down)
Yeah. I know. Goals. Really? Wow. That’s earth-shattering news. Cue eye-roll.
There’s a reason why “set goals” has become cliche. Because it works.
The “writing down” part is also important – especially if you’re easily distracted – it helps you remember what they are.
I kept my goals very simple: X dollars in revenue, Y number of clients, create a great coaching program.
3. Track your time
I track my time in 30 minute increments in an Excel sheet. Every day. And I colour code my business activities.
Yellow for “admin and planning” stuff. Two different shades of green for client work and sales & marketing work. Purple for the creative stuff like writing and creating presentations.
Only actual, productive work stuff gets a colour. Everything else gets tracked, but not coloured.
At the end of each day, I tally up how many hours I’ve worked. This is how I know that I work between 5 and 6 hours on a good day – and I average somewhere between 20 and 30 hours each week (including weekends.)
Keeping myself honest in this way means that I don’t fool myself into believing that I’m “working” when I’m reading blog posts (“reading” is the most common uncoloured entry on my spreadsheet outside of “sleeping”) so I get more actual, productive work done.
This system means that I’m continually checking in with myself to see if I’m using my time wisely. It’s a very effective method of self-accountability.
4. Focus focus focus
This was the hardest part for me. I get new ideas all the time. Workshops I can create! New programs I can offer! Other businesses I can start!
This also meant making the very hard decision to stop offering my Marketing Action Club group program – which was the most successful program I had ever run and accounted for a significant portion of my previous 2 years’ income.
I went seriously off track twice this year – and my revenue took a dive both times. Chasing after bright and shiny squirrels takes time, effort, energy and focus away from your goals. (Doh!)
5. Create a great product/service
Sure, you can rake in a bunch of money if you focus on sales and marketing and deliver mediocrity – but you end up constantly needing to find fresh, new customers and fight against a bad reputation.
Sustainable businesses spring from great services. If you do a good job for people, you get repeat business and referrals.
My guiding questions for the past year: How can I make my coaching program better? How can I better serve my clients?
Since January, I implemented the following to improve my program – based on what my clients needed and asked for:
- I developed a client tracking system for myself
- I added pre-session and post-session email reminders to increase accountability
- I am developing a series of videos, questionnaires and worksheets to guide them though the homework I assign
- I enrolled in a coaching program to improve my ability to serve and add new tools to my work
I’m sticking to this same mission next year – and here is some of what I have planned
- Developing more prescriptive step-by-step action plans and almost-done-for-you materials
- Looking into ways to increase the accountability factor in my program
- Looking at ways to bring my clients together and develop collaborative marketing opportunities
6. Develop a sales & marketing process that works
At Microsoft they call it “eating your own dog food” – it’s the practice of actually USING the tool you are developing. This year, I put myself through my own program. I developed the exact 4 step path from “stranger who needs my services” to “happy paying client” that I advise for my clients. And I started right from the beginning.
(Incidentally, one of the commonalities of my most successful clients is their willingness to focus on the basics rather than looking for “new” or “advanced” tactics. The most dangerous words are “I already know that” or “I tried that and it didn’t work.”)
1. Website content
I revised all my website content to clearly explain my services. This took weeks of effort and I developed even more empathy for the clients that I “torture” with writing assignments. (It also paid off with new clients who said things like: “I read every word on your website” or “I felt like you were inside my head.”)
2. Sales conversation
I reviewed my discovery session (sales conversation) and made some minor adjustments and an outline to remind myself to stay on track. I organized my documents and solidified my intake process. (No more scrambling to locate the latest copy of my coaching agreement!)
3. Lead generation
I focused my lead generation efforts on the things that work for me. In my case, teaching live workshops and webinars. I cut out the things that aren’t particularly effective (for me!) – like social media and networking events.
4. Follow up and keep in touch
I am only now – 10 months later – working on my follow up and keep in touch systems. And I’m easing into content marketing by writing articles like this one.
7. Assess and improve on an ongoing basis
After every coaching call, sales call, speaking engagement, workshop or webinar, I ask myself 3 questions:
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- How can I make that better?
At the end of each week, I conduct a review:
- How much progress have I made towards my goals?
- What am I acknowledging or celebrating?
- What are my challenges?
- What needs to change?
- What’s my #1 priority for next week?
8. Build habits for taking action
I resist routine and I hate being told what to do – by anyone – including myself!
And I will always choose “thinking, planning or analyzing” over “taking action and doing stuff.”
Unfortunately for me (and maybe you?) it’s the action taking that gets results.
So I almost hate to admit that developing good work habits has played such a significant role in my success this year. Crazy things like:
- Reviewing my goals and progress every week
- Determining a single priority for the following week (and actually DOING it)
- Creating a daily “to do” list (and…wait for it…DOING them)
- Relentlessly tracking my time
- Clearing off my desk each evening
9. Invest in your growth & development
This post would not be complete without a completely self-serving suggestion about the value of investing in coaching. 🙂
I don’t just sell these types of services – I invest in them as well.
This year alone, I’ve invested close to $10,000 in my own personal and professional development, including:
- A coach
- A “how to coach” program
- Several marketing courses
(The fact that I value and routinely buy the sorts of services that my clients sell is one of the advantages they get in working with me – nothing like getting “how to market yourself” advice from someone who fits your buyer profile!)
There are no secrets. It’s not always fun. You’ll have to work.
It’s not “fun” to say no to delightful new distractions or side projects. Clearing off my desk each night does not fill my heart with joy. Re-writing my website content was a slog and a half.
The small business marketing world is full of people telling you that business is easy (if you know the “secrets”) and that you can create a 6 or 7 figure business overnight by following their magic blueprint.
There are no secrets.
Building a successful business takes exactly what you’d expect: patience, persistence and hard work. It takes learning about sales and marketing – and putting what you’ve learned into action. It takes delivering a quality service. It takes showing up day after day – just like you would if you had a real job.
For me, it’s all worth it. I get to do the work I love – with clients I adore – and all on my own terms.