Simplification, Leverage, and Automation (oh my!)

Do you ever wish your business was easier to run?

Most are looking for the magic fairy dust (or the one tool) that will put the business on autopilot.

Hate to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t exist (I’ve looked).

But there are ways you can get closer to “push button” and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

At the end of the day, we want more—effectiveness, production, profit—from less—effort, money, energy, time.

Last week I shared what I believe to be the secret to sustainable growth—strategic subtraction. But taking things away, by itself, won’t give you the kind of more you want.

Each new bit of growth requires new capabilities in three areas:

  • Simplification
  • Leverage
  • Automation

The Subtle Art of Simplification

Everybody wants leverage. And if I had a dollar for every time a firm owner told me about their plan to automate some process with software, I’d already be retired.

But most of the time we try to create leverage and apply automation to the complex.

And it’s hard to do.

There’s no tool you can buy or course you can take to simplify your business. It requires observation, thought, and discernment.

The easiest way to do it is to start with questions…

What’s really delivering value to our clients (and driving profit for the firm)?

What steps are essential to delivering that value?

What tools and systems are essential to delivering that value?

What relationships are essential to delivering that value?

Now the hard one…

What are we currently spending time, energy and money on, that’s not contributing to that value? (It’ll be the biggest list.)

Here’s a simple example…

We used to offer 11 opt-in bonuses to entice people to join our mailing list. We discovered that of those, the biggest value to business owners who just discovered us (and also lead to more sales appointments and clients) came from just one opt-in bonus.

The problem is that the other 10 required a form, a dedicated landing page and thank you page, a welcome email and a series of follow-up emails. All of that stuff existed, but it still takes time to maintain (because sooner or later all tech breaks). It had to be reviewed periodically to ensure that everything was up to date. And why…?

It wasn’t producing results. So we simplified from 11 to 1.

We’ve applied that same kind of discernment to our offerings, our team, our revenue streams (we used to accept affiliate commissions when we did a joint webinar but stopped…the relatively small amount of money wasn’t worth the effort).

All of this seems simple and obvious when you look at it in hindsight, but it’s never clear where you can simplify until you sit down and really think about what you’re trying to accomplish AND determine what’s really contributing to that result.

The Direct Response Marketing Trap

We see this unchecked pattern of growing complexity all the time in businesses that have read about direct response marketing (where you should be able to track the success of every marketing activity) and have tried to implement a lot of tactics across a very small market.

They desperately want data to tell them what’s working and what’s not, so they A/B test web pages that only get a handful of visitors a day or week. They try to run launches to lists of a few hundred.

In the end, they keep chasing tactics (which is a problem on its own), but the root is almost always this desire to dial in the perfectly tracked set-and-forget marketing.

Most of the time, you don’t need more tactics. You need to focus on the few things that really drive results:

  1. A great compelling offer that creates differentiating value for your clients.
  2. One way to stay relevant and interesting to your current and future clients so you can show up in their lives a few times a month (at least), and build a relationship that supports commerce.
  3. One way to move interested and ready prospects into a 1-on-1 conversation where you can figure out if it makes sense to work together.

That’s it. It ain’t any more complicated than that.

Leverage and Automation are Easy Once You’ve Simplified

Leverage is really all about multiplying the impact of an input. Usually, we mean time and energy.

The problem is that until you simplify a part of your business it’s hard to know where you should apply leverage (given limited resources of time, energy and money).

Let’s take the marketing example above.

I know I need a way to create relationships that will support commerce. To do that requires that I show up and be valuable to the people I want to be in relationship with.

When I started in business in the mid-nineties we did that by being physically present with the people we wanted to do business with. We went to networking events, conferences, gave speeches, attended meetings, made phone calls, and sent personal notes. All of that worked (and still does), but there’s no leverage in it.

I could only create relationships with a few dozen people at a time with those tools.

So if we fast forward to today, you can show up, be valuable, relevant, and interesting and reach hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people with a fraction of the effort using tools like this email or a podcast.

And if I want to convert people from an email reader or podcast listener to the next step, I can do that with leverage using a presentation or webinar.

Once I’ve got leveraged systems working (manually), with proven results, I can add automation where it makes sense.

Every time I’ve seen a business try to apply automation before simplifying and creating a leveraged system it’s always failed.

If you stop to think about your current business, where’s your biggest opportunity to simplify, get leverage and automate?

Steve

P.S. If all of this sounds like marketing 101, the ideas are. Actually implementing it is the graduate level course. 😉

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