Ecommerce store owners have long delegated the hosting to vendors, and most ecommerce sites rely on programmers that work outside the company to attend to the software that runs it all. But it's the other stuff, all that other marketing and operational stuff in your ecommerce business, that may be your biggest bottleneck. Let's look at how you can break through and get marketing stuff done through delegating. (Part 1 of a series).
Choose, prioritize, then delegate
The part that's holding you back, what might best unleash sales growth, is probably not your ecommerce technology platform. Most merchants have more features available than they have time to take advantage of, and most sites have more than adequate uptime and speed. It's all that other stuff — the prioritized follow-through on all those marketing ideas that presents your best opportunities to profit online.
The matter of choosing what to do about marketing online, in a world of exploding ecommerce opportunities, can feel like a job in itself (considered The Fancy yet?). It is a job just to screen out what's worthy of doing. You'll listen to ideas and watch trends, yes. But few owners are comfortable delegating much about the marketing strategy.
Then once you've decided, once you're clearer on what to do now (and later), then delegate. (If you're wanting to do better than pitch coupon codes, if you're ready to step out with a compelling story to underlie how and what you sell, then you're going to need some help!) You must delegate!
That's the situation a business owner I know found himself facing. He thought hiring a new employee would be the answer. It wouldn't be 100% website marketing work, but it could grow to that over time. So he placed ads and looked in the usual places and before long had a list of eager applicants.
First, reveal the person
Sixteen minutes after picking up the phone, I was just about finished with my questions. "Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?" I asked.
"I thought we were going to talk about the website?" she replied. A tinge of disappointment crept into her question, coloring the tone of business cliche positivity she'd maintained throughout the job interview.
"For now, we're just talking about you," I said.
After a moment's pleasantries, I hung up. While she waited in a holding room 1205 miles away, I dashed off an email to the business owner with my assessment of his latest job candidate. When my two cents reached his in-box, then he'd cue his assistant in the holding room whether to move the candidate to the next stage of the hiring process, or show her the door. Then the process repeated like that for a couple days.
This tag team approach to hiring for an ecommerce website boosted the owner's confidence. The prospect of choosing the right person for the job promised him relief from a growing backlog. The owner imagined it this way: This new job, and the person to fill it, would be the answer to his feelings of overwhelm. He could stop being the bottleneck.
Second, compare against job's responsibilities
My questions of the applicants drew out their own experiences and preferences. More than an inventory of skills, I meant to understand the person's motivations and aptitudes and interests. Then we'd consider these against the five areas of responsibility defined for the job. Here's an abbreviated version of our list:
Gathering photos, videos, stories, including from employees and customers, then preparing it for the website at the direction of the owner for the purpose of producing "content" with an eye towards keywords and search engines. This includes (outsourcing) the writing of articles, edits, and posting on the website.
Hustling links to the website from the websites of suppliers, friends, industry-related directory websites, and personal blogs. (This is much easier if the website offers some useful / interesting / notable / remarkable / clever / new / valuable info or tools. See #1)
Gathering data on performance of the website: assembling raw data from sources like Woopra, Piwik, AdWords, and Stripe. Might involve putting it into Excel, or using a web-based performance charting tool like http://www.digmydata.com/. Then having periodic discussions of a decision-making nature.
Talking on the phone with prospective customers, really listening, trying to understand and document the buying fears, buying triggers, reasons they might delay or act now. And then bringing that to decision-oriented discussions about how website ought respond to this feedback. At it's most basic, this is sales + customer service.
- Monitoring the health of the website, its performance, and consumption of resources, and being alert to receiving errors and knowing who to contact about fixing it.
The challenge in matching one person to the "job"
When you look at a job spanning these areas, finding one person who can do it all can be a challenge. Depending on the maturity of your ecommerce operation, you may have some or all of these areas covered by multiple people. From a skill or aptitude perspective, these areas require:
- creative skills with ability to write, a capacity to explain.
- analytical skills requiring data aggregation and judgement.
- straight customer service with attentive listening.
- curiosity, ideally with a self-directed quality.
Finding a fit between a job with these diverse criteria and an applicant you like — not so easy. In fact, the owner fought off discouragement as one after another didn't fit 100%.
Reframe the hiring problem with these questions
Whom to delegate to when your needs are diverse? How to delegate when you can't find the right person? These questions are fundamental. Answering them begs another question: what if you could delegate without hiring new staff employees?
- What if you took the attitude of actively delegating the marketing follow-through, but thought of the work to be done as a project, not a 'job'?
- What if you focused on outcomes delivered by reasonably priced specialists, as needed, rather than as an on-going, broadly-defined staff position?
- How might this perspective on delegating change the person you did hire on staff, if you were to hire someone new for a staff position?
In a follow-up post in this series, I'll come back to the business owner example I mentioned above. He's starting to ask these questions and I'll share conclusions.
There's not one right answer. There's more than one viable strategy for delegating. It's more important to recognize delegating as your best means to unclog ecommerce sales bottlenecks.
It's not a new platform you need, nor features; not really! There's so much you already know to do to market and sell, if only you can act: faster and with sufficient thoroughness. There are people who can help at reasonable wages. It's an employer's market, and you can find help on your terms.
P.S. Have you hired someone this year related to an ecommerce site? Thought about hiring? Would you be willing to answer a couple questions for my research? Grateful if you'd reply here.