Business evaluation. When was the last time?

You invested in your brand, there were months (some cases years) of planning, and in the early stages there were not enough hours in the day but now you are in business. Something that used was unintentionally done is no longer being completed. The name was different when you did it. It was asking your friends, family, and first customers how your idea sounded or if your product appealed to them. At that time, it was mainly asked out of self-doubt. You took the feedback then adapted and changed. Your feedback now takes many forms, you may try to figure out what the issue is but it has become harder to pinpoint. You now have less time than you did before and while things are working, you have a long to-do list. You put band-aids as temporary fixes but now those band-aid processes are deeply integrated. To make life even more complex even your employees have added their own band-aids.

This may sound familiar because it is a common issue within business. Over time business can start to stagnate internally. Whether it is a product display that was painstakingly crafted that never seems to look quite right, an internal process that feels like it is one more step from breaking, or a product line that seems to have lost its production steam. Business evaluations are often the first thing to go by the wayside when to-do-lists grow. Ironically when a business has not evaluated themselves in a while, minor issues compound which makes finding the time to complete one seem impossible.

Many business use consultants who work with process improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma, Agile, JIT, or the many other process improvement acronyms. I will likely get private messages from all the Black Belts out there saying Six Sigma is the only truly effective way. While I understand, and have worked within Six Sigma (and some others), one of the largest drawbacks to these methodologies is the buy-in required by employees and at times incentives to engage. Employees are afraid of losing their job, losing the comfort of the known, or the feeling of value by the task they complete, so they can withhold key steps. Everyone loves the title of “subject matter expert” but if that subject goes away then they may feel like they have nothing. This makes process improvement and business evaluations long and costly from a traditional sense. Do not get me wrong there is value of continued process improvements and sometimes these methodologies are best approach. If you have the budget by all means they are worth every penny (and why we do what we do). However, this does not help a small business who can’t afford the higher costs associated with long-term plans.

You may wonder how to complete an effective business evaluation if you don’t have the big budget. You may not have the money to carry out or send one of your employees to get certified in one of these systems but there are some simple things you can do to help you in the short-term. These are universal and can adapt to your industry.

  1. Fostering an environment of collaboration and process improvement. This may sound easy but I see many businesses fail in this regularly. As simple as a suggestion box and based off those suggestions think about creating a volunteer groups of people to come up with better ways of doing things. Some of the greatest ideas I have seen have come out of small groups tasked with improving a process. (While a consultant can greatly increase the productivity in these groups, getting the right group together can have great results.)
  2. Processes in theory work flawlessly but in practice that is another story. Get to know what your employees actually do. Many business owners and managers are very removed from the processes their employees/direct reports are doing. If you never shadow an employee how do you know what you expect is getting done is actually getting done?
  3. Manage your employee morale. Sometimes a “bad” employee just needs a redirection or be given a task that may interest them. While this may not work all the time, if there are more “bad” employees than good ones it is indicative of a larger problem. Things that are good company barometers are: productivity, customer reviews, and lack of healthy banter in the work place. While too much banter can mean low workload, too little means your employees are likely overworked. I can often tell walking into a business if the stress level is high because everyone is so focused and you can hear a pin drop. More times than not those are the places that need the most process improvement. If the budget allows, create time for minor employee events. Do anything to help keep morale up because if it goes you may lose some of your best talent.
  4. Know when you need help. If overtime is now becoming normal time or inventory is a nightmare it is time to hire. However, know that a poor process can cause your staff collectively to lose time that could amount to a few new hires. Be proactive and explore if you need outside help. The short-term investment, can be offset with the long-term savings.

By keeping your mindset on business evaluation and striving to improve you can effectively keep your business from stagnating. Even without a consultant you can still get results if your are determined. Hold on here we are deterring you from utilizing us!? Not really. If you succeed, we succeed. What do we mean by that? You may see short-term improvements that enable you to budget for us to come in and bring them to the next level. It is the difference between a Kia and a Mustang. A Kia can get you where you need to go, but a Mustang can get you there faster. If you need support and need some outside perspective please feel free to reach out to us. We offer competitive rates with a diverse background, personalized packages tailored to your unique business while keeping your budget in mind.

A short list of Google AdWords mistakes and how to avoid them.

Loving your ad more than your numbers

Great you made a really catchy and witty ad.  You spend hours crafting it and it is better than indoor plumbing.  However good it is or how well it performed in the past, if the numbers do not show a high click-through-rate (CTR) or a higher conversion rate then it is time to ditch or reinvent the ad.  (In a future post, I will go over why CTR is not the tell all).  The best way to test for the right ad set is to have multiple test ads going.  You can usually estimate how well an ad will do within the first 50 clicks.  Sometimes even earlier since stats will start to show up (if you know statistics you can use them for better predictions).

Be unattached to your ads and pick the ones with the best results.  Those are the ads to fund or break down what is going well and tweak it.  However, also know that ads can suffer fatigue and if an ad starts to slow down consider changing it up slightly.  Sometimes something as small as a picture change or word edits can revitalize an ad. Also strive to test a new ad against your top performers because you can see even greater results if you are diligent.

Expecting the world from your AdWords (or any ad campaign)

By only having a small budget devoted to your ad campaign, you do not have the reach or the ability to test multiple ads effectively.  Even we have to test our ads to find the ones that work and rarely does anyone have an advertising campaign that works right from the start.  If you are only throwing a few hundred dollars towards your ad campaign each month you will likely not see the results you are hoping for.  Try to keep with it and give your ads time to get the traffic they need to start seeing results.  Invest enough to see what works and doesn’t.  Ads are powerful tools that can drive more traffic if used properly. We are not saying that a small budget couldn’t see results. However, it will take longer and the likelihood of giving up before seeing any significant result increases.

Making a large keyword groups

We all have seen it, searching Google and someone’s “unrelated” ad comes up.  You have no interest in pink fuzzy bunny slippers and while you searched “medical foot fungus treatment options.”  We’re not judging, promise.  You unfortunately were the victim of large keyword groups.  If you are relatively new to the ad world you may have done this yourself. Google AdWords have a nifty keyword option for groups.  However, a common mistake is to have 30 or more keywords lumped together in a group (we always try for much less).  We know the thought behind it, if I have all the potential keywords for my business being searched for I will get the greatest results.  Unfortunately, you end up spending far more to get conversions.  In the long run, it will end up costing you more even if you are seeing very low-cost per impression.  You should instead have similar keyword search terms in groups with different ads tailored for each search.  Much like if I was to have different products but all under a similar brand name like Nike.  Nike has many products in their shoe line however if I wanted running shoes I would search for that and likely not just Nike.  The keyword ad group that Nike created would only use a grouping of their running shoes and I would never see sandal related keywords.  Think how to group your products to exclude item groups instead of including all.  If they don’t fit together make a new ad group with a tailored ad instead of only a catch-all when feasibly possible.

Not utilizing negative keywords

Negative keywords are used to limit the impact of getting the wrong group of people targeted in your ad campaign, except they are rarely used well.  This falls under the large keywords umbrella but it really links to not defining your target market.  If I have an ad crafted to appeal to men who live with their parents I would want to make sure I picked negative keywords that demographic would not use.  Such as manicure, lawn-care, small business, start-up, (insert whatever you think of here.)

Know when to hold them

Being the highest bid for the top search ranking does not always mean the most google snipprofitable ad position.  Depending on the product, people may not click on the first ranking.   They may click on the first ranking and move through the rest because they are serious about buying.  At times, the more profitable place is at a lower slot like 4th instead of the top position.  For example, Sandals resort is paying for the top spot for a “Sandals” keyword search but DSW (at the Mall of America) is still in very relevant in the 4th spot at a lower bid.  Don’t start at the highest suggested bid right away.  Start at the minimum bid and work your way up.  If you see results at a lower amount and like them then stay there for a while.  Invest those saved ad dollars in areas where the top rankings matter.

Bid on yourself

If you have locked in your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and have organic keywords where you are in the top results don’t forget to still bid on your brand.  Sometimes we will use a competing brand’s organic keywords against them and get a “free” placement above them if they are not bidding on it.  Don’t be that for your competitor’s.  What do we mean by this?  If you are the company “Fuzzy Bunny R Us” but are not bidding on your organic keywords because you are the only “Fuzzy Bunny R Us” then you are a prime target for customer redirecting.  (For the sake of not editing in Photoshop, imagine that is the Fuzzy Bunny R US and they do not have a Google shopping ad campaign)Capture bunny.

I am the company “Bunny Fuzz” and I sell the same product line because I bought from your distributor, but I also have a moderate social media following through Facebook and Instagram.  I can only afford a small targeted AdWords campaign.  I can now be the ad right above your hard-fought number one Google ranking because you did not bid on yourself.  Thanks to you I am now your fastest growing competitor.

Why would a marketing company give me advice on how to advertise more effectively? 

You don’t go to the car wash because you can’t wash your car, or learn how to.  You go because they wash your car faster and more efficiently than you can.  Also, if a car wash gives you exceptional service you will likely go back as well.  The same is true for us, if we give you sound advice and you use it then you win.  Eventually, you may want to try us out to save time and money because you have other things on your plate.  If your ads are all performing better, at a higher rate of return, and you have time to work on other areas to improve your business then that is an even bigger win.  You can contact us or read about the benefits of hiring a PPC (pay per click) consultant.

Eland Consulting LLC
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