Simplifying Our Business

 In General

Simplfying Our BusinessTwo of the big themes for 2014 for me are simplification and focus.

I have the really bad habit of taking something small and turning it into something very elaborate and complex.  Oddly enough, this is only with my own stuff.  When I work with clients and customers, I’m almost maniacal in my desire to make things as easy as possible for them and to remove unnecessary technology.

But with my stuff?  Nah, let’s play, tinker and tool around with four billion different technologies. That’s something I decided to stop doing this year.  More importantly, it got us thinking about the whole way we do things.

We offer a few services:

  • SEO Services
  • Content Creation and Content Marketing
  • Marketing Automation and Marketing Technology Consulting
  • Business Advice and Coaching
  • Ecommerce Support and Services

For the most part, those services are discreet but more and more we’re finding clients and customers who want to purchase some or all of them.  In the past the problem was that we had no simple and easy way to for people to purchase many services at once and let them do business with us.

The truth is we’d made our business too complex and difficult for our customers. We had a variety of brands and sites, all with their own idiosyncrasies and ways of collecting payments.  It was insane, very hard to manage for us, but labyrinthine for customers which was worse.

In our business review in December we decided to correct that and we made the decision to pull everything back under the RapidAction Central brand.  The tipping point for this was the fact that we were building out a whole new branded site, we were re-designing and re-building our RapidAction SEO site and starting to plan what our RapidAction Writing site would need done.

Literally, significant portions of my time was being consumed thinking about this stuff and it was getting more complex by the day.

So here’s what we decided to do:

Collapse Our Brands Into RapidAction Central

It’s funny how you look back on things and realise retrospectively just how much time got wasted on things.  At one stage we were talking about business cards and couldn’t work out which brand to put on them.  That probably should have been the first sign that something was wrong.

Honestly though, the idea that you can grow multiple brands successfully is pretty far fetched.  We managed to justify it to ourselves really well by having all the “RapidAction” names and going for similar fonts and logos, etc, but the truth is, nobody really cared except us.  Customers just wanted some SEO work done or content created, they weren’t buying into our brands.

It was also just so much work to keep that stuff running successfully for so little return, we just had to get off that hamster wheel. Now the idea is that all of our products and services will be on this site and we’ll produce meaningful content to help encourage you to come back and visit us – and hopefully buy our products and services.

We started by moving all of our products over onto this site as they existed but that identified a few other problems that we needed to address.

Consolidating Our Product and Service Offerings

The simple idea for reducing our brands was to just put all of the products on RapidAction Central, but then it became crystal clear that we offered too many products and some legacy things that just didn’t make sense anymore.

We knew the product offerings were a problem before this because we were rethinking the RapidAction Writing business and what we were doing there, so when it came time to move things to RapidAction Central, we just had to deal with it.

The writing business had a few changes made:

  1. We cut out the bulk purchase packs.  These packages weren’t really profitable for us and more of our customers wanted recurring monthly content packages.
  2. We increased our prices.  This was something that had been in the cards for six months, it just kept getting delayed.  Our content is high quality, it was just too cheap.
  3. We now do more bespoke work.  We’d always done reports and bespoke writing assignments, we now have a contact form to make it easier for people to ask us about it.

The SEO business also had an overhaul done on its service offerings, but that’s still a work in process to be candid.  We need to simplify that more for customers.

One thing that we added in was a link to our coaching program.  We get a consistent lead flow of people who ask to join our coaching program, but I never had a place to send them which is pretty silly.

I’m not entirely happy with the site yet, I think from a conversion perspective it’s a dog’s breakfast, but at least it is in one place now, so we can work on it easily enough.

Simplifying Our Technology Stack

I make no bones about the fact that I’m a technology guy at heart.  I like playing with this stuff and I like to find unique solutions.

That said, our sites were a mess of technology spaghetti that made upgrading or doing anything to them really hard work.  I’d made a massive rod for my own back with these sites.Technology Spaghetti

Probably the biggest mistake of all was using WooCommerce as our shopping cart platform.  That’s not to say that it’s a bad product, the problem was, we didn’t need a shopping cart at all!  Our customers weren’t wandering around our sites and dropping things into their cart before checking out, they were generally going to buy one thing and move on.  Grace and I talked a bit about this in Self  Made Marketing – Episode 4 – you can really hurt your conversion rates by all the extra steps a shopping cart goes through when you don’t need one.

We still have customers who use WooCommerce and it’s good at what it does, we just didn’t need it so we scrapped it.

The other decision we made was to move away from WooThemes entirely and eventually move to Genesis.  Basically, I think WooThemes’ Canvas is a good theme, but I think the Genesis Framework overall is better technically and better supported.  I may write a post about my thoughts on WooThemes at some point, but we’ll just leave that.

Ironically, at the time I write this, RapidAction Central is still on Canvas and I just had to do an update to it manually to get it to work with WordPress v3.9.  In a nutshell that’s the biggest problem with WooThemes, their updating technology is obtuse and rather poor meaning you end up with old themes that need to be manually updated.  We’re working on the migration of the site to Genesis so that will come.

Taking Payments

The use of WooCommerce also allowed us to completely make our payment processing as complex as I could even imagine someone wanting it to be.

The simplification of accepting payments came in multiple steps.  First of all, we implemented Gravity Forms to create our order forms which replaced our shopping carts.  For customers this is so much easier to use and makes much more sense.

Gravity Forms has some pretty good payment integration features, so we had our choice really.  We could use our Merchant Account, Stripe or our Paypal Pro account to accept payments.  This is one area I believe it’s really important to have alternatives, I’ve seen too many people have their Paypal account limited or their merchant account shutdown and effectively they’re then out of business.  We have all three, keep them in good standing and Gravity Forms gives us a quick way to swap them in and out if necessary.

We settled on our PayPal Pro account because we’re still a bit up in the air about currency.  Right now we charge everything in Australian Dollars but eventually it may make more sense to charge in US Dollars – Paypal Pro gives us that flexibility.

Where To From Here?

I always saw this move taking about six months and we’re on track for that.  Like anything though, it’s still a work in process.  Here’s what’s in the plans for the rest of 2014:

  1. Migrating to Genesis.  This is really a no brainer and something we’ll just get to.
  2. Improving our analytics and visibility.  I want to start doing better tracking on the site and get a clearer picture of what’s going on with out product pages.
  3. Better Landing Pages and Product Pages.  As a first pass, they do the job, but we need to improve their appearance, copy and everything about them.
  4. Conversion Rate Optimisation.  That’s really the outcomes of better visibility and improving the pages themselves to get them converting better.
  5. Generate more content.  One of the big reasons for collapsing down to a single site was the ability to have a more strategic content marketing plan.
  6. Improve our funnels.  If we’re going to focus on driving more traffic and improving conversions, we need to think more about what we’re selling to whom and when.
  7. Replacing our Support System.  I’ve largely come to the conclusion that Zendesk doesn’t suit us anymore, so eventually we need to move on to something else.

These changes are all about simplification of our business and focusing on the things that generate the most benefit.  We need to make it easier for us to manage our business, make it quicker to change things that aren’t working as well and ultimately, building a bigger, stronger, more profitable business.

One advantage I suppose that we have is that we know this technology and can implement changes pretty efficiently.  I realise that’s not the same for everyone.  If you’re having trouble with too much complexity or if you’re struggling with technology and you want some help, please feel free to contact us and let us see where we can help you streamline things so that you too can focus on growing your business.


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