EP40 – Making and Recovering from Strategic Errors

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To watch the video recording of this episode, click here

We return this week from our content hiatus (excepting the August income report) and dive right into the repercussions of my business actions in August.

Remember how I created a brand new sales funnel based on my research into copywriting and the work my copywriter did? Unfortunately, this venture didn’t turn out how I hoped because I made a few mistakes in its execution.

As a result, I re-learned an important lesson that I already learned once before. It’s a fairly simple but very important lesson, to the tune of:

Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken

Let’s recap what happened in August.

It was a record breaking month for me, thanks largely to the sale I ran on a stripped-down version of my core product. I was ecstatic, and left for my honeymoon in high spirits.

Half-way through the trip, I noticed I had not made a sale in some time, but I decided to leave the matter alone for the moment since I was, after all, on my honeymoon.

I returned home in mid-September to discover my sales had completely dropped off and the conversion rate from my email sales funnel was around 0.1%. Clearly, something was very wrong.

After a few days of analysis, I discovered my error. I had transferred all of my new, incoming leads to the new sales funnel that my copywriter created.

What I did was take something that worked and changed the entire thing. This was a rookie mistake that I knew better than to commit, and yet I still did it.

Iterate Without Abandoning What Works

In your efforts to grow your business, you mustn’t make the mistake of forgetting what made you successful in the first place.

Carter has learned that in the world of SEO, when your business plan is working, you shouldn’t mess with anything. Even a small unnecessary tweak can cause a nose-dive in organic traffic.

As entrepreneurs, we want to grow our business and keep iterating. There is always the option to adjust your business model, and in the best cases change brings growth.

But you should never change the entire foundation at once in case doing so creates the opposite result.

Figure out what you are comfortable losing, and never risk more than that. If losing your entire investment would put you in serious trouble, then you should probably invest less.

Let’s return to my personal example. I receive as much as 90% of my income from my email sales funnel. Looking back, it was unsound to risk my primary revenue source (which pays my bills and puts a roof over my head).

My mistake was I thought my investment was less risky than it actually was. The initial promising results from the new sales funnel (which I described in Episode 39) convinced me to use it for all of my new leads.

I tried to iterate by abandoning what already worked, and it blew up in my face.

Originally, I had planned to split my leads 50-50 between the old and new funnels. On second thought, I should have done 75% old and 25% new.

Change Only One Thing at a Time

When I conducted my analysis to determine what went wrong with my business, I determined that my copywriter did a good job. Traffic going to my sales page has doubled, which should have doubled my sales if all other things remained the same.

Unfortunately, I made a lot of other changes in addition to the sales funnel. I implemented a new sales video, I changed the copy on the sales page, and I removed scarcity, among other things.

I have determined what has improved (traffic to my sales page) and what has gotten worse (conversion rates). Now I just need to revert the elements that don’t work back to the way they were when they still worked.

The lesson here is that I should have changed one thing at a time instead of everything at once. That way I could have identified bad changes quickly and done damage control before the situation got out of hand.

Performing Damage Control

When things are going badly for your business and you are scrambling to fix the problem, you aren’t always thinking clearly. It is easy to go into “panic mode” and convince yourself that you are a failure and your entrepreneurial ventures are over.

It is important not to make rash decisions in this state of mind, because you could easily make the problem worse if you don’t take a step back to analyze the situation. Panic is your worst enemy.

If you follow the podcast regularly, you may remember hearing about Carter’s “Dip Sheet” back when we did our episode on motivation.

You can similarly use a Dip Sheet as a diagnostic tool to help identify your business problem and make a sound judgment about how to fix it.

When something is going wrong with your business, the Dip Sheet helps you step back, take a moment to breathe, isolate the problem and determine what to do about it.

To start your own Dip Sheet, go back through your planner, agenda or journal and look for times when you experienced an extreme dip in sales, or when you had a problem that you tend to run into a lot.

Then make a checklist of all the steps you should take to assess such a problem and ultimately fix it. The idea is to create a sound plan of action you can refer back to the next time you have that problem.

For example, my own Dip Sheet would include such action items as: check that emails are delivering, check that open rates and click-through rates are the same, check traffic to landing page, list all the changes that were made recently, and so on.

And while we’re talking about lists, it’s also an excellent idea to keep a master file of all the changes you make to your business, including what you did and what day you did it.

If a problem arises with your business, you can refer back to this list to see what you changed right before the problem occurred. Then you can try reverting those changes and see if that fixes the problem.

This creates an easy way to counteract boneheaded changes you make to your business such as the ones I recently enacted.

Write It Down!

Here’s one final tip to help you through the tough times when your business has come off the rails and you are trying to get it back on track: write down what you need to get done.

This is yet another lesson I re-learned during my crunch time in September. It seemed I could sit and think about everything I needed to do for hours on end and still manage not to get anything done.

I discovered that just thinking about your to-do list gives you plenty of leeway for procrastination. But as soon as you start writing things down, the tasks-at-hand achieve some gravity, and it becomes easier to start working on them.

Write down your action items so you always know what you need to do next, and then get on it.

I like to use sticky notes for this purpose, while Carter likes to carry around a notebook. Use whatever works well for you.

Book and App of the Week

Book: The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry, by John Warrillow. Carter thought he knew a lot about the subscription business industry, but this book only added to his well of knowledge.

It details the value of subscriptions even if they are not the primary model for your business, but just a part of it. Some examples of implementing subscriptions on the side might be financing options or routine maintenance on a program.

The book also highlights a wide range of businesses, both large and small, that are doing subscriptions correctly, and offers before and after profiles of each business.

App: Carter uses the desktop version of Slack for communicating with his team, but he was hesitant to download the mobile version because he was afraid of being constantly interrupted throughout the day.

He downloaded the mobile app and discovered that you can adjust the alert settings so you only receive notifications under certain circumstances.

He is happy to report that the mobile app now allows him to be productive during dead times of the day, such as while waiting for an appointment, without interrupting him while he is busy.



The Automatic Customer by John Warrillow

Slack mobile app download