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The following article is written by Ben Angel. Author of the book, Unstoppable: A 90-Day Plan to Biohack Your Mind and Body for Success. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound. And be sure to order The Unstoppable Journal, the only journal of its kind based on neuroscience, psychology and biohacking to help you reach your goals.
When I launched my new bestselling book, Unstoppable, I had minus $3,000 in my bank account in October 2018. A year later, we had built our new business to $1.2 million in online sales and sold more than 50,000 copies of my book. We were on track to do $1.7 million in sales this year when the pandemic hit. Our sales dropped by $140,000 within 30 days. The Facebook ad campaigns we’d been running stopped working. As a result, we had to reduce our Facebook advertising budget from $88,000 per month to less than $30,000 per month because they largely became unprofitable.
Like everyone else, I was in shock. All the effort my team put in was in jeopardy. Worse yet, the free online support we’d provided in the area of mental health was at risk of shutting down.
Whether you have an online business or not, this article is going to provide options to help you get back on your feet that you may not have considered, including:
- Fighting the Lies Fear Creates
- Identifying the Worst-Case Scenario
- Getting Sales Guilt By Creating Goodwill, Readying to Rebound
- Securing a Flat-Fee Capital Loan
- Reducing Expenses and Securing a “Cash Back” Credit Card
- Identifying Low-Cost Opportunities With a Big Upside
- Online Optimization on Steroids
- Sales Funnel Optimization — Why a 1-Second Delay Could Cost You $2.5 Million Each Year
- Time to Test!
1. Fighting the Lies Fear Creates
When sales dropped, my heart sank, and I began panicking. Trauma can rewire the brain to focus on negative experiences, making it hard to create logical plans. The first thing I did was to make a list of all the worst-case scenarios I’d worked through in the past, like surviving Hurricane Sandy, losing my father to brain cancer and other dire situations.
Why? Reminding myself that I overcame insurmountable odds to get back into my logical, rational mind helped me recenter. I also stayed away from social media’s fear-based echo-chamber of panic to keep my brain from actively seeking out the threats, which clouds the mind.
To regain emotional control, I designed a visualization that uses a combination of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and hypnosis. One of our members used it to confront the person who had sexually assaulted her years ago, and it freed her emotionally after 20 years. It can be applied to any dilemma many of us find ourselves in. This style of visualization is a gym workout for your brain. It takes practice to master your mind, and this moment calls for it.
After a week of doing this, I was able to regulate my emotions to implement the following business and marketing strategies. These are technical so that you will be forced outside your comfort zone.
Related: 50,000 Entrepreneurs Tell Us How to Avoid Stress and Anxiety
2. Identifying the Worst-Case Scenario
We went through our finances, looked at our running expenses and calculated how long we could sustain. Unsure of how long this chaos would last, we projected our scenarios based on six months of running at or just above breakeven. Once we did that, we worked backward to prevent it from occurring.
3. Getting Over Sales Guilt By Creating Goodwill, Readying Rebound
A conversation popping up online was from business owners feeling guilty about whether to sell goods or not as job losses increased. Working in the biohacking/mental health space, we have always been conscious of this. We made it a rule in the early days not to sell to those who are in a vulnerable position, instead directing them to free online resources we offer so that, if they find themselves in a financial situation, we’ll still be there to support them.
Not every business can provide free resources. Still, you can create goodwill by donating a percentage of sales to charities that support the vulnerable, or offer discounts to nurses and frontline workers who are fighting the pandemic. You can also use your email list or social media platforms to drive attention to someone else’s efforts. You don’t need money to make a difference; you need creativity.
To play our part in supporting those hard-hit, we also created a comprehensive and free 23-page “Emergency Action Plan” vulnerable individuals could download to help them come up with their plan, generating more 700 downloads within the first few days of release.
Once we had our goodwill plan in place, we dived into the demographics of our customers and started targeting people via Facebook ads that had a certain level of income. You can’t go broke trying to help others; otherwise, the assistance you provide will be short-lived.
4. Securing a Flat-Fee Capital Loan
As a precautionary measure, I took out a capital loan via online-payment processor Stripe, which all of our transactions run through. Similar to PayPal, it can provide capital loans within a few short minutes based on your previous sales volume. These loans have a flat fee and are paid back at a smaller percentage rate based on your daily sales volume. Making them manageable and avoiding expensive interest rates. Companies such as Quickbooks can also provide capital loans based on your accounting history, albeit at a more significant percentage rate.
5. Reducing Expenses and Securing a “Cash Back” Credit Card
My priority was to keep my staff on but double-down our focus on income opportunities. We scoured our expenses, canceling monthly subscriptions to online software and non-essential expenses we weren’t utilizing. These fees can add up to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per month. We used the app Truebill for business and personal accounts to ensure we didn’t miss anything.
I also found a Chase cash-back credit card that provides monthly rewards based on our advertising spend, such as Facebook ads. The one I chose also came with a $500 cash-back reward if we spent a certain amount within the first three months.
6. Identifying Low-Cost Opportunities With a Big Upside
We went through all of our assets, i.e. database, previous customers, customers due to re-order certain products, social media channels such as YouTube that generate sales at low cost. Then, we identified which ones presented us with the greatest opportunity to generate profits. We also came up with ideas to partner with others on that would not only extend our reach, but minimize our risk at the same time.
A local café, Book + Bottle, launched their new store the same week everything began closing. I provided a few suggestions for Terra, the owner. Mostly dependent on walk-in traffic, I introduced her to the marketing manager of our high-rise building to offer a prize pack of books and wine to a resident with the best-decorated interior. The building could then leverage those images in their marketing collateral, while Terra was introduced to an entire building of residents to grow her network.
She also posted to social media a competition that allowed people to “tag their favorite nurse” for a chance to win a gift pack. Hence, creating virality and goodwill.
If you are a retail store or restaurant, do not look past apartment complexes you can team up within your local area. These complexes will be fighting hard to keep their existing residences happy while fighting against new developments that may take leaseholders away from them.
7. Online Optimization on Steroids
Although retail closed, the conversation with our customers didn’t stop. It just transitioned online. Even though we are already an online business, we quadrupled our efforts and small tweaks to double our profits with the same amount of ad spend. Here’s what we did:
Speed-test our website page. According to data shared by Small SEO Tools and Strangeloop, a one-second delay in page load time will drop your conversion rate by 7 percent. This means that if your website drives $100,000 per day in sales, you could lose $2.5 million per year in lost conversions. We used Solarwinds Pingdom to test key pages for free to identify why your page is loading slowly.
We then chose to recreate landing pages in Unbounce. Unbounce is a landing-page builder and optimizes your images and page content to increase load time. Our page went from a load time of 8.5 seconds to 2.5 seconds.
We also uncovered 80-plus percent of our sales for the month of January were a result of mobile adverts running on Facebook. Hence, an opportunity to optimize specifically for mobile too. Doing a little research, we came across Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). It’s a simplified page HTML page that is backed by Google. Many media outlets use it when they post their articles to Facebook. You can learn about it here.
8. Sales Funnel Optimization
It doesn’t matter if you’re a retail store or a restaurant, we all need a sales funnel that gets people to opt in to our email lists, so we can continue to communicate with them without any additional expenses. Email still has one of the highest returns on investment available to us. Here are a few examples of what you can do;
Restaurant/Cafés: Email your regulars once a week with a list of specials you have on offer. Create a Q&A section at the bottom of each email that can easily be duplicated each time that health and safety concerns are addressed. Your customers need to know you’re taking steps to protect them. Keep up the regular weekly communication, and keep your customers informed if your hours change.
Retail: If you can segment customers based on previous buying behavior, send email campaigns that speak to their needs. And never, ever, promote more than three products per email. Several years ago, I worked with a fashion designer. We reduced the number of items she promoted in each email from 15 to three, taking her online sales from $10,000 per month to in excess of $100,000 per month.
Online Businesses: Take the time to assess any email funnels you have and identify email campaigns that don’t convert. Can you create a more compelling offer that’s relevant to their changing needs? And, most importantly, test your email subject lines. It can make or break your sales funnel.
Online Content: We went through all the content we posted in the past year, including articles, videos and social media posts to identify pieces that drove sales. Go through your content and compare it to your sales reports to see if a spike in sales coincided with a particular social media piece or article sent to your email list. Now you can reuse or repurpose it by putting it into context with what’s currently occurring.
It’s vital that you optimize your email funnel as soon as possible. Look at open and click-through rates and conversion rates for each email you send. If you’re not tracking this data, speak to your website developer and set it up now.
9. Time to Test
Once we had implemented all the changes above, which took a month, we reached full testing mode, which included assessing all of our previously winning Facebook ads and driving our email list to the newly optimized landing pages, with freshly optimized email campaigns. While we still have a long way to go, and despite our revenue taking a massive hit, the worst-case scenario has yet to transpire. Sales are once again gradually on the increase, and we may still hit our yearly target.
Build The Plane as You Fly It!
We’re all faced with a million things that need to be done urgently. In this rush, we fail to identify the small tweaks that can quickly double our profits with little effort. Set aside the same time every single day to focus on the elements above, instead of saying, “I’ll get to it when I have time.” For the past year, I have blocked out the first half of each day to focus on sales and marketing; everything else comes after this. Set a time that works for your schedule and stick to it as if your business depends on it because, for many of us, it does.
Finally, if you don’t look after your mental health right now, you won’t have the mental faculty to get done what you need to. Often the solutions will pop up in a moment of silence, but first, you need to give your brain space to what it does best.
Related: Should You Microdose to Treat Depression?
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