The Future Collapse of Digital Entrepreneurship (And Why EVEN THE BEST Marketing + Sales Won’t Solve It)

PART 1: How to build longevity in your business — when the industry wants to keep you short sighted

 
 
 
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Recently, I had a client come to me who could create leads and make sales with ease. He literally grew from $0 to $22M in three years.

In fact, he had so much money coming in that he joked it was like his business was a sinking ship + he was using the money to try to plug all the “operational” holes.

Sounds like a good problem to have? Not so much.

If he couldn’t get the operational support he needed, he was going to have to throw in the towel. He was losing his mind trying to handle all the things that had broken when they scaled so fast, and if things continued on that trajectory, he was going to have to close it all down.

He was the poster business for entrepreneurs on the outside — raking in the cash and perceived success — yet feeling up to his eyeballs in problems inside the business.

I hear this language in marketing everywhere — double this, scale that — but they're all talking about the marketing side, not how they're going to deliver if the marketing actually works. No one is talking about how to prepare for what happens once all those customers actually come rolling in.

I wish this surprised me.

But I’ve been an operations and efficiency expert in the corporate manufacturing world for more than 10 years. I’m a certified LEAN Six Sigma consultant and SCRUM expert trainer, with an extensive background in operational efficiency, and I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses, ranging from micro-businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

And one thing that is absolutely consistent with big and small businesses alike is the misunderstanding and lack of awareness that cost savings + efficiency through operations are actually more effective at growing a business than just adding more marketing and sales to your to-do list.

In other words, scaling what your company delivers is more important than scaling how you promise or sell what you deliver.

If this is SHOCKING to you, I’m not surprised by that, either.

This sales-first mentality has been popular for a long time. It’s the pitch that if you just get the right system in place to run ads / do more webinars / perfect your sales scripts / write a better sales page / etc. your business will grow at a record rate. Business books, thought leaders + especially business coaches have built empires on the idea that all you need to do is sell more to grow and scale your business — but this is only HALF the truth.

Selling more IS related to growth + scale, but that’s not the full picture. It’s just one piece.



 
 
 
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Yet, time after time, business owners who follow that plan…

—— end up either growing too fast and their customer experience begins to suffer when they can’t handle the capacity…

—— or they can’t seem to grow and scale fast enough — and they just keep hovering on the edge of real success without being able to break through.

 
 
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I saw this a lot when I worked in corporate. Businesses and CEOs believed that it was always about doing more: producing more, selling more, marketing more, hiring more people, and on and on.

When in reality, my work as an efficiency expert taught me that the power was often in doing less: when there is less waste, fewer inefficiencies, fewer mistakes, the value of the savings was not only more than they could have easily achieved with sales + marketing alone, but also more sustainable.

And do you know what I most often heard when I suggested these things in corporate?

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“We do not rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.”

–James clear

 

"But this is the way we’ve always done it…"

 
 

It’s actually one of the biggest reasons I decided to leave and bring my knowledge and expertise to small businesses. Because with smaller businesses, change is often easier to implement. You’re more agile + willing to shift when needed. It’s the difference between steering a speed boat compared to a cruise liner.

Plus, efficiency and cost savings are important when you’re talking about businesses doing hundreds of millions of dollars in business, but it’s even more important in small businesses.

Why?

Because you’ve got much smaller margins, and any amount of waste is a bigger percentage of your business overall.


I’m talking wasted time, wasted energy, wasted resources, and wasted money.

And solving these problems is rarely a case of needing to do more marketing + more selling. It’s more often a case of needing to dig deep to understand how your systems are affecting your business, your ability to grow + scale, and where the real bottlenecks are in your business.

{SPOILER ALERT: Your biggest bottleneck may not be in acquisition, ie: sales + marketing…}


 
 
 
 

They thought they were doing everything right...

 

“How about the tens of thousands of dollars we spent (not to mention months of time) on paid lead gen + top-tier marketing consultants that resulted in ... wait for it … Exactly zero qualified sales calls.”

“Leads was a bigger core issue. We tapped out our existing relationships, and that's when we realized we didn't really have a system to support sustainability or growth.”

“[We were] trying to do an affiliate launch with bonuses and a private group and urgency, etc., early last year and it just DID NOT work. We did all of the ‘shoulds’ and it flopped.”

“When I first started my coaching business [...] I thought I was doing the right thing by spending hundreds of dollars on Facebook ads and $10k to work with a big name online business mentor (which was a lot to me given I didn't have regular revenue coming in at the time).  [...] it felt like I was pouring money down the drain as I didn't see any direct return in terms of new clients or revenue.”


 
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These stories break my heart + turn my stomach, because they point out the massive misunderstanding or lack of awareness around the idea that just more marketing + sales is not the best or only way to grow. And the worst part is…these stories aren’t rare.

In fact, piling more marketing + more sales onto an already cracking system could bring the whole thing down.

The popularity of “doubling your revenue”

If you’ve been around the digital marketing space for any amount of time, you’ve almost certainly seen Facebook ads, emails, and sales pages promising to help you “double your revenue” or “hit six figures fast.”

Groups with names like “Six Figure Success Club” started popping up, and it suddenly seemed like the only metric that mattered in business was how fast you could hit six figures or now seven figures in revenue or the goal of doubling or 10X’ing your revenue every single year.

{This was kind of hilarious + perplexing to me, coming from the corporate manufacturing world where our success was measured …well, much differently and the numbers were much larger.}

But these stories + messages were and are largely publicized by business-to-business (B2B) coaches, course creators, and marketers whose business is teaching others… how to run their business.

The idea of “marketing funnels” started to look more like pyramid schemes, with the marketers at the top handing down their strategies and knowledge to the next level… who put their own brand stamp on it and sold the same information to a new generation of business owners… And so on, and so on…

Until recently.

The Internet marketing bubble may not have burst just yet, but veteran digital business owners are seeing:

  • Lower conversion rates

  • Higher ad costs

  • Dwindling webinar attendance

  • Declining email opt-in rates

  • And consequently, lower sales.

Business owners are putting in the same input they always were, but getting a vastly different output.

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The pyramid is collapsing on itself.

And the reason is that it’s been built on a faulty foundation: You cannot build lasting success and meaningful growth on sales + marketing alone.  

The “experts” have sold you a solution to only a fraction of your actual business challenges.

They have ignored {or don’t understand} that the majority of small business owners actually have BUSINESSES to run — not just an email funnel. And these experts will be scrambling, too, when their operations can’t deliver on their promises with excellence.

One client came to me after she had joined an “operations” mastermind that was solely focused on showing her ways to automate everything. The only problem: She runs a BAKERY. That’s a very different proposition than automating something like an email marketing funnel. She needed to work with people, supply chains, complex logistics, and forecasting. And she was hugely disappointed that the so-called “operations” program she’d bought wasn’t delivering what she needed.

That’s because automation is NOT the same as operations. And marketing is not the same as a growth strategy.

But we can’t blame it all on the digital marketing machine. Some of the problem is {unfortunately} on you, the business owner. {Don’t worry — it’s easy to fix!}