Chapter 9 59 Productivity Hacks for Online Small Business Owners
There are a lot of ecommerce resources that are publicly available. So, we’ve put together a quick hit list that will enable you to be more productive and stay up-to-date on your industry.
We’ve limited and categorized the list for easier handling.
Our goal is not to overwhelm you, but rather give you a solid foundation on which to get started.
Productivity Tips for Business Owners
Everyone is looking to save time and money, and no one is more eager to increase productivity than those running their own businesses.
Here are some simple, inexpensive tools to help.
1. Decide what’s vital versus what’s nice to do.
First off, you need to prioritize your tasks. Start by making lists of tasks you do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.
This can include small things like checking email, to large things like doing your taxes. You might be surprised by exactly how much you do on a regular basis.
Next, for each of these lists, prioritize the tasks.
Organize them in order of the things your business couldn’t live without to the things that would be nice to get done, but usually do not.
Finally, annotate next to each task how well you are able to complete them. Some annotations may include quick and easy, must be done by me, not good at it, time consuming, and similar.
Once you have done these things, you should be able to easily see what tasks are vital to your business, and which ones you are the most capable of completing.
With these things in mind, it’s time to move onto the next step.
2. Find out what your team is good at and delegate.
If you’re a solopreneur, you will want to skip to the next step.
For those small business owners with one or more employees, you will want to consider which tasks can be delegated from your to-do list to your employees.’
For example, let’s say that one of the tasks you want to delegate is creating content for your business blog. First, you will want to consider your employee’s interest and ability to do this task.
If you have a few employees that love the idea of writing for your blog and they have some time to devote each week to the task, then they would be the perfect people to delegate the task to.
On the other hand, if they are not good writers, or are fully consumed with other revenue generating activities, it might be better to go with the next step.
3. Understand the value of your time.
When you have tasks that would be better suited to a skilled expert, but you’re not ready to hire a full or part time employee, then outsourcing to a freelancer, contractor, or other professional might be a good alternative.
If your biggest objection is price, consider this:
How much money could you be making if you fully focused on the things you do best for your business, and leave the rest to others?
So instead of you spending a full day trying to figure out how to design a new logo for your business, spend your day generating revenue and use a fraction of that revenue to pay a designer.
And instead of stressing about your quarterly taxes, hand that job over to an accountant.
By outsourcing, you free up your time, reduce your stress level, and ensure someone better suited to it is getting the task done.
While it may feel like a hit to your bottom line, in the long run, it gives you time to focus on the areas of your business you really enjoy working on.
4. Batch your day into productive chunks.
One thing that can be time consuming in managing the day-to-day tasks in a business is bouncing back and forth between tasks.
The ability to focus on one task at a time and keep a consistent rhythm can make it easier to finish that task in less time.
This is why you want to batch the tasks you do as much as possible.
Let’s say that you are a solopreneur that has to handle emails from customers, packaging and shipping products, and marketing via your social media networks.
Instead of prepping an item to ship each time a sale comes in, answering emails each time the notification pops up on your desktop, and checking your social media networks in between, try batching.
- Check and respond to emails at the beginning, middle, and end of the day.
- Check social media network notifications and post a new update to your social media networks twice a day.
- Set aside an hour or two before you need to leave to drop off packages or before your carrier comes to pick up packages to do shipping and handling preparation.
By doing this, you’ll get into a rhythm with each task instead of having to start and stop throughout the day.
This allows you to be productive with the time you would normally spend shifting gears from one task to another.
5. Monitor, measure, tweak, repeat.
Last, but not least, you need to monitor & measure your activities to see the profitability and efficiency in everything you do.
By analyzing your activities continuously, you can identify when one task is starting to take longer than usual, or when one task that was once profitable no longer is. Here are some examples.
- By setting up Google Analytics, you can find out which online marketing activities are driving traffic to your website. If you see that Facebook generates more traffic than Twitter, for example, you’ll know that you need to focus more of your efforts towards Facebook.
- By using unique coupon codes in your email marketing campaigns, you can find out whether your emails are generating more revenue than your paid marketing.
- By calculating how much an hour of your time is worth and using a timer to monitor how long it takes to do a specific task, you can find out whether something is taking long enough to justify delegating the task to an employee, hiring an employee to handle that task, or outsourcing it.
6. Get design help on the cheap.
Need some simple graphic design help for a logo, PPC banner or social media ad?
- Check out Fiverr, where as little as $5 can go a long way.
- You can also use a service like 99designs for help with logo and site design.
- Depending on the complexity and quality you need, you can also search for a design agency.
7. Streamline your bookkeeping.
This is a huge pain point for many startup businesses. Although it pays to hire a professional as you grow, try QuickBooks and Xero when you’re starting out. Both integrate with one-click into BigCommerce.
8. Schedule social media.
Social media is a 24/7 gig. You should schedule your tweets and Facebook posts to make sure you’re regularly posting, plus test which times of day see the most engagement. Try for times not on the hour –– like 9: 13 a.m. or 1:47 p.m. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can provide a one-stop-shop for this type of work, maximizing your productivity.
9. Improve your email marketing.
Are you using your personal email for marketing? Stop! There are plenty of email marketing tools out there that will help you work smarter with pre-built templates, scheduling and list segmentation. Test out options like MailChimp, Constant Contact or Klaviyo.
10. Schedule shipping pickups.
At no extra charge (unless you want a time outside normal mail delivery hours), you can schedule your shipping provider to pick up a shipment rather than waiting in line at their offices. Check out options for FedEx, UPS and USPS.
11. Manage your email inbox.
Boomerang for Gmail schedules emails to automatically send based on criteria you set.
12. Collaborate and manage projects.
Trello is a great option for growing businesses struggling to manage it all. You get integrated file sharing, project management, workflow automation and centralized communication from any device. Also check out Slack or Pivotal Tracker as alternatives.
13. Share resources.
14. Take care of yourself.
Forgetting to take care of yourself is a common issue for entrepreneurs.
- A Fitbit or similar device will help you stay active, monitor your sleep and eat right.
- Try out a financial service like Mint to track what you’re spending.
- Use a virtual assistant like EasilyDo to help you stay on top of your schedule.
- Set up a few triggers on If This Then That to stay relevant on social networks without having to manually post.
- Finally, download an app like Coach.me that allows you set and track goals like increasing productivity, improving your health, etc.
Keep Track of Great Content
There’s a lot of information out there concerning small businesses and ecommerce, and it can be difficult to keep track of it all.
Here are three tools to make sure you never miss a thing.
- Google Alerts: Get email notifications at whatever cadence you’d like any time Google finds new results on your industry, competition, related news and more.
- Feedly: Organize all the blogs and publications you like to read via a simple (and pretty) RSS feed.
- TweetDeck: This powerful tool lets you see what everyone on Twitter is saying about your industry, get involved in tweetchats (and perhaps run your own), follow experts in ecommerce and track your competitors.
Follow the Best Blogs
Staying on top of industry information, government regulations, ecommerce best practices and marketing trends is key to your success.
Don’t forget to subscribe to your competitors’ blogs to keep abreast of your industry, products and how the competition markets themselves.
Of course, there are countless great blogs out there to follow to help you sell more and educate you on the industry.
There are so many in fact that it’s hard to tell which are the most helpful.
So, I went out to the ecommerce experts and influencers and asked them: what blogs and publications do you recommend?
These are the people who were once in your exact shoes –– and have since found multi-million dollar success.
Here is what they read to help them stay on top of their game.
Alex Birkett, Growth Marketing Manager, HubSpot
I like Conductrics Blog and the Testing Discipline blog for tactical business info. You can tell they aren’t writing for BS reasons like social shares, and more to put good information out into the world.
Jan Lastuvka, CEO & Co-Founder, MonkeyData
The Hubspot marketing blog is an absolute must for online entrepreneurs.
These guys have been in the game a long time, have a ton of great content, and, very important for me, great visuals, which helps to illustrate the results of their recommendations.
They also have a ton of other great resources that can help your business.
Everett Sizemore, Director of Marketing, Inflow
Jamie Turner, CEO, 60 Second Marketer
Ted Rubin, Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist and Acting CMO Brand Innovators
Jason Dea, Director Product Marketing, Intelex
My favorite online resource for business information is actually Quora.
Once you get the hang of navigating the site, it’s incredible the type of advice and the caliber of advisers you can find in that community.
It’s a great example of how the internet has allowed us not just as entrepreneurs but people to connect in ways that were unheard of only a few years ago.
Andy Etemadi, CEO, EYEMAGINE
I get a lot of valuable information from LinkedIn Pulse and HubSpot’s sales and marketing blog.
There is so much good content on almost every topic that a simple search will return the relevant information I’m looking for.
Taylor Sicard, VP of Growth, Rare.io
My favorite online business resource is Saastr.
Every business needs to grow and SaaS (Software-as-a-service) businesses are turning growth into a science.
Understanding how to use those key metrics to grow a SaaS company is extremely beneficial for an online store as they have to deal with the same challenges (customers acquisitions, customer retention, monthly recurring revenue, etc).
Ruthie Berber, Co-Marketing Manager, Yotpo
Not to do a shameless plug, but the Yotpo blog is packed with original data, unique customer case studies, and tons of deep dive how to’s.
It’s a super valuable resource for me when looking for the latest ecommerce tips, trends and benchmarks.
Adii Pienaar, Founder, Conversio
My suggestion here isn’t a must-read, as much as it’s a must-listen.
I have really enjoyed the ZenFounder podcast in the last year, because it uncovers some of the entrepreneurial challenges that aren’t spoken about as often.
I see so much advice for entrepreneurs that focuses on tactics or things they need to do within their business, but it ultimately neglects one of the most important parts of any business: the founder or entrepreneur.
The podcast has definitely helped me be more aware of my own triggers for bad (business) behavior or to just be more aware of when I need to take a break for example (to avoid burnout). As a result, I’ve definitely learnt to take much better care of myself.
Jacob Firuta, Content Manager, LiveChat
I was always a fan of the content HubSpot produces. You always get a two-for-one deal with them.
First, you can read up on all kind of topics, from email marketing to landing page creation. Second, you see the things they preach put into practice – either in their content or on their landing pages. Especially their reports are worth checking out!
Meni Morim, CEO and Co-founder, Findify
Without a shadow of a doubt, this blog. There are quite a lot of startup blogs out there, but nothing beats the Groove blog.
First of all, it’s honest, transparent, and humble.
They share everything, from the huge wins, to the horrible losses. They take you with them on their journey, which is incredibly inspiring.
An absolute MUST READ for any online business.
Sanjay Arora, CEO & Founder, Nextopia Software Corporation
I am a huge fan of Practical Ecommerce, as it’s a well-rounded source of ecommerce news and covers everything from marketing and social media to practical tips and strategies to improve your ecommerce store.
It’s a great resource for anyone working in the ecommerce industry as it publishes high-quality, informative content that can be applied to everyday business.
Grant Thomas, Digital Marketing Manager, Justuno
Ecommerce Influence has been my destination of late. Great for articles, podcasts and also have a members only community which gives you access to a bunch of free ecommerce marketing content.
Tracey Wallace, Editor-in-Chief, BigCommerce
I’d be remiss not to include myself, right?
Naturally, I firmly believe the BigCommerce Blog has tons of great insights and actionable info to help you grow.
But, insofar as what I’m reading everyday, I’m actually much more of a listener.
Here on the Podcasts topping my list:
- On Being: Krista Tippett navigates the spiritual world like a saint herself, and the caliber of people she speaks with will blow your mind. This isn’t business related, but often the best business ideas come from outside the business box. So, listen up!
- More Perfect: After watching Harvard’s Justice YouTube series, I’ve become obsessed with principles and philosophy and more More Perfect tells great stories around those 2 themes. Better yet, it covers how those two themes are the basis of everything in the U.S. (and the world). It’s great thinking for how mindset, beliefs, principles, and action impact our lives in both micro and macro ways.
- The Tim Ferriss Show: This choice is pretty cliche, but the man does speak with some of the best in the industry –– and you get an inside look at how they live their lives to be so insanely productive. It’s a good place to get a few tips and try a few thing sout (i.e. meditation, which Krista Tippett would also recommend!).
- Longform Podcast: This podcast talks with writers, interviews, editors and more about the process of storytelling and connecting with audiences. For any online marketer, it’s a must-listen. Customer loyalty is driven by engaging storytelling.
- 2x Ecommerce: This podcast is how I ever even found Kunle Campbell (who writes often for the BigCommerce blog). Here, he talks with leading ecommerce experts on how to grow an already successful business (about $1M or so in revenue) to $10M or more. It is definitely more for an already experienced audience, but it is aspirational for anyone just starting up.
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