First off, this is not going to be a tactical article.
You will not walk away with “5 simple tips for scaling your website the next level!”
No, instead this piece is what I wish I read years ago. It would have saved years of floundering in nonsensical faux-action.
Hopefully it can do the same for you.
So, if it’s not a tactical article, what will it be?
The goal here is to teach you how to think about growing a website. But…this advice can be used to grow anything that grows.
Why should you listen to me?
You probably shouldn’t, at least not without any doubts. I always say that life coaching is a scam and the only people who should mentor you are those who have done exactly what you are trying to do.
With that said, I have:
- Failed to build at least 4 website-based businesses
- Floundered in building my current business
- Gone all-in on building said business for around two years now
Doesn’t sound great, right?
Well, this is where I am today:
- The business gets hundreds of thousands of unique visitors a month
- My social platforms are all in the mid to high five figures
- I’m working with large brands on the regular
- I landed a book deal as a result of my website
Even still, this isn’t that impressive. These are basically vanity metrics – they don’t matter unless they meaningfully contribute to the metrics we actually care about – time, money, and meaning.
I won’t speak about exact figures anymore (see my article on copycats as to why), but here’s a rough picture of where I’m at:
- Business earns multiple five figures / mo net
- I only spend as much time as I want to spend on it
- Millions of people in 100+ countries use my website to better their lives
Fortunately for me, I love the business, so I spend a fair bit of time on it. I feel it’s doing good in the world and it’s a great way for me to balance time behind a computer with time out in nature.
Please realize, I’m not saying any of the above to brag. I write it so you have an accurate understanding of what I’ve accomplished, so you can decide if you want to read the rest of this article and listen to what I have to say.
1. You must do the right things, in the right order
A friend recently asked me if more action was always good. The answer is a resounding no. First of all, action isn’t even that important…but right action is VITAL.
Here is a hierarchy of action to wrap your head around (worst to best):
- Unfocused Action – Your energy is diffuse, going in many directions and not making much progress in any of them. Avoid at all costs.
- Focused Action – Your energy is honed in on one thing, but you may not being making much progress despite this. Slightly better, but still pretty bad.
- Right Action – Your energy is targeted to the set of actions that have the highest probability of moving the needle in your business. This is hard to get to for most people, because it’s simply hard to identify what these actions are.
- Scaled Right Action – You employ the energy of technology and other human beings, making sure they’re all focused on the small action set that will move the needle in a meaningful way. This is the Holy Grail for most small businesses.
I firmly believe that knowing what to do is FAR less important than knowing when to do it.
Information acquisition is no longer a problem. The problem is in acquiring too much and having NO CLUE how to apply it.
2. You must be able to zoom in and out of complexity effortlessly
If you’ve bought into the concept of action I laid out above, then the next question is how to identify what set of actions is “right” at any given time.
The way I do this is by “zooming.”
Let’s pretend you’re a photographer. You have to store your photos somehow, so you created a nested folder structure:
- Chad & Stacy
- Camera Raw Files
- Chad & Stacy
And so on. Your business can be viewed the exact same way:
- Your Business
- Social Media
- Content Creation
- Content Promotion
In a business, there’s always one section of the business acting as a constraint. Your job as the owner is to zoom in and out of each layer of complexity and determine if the constraint lies in that section.
Once you identify it, you can then move to the strategy and tactics that people love to over-focus on.
Unfocused Action -> Focused Action
For example, when I left Book in a Box (now called Scribe Media), I was in a phase of Unfocused Action. I was testing multiple different business ideas to see which one had a bit of traction.
I found one that seemed to work, and decided to commit to it 100%.
At this point, I’ve gone from Unfocused Action -> Focused Action.
My next problem was figuring out what to do with my days. I needed to go from Focused Action -> Right Action.
Focused Action -> Right Action
I wrote down all of the components of building a website-based business:
- Social Media
This is far from a complete list. I just want you to have a sense of the structure to illustrate the next step.
I analyzed these components through the lens of what I most wanted: income. That was the needle I was trying to move at the time, because I’d just quit a job. I had a bunch of money saved, but no one wants to draw down on savings forever.
So I needed to make this business pay me. And a website that’s built off of the back of content can’t pay you if there’s isn’t a whole lot of content on the site.
Boom. The most pressing problem was instantly apparent to me: create more content.
Now I’d moved from Focused Action -> Right Action.
Right Action -> Scaled Right Action
I holed myself away behind the computer and researched, wrote, took photos, edited, re-edited, and published. For months. Eventually, I woke up and realized that creating more content wasn’t my most pressing problem anymore. I had enough, at least for the time being.
My problem was now promoting that content, building an audience, and traffic to the site.
It would be stupid to stop writing content completely. After all, it was a component of the business that was essential, it just wasn’t the most essential in that moment.
When you get to this point, there are only two options:
- Hire and train someone to do it for you.
- Automate it via technology.
For me, this meant hiring and intensely training a full-time writer for the website. I knew I was a good writer, but I also knew that my time is always better spent on the most pressing problem for the business, which is ever-changing.
So I hired her, and moved on to learning how to build an audience, promote my content, and so on.
Once you’ve reached the level of Scaled Right Action, you are now free to scale up as much as you’d like to, depending on your goals for the business and its own natural constraints.
Your role is that of a heat-seeking missile towards the issue in the business that is inhibiting growth the most, which is almost always a new and unique problem. After all, if it wasn’t, either you or the team of people and technology you’ve employed would have solved it already.
Now you can see why tactics and techniques are all irrelevant – they do not address the fundamental issue with growing a website, which is simply knowing what the most important thing to do is at the time.
Once you know what it is, it’s trivial to develop or research a tactic that will solve it. That’s the part everyone else has already solved.