progress bar code in 2008 Improving What Works in Software

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Improving What Works
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Performing ROI analysis on your marketing activities helps you identify winning business strategies and helps you weed out the losers. For those that don t succeed, take some time to autopsy the failure. Try to figure out exactly what went wrong. Ask yourself the following questions: Was the cost involved too high Was the product not right for my particular niche market Did it take too much of my time Did my customers not respond as I expected
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Understanding why something didn t work will help you avoid similar errors in judgment in the future. As to the winning strategies you uncover, make the same determinations as to why they succeeded. Incorporate these winning strategies into your daily eBay activities to ensure your continued success. Examine ways that these winning strategies can be expanded and improved. Go back to the section of this book where the strategy is discussed, and see whether other ideas could yield similar success. Figure out ways to take these strategies even further or, as this chapter title suggests, to the next level.
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Take It to the Next Level
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Enforce Best Practices
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If you have employees 1, 20, or 500 you ll need to seriously address the ways you communicate and enforce the gems of business wisdom you develop as you conquer the eBay universe. What you glean from ROI analysis needs to be translated into best practices that employees can easily follow. Even if you re a one-person shop, you ll need to write down what works and make sure you religiously review it and live by it. For example, if you find out that your listings (for identical items, timeframes, and price ranges) receive five times more bids if you answer e-mail questions within one hour, then you need to enforce that as a best practice. Other best practices may relate to the following: Shipping speeds Inclusion of premiums Item description tones and attitudes Punctuality Customer follow-up Promotional offers
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The list could go on and on. Customer follow-up is the area where you ll really see the biggest results. When you maintain consistent, proactive, superior customer-service levels across your organization, you build a dynamite business one customer at a time.
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Plan for Growth
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Picture it now: You have a successful marketing strategy in place, sales are booming, and you re racking up incredibly high profits. Perhaps you re already planning a luxurious tropical vacation or shopping for a new Jaguar XLS. Before your fantasies get out of check, you must remember the reality of many small businesses experiencing success and growth namely, surges in sales can really make you stretch your current capabilities and resources. Keep in mind that some stretches are so intense that they can cause otherwise viable businesses to reach the breaking point. Growth is wonderful, but it must be managed. You ll definitely encounter some growing pains when you try to vault to the next level with your business. To avoid the pitfalls, you want to invest some forethought and planning. This section covers some of the most common issues that arise when small businesses experience sudden growth and offers ways to handle such situations.
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The first step in a growth policy is not to decide where and how to grow. It is to decide what to abandon.
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Peter Drucker business management guru
Hiring Employees or Adding Team Members
One of the first side effects of a sales boom is the desperate feeling of being understaffed. If you work alone, this can feel especially overwhelming, as keeping up with a sales boom can be mentally and physically exhausting. If you have employees, you may notice that they re feeling a bit disgruntled at the sudden rise in your expectations of their performance and efficiency. (Profit-sharing can definitely ease this employee malaise, but remember that they re still only human, and it s unfair to expect superhuman performance to keep up with a sales boom.)
Note: If you want to read more about hiring, Running a Successful Franchise, by Kirk Shivell, (McGraw-Hill, 1993) has a good section on recruiting and supervising dependable employees.
Despite the overwhelming feeling of being understaffed, try not to rush your decision to hire employees or hire more employees. You want to be sure that your sales surge is sustainable so that you won t need to lay off workers in the future. Or, if you know that your sales boom is a short-term phenomenon (such as a holiday rush), hire employees who understand that their position is only temporary. All kinds of businesses are specifically geared for short-term outsourcing of tasks like accounting, billing, general organization, and other professional services. Many have flexible pay-as-you-go programs designed for small businesses. Look for qualified temporary staff and even interns through the following sources: You can also hire virtual assistants (sometimes called virtual office temps) that handle office support and other, more complex tasks via phone, e-mail, instant messenger, FAX, and even PCAnywhere, which is software that allows you to access computers remotely over the Internet. These workers can do everything from shipping and Web design to errand running and copy editing. Do a Web search to learn more about these kinds of employees, as this
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