Simon is the CEO of Strategy Sprints, Europe's leading remote growth agency. His global team of certified strategy sprint coaches do only one thing: they double the revenue of service-based businesses in 90 days. Simon also teaches growth strategy and select business schools and hosts The Strategy Show podcast.
Can you just tell us a little bit about what certified strategy sprint coaches is?
Sure, so we coach business owners, small business owners into having more freedom, more impact, and more revenue. Our goal is in 90 days of coaching to have them double their revenue or at least significantly move forward to fast track their growth goals. In this funky year, it's quite a challenge, but we are doing really well.
Let's talk a little bit about goals. Your statement is that goals are a bad thing, why is that?
You know, today in my city, Vienna, we just had a terror attack in the middle of the night out of nowhere. So the first thing is you check if your family is safe and if your friends save, etc. Whatever goals I had for these months are not helping me at all in this real-life situation. But the systems that I have in place limit how far we are going to fall down. So you never raise to your high goals, but you only fall as low as your systems are. For example, your systems can be your morning routine, who picks up the kids, your communication systems, your decision-making system. So my wife and I, we had to decide how do we do that, kids in school kids not in school? Which meetings do we delete? etc. So all the goals that we have are just for sunny times, and entrepreneurship is not about sunny times, it's an all-weather sport. So you need systems that help you especially cope with the bad weather and this year has taught us a lot about that. You need systems much more than you need goals. Having said that I just posted today my goals on LinkedIn publicly, so I like to have goals. But even that it's a system of telling the public what my goals are, because it will keep me accountable, and it will keep me rolling. It will also create some emerging properties that are super nice. For example, today in the morning, I posted that one of my goals is to hire a video editor. Two hours later, somebody wrote to me "Hey, I know somebody can I introduce you?" So even the goals I have, I use them as a system. The system of setting up the goals at the beginning of the month, of communicating them, of delivering them, and at the end of reviewing the amount and setting up the new ones and again communicating the new ones, because it creates more connection and a better and more truthful relationship. But in hard times you need systems more than goals.
So let's look at 2020, which is the year of disruption. How can businesses survive and thrive throughout this year?
This is a special year, we've never had a year like this. So the only thing that we all have in common is that nobody knows what's going on. So markets are shifting, and of course, cash crunch everywhere. Everybody has some form of cash crunch, but also massive opportunities are arising. We have this coaching program for business owners and the dozens of people I hear about because every Monday there's a coach meeting, and they tell me how business owners are doing. So I am out of fulfillment, I am the CEO now, and I don't do the coaching myself. But every Monday I coach the coaches so we go through every single business owner in our programs, and check the main three numbers: the revenue, the customer satisfaction score, and the retainment rate. So every Monday I see these numbers, I see the challenges, I see the problems, and I see the solutions. There is a way to grow even now, but it means re-shifting. It means you cannot just go on as if nothing happened, you have to embrace the current reality around you really think from the customer about how is their word right now changing and what do they need now. And you really need to change your website accordingly and your offer accordingly to pick them up at their bus stop right now because everything else is just not relevant to them. So if you can refine your offer in a way that speaks to their current needs, then there is a chance for growth and there are enormous opportunities if you can do it in a digitized way. One of my joint ventures that we have right now is with Google. So Strategy Sprints and Google had a press conference together in Zurich. Google showed some numbers about small businesses, and how can we help small businesses grow. They showed that 99% of small business customers start their sales journey online. So 99% of every small business customer journey starts online. That means restaurants and when you say, "Hey, go to that restaurant," the first thing that your friends do is they will check for reviews. So everybody now is an online business if they want it or not. This is something to embrace.
I agree with that 100%, the numbers simply skyrocketed. We've had a little spike in our business because people are realizing their website is out of date and they're missing out on opportunities because everyone is online right now.
Absolutely. There is one thing I love, it's simple, and you can do it and it will boost your website. So if you go right now on your own website and check these five things, and then after you hear this, just implement this, it takes half an hour and your website will be much more relevant. First thing, you go onto your website and you check who is the hero. Who is it for? Are you really clearly describing who this is for? The first hero section, it's called the hero section for a reason. The first picture that I see, is that about your client in the way that you can impact them? If in the first five seconds, you don't see this, then implement this. Who is it for and where can you bring them? The next thing is, what do you help them avoid? Because 80% of the people prefer not to lose $100 than to win $100. So if you can clearly state what you help them avoid, for example, I help you grow your business without spending on ads. 80% percent of the people resonate more with them without spending part and 20% resonate with the growing part. So is it clear what you help them avoid? Then the rest is just details. Now, what's the plan? How can I start working with you? What's my next clear action? That's the call to action button. Do you know what to do now? and repeats that button three, four times. And then what's the plan? Do you have a plan? Can I trust you? Do you have a plan? Just put in three testimonials. Three, that's enough, then I know if I can trust you. If you put 17 testimonials or 25, then you're doing a hero reversal. Now you are the hero, not them. And when a hero sees a hero to say, "Oh, yeah, nice to see you, but I don't have time I have to rescue a princess, bye-bye, see you later!" You have five seconds to make really clear who this is for, where you can bring them, what you help them avoid, what the next call to action is, and why they should trust you. So that's my tip for your audience. Just do this, and you massively improve the relevance of your message.
Is growth possible in quarter four here?
Oh yes! So we have right now a number of clients that were struggling, of course, when they started and some that are starting right now. These are challenging times, but what I see every week is that there is a blueprint for growth. For example, when they start with our coaching, 10 minutes later they get into the program, and then in the first week, we define three numbers with them. What are the three numbers that will tell us 80% of the story you need to know? And usually, it's are your clients happy, are the markets resonating, and are we losing a very small amount of reselling potentials? So the first week, define two-three numbers that will tell you this, and now set up the system that will measure these three numbers every seven days. In the second week, we free up the business owner from the weeds because small businesses have the problem that the CEO or the executive team is doing too many activities. So they need to get out of the weeds and start working on the system, but to work on the system you need time. So we free up 10 to 14 hours of their time per week in week two. Then from week three on, we do this brand sprint which is this exercise that I told you about making the message simple, relevant, and repeatable. Then we go to the equalizer, how they can become incomparable so that the pricing problem is not the problem anymore after being incomparable after doing the equalizer, which takes two days after that they can double the price, because now they are not comparable. And then we go to the sale system, setting it up in a way that is repeatable and reliable. We bring it all together in the CRM system where they know right now, with every person they speak to, in which relationship stage they are with them, and what's the next thing to move them from one stage to the next stage in their relationship sequence. This can be attract, nurture, prepare for closing, close, fulfill, retain, for example. You have to know exactly where you're speaking with somebody, where they are. Are they mildly engaged, highly engaged, or are they ready to buy? That's the CRM system. At the very end, in the last week, we do the marketing system, which finds the numbers that are really important and what are the three that you will track every seven days because most people do too much marketing.
I want to go a little deeper into the statement that most people are doing too much marketing. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
So business owners really struggle, especially if they have kids or if they have a funky year, like this year 2020. Then you are doing everything, you are the fulfillment team, you are the legal team, you are the IT team, and now you also should do LinkedIn and, and Instagram and Tiktok and what have you. So it's too many activities and usually, they don't build up on each other. So what I really recommend to do is to stop doing marketing. Usually, when somebody starts working with us, we stop all marketing activities, especially the marketing spending because it's leading to nowhere. If you don't do the 11 steps that I was telling you before, you don't have a well-oiled machine that can convert attention into clients. So 99% of the businesses, didn't build the whole machine and so when you spend $1 on marketing, they basically waste it. If you do these 11 things, now you have a well-oiled machine, now you spend $1, you can do 1.2 dollars or 1.5 dollars on that dollar. But first, you have to build the machine and most people don't have the machine, but they do post on LinkedIn on Instagram, etc. You are wasting time. If you enjoy it, okay, then do it, but do not expect any business impact
Let's talk a little bit about networking. Can you share with our listeners, one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
So I think I mentioned the Google one. So what happened is, especially in this year, which was so funky, and it was kind of reinventing how we network and how we cooperate. I made a list of the 100 firms I want to work with and I started proactively sharing my journey with them and our journey and where we want to go and asking, "Hey, what are you trying to bring into this world, and what do you want to solve next?" We started some really nice conversations and one of them became a joint venture. The joint venture was Google, asking us to be the execution engine for their program in Europe. What we did is we asked them, "What does your audience really need in this year (small businesses) in order to survive and thrive in this funky year?" And so you know that Google has data because they take that really seriously. So I gave them 15 topics and asked them to check that with their data. What is really relevant? What do people really need? So around these topics, we created a series of webinars. So okay, people, we know that you need this. Now, this is free webinar number one, free webinar number two, free webinar number three, we were just giving, giving, giving, giving. This created wonderful win-win situations for small businesses, for Google, and for my company, because we had real needs, and basically free value around that which created wonderful conversations. So this is my favorite networking way is to talk to people about what are you going to solve next. Tell them what you are struggling with, what you want to solve, and what you have found out that works, and share this. This is how collaboration possibilities can emerge even in relations where you didn't think that that could be possible. But it can because everybody is trying to solve some problems and maybe the problems that you're solving work for theirs, and then collaborate. So my way of networking is really just collaborating. I also run a podcast where I meet new people. So I also increase the number of people I can collaborate with. But then the way I do it is really just say, "Hey, let's talk, what are you bringing into this world? What are we bringing into this world? How can we find synergies?"
So how do you stay in front of and best nurture your network and your community?
So what I do is every day I try to share the journey. I do not just share the solutions, let's say once a month when they're polished. But really, every day I share the journey. Like right now I'm speaking on a podcast of somebody, then later I will have somebody on my podcast and I will do the same thing I will ask them, "Hey, what are you doing?" and these will be directly live in our Facebook community, which is called Entrepreneurship in Sprints so our own exploration is always public, we try to work in public. So whatever we are trying to find out to solve, to make better, to digest, to understand, that's our exploratory path of today. I try to make that as public as possible and that's the nurturing piece. At the end of the week, we put that all together. So at the end of the week, we have produced five podcasts, three interviews, two templates, maybe three video guides. So in the end, we just collect it and send it to the people who have asked us via subscribing, that they want to have that and every Friday it goes to everybody and that's how we nurture.
What advice would you offer those business professionals really looking to grow their network?
I think it's just about true conversations, deep, real conversations. What's not working, what's working. I really prefer the new one on ones. I'm actually liking the lockdowns, my city right now, Vienna is in the second lockdown starting today. I actually like the lockdown, because now I can finally say, "No, I'm not coming to your networking event," so I always hated networking events. I was a speaker at many conferences, but I would get there and go away as quickly as possible because I hate wasting time. For me, every form of networking event in the traditional way is time wasted because I just want to have one conversation with one person. I prefer to have three really deep real conversations per day than to meet 25 people.
Do you have any final word or advice for our listeners with regard to growing and supporting your network?
We have put together something because nowadays everybody needs to make this Q4 a winning one. So we have put together a 15 minutes exercise if you want that you can go through and you will analyze your current sales funnel and find two points to improve during that 15 minutes. That 15 minutes might help you get along with this funky Q4.
Connect with Simon
Take his 15-minute sales audit: https://www.strategysprints.com/sales
Check out Simon’s podcast: https://www.strategysprints.com/podcast
Facebook Group: Entrepreneurship in Sprints