Creating a Plan for Success as the Economic Picture Gets Brighter
A new year always brings promise and the excitement of new opportunities. And this year is looking better than a number of recent ones when it comes to economic forecasts. In the U.S., a total of 321,000 jobs were added in November of 2014 and data for the months of September and October were revised to show 44,000 more jobs created than were previously reported. All told November was the 10th straight month that job growth exceeded 200,000, and more than 2.65 million jobs were added in the first 11 months of 2014. With that being said, several economists are talking about an upturn. This is welcome news, to be sure, but the question we all should ask isn’t an abstract macroeconomic one. It is more directly related to our respective livelihoods. Is my business ready for growth?
Of course, any business wants to grow. Even the Googles, Amazons and Apples of the world don’t rest on their laurels enjoying their own successes. They plan for expansion. Then they plan again. And with having one eye always on the future, those organizations are better prepared to handle the success when it comes. The complicated myriad of grandiose strategies those companies develop may not be necessary for your business, but creating a plan for success is definitely an activity worth undertaking. So, how should the process start?
Know What You Don’t Know
Sometimes it can be easy to overlook those aspects of running a successful business that are not in your respective area, or areas, of expertise. For instance, creating content may be your calling, but perhaps promoting that content online in a manner that resonates with consumers is more of a challenge. Developing websites might be your core competency, but maybe integrating other systems into it is not. The key point here is that no one person is an expert at everything. And that’s OK. In today’s hyper-connected market, finding other individuals and organizations that can help you with certain aspects of your business can be as easy as having conversations at tradeshows, or engaging in online communities with your peers. There are experts out there for pretty much anything, so you don’t have to know it all. Once you have determined any areas you may need help with and identified partners with which to work, you can do what you do best and rely on the expertise of others to help fill in any gaps.
Plan For The Unexpected
This one can be a bit deceptive. How can you plan for something that you are not able to fully anticipate? One way is to remain nimble with your operations and adaptable with your processes. What does that mean?
Basically, it entails keeping an eye out for trends, making / paying attention to forecasts, and then being receptive to changes within the market when they occur. But reacting to trends will only get you so far. By developing a strategy that can account for unplanned changes in the market, your entire business will be in a better position to capitalize on opportunities as they present themselves.
Once again, working with knowledgeable connections and business partners can be a big help. Vendors, wholesalers, and specialists all have various insights into trends that may not be obvious to detect.
Payment processors, for instance, will generally be aware of any pending changes banks or card associations might be considering. Furthermore, they will tend to view the market from a different perspective, as they consider consumer trends with payments, regional payment practices, and many other worldwide purchasing behaviors and regulations.
Additionally, a huge amount of e-commerce partners’ success is directly tied to and dependent upon your success. They want to help your business grow, because their revenue is directly dependent on your ability to get that sale.
Ensure Everyone Is Ready
Once you have created your plan and lined up any applicable partners that can help you achieve your goals, it is critical to make sure those respective partners are capable of supporting an explosion in growth. The last thing anyone wants is to be in the middle of a boom only to have operations slowed due to a lack of readiness with a partner or two. They used to call this the “Oprah Effect.” When a new product was introduced on Oprah’s show, sales exploded and sites crashed. Preventing failures is really where an e-commerce provider can make a huge difference — perhaps more than any other complementary service provider.
Processing a couple hundred sales per month is considerably different than processing thousands. And your e-commerce partner will need to scale with demands.
While it’s true just about any payment processor you ask is going to say it can support rapid growth, there are some key questions to raise in your conversations with them to help you decide how much (and quickly) they can help.
1) Ask how their systems can specifically support selling more in your given market.
As you perform due diligence to find an e-commerce provider, inquire as to how any of its systems or features are prepared to target your market; and how those items can help to fuel growth. It is one thing to leverage some basic processing features to meet your initial demands. It is quite another to use those same features (or other ones) to drive expansion.
2) Ask what features of their system are intentionally designed to support your needs for tomorrow.
A couple of years ago, SEPA was unveiled. More recently, the U.K. established ATVOD for adult purchases. Whichever e-commerce partner you determine best meets your needs, asking about what tools and features it has in place to address the SEPAs and ATVODs of the world is a way to highlight its readiness for what’s next.
3) Ask how their system can help increase throughput.
More transactions equals more revenues. But that is oversimplifying things a bit. Any e-commerce provider will state it can help provide you with more sales.
Finding out how it can do that is an important question to ask. And finding out how it protects you against fraudulent transactions is just as important. While there are a multitude of methods to drive more throughput such as forms systems, testing environments, up-sell/cross-sell tools and mobile options; making sure the transactions are valid in the first place has to be addressed.
As bad transactions can lead to declines and chargebacks, making sure the e-commerce provider you choose has strong processes to deal with fraud is an important matter to look into.
4) Ask which of their features can help attract additional partners.
As referenced throughout this article, good partners are a key factor in driving success for your business. It’s like the song says, we get by with a little help from our friends. But how do you go about finding more organizations for forming partnerships?
Affiliate business models, for example, have been around for years. And lately, there is a rise in online marketplaces and/or indexes to help you find affiliates and many other types of partners. The Amazon marketplace is maybe the most recognizable one, but it’s worthwhile to see how whichever payment processor you select can help your business find others with which to partner.
5) Ask what their reputation with consumers is like.
How consumers view payment processors is becoming increasingly important. With so many reports of data breaches in the news, trust among buyers is crucial.
The more consumers trust that their personal information will be safe, the higher the likelihood that they will buy. Consumer trust can sometimes be difficult to measure, so ask your processor for any metrics or evidence it has to illustrate the trust it has with consumers.
6) Ask what upcoming trends in consumer purchases they are anticipating.
As previously mentioned, payment processors have a unique view of the market. As the conduit for accepting consumer payments on your behalf, these companies stay close to worldwide purchasing trends.
However, they also constantly interact with banks and card associations.
From this standpoint, e-commerce providers see all sides of an online transaction like few others. Asking them what trends are on the horizon and how your business can successfully navigate through any pending changes is a great opportunity to ask an expert.
Not to mention it can help you gage how ready they are to support the growth and expansion of your business.
New Year, New Opportunity
This is just a short sampling of some questions to ask. The underlying point though is important. Your e-commerce provider is the expert on its own systems, and you want to not only see what value it can bring to you, but what value it has within the industry and market you’re in. One good way to do this is to ask who some of their other customers are, and how long they’ve been working together.
If there are any published examples or case studies of how a company has been helped by the e-commerce provider, even better. By asking for as much information as possible up front, you should be able to get a pretty good idea of how the company can help you reach your goals.
And how ready it is to support rapid growth rates. Additionally, never hesitate to compare services against one another, as ultimately, it is your business.
As we begin the new year full of promise and potential economic upturns, you’ll want to be ready.
Gary Jackson, managing vice president of sales and Internet markets for CCBill, brings 18 years of experience in the online media and commerce markets to the adult industry. Since joining CCBill in 2006, he has been a champion for expanding business opportunities for the industry, as indicated by CCBill’s diversification into dating and tangible markets, as well as expanding the CCBill billing automation platform to adapt to changing consumer buying habits. Jackson has been honored in online adult industry with the 2011 Cybersocket Business Person of the Year, the 2012 XBIZ Executive Leadership Award – Web, and was instrumental in helping CCBill be recognized in 2014 by XBIZ as the Progressive Web Company of the Year.