Ensuring your business is effective across the various aspects involved in business operations requires you to streamline business operations to remove campaigns with low performance and optimize your existing campaigns so they’re more efficient. For instance, you may work hard at engaging customers but which activities bring in the most return for your investment or ROI. If you look at the graphic below, you see how certain activities such as websites, email marketing, social media marketing, and video marketing generate higher returns across key performance indicators including:
- Setting up your brand as a thought leader
- Deepening relationships with customers
- Improving brand awareness, and
- Developing a clear brand positioning
- SEO contributes to several of these performance indicators but truly shows its impact on brand awareness
In contrast, many campaigns fail to deliver performance across 1 or more of these key performance indicators. Among the lowest performers are:
- Display advertising
- PPC (pay per click advertising), with the sole exception of building awareness
Of course, this data comes from a single market sector and your results may differ significantly from those displayed here. The takeaway message here is you must monitor the performance of each marketing campaign and eliminate those producing lower returns in your specific target market. In fact, many businesses establish a minimum ROI value (actually in marketing we pay more attention to ROAS – return on advertising spend, since marketers don’t control other operational expenses) and eliminate or at least work to streamline business operations that fail to meet minimum ROI standards.
Streamline business operations with metrics
As I hope you gleaned from my previous discussion, analyzing key metrics is the starting point if you want to streamline business operations. Start by gathering all your data into a single dashboard (preferably an interactive dashboard) that brings all your campaigns to a single point for easy analysis. Analyzing campaigns in isolation, such as viewing your social media metrics separate from each other and your email marketing metrics, provides an incomplete, and often erroneous, evaluation of performance.
Once you have all your metrics gathered in a single dashboard, your next step is to visualize your data using appropriate tools that highlight areas where you might work to streamline business performance. People can’t easily translate tables of data into insights. Meanwhile, using the wrong visualization leads you to incorrect insights that are often more damaging than no insights at all. Using the correct graphical technique to visualize data makes interpretation and insight almost effortless. For instance, showing the demographic makeup of your customer base is best displayed as a pie chart, While sales figures lead to better interpretation when displayed as a line graph of sales over time. Tableau is a great tool for building a wide variety of graphics suitable for each type of analysis.
Take the graph below, developed to evaluate workforce diversity with respect to gender. Even a quick glance shows where diversity problems are worse (ie. the workforce is primarily male or female — dark red and dark blue) and where efforts to make the workforce more diverse are failing (ie. no change in gender composition over time). Meanwhile, the size of the blocks displayed in the visualization shows the size of the workforce involved in that area. Armed with this data, a firm knows where to focus efforts to achieve increased gender diversity in the workforce by focusing on large blocks currently heavily male or female and working to attract the opposite gender. No other visualization offers the opportunity for such fast and effortless evaluation. Of course, achieving the goal isn’t so straightforward but at least you have the data to know where to put effort.
Streamline business operations
Not every area of business operations yields the same results when you want to streamline the business. Here are some areas where you’re likely to see the biggest payback for your efforts to streamline business operations.
The concept of lean practices in a business is about using and purchasing only what is necessary and reducing excesses. Often, this involves complex tradeoffs between factors that reduce cost and those that increase the cost or represent a high risk. For instance, purchasing a higher quantity of raw materials or other inventory often incurs a lower cost per unit, while inventory handling and storage while the risk of obsolescence or theft increases costs. In this case, there’s no easy answer when attempting to streamline business operations.
If you are running a big warehouse operation, for example, rather than buying hundreds of pallet racks, ensure you only have a pallet rack quantity that serves the anticipated business’ needs of the operation over a short period of time. An area of logistics deals specifically with helping businesses make optimal quantity decisions regarding purchases like this that involves inventory carrying costs, risks of damage or other loss, average order time (the time needed for replenishment), and quantity discounts. You can find the formula for calculating optimal order quantity here.
Businesses of all sizes and industries benefit from outsourcing, which involves concentrating on value-added activities while purchasing goods and services from others to support your operation. You can outsource mundane tasks, such as accounting, or you can outsource more complex practices, such as producing products. When done correctly, outsourcing reduces your costs and helps your business run more effectively. Outsourcing also provides value to customers and helps build your brand when you outsource to firms specializing in activities when you lack the skills necessary to meet customer demands at a reasonable cost. For instance, outsourcing your digital marketing often makes sense since it involves a skill set that’s in high demand, as you can see below, (making it difficult and costly to bring the activity in-house) while involving expensive supporting software tools. To streamline business operations, you “share” the cost of expensive software when the agency distributes the cost across a number of clients.
Automating repetitive tasks
Many operations involve tasks repeated time and time again. For instance, social media content creation is something you do every day, sometimes even multiple times a day. Creating content as needed means logging into the specific social platform at the desired time, creating the content needed, then moving on to the next task. Not only does this waste time, it often results in missing the optimal posting window because your team member forgets or is involved in another activity during the time required for posting. Constantly interrupting your actions to post content on time also makes employees less productive as it interrupts their flow.
Streamline business operations like this by crafting a content marketing calendar that lays out a week or month’s worth of posts and uploads them to an automation tool like Buffer in a single sitting. Many other tasks fall into this category, as well, including handling customer support requests, where a chatbot might help handle routine requests without taking your staff away from other tasks.
Create a long-term technology plan
Outdated and ineffective hardware and software reduces your employees’ productivity and may open you up for more serious damage such as cybersecurity issues like hacking and ransomware. A long-term technology plan and operational procedures reduce these damages by ensuring your software and hardware are up-to-date. Your processes should involve automatically updating software as new versions become available (I can’t tell you how many times I worked with a client who was using an older version of WordPress). These updates frequently include patches to fill the security vulnerabilities emerging as hackers get more sophisticated.
To streamline business operations you also need newer hardware as time spent waiting for a computer to load a resource or make a complex calculation is time wasted in unproductive activity.
Cloud computing offers many opportunities to streamline business operations. By storing information in the cloud, it’s available to every authorized employee no matter where they are or what time of day. Storing forms in the cloud means you enter information once then share that information across the organization. For instance, an employee entering personal information using an online form means that information is instantly available to HR, payroll, and their supervisor without the need to update the information in various physical locations. Entering information once also results in fewer mistakes.
If you want to start streamlining your business, these are some simple practices to get you started. A streamlined business is more productive and more efficient, resulting in higher profitability.
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