Quick and Dirty Growth Experiments for Your Business

I once started a business in four days and then made over $1,000 in the next five days running it before pausing it momentarily, only to never restart it.

Back in 2009, I had been reading about how people were making money with lead generation businesses and the business model appealed to me because it was simple, scalable, and an easy pitch to customers (you only ever pay for leads that make you money!).

So on a particular Monday in the summer, after picking the first niche I could think of with a high per-customer spend and no other lead generation competition (tree services) I bought the domain FiveStarTreeService.com and then immediately went on Fiverr to find someone to quickly build me a website. While they did that I wrote some content for the website and found some royalty-free images to use.

By Wednesday night I had a decent looking website with an online contact form and a phone number that forwarded to my cell phone.

On Thursday morning I set up an Adwords campaign on Google so my ad would show up in my area when someone searched for keywords around tree service. While I was waiting for that to get approved, I started researching local tree service businesses who might be interested in the leads I was going to be getting and found a few that seemed good based on reviews and small enough to where I could get the owner on the phone – I needed someone who could make a decision quickly.

Sure enough, on Friday I got my first inquiry – a lady with a giant tree in her yard who wanted to know if I could help her get it trimmed down. I got her info and address and told her I’d see about getting a quote for her.

Immediately after I got off the phone with her, I started calling my short list of tree guys and got one on the phone. I told him I was in the tree service lead generation business and then explained to him what that was because he’d never heard of it. I told him the first lead was his free so he could see I was legit and I gave him the address of the lady I’d spoken to so he could give her a quote.

He did and it turned into a three thousand dollar job for him, for which he then sent me $300 via Paypal because even though I had told him it was free, he felt that was the right thing to do. I didn’t argue! It had cost me only $80 in Google ads to get there at that point, so things looked promising.

He told me he was happy to pay me for more leads as things had been a bit slow. Over the next week, I sent him and one other company three more jobs and I made a little over a thousand for my efforts against an ad cost of just over $350.

The following week I was leaving for a trip and going to be gone for three weeks so I turned everything off, thinking I would come back to it when I returned.

I never did start that up again because by the time I came back, I had found something else I liked even more and was on to that. I don’t remember what it was now, but it seemed good at the time. Yes, I definitely had a lot of “shiny object” syndrome back then!

So how does that relate at all to growing a business today?

I was thinking about that recently, not because I wanted to finally get back to it, but in remembering that you don’t have to do things the long, slow methodical way, and in fact, it probably is better not to do most of the time. I went from idea to execution in four days. I learned something brand new, tried it, and saw results.

When I think about new things we should try in our business today it can seem overwhelming. First I have to figure out what I’m going to offer, figure out pricing, cost, who will be in charge, do we need to hire, what new software we might need, what marketing efforts, etc. It seems like a big effort that will take a lot of time and energy. And then it seems easier to just stick with what we already know and not bother with innovation. At least, that’s the temptation.

But I remind myself with the story above that it doesn’t have to be complicated or hard. Or fancy. If you have an idea for a new product or service to offer in your current business – just do it. Figure out the minimum amount you need to try it out and see how it goes. Your customers will quickly tell you if you’re on the right track or not. You don’t need to overthink it.

On the other hand, you do need to try new things. If you don’t, someone else will and you’ll lose out anyway. You can tell a business is in decline when they haven’t changed how they do things for years or decades even.

In our world, accounting, there are plenty of firms who still use paper for things, fax documents, and mail tax returns. They have decided they don’t want to learn anything new. But customers like and appreciate being able to do things online – they’ve come to expect and demand it. 

So these firms that won’t change are also slowly dying over time. Maybe they don’t care, but if they did it’s almost already too late for them.

In your business, take a look outside what you do and see what the competition is doing. Are they ahead? Are they adopting new things you aren’t doing?

Are there websites or journals or forums or conferences for your industry? Are you reading and going? You should be!

Staying ahead of the curve is a constant process and it’s what keeps your business competitive and growing. If you’re always just head down, focusing on just today’s fires and crises you aren’t going to be able to grow. Take some time to learn about what’s new and then try stuff. Not over six months but over a long weekend or by next Friday!

Don’t overthink, just experiment with a quick and dirty version and see how it goes. By thinking ahead of your business you will automatically be focused on growth and growing. If you don’t, chances are growth is going to pass you by! 

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