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My boss says, “Raise my revenue 25% in six months!”

I recently got an e-mail from someone with a plaintive question. He just got a new job as the Internet marketing person at his firm. The boss waltzed in and demanded that he raise revenue 25% in six months. His question to me, “How?” How, indeed. It’s rare that I try to give blanket advice to anyone in a situation that I don’t understand, but after thinking about it a few minutes, I believed that I knew what to tell him. It might be good advice if you are in that situation with your boss, too.

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Any of dozens of ideas might be the right ones. It’s not easy to say without spending a lot of time understanding your situation. If you can afford a consulting engagement that looks at your situation, I’d recommend that, but honestly, expecting a 25% increase in six months seems a bit difficult when you just got there. It will probably take a couple of months to even know what to do.
And a lot depends on what kind of resources you have. If you already have a lot of traffic coming to the site, without knowing anything else, I’d see if I could do some multivariate testing on the landing pages and the conversion path to see if I could increase the conversions of the people already coming. That might results in the gains you need and you can use Google Website Optimizer for free, so it fits into any budget if you know how to use it. (If you don’t, you might need to hire a consultant who does.) If you don’t have any metrics numbers for your site, you’d need to implement Google Analytics first, but that is easy and it is also free. So, “site unseen,” that is what I’d recommend.
But I’d recommend something else, too. Your boss seems a bit demanding and you might not be looking down the road far enough. I know that you are spooked about delivering on the 25% in six months, but you need to think about what happens if you succeed. You’re just asking for the boss to drop another demand on your desk for the next six months—or maybe the next three months. If you plan on keeping your job, you need to have a second act.
First, I’d let the boss know that a 25% increase is quite difficult to pull off. If you do succeed, he should not expect to see that happen again, because as your company improves, it’s harder and harder to find big things to work on. Second, I’d let him know that you need to take steps now so that your multivariate testing is not a one-shot wonder. Continued testing will continue to find improvements, but the results will level off.
You should start focusing on longer-term ways of bringing traffic to the site at low cost, such as organic search marketing and social media marketing. No matter how big the crisis seems for the short term, failing to take long-term steps at the same time only serves to bring a new crisis down the road. And with that kind of demanding boss, you can bet he is only too happy to cause a new crisis for you at any point.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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