Seemingly insignificant yet creative ideas can have a colossal impact on the way we live and work, and how customers interact with our businesses.
Consider the autoplay function on Netflix which can keep even the strongest-willed rooted to the couch, or the Like button on Facebook, a cultural phenomenon birthed during a company hackathon.
Ask just about any entrepreneur to share their growth stories, and you’ll find a recurring theme: one seemingly small change can have a powerful impact.
What the following stories teach us is that curiosity and humility–to pinpoint problems and speedily test creative remedies–can put a business back on the path to growth from a point of stagnation, or solve a burning problem.
Laura Jennings and her team made small tweaks to the customer journey by watching people use their website
Laura Jennings founded online gift store of Knack, which lets customers personalize their purchases. She says: “Two years ago the principle of my ad agency made an off-hand comment about her experience as a customer on my site: she said she loved the gift she created but ‘was surprised at how many clicks it took.’ I pondered that for a day or two and still couldn’t make sense of it. ‘Lots of clicks’ is not how our site works!”
Jennings asked her to come into the office and make a gift while her team silently observed. She says: “We were amazed and embarrassed by what we saw her do. She was bypassing the ‘obvious’ path to pursue a much more convoluted process we had never even imagined someone might take. And if a brilliant digital native like her was using our site this way, what were other site visitors doing?”
The next day, Jennings and her team placed a sandwich board on the sidewalk outside their office. It read: “If you give us 10 minutes to test our site, we’ll give you $20.” Whenever someone would walk in to take them up on the offer, everyone in the company would drop what they were doing to watch the new person interacting with the site. When the visitor had left, they’d debrief and address whatever had confused them.
She adds: “We iterated like this for weeks, until visitor after visitor easily found the quickest path to creating something unique.” These small tweaks to the buyer journey improved conversions by 25% in the first month, and 20% in the second.
Matt Schmidt, CEO of Diabetes Life Solutions boosted referral traffic from existing clients by offering to donate to charity
Diabetes Life Solutions
Another advocate of the tiny change is Matt Schmidt, CEO of Diabetes Life Solutions, which he launched in 2012 after seeing his father–who had been diagnosed with diabetes–struggle to find life insurance. Two years ago, he noticed referrals from existing clients, which created some of the company’s most profitable leads, were starting to drop off.
Schmidt says: “Our head of marketing recommended that we offer to donate a portion of our commissions to a diabetes charity of the client’s choice if they’d recommend others in the diabetes community to us. A simple gesture like this turned around referral traffic by about 1000%.” Today, the company still donates 25% of its commissions to diabetes charities.
Likewise, Kyra Schaefer, founder of As You Wish Publishing, a business dedicated to making book publishing accessible for aspiring authors, had a sales problem: she was undervaluing and underpricing her offering.
She recalls: “I would adjust my price based on how I felt the sales conversation was going. It came from a lack of confidence which showed up time and again. This lack of confidence resulted in me underpricing my service, which led to customers undervaluing my service, my time and my energy.”
What did she do? “I did something so simple it was ridiculous. I shut up. Yes, once I asked for the sale, I shut my mouth. The silence gave my customer time to evaluate their options and think of questions. I would answer their follow-up questions but wouldn’t lower my price.”
Schaefer credits this simple strategy with taking her small company from barely getting by to turning over six figures a year.
CEO of SmartBug Media, Ryan Malone, watches his employees work through a brainstorming session at the company’s annual retreat
After experiencing 192% growth in three years, marketing agency SmartBug Media–a 100% remote business employing nearly 80 staff in 28 states–struggled to streamline processes as it scaled.
CEO Ryan Malone figured the best people to help were those actually following the processes, so he started a habit of calling five or six members of his team each week and asking: “If you were me, what would you do to make this business healthier, better and more efficient?”
He says: “That one simple question, which is asked to people at all levels of our company, has generated hundreds of ideas that we are evaluating and implementing to improve the company culture and client services. It has also allowed me to build trust and forge deeper relationships with each of my employees. We’ve seen an immensely positive impact on the health of our company–happier people and happier customers–in just a few months.”
Think about the tiny changes you’ve made in your business that have had a really big impact on usability, referrals, sales, or culture. It’s likely they involved a fresh approach and some creativity and quite unlikely they involved hours of hard labor.
This agile approach of implementing tiny powerful changes without delay is far more effective than what many entrepreneurs who don’t know what to do default to: working longer hours, and burning out.