It happens all the time. When building a new online business, many entrepreneurs become scattered and distracted in both strategy and execution, trying to move in too many directions at the same time. This lack of focus ends up causing a lack of real movement for the business in any one particular direction and can ultimately lead to failure.
In this post we'll explain exactly why focus is so important for you and your online business. You'll also learn three critical elements of your business that you absolutely must have focus in as well as how to achieve it.
Let’s get right into it.
Why Is Focus Important?
More than likely, you understand that focus is important. You’ve probably been told that most of your life after all. However, when starting a new online business, entrepreneurs tend to forget about focus.
The problem is that a lack of focus leads to scattered resources. Devoting time, energy and money to multiple strategies and marketing channels at the same time leads to none of them being executed well. It’s just not possible. On a daily level, a lack of focus leads to wasted time. All of this in turn leads to frustration, lack of progress for the business and ultimately failure.
The Case for a Singular Focus
Alex Ikonn, founder of Luxy Hair says that “A singular focus is the most important thing in business”. Right from the beginning, Alex and his partner Mimi executed an extreme amount of focus. When they launched their hair extension business in 2010 they made a deliberate decision to only carry a narrow product range. Instead of having many multiple lengths, weights and colors, they focused on a very tight range of products that would satisfy the majority of the market.
What’s more was their laser precision focus on marketing. Sure they read all the marketing advice out there that told them they need to advertise with Google Adwords and Facebook Ads amongst a host of other channels, but they identified one channel where they felt their efforts would make the most impact. Focusing solely on YouTube as their marketing channel, Alex and Mimi built Luxy Hair's YouTube channel to more than 2.2 million followers.
"A lot of brands don’t make it because in the process of trying to get many things right, they don’t get anything right. Why are they in such a hurry?"
It's clear that a focused strategy has its advantages. Let's take a look at how to achieve focus in your business.
3 Critical Elements of Focus For Ecommerce Businesses
To achieve extreme focus for your business there are three major areas to consider. The overall strategy for your business, campaigns and initiatives for achieving your overall strategy and finally the daily activities and tasks associated with executing those campaigns and initiatives.
All three of these areas are connected and each area requires focus. Let's take a look at some of the most important elements of each area to consider:
Overall Strategy (Changes Rarely)
The overall strategy is the big picture and the ultimate direction as well as purpose of the business. This is usually something that doesn't change unless you are making a major market shift and pivoting. Within the overall strategy, there are two major elements that need to be considered in particular:
Focus on your unique value proposition - Consumer have dozens if not hundreds of other online destinations they could choose instead of you. So, why should they buy from you? That’s the question you need to answer as you start formulating your unique selling proposition.
Focus on product/market fit - We recently discussed product/market fit on the Shopify blog, but your product/market fit might just be the most important element to focus on, especially early on. Focusing on this alone in the early stages of your business can mean the difference between success and failure.
Campaigns & Initiatives (Changes Every Few Weeks/Months)
Campaigns and initiatives support your overall strategy and goal. A lack of focus here can lead to a lot of wasted time and money in scattered marketing channels and campaigns.
Focus on one marketing channel - One of the biggest faults of being unfocused in your marketing is never giving each marketing channel a fair shot by not dedicating enough time, energy or money and giving up too early.
Whether it’s search engine optimization, search engine marketing, Facebook Ads or pitching bloggers, they all require a really solid effort, some time to show results and sometimes money.
Particularly when first starting out, prioritize and choose your marketing and social channels selectively based on what you think will work best (based on product/market fit). Make sure to give each one a fair shake by devoting enough time, energy and money before moving onto the next channel.
Focus on one metric of measurement - How do you measure your business? Multiple measurements when first starting out can lead you in many different directions and leave you scattered. Choose one metric to focus on. This metric may change over time however, focusing on one metric gives you a definitive and persistent goal you can work towards and gauge your progress every single day and week.
Tactics (Changes Daily/Weekly)
Your daily and weekly focus will include tactics and activities that fall in line with achieving your campaigns and initiatives, as well as your overall strategy.
To achieve focus on a daily level, consider the following:
The Pareto Principal (80/20 Rule) - The Pareto Principal is simple and can be applied to many things in life. It states that 20% of your actions and inputs will create 80% of your desired outcome. The key here is identifying and focusing on the 20% that is actually achieving the 80% of your desired outcome and not falling in the trap of working on the 80% that’s only achieving 20% of the desired outcome. The 20% you do choose to work on should mostly work towards improving the one metric you chose to focus on.
Watch Tim Ferriss discuss the 80/20 rule here:
The Priority Matrix - The Priority Matrix is another popular way to divide and prioritize tasks. Using this matrix, all tasks are divided into four quadrants: important and urgent, important and not urgent, not important and urgent, not important and not urgent. This makes it easy to classify each task and deal with the tasks in priority to the quadrant they belong to.
The Priority Matrix is said to have been used by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and is outlined in a quote attributed to him: "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important".
Tools to Help You Focus
Achieving focus for your business strategy and day-to-day tactics isn't easy. Below we have listed some tools that can help you find and regain focus:
Business Model Canvas - Writing business plans don't work. They're usually long, drawn-out documents, filled with buzzwords that are rarely looked at after completion. The Business Model Canvas is different. The business model canvas is a one-page roadmap that lists the key strategic elements of a business. Most importantly, it really does force you to think about the most important elements of your business to identify and focus on what’s important.
Check out the video below for an overview of the Business Model Canvas and click here to learn more.
RescueTime - When it comes to focusing on daily activities to build your online business, there are a lot of threats to your focus. Social networks, forums and news sites are just some of the many distractions that keep you from focusing.
RescueTime is an app that runs in the background and gives you a breakdown of your day and week along with the activities you did online to help you better understand where time is being wasted so you can regain focus and be more productive.
Ambient Noise & Music - Ambient noise and music has proven effects on the brain and can help you stay focused, especially when working in a distracting environment.
Here are five of the best ambient sound websites and apps to increase your focus and creativity:
- A Soft Murmur
- Noisy (Mac only)
- DeepFocus (Mac only)
- Ambiance (Mac, PC, Linux, iOS and Android)
A clear focus for your overall strategy, your campaigns and day-to-day tactics are vital to every business. Without focus you run the risk being just one of two billion websites in a sea of four billion people online.
The good news is that it's never too late to find and regain focus for yourself and your business. Use this post as a roadmap and begin by re-evaluating your overall strategy, making sure you have a clear and unique value proposition and product/market fit. From there, re-evaluate your marketing channels and campaigns to make sure they are in line with your overall strategy and you'll be well on your way to a more focused business.
About The Author
Richard Lazazzera is an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Strategist at Shopify. Get more from Richard on Twitter.