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How I Screwed up My Own Business (and Fixed It)

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In the Common People garage, we (Mika and me) finally, finally relaunched our site after blowing it up in December.

Our website exploding

But in a way, blowing up our site was a way to reboot our business. And we needed a slight reboot. Why? Because we (okay, just Matt) made a dopey, “I can’t believe I did that” mistake when conducting user research.

A little backstory.

About a year ago, I started running user research interviews to develop a better offer for our audience. I looked at the recent gigs we’d done, then spoke to those clients about why they worked with our team, what problems they were having, etc.

This meant mostly interviewing copywriters.

I learned a lot! It was really valuable, and it led to some really exciting, satisfying projects.

Despite all of this excellent data we gathered, and the friendships we made along the way, I didn’t go big enough.

We know, we know . . . the guy who said “Think Bigger” from the stage thought too small.

Naturally, because I only interviewed copywriters, my conclusions centered around copywriters. This is what’s known as a feedback loop. Whether you’re planning the next AI revolution, or just conducting some simple qualitative data gathering, it’s essential you’re gathering enough of the right kind of data.

Why Having Enough of the Right Kind of Data Matters

When I’m teaching my digital marketing bootcamp students, I use this analogy:

Imagine you’re flipping a coin.

Homer Simpson flipping a coin

The first flip lands on heads.

The second flip lands on heads.

And the third flip lands on tails.

If you were to stop flipping your coin here, you’d reasonably conclude that 2/3rds of coin flips are heads.

Now, we know that’s wrong

But we come to this conclusion because we don’t have enough data to make a statistically significant conclusion. Because obviously, gathering more data – ie, flipping more coins – would result in a 50/50 ratio for heads/tails.

This is basically what I got wrong with my research. The people I interviewed gave me GREAT data. And it was profitable – that led to some really fun projects.

But my feedback loop led us to focus on an audience segment that was a *bit* too small for my business to scale. And as our team is growing (yay!), having enough income to afford steady work for everyone matters more than it used to.

Learning and Adapting with a Redesign

With this insight, we did a bit more research and realized how much opportunity we were leaving on the table. And we spend the last two months working on a redesign for our site.

We wanted to achieve a few things with this redesign:

  • Repositioning our business. With our old site, it wasn’t quite clear who we were serving. Copywriters? But we also did a lot of work with SaaS and other B2B clients. And we really enjoyed those projects. So a primary goal of our new site was making it more clear who we serve and giving ourselves a bigger umbrella of potential clients. Who do we serve now? B2B client-facing businesses. If you work with clients who are business owners, then we might be a good fit.
  • Reinforcing our brand. Common People started as a fun side project, but now it’s our main jam. And we’ve also learned a lot about how fun brands make your company worth talking about. (Besides, late-pandemic life means abandoning stuffiness and embracing the weird.) We’re not building a side hustle, we’re building a company. And Mika’s art direction and awesome illustrations are a key part of that.
  • Clarifying our offerings. What do we really do? We help businesses get more leverage. Small effort in, outsized result. But how we do that changes based on which “level” of business you’re in. By standardizing our services, we’re making it clear just “what” we do and what kind of outcome we deliver.

It’s all good stuff. So without further ado . . .

Here’s Our New Site Design

Screenshot of our redesigned site

We also put our offerings right on the homepage, making it clear how we help our soloprenuer audience grow. (We’ll expand and refine this in the coming months, but we wanted to launch now, iterate later.)

Screenshot of our homepage scrolled down

And here’s our new blog design, since publishing a lot more content is a key strategy for 2022:

Screenshot of our new blog design

Since our business is growing from “we use our site to close deals” to “we have plenty of work, and now we’re building an audience,” our blog post design reflects that too:

Screenshot of our new blog post design (what you are reading right now)

Here’s my big, embarrassing, vulnerable takeaway: even though I do this kind of work successfully for my clients every single day, working on your own projects is somehow harder.

This is normal. I don’t know a single marketing business or agency owner who says, “It’s easier to market myself than doing marketing work for my clients.” So if you feel overwhelmed and annoyed that working on your own site just isn’t working, let’s chat?

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