by Jenna Kutcher
Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher
It doesn’t matter how successful, or driven, or hungry you are to reach the next level, we ALL hit lulls in our businesses at some point or another. Often times, it’s not even because of our actual business. Maybe our business is seasonal? Maybe we’ve been coasting or traveling the world? Maybe we’re facing a heartache in our personal lives or financial troubles with our spouse. Or we’ve welcomed a new human into the family.
There are so many scenarios that can make your business go stale without you even realizing it. Whether you just thought what worked in the past would always work or that life got in the way, let’s talk about 5 ways to refresh a stale business.
But first, one little note. You’ll notice much of the advice in this episode is centered around starting where you’re at and reinvigorating without overwhelming yourself or your audience. This isn’t about reinventing your entire business in a weekend. Not at all. Instead, give yourself stepping stones to hop along. You’ll feel yourself picking up speed and gaining back that fire along the way.
When Contentment Becomes Stagnancy
A lot of the time, I see business owners who are 5, 10, or 15 years into entrepreneurship and they have this tightly honed system in place to keep things running smoothly. They’re not in those early, hustle and bustle growth days of launching a business and feeding off of the energy and adrenaline and momentum of getting started. They don’t have any of those “young business” fires to put out anymore because they’ve taken a ride on the trial and error train and have finally come out the other side to a well-running business.
And they aren’t really going out of their way to dream up any new and ambitious goals for their biz because, well, why mess with something that’s doing pretty alright as is? So they chug along, not really doing much to keep up with competition who are still pivoting and reaching for the next big thing because they yearn for more. They see no need to make a change because they don’t realize they’re even falling behind the crowd, slowly trickling to the back of the race where the walkers are.
This is almost a more dangerous position than realizing you’re distracted by life’s difficulties because it means you have reached a stance of settling. And hey, I think we ALL hit that at some point. It feels GOOD to have knocked off a bunch of goals and finally made it to a place of confidence and calm in your business, finally knowing that it will continue at the same pace without much strain or effort on your part because you’ve already put in all this strain and effort to get here.
But I also see an eventual shift here — entrepreneurs are sort of built to want to keep excelling and developing into the best versions of ourselves. We weren’t designed to settle for stagnancy. And while rest is a good thing and a necessary thing, there comes a time in every entrepreneur’s journey where they’ll feel ready to dig back in. To get back to putting in the work and the creativity and the determination to climb to the next level.
So whether you’re coming out of a season of rest and feel rejuvenated to refresh and amp up your biz, or you’re finding your wings again after a personal battle that’s had a hold on your attention for the last little while — my goal is to give you ideas and encouragement for diving back into your business with enthusiasm and excitement.
Amp up your marketing strategy
When a business gets stale, one of the first things you should look at are your marketing efforts. How are you showing up with your audience and serving them? Have you even been showing up? Think about it — when was the last time you posted in your Facebook group? On Instagram? Uploaded fresh Pins to Pinterest? When’s the last time you emailed — and not to sell something, but to educate, serve, or entertain? What is your current strategy, and where are there holes? Where could you be adjusting and better showing up?
If you need a little revamping in this area or wouldn’t feel confident going on Shark Tank where they might ask you how you’re marketing and how it’s converting, then it might be time to do an audit first. What’s working? What’s actually moving the needle? What is it costing you (time or money) and really assess true results.
Next, create an editorial calendar for yourself outlining what days of the week you’re showing up and where. If you’ve been posting here and there without consistency, make note of when you HAVE been posting and peek at the analytics. Use the information you do have to fill in the holes in your content calendar.
Craft a schedule that you can stick to and then focus on delivering value and tangible takeaways, not just showing up to sell. By showing up and serving up value, your audience will come to trust you and rely on you. They’ll know exactly what to expect from you and they’ll believe in the content you offer them because it’s already delivered so much value. When you are ready to sell your next program or product or service, they’ll be eager and primed to purchase because you’re basically their online bestie. Consistency and free value ALWAYS pay off in the long run.
Update your portfolio and website copy
With a marketing refresh to get new eyeballs on your business, the next place to devote your focus is on your portfolio and website copy.
Let’s start with my service-based business babes out there, my photographers, social media managers, writers, graphic designers, virtual assistants, and beyond. I see y’all in the Goal digger Facebook group asking about ways to get in front of your ideal clients! And this tip might seem silly simple, but take a deep look at your portfolio if you want to attract more dream clients.
If you want to focus on boho, outdoorsy elopement and wedding photography, then showcase your work that backs up that theme. You don’t want to be publishing every senior portrait and bar mitzvah collection if you don’t want to shoot more of those.
Only show the kind of work you want to attract. The same goes for every other type of service-based entrepreneur. Writers, show work from only your favorite clients, the ones who represent the dream clients you hope to attract in the future. Artists, social media pros, and VA’s, the SAME goes for you! I would rather see 3 examples from your dream, top clients than 20 examples of mediocrity.
And while you’re at it, you’ll want to perform an audit of your website and copy, too. I’m roping ALL business owners into this part of my recommendation, not just service-centered businesses, because most everyone has a website, but I know not everyone’s website is updated and relevant to their current business and goals. If you would be embarrassed if I asked you for your URL today, LISTEN UP, this is for you and this is your home on the web.
Is it abundantly clear who you serve? Is the information current and up to date? Is it easy for your ideal clients to find your rates and reach out to you? Does your website demonstrate your personality and your expertise? By the way, BOTH are important in attracting your ideal clients.
Think about who it is you’re trying to attract or who your all time favorite client was and write to them. Make sure your copy and messaging is cohesive and will reach them clearly.
Try this: Set a timer for 15 minutes and open a Word Doc. In that time, write a story about yourself, your brand, and your business. Answer the questions about who you serve, your favorite projects, what you aim to give your clients when they’ve finished working with you… Fill the page.
Paint a little business self-portrait with your words and step back. Now, you might not consider yourself the most creative copywriter out there, but by the end of this exercise, you’ll have over 500 words describing your business that you can pull from as you’re reworking your about me page, your Instagram bio, your Facebook description, and more. Don’t rewrite the story for every platform, that would take forever, needle down on that one page story of YOU and repurpose it across all areas of your online presence.
Freshen up imagery with a photo shoot
Okay, next off, as we’re talking about our online presence, let’s get into the visuals of your brand. Sometimes we hit a stale spot in business because things have just gotten predictable and a little visually boring. One of my favorite ways to liven things up — and one of the most fun ways, if you ask me — is doing a photo shoot to get fresh images for your brand.
Your audience WANTS to see you. They want to see the REAL you. They want to get to know the person who is serving them so well. Remember: people expect your product and service but what they don’t expect is the experience that only you can give them. And the best way to communicate that is with fresh photos every now and then. Share your behind the scenes, your real-life work life, your cozy spots where you like to hammer out your to-do list. Those kinds of real images will endear your people to you way more than a punny caption, a stock photo or perfectly worded email.
Just like so many other tasks, too, this is something you can batch! Get in touch with a branding photographer in your area and book an hour or two of their time to get a whole slew of different photos. I’m talking different outfits, different scenes, different props. It should be real scenes of you doing what you do best, whatever that may be. Photos of you doing your thang like any other normal day doing it is exactly the goal.
And for my product hawkers out there, when’s the last time you got updated photos of the items you sell? Maybe it seems like a non-priority because the images you have are just fine, but it’s always smart to get higher quality imagery and updated product photos and photos of people enjoying or using your products when possible.
You want your products to look uniform and clean, but also show their uniqueness in an interesting way. And it’s SO true that people want to buy pretty and attractive things. I am 100% more likely to buy a planner that’s as adorable as it is functional, and I want to see a photo of it in a space that resonates with me. Chances are higher that I’ll buy a planner photographed on a pretty desk next to a mug of coffee, a laptop, and a cute little succulent than if that same planner is set against a plain white backdrop.
Buyers like being sold a story, an experience they can picture themselves in. So evaluate your photos and make sure they are consistent and creative, and share a piece of aspirational story for your customers to connect with.
Get new testimonials or share client stories
Speaking of customers, one of the best ways to market yourself in a refreshing way is to let others do the marketing for you. Testimonials are huge for your business, they show the real results and real humans you’ve helped before, so that potential clients can picture themselves as a client of yours, living in that success story. And using their words kinda takes some of the pressure off of you, because you’re letting your clients or customers do the talking for you.
If it isn’t a part of your process already, make sure you’re asking for testimonials as a part of your workflow. You don’t want to wait until you’re updating your sales pages or website in a year to reach out, especially if you need to reach out to a client you served months or years ago.
They probably won’t remember in enough detail how you served them well, and it’ll come out as a generic, blasé testimonial that ain’t tugging anyone’s heartstrings. So think through your sales process and client experience, and identify a good time to reach out. For my wedding clients, I’d always wait until they were back from their honeymoon, life had settled down a bit, and they’d been able to look through their photos, I wanted those feelings to be exciting and still raw.
You can also automate this part of the process to save time and keep testimonials fresh and consistent with every different client. Add a step in your client management system so that it’s set up and after a certain amount of days, an email automatically goes out requesting a testimonial or feedback.
Or maybe once your product is delivered, an email request goes out. I just love the concept of setting it up once and allowing it to run its course seamlessly as an automation. Less work for you, but greater impact for future clients and customers. That’s a win, win.
You can also guide your clients through the testimonial process to get higher quality feedback. Most people aren’t natural writers or cheerleaders, and it’s easy to face writers’ block even with something as basic as a testimonial. So set them up for success by asking for exactly what details you want them to expand on.
It might be explaining the problem or fear they faced, and how your products changed their situation by increasing gains, confidence, income, outcome, etc. If you helped them get tangible results, especially in numbers, this is extremely powerful information you want to encourage them to share. Saying “we generated 10x income with this service” is so much more impactful than saying “we saw a big improvement.”
You can even directly prompt them with questions that you can then weave together into a testimonial. For example, you could ask them to provide answers to some variation of the following questions: What was your biggest pain point before working together? How did my products/services address and help alleviate that issue? What results did you experience from using my product/service?
Once they submit their answers to the questions, you consolidate them into a testimonial format of a few sentences or a paragraph. Be sure you run the FINAL version by them before hitting publish if you had to cut or move anything around, that way they can approve the testimonial before it reaches the public. You don’t want to publish something totally different than what they sent you, ever.
Lastly, share their feedback in big ways! Of course, you want to publish the best of the best prominently on your website, but get creative about really sharing testimonials everywhere. You could do a roundup blog post about 5 clients you impacted the greatest, or share their stories in a post on social media. When you think of this as a way to serve more people, it will feel natural to share the positive feedback and testimonials with your audience.
Create email templates for your biggest pain points
If you constantly get asked the same 3 questions or always have people asking to pick your brain, hi, welcome to running a successful business! If you’re working on refreshing your business and ramping it up for growth and more traffic, you can’t be spending your time in the weeds answering the same question for hours each week.
This is where email templates can come in and be tremendously useful. Create a general, but branded, response that you can paste into an email and maybe do some minor tweaking to personalize it before sending it off to the recipient. For those questions you hear over and over, this is especially important. If you have prepared templates for how to respond to certain frequent questions and inquiries all ready to go, it can majorly cut down on your email time and allow you to get back to business. Plus, it creates a better experience for the audience because they get answers faster.
Also pro tip here: delete the email app from your phone. When you go into your inbox, be focused and on a mission. Typing at a keyboard is way more efficient than on a phone screen and if you have the habit of reading and then marking unread to get back to it later, you’re just creating more work and stress for your life! You’re welcome!
The Big Picture
Okay, friends, there you have it! I hope these tips for refreshing a stale business help you get unstuck and back to refining, growing, building, pivoting, and enjoying your business again. I know it can feel overwhelming to tackle all the things, so just start with one. Pick the one thing from this list that you can commit 30 minutes a day to revamping and priming for even more momentum and up-leveling. Because change doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s not this massive, sudden shift. It’s leaning into small steps, taking little bits of action until over time, you realize, “Hey, things are starting to look and feel a little different around here. A little better.” That’s my hope for you, that you can feel a little better, more energized and filled up by your business. Because you deserve to be obsessed with the work you do again, and to feel good doing it.