When you start thinking about ending the constant fire-fighting and getting down to the business of building a solid and scalable business, the first question is always, “Where do I start?”Good question. Here’s how we think about categorizing our systems:

Attract > Convert > Fulfill > Expand

These are the stages of a typical customer lifecycle. Yours might be a little different (and this isn’t exactly ours) but the idea and general outline is always the same. Each category will contain lots of different systems.

Attract is all about how to get more prospects to become aware of your business. This includes systems for advertising, networking, content marketing, SEO, public relations and anything else you do to get eyeballs on your business.

Convert includes everything you’ll do to turn prospects into customers. That includes things such as optimizing your website’s lead conversion, following up with prospects, giving demos or presentations, making offers and taking payment.

Fulfill is where you deliver the goods. Here you’ll want systems for fulfilling orders, encouraging usage, delivering support, ensuring customers are happy and so on.

Expand is an important step that’s too often overlooked: It’s where you expand the relationship with your existing customers. This includes systems to encourage long-term retention, to upsell, cross-sell, resell or reactivate existing customers, as well as to solicit testimonials and referrals.

Ok. So that’s a bunch of categories. Now, where to begin?

Well, think about your business like a child growing up. Perhaps the important categories for tracking a young kid’s maturity might include:

  • physical movement
  • communication
  • cognitive ability/thinking

(BTW, I’m sure that’s wrong; I just made it up. Stick with me.)

As a new parent you kind of expect — and hope — that your child will mature in each of these categories a little at a time and kind of in sync.

It would be weird, and rather concerning, for a child to be able to communicate like Shakespeare but not be able to walk. It would strike you as odd if your kid were able to slam dunk a basketball but couldn’t form a sentence.

Instead, you hope that walking and their first words come at more or less the same era of life.

If your kid is running around the house like a two-year-old but not yet talking, you’re probably looking forward to hearing some words pretty soon. If your kid is holding down a conversation about what’s for dinner but not yet standing up on his or her own…. well, you get the idea.

Weirdly, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who allow a similarly lopsided situations to exist in the maturity of their business. Don’t do that. You want to “grow up” little by little in each area, all together.
But you’ve got to start somewhere, so here’s what I recommend.

If you’re just starting out, work on the fulfill category. You need to be able to deliver a super-high-quality product and client experience, or all the rest is for nothing. You’ll know you’re doing a good job here if clients are raving about their experiences with your business and telling their friends. Fortunately, if you get this part right, the rest becomes a lot easier.

But, don’t get obsessed!

Once you’ve got a competitive product or service and you’ve proven you can make customers happy, move on. There’s no need to spend another two quarters messing around with the perfect invoice templates or having just the right color on your shipping box.

Instead, focus on the next most important area, which is convert.

Many entrepreneurs make a mistake here and think that “attract” is the next most important category. It’s not, and here’s why: The stuff you do in “attract” is expensive, because attention is expensive. It’ll cost you either money or time (the time to write great content pieces for effective content marketing or the time it takes to go to a conference and network). If you’re successful at attracting attention, but you’re no good at converting that attention into customers, you’ve just wasted your time and/or money. It’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket. You don’t do that; you plug the holes first.

But, again, don’t obsess!There’s a time for split testing (and Ontraport makes it easy), but that time is later in your maturity as a business, once you’ve got all the basics nicely in place.

After you’ve got the basics for lead conversion in place, it’s still not time for working on the attract phase. Instead, work on expand.Why? Three reasons:

  1. “Attract” is expensive (see above).
  2. Selling more to existing customers and getting referrals is cheap.
  3. If you can’t sell more to your customers or get referrals (or at least get some good testimonials), something is rotten in the state of Denmark. You need to fix it before you spend your time and money on “attract.”

So, get some basic referral- and testimonial-gathering systems in place (but don’t obsess).

Finally, it’ll be time to focus on attracting attention to your business, because you know you have the solid basics in place to turn that attention into customers, to fulfill orders and delight your new clients, and to get them to help you grow by telling their friends.To sum all this up, I’d suggest making sure you’ve got the basics in place in this order:

Fulfill > Convert > Expand > Attract

  1. Fulfill and Delight – Order fulfillment, new client onboarding, 90-day check-in, first-time buyer surprise gift
  2. Convert – Lead capture forms, lead management, long-term lead nurture, sales team follow-up, sales presentation, online order forms
  3. Expand – Post-purchase referral request, 30-day satisfaction survey, affiliate program
  4. Attract – Content marketing, advertising, tradeshows, event sponsorship, networking

Once you’ve got the basics in each area in place, you simply improve things little by little. Fix the product some, try out a new Landing Page or free offer, create a paid referral program, then go fix the product some more.

Just don’t let things get out of whack. A healthy business, like a healthy child, matures in all areas simultaneously and slowly-but-surely.    

About Landon Ray
Ontraport Founder and CEO Landon Ray is a serial entrepreneur whose personal mission is to educate, motivate, and enable others to realize their goals of starting and growing their own business. At the age of 25, Ray transformed himself from a street-corner flower vendor into one of the nation’s top securities day traders in only twelve months. After beating the odds on Wall Street and again during the great recession, Ray has taken his research and personal experience and created Ontraport, a small business automation platform and related family of services, which reflect his passion for educating and supporting entrepreneurs.