One of the most common questions asked in every business at any stage of its development has to be: “what’s next?”
Knowing what to do next is not so obvious, nor is it easy to decide on the best possible approach. We all know that everyone has a different situation, different business, and we all feel that our own situation is very unique. That’s why we’re often skeptical about any piece of advice we get, and we’re even more skeptical about what should be done next to bring us closer to our goals.
One thing that is sure to help you/me/us not to be running around like a chicken lacking its head is to use some systems. Now, by systems I don’t mean a fancy piece of computer software or anything. This is actually a lot simpler.
What a system is
The way we’re discussing it here; a system is:
- not a piece of hardware,
- not a piece of software or an app,
- not any kind of product you can buy.
A system is simply a set of actions you need to take to get a specific thing done. It’s a template for taking action, so to speak.
Let me give you a somewhat silly example, but it explains this pretty well, so bear with me.
Remember the first time your mom taught you how to do the dishes? It went probably something like: first you take a plate, rinse it with some hot water, then you take a sponge and put some washing liquid on it, you clean the plate with this sponge, and finally you flush the plate with hot water again and put it on a dryer.
That is a system your mom gave you. It’s your own system. Maybe some people do it a little differently, but this one is yours. From that point on you’ve been able to do the dishes not only in your house, but in every other house. It’s a system that can be applied anywhere. And that’s exactly the point of a good system.
Now, since we’ve got this covered let’s go back to some more serious things than doing the dishes.
What can you use a system for
As you can probably see by now … for everything. But if we’re talking online marketing, or running an online business or blog in general then there are some things that a system can handle.
Some possible areas for having a system:
- SEO – step by step definitions of what to do (and how to do it) in order to get a site high in the search engine rankings. This is perfect for creating a system because various SEO activities tend to be very similar for almost all sites.
- Monetization – i.e. how to make some money off your site. Things like: where to start, what things need to be set up before you can start making money, how to go about processing payments, and many other things.
- Newsletters and email marketing – things like: how to start building an email list, what messages to send, how to create those messages, etc.
- Buying domains – sounds simple, but actually there are a lot of things that need to be done to get your hands on a nice looking domain. Of course, if the domain is available then you can just buy it, but if it isn’t then you’ll need some additional steps.
- Content creation – how to go about writing posts or articles, for example. You should probably include things like creating an outline, choosing a headline, crafting the first paragraph, linking to your other articles, etc.
- Networking – how to reach out to people and make new business connections. (There’s a series on networking on Hongkiat.com that I’m the author of, by the way: Networking Guide for Bloggers: Why It Is Important (Part 1))
- Social media – …
- Video creation – …
- this list can really have no end, so let’s just stop here.
OK, OK, you’re probably thinking that this idea is OK and all, but it sounds like work, additional work that’s not that necessary. Here’s my take:
Benefits of using systems
First of all, systems make it easy to decide quickly on the things you should do at any possible stage you might be in in your project.
When you have a system around your current project then you know what steps you’ve already done and what steps still remain in front of you. This is all the knowledge you need to quickly pick the next thing that needs to be done.
Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, a good system can be explained to anyone in a way that they can start implementing it too.
Once you have a system you can show it to your co-worker and tell them to implement it for you (remember the dishes example?). Which brings me to my next point…
You can’t really hire new people until you have some systems you might share with them. The thing is that you – as the person in charge – have an overall vision of the business, so in some cases you can be running around like a headless chicken because in the end, you know what the main goal is anyway. People working for you, on the other hand, don’t. Presenting them with a system will surely make a lot of things clear.
How to create a system
A system is a template, so you need to create it like one. First of all, select the topic of the system.
It should be something specific, but not too specific (not too easy). The example I’m going to be using here is “creating an e-book.”
In the next step, you have to list all the important steps for reaching a desired outcome. Usually, these are all the things that are easy to overlook, or things that have to be done one after another in a sequence.
Giving you an example is probably a lot easier than describing it. So here it is.
When I’m creating an e-book, here’s the system I like to use (a shortened version of the whole system, actually).
- Set the page dimensions (8.5” x 11”).
- Select a font (Arial, Helvetica).
- Set heading styles (h1 – 22 bold, h2 – 18 italics, etc.)
- Set header and footer (page numbers, site URL, e-book title).
- Write the actual content (a separate system for that).
- Include additional important parts (things like disclaimer and copyright page, preface, about the author page, links to other articles, affiliate links, list of and , thank you page).
When I follow such a system I can be sure that there’s nothing that has slipped my mind. Also, if I come up with a worthy addition to the system I can update it and then use the new updated system next time around.
I highly encourage you to create systems around tasks that you perform most often, and ones that are important to you to do right. If you attend conferences every month then create a system of what to do once you’re at a conference (business-wise). If you do a lot of cold calling then you better have a system for that. If you’re trying to get some guest posting spots on popular blogs then having a system can surely help here too.
In the end, there are no boundaries, you can create systems for everything, but the most important rule is to trust your systems. You have to be sure that when you’re following a system you are doing things the best they can possibly be done (according to your current knowledge and skills).
Now it’s your turn to tell a story. Do you have any systems you’d like to share here? Feel free to comment.