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UrbanVolt is one of 30 high-potential EU startups who participated in Google’s Adopt A Startup 2018, a 12-week seminar and mentorship programme, which this month culminated in us winning the European Grand Final – a Dragon’s Den-style competition for €10,000 Google Ads credit and $100,000 Google Cloud credit.

Google cites the impressive results we achieved against our objectives as the reason for our win. And they are impressive: We simplified our mission and unique value proposition into single sentences. We eliminated 80% of our cost to acquire new clients by automating repetitive business tasks. We created an online quote tool that calculates your energy consumption and lighting requirements in under a minute.

How can any business achieve crazy-good results like this? It boils down to four key strategies, which work for businesses of any size. Here they are.

1. Set objectives and key results (OKRs).

This was the first exercise the UrbanVolters did with our Google mentors. On a large whiteboard or using sticky notes, brainstorm two to three areas of improvement that you want to focus the business around for the next quarter. These objectives should be ambitious but achievable, even if the details of how precisely they will be achieved aren’t yet clear. It’s important that each OKR you set is also measurable, either in numbers, percentages, or verifiable results.

The scale of your OKRs might differ depending on the size of your organisation, but keep in mind that it should be a struggle to complete them before the quarter is out. In fact, Google recommends that the results you set be beyond what’s achievable by up to 30%, as this has been proven to motivate your top performers.

The three OKRs UrbanVolt set for Adopt A Startup focused on our brand communications, how we interact with potential clients, and the efficiency of our internal processes. By balancing the load among customer-facing, brand and internal projects, we ensured that each team within UrbanVolt was involved but not overburdened. The variety of our OKRs also pushed us to work cross-functionally, which led to the following three strategies…

2. Think like your customer.

You know your industry inside and out. And you’re probably used to using its jargon and acronyms on a daily basis with your colleagues. But the vocabulary of your digital marketing should be simple and focus on your benefits. It’s expensive and can take years to impose your industry’s vocabulary on your target market. Instead, make double-digit percentage leaps in your website traffic by rewriting your website and ad copy in the language that your customers use to describe your business. A few of your happiest customers might be willing to serve as sounding boards here, and many are flattered to be asked.

Next, take a tour around your website in the mindset of your customer. How easy (or difficult) is it to get the information you’re seeking? Do any buttons or links take you somewhere other than what they promise? Are there any hurdles or annoyances in getting to what you want?

Anytime your website does something other than what the visitor expects, it creates a “moment of friction” in your user experience. Whether the issues are pushy registration forms, non-intuitive links, or slow page load speeds, they make or break a valuable first impression. Conversely, an intuitive website that delivers what its visitors want and expect can be a selling point for your brand. Your competitor is only two clicks away – make sure that for your business, that fact is an opportunity, not a threat.

3. Use business process modelling.

If you want to make significant reductions to cost and time like we did, you’ve got to make time for business process modelling. Start with a flowchart of a process as it presently works – we like the “swim lane diagram” for cross-functional or complex processes. Having a visual diagram makes it easier to understand the roles of people and systems, identify bottlenecks, and see opportunities for automation.

Are all of the steps in your process necessary to achieve a valuable outcome? Could the steps be rearranged to minimise hand-offs between teams? Could an assembly line approach speed things up? Is there data that could be processed via algorithm?

Marketing automation software can save your sales and marketing staff countless hours, and is well worth investment at any level. For internal processes where automation isn’t an option, any form of template creation can still have an impact. Diagramming works for any business process, but if you’re unsure where to start, focus on those at the top of your sales funnel, or those that would have the greatest positive impact on your customer experience. Results in customer-facing areas have visibility across the company, and will create the momentum you need to encourage business process modelling in all departments.

4. Enforce efficient project meetings.

Easier said than done. But if you’ve tried to streamline your meetings in the past to no avail, it might be time to employ some new tactics.

Only invite people who need to be part of the decision. Often, valuable project contributors are included in meetings when all they really need is to be kept up-to-date with decisions and key action items. Their unbroken focus is more valuable than their presence in the room.

Send an agenda in advance, with a short explanation of the meeting purpose, key discussion point(s), and attach any material that needs prior review. During the meeting, stick to the agenda. If someone brings a significant point to the table that’s not part of the agenda, schedule a follow-up meeting to address that item with only the relevant decision-makers. As the meeting concludes, have one person record and distribute follow-up actions to all attendees, with the initials of the parties responsible and the deadlines for each item to be completed.

If chronic tardiness is an issue in your business, warn your attendees: If the required parties to make a decision aren’t in the meeting room within five minutes after the start time, the meeting will be rescheduled. This is the hardest meeting rule to enforce, but consider the cost: What other decisions or calls could each of those attendees have made if they hadn’t been waiting in a meeting room?

Some of these meeting tactics may feel rude at first, but they are designed with great respect for your project leaders’ time. If you are embarking on a major business project such as we recently completed with Google Adopt A Startup, your cross-functional meetings should be as efficient as possible.

Do you have any tried-and-true methods for high performing teams? Have you tried any of the strategies we recommend above? We’d love to talk objectives and customer experience with you. Drop our Marketing Manager Anne James a line at [email protected].