Using Email to Build Capacity

Sarah’s business is doing so well, she has encountered a problem.  There are not enough hours in the day to provide a quality service to coaching clients, do her marketing and business administration. This is success! However, Sarah doesn’t have time to think about the future.  How can she build capacity when she is run off her feet as it is?

Decide About Capacity

Sarah must make one decision before she decides anything else. Success has its own momentum. Does she want to expand.  This may seem perverse.  Why should she not expand?

It depends on what she wants from her business.  If she is comfortable with current capacity, she needs to work out how to manage it so she is not run off her feet.

However, if she decides it’s worth expanding, this is an opportunity to make a real difference.

Is she an entrepreneur, who wants to build a mainstream business?  Or is she a creative who wants enough income to live comfortably, while she does things she enjoys?

Building Capacity

Both options require capacity building and both need an email strategy.

“Steady State”

Let’s start with the steady option.  Although this option does not aim for growth, the business needs to recruit customers.  It’s not a do nothing option.  Sarah needs to automate as much as possible so she can enjoy her lifestyle. 

Her aim is to maintain income at a certain level, with an annual increase so that standard of living remains constant.  To reduce time spent on the business to a minimum.  This creates time for non-business activities or to develop new ideas, so the business innovates and does not stagnate.

The aim is to find low-cost ways to build capacity.  These are likely to be self-limiting and that is what she wants.

First, consider price increases.  This works if costs do not increase with price.  It may be possible to make enough money with less work, because you need fewer customers.  Make a gradual adjustment to prices, to work out what prices the market can bear.

Next, review automation.  This is where email lists pay off.  Can you do what you need to do with a basic email service or do you need something more advanced?  Customer Relations Management Services may be costly, so spend time working out what you can do with what you already have.  However, the rewards of good CRM may outweigh costs.


Growth implies greater costs. The best solution depends on the business.

A natural way to expand is to take on staff.  This implies increases in salaries, premises and other on-costs.  At this stage, you need a business plan if you don’t have one already.  You may need investment.

There are intermediate possibilities.  You could pay for administration services.  These may free up time, to take on more customers or do business planning.

This is not an easy transition and it may mean a cut in your own drawings from the business until income compensates for new expenditure.  So there is an element of risk.

Your email strategy should pay off. If you grow your list and use more advanced CRM services, you can transition to a service that enables you to do more online, delivering services as well as marketing them.

Don’t Forget Why

Finally, don’t forget the value you deliver to your list.  Increased capacity means a lot more work and this can result in loss of focus on why you are in business.  This is not trivial.  Your why is your main selling point. Lose track as you expand, you sell less because people no longer see why they should buy from you and not a competitor.

This is why you must maintain lists and track your customers and followers.  Value your list as your most valuable asset.  What would happen if you lost your list?  Security is paramount. 

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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