CNEs – a really under-leveraged tool to make you more money

Here’s a concept I was introduced a couple of years ago – critical non essentials, the little things in business that help you dominate and crush your competition and create raving fans instead of customers.

CNEs are a really simple concept but like most business fundamentals, I personally struggle to leverage a strategy or tactic until someone shows me a model, structure or gives something a label that I can internalise and absorb and then find it much easier to leverage.

Its often a struggle with business owners we work with to get them to focus on the small, crucial details that are going to make all the difference in their success or failure online. I can only do so much for them, there’s some things they just need to action themselves. I figured I’d try and explain CNEs a little in this post so I could refer clients here instead of writing this as an email a couple of times a month.

Critical Non Essentials (CNEs)

Effectively a CNE is not essential, i.e. your business can run fine for years without anyone performing this task, but its a critical task in making your business truly successful and turning repeat customers into raving fans. In some ways its a similar concept to the 80/20 rule but there’s usually so little effort involved its more like a 99/1 rule – often its because a CNE is so obvious, so simple and easy to implement that its ignored.

Learning this concept and implementing it has been a game changer for our business and when clients implement the CNEs we recommend that relate to their website or selling in general, they often see massive improvements in their website and overall business performance.

Without going into too much detail, I’ve provided some examples below that we recommend to clients that you could implement this week with very little cost to you:

For Ecommerce Businesses – Basic Followup Emails

For the ecommerce clients we work with one of the biggest single improvements they can make is a personalised email sent to each customer roughly a week after an order ships. This can be easily automated but would suggest trying a manual system for a month and you’ll be amazed at the quality of the feedback.

Don’t overthink this, something simple like the email below will do fine. Again, its a task thats not required to make a sale, but you can be sure 2-5 people out of 100 who’ve bought through your online store will have some minor issue, question or problem that needs to be addressed but isn’t big enough for them to get in touch directly.

Here’s a template to work from:


It's Brendan from The Search Engine Shop here. Just a quick email to follow up and 
confirm your order arrived safely, and to make sure you're happy with it?

I would love your feedback on anything we can improve with our website or overall
ordering experience or any other feedback you may have. Alternatively I'm happy
to chat further on the phone if that's easier for you. My direct number is

Looking forward to hearing from you.


For any business with a website – put a phone number on it (specifically, a landline no)

This is easy, put a landline phone number on your website. I’m still amazed at the number of people who slap up a website but don’t put a phone number on it. Don’t hide behind your website, put a phone number on it – people buy from people, not an email address and even the fact there is a phone number on your site could make all the difference in making a sale.

In tests we’ve done, a landline number often shows a 2-5x improvement in enquiries over a mobile phone number so I’d suggest always using a landline where possible. Don’t have a landline? Then setup a Skype Online number and redirect that to your mobile. It will cost you less than $10/month in most cases, if you make 1 extra sale from it then its worth it no?

For most businesses – a basic system for tracking follow up calls & emails

Setup a basic system for followups – people are busy, they forget things. If you’ve spoken to someone who enquired about your product or service, make a note in your diary and check in with them a couple of weeks later to see how they’re going and if they need any more help.

We often get phone enquiries where the solution is really simple to the point where we couldn’t make someone pay for it but we always make sure and followup a couple of weeks later to make sure the solution has stuck. Often, these turn into opportunities to work with that business on another front.

On a similar front – make sure you have a system for tracking requests for callbacks. I just assume now if I leave a message for a callback I won’t get one and I know a lot of people who assume the same. Its always a nice surprise when I actually get one.

For any business with a physical location – Google Places reviews

Setup a simple system to get regular maps on your Google Places page. One of the key factors in your Google Places page ranking high in the search results is getting more reviews and better quality reviews. If you’re trying to remember to ask for reviews, its not going to happen. If you systemise it and make it part of your business then you don’t have to remember or even think about it.

Here’s two examples of this in action (click the link to see the Places page)

  • Didgeridoo Breath – a didgeridoo shop in Perth. Didge Breath rank no #1 for “didgeridoo perth” and a huge number of search terms based largely on the number and quality of Google Places reviews. They’ve got that many because they’ve systemised the request for one (actually in conjunction with the first CNE example)
  • Perth Product Photography – a commercial photography studio in Perth. Again, Matt has systemised the request for a review and is now number one in the Google Places listings for “commercial photographer perth” as a result.

How to Identify CNEs in your business

I’m sure you’ll agree the items above are super simple but can make a massive difference when you add time into the equation, not rocket science but super unleveraged in most businesses.

In our business, over time I’ve realised that any time my brain thinks “oh yeah we *should* do that but…..” this is something that probably falls into the CNE category and needs to be sorted ASAP.
If you think about it, there’s probably a few things you’ve been putting in the “should” category that could be a CNE that makes all the difference, right? There’s probably another 20-30 CNEs I can think of in under five minutes, would love to hear your feedback about this in the comments below.

(BTW if you’re looking for more info on CNEs, check out the book on it )

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