What We as Web Designers and Marketers Learned in 2015
1. Be Social – Customers Like Businesses Who Are Active Online
Social Media is not going anywhere. Nobody can predict the future but as it sits Social Media is becoming more and more powerful for businesses. Like it or not it is here to stay and from what we have observed this year, those businesses who have embraced Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linked In at the very least has experienced great success by expanding their reach. Take any business that is reluctant to jump into the Social Media arena, have them do it whole-heartedly for a year and then re-evaluate their situation and reach. First and foremost a customer ready to do business with that business notices that they are active and responsible for their daily posts of progress especially with Facebook. This in the eyes of the customer shows dedication and quality towards the business. It shows that they are busy and most importantly sought after. Everyone wants things done yesterday so when you are not willing to wait for the best you tend to fall short of your expectations by hiring someone else who is not worthy of your business. For a business to understand this crucial piece to their business model is directly related to the success of their company. For some reason it is not easy to stay active because of all the deadlines, backlog and wearing too many hats but it literally only takes a few seconds from your phone to snap a photo and write a sentence about it. Facebook posts are searchable! Another great way to gain exposure on the internet in the eyes of the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) is to continually post. Make sure you mix it up by not only posting what you are doing but things that relate to your business that is useful to others. Sprinkle in something funny or clever and you have just created the recipe for Social Media success.
2 – Be True to Yourself – Focus on Your Craft or Product
Those businesses who reach for other ways to make money within their business seem to fall in a trap that is hard to get out of. When that bad month comes around and you are scrambling to pay your bills and employees, owners who get desperate seem to try to fill in the void by introducing a new product or service instead of streamlining the ones they already have. Most of the issues here are preparation. Those months that are notoriously slow for whatever reason need to either be made up buy using the funds from the busy months or find a way to market to those people during the slow months. This does not mean dropping all of your prices because that is a straight path to the bottom. Once you start discounting your work, clients and potential customers will catch wind of it and start to expect those kinds of deals throughout the year. This has somewhat of a backfire effect that is tough to recover from.
3 – Don’t Be Afraid to Turn Away Bad Business
By now you probably know who your ideal customers are. With this information you can cherry pick your jobs and steer away from the ones that will take advantage of you one way or another, try to change your process to fit their needs or become such a wedge in the sprocket that can shut things down to a halt. Your business has procedures that are put in place on purpose to help keep your business on track. Yes, there will always be exceptions but for the most part if a customer does not fit exactly in your business model it may not be a good fit. You can always try but you may find out the hard way that your customer cost you more than you made. In this case more procedures get put in place to try and screen this from happening again and again but it only takes a few mistakes in a row for a small business to feel the effects of some poor business decisions. Being successful means that you are always sharpening your pencil to become better and better at what you do or provide your customers while at the same time documenting the important tidbits along the way that will help keep you business well oiled throughout its journey. Unless your a franchise, nobody drops all of the solutions out of the air for you to follow or hand down the crystal ball. It takes time and experience to fall on your face and get back up and learn from those hazardous obstacles that can put a business in a bad place.
4 – Always Be Helpful and Accommodating – Know When to Stop and Always Get Paid for Your Expertise
Now and then you will run into a situation where a customer needs all kind of help or does not know where to start. Without consulting fees you can be led down a dark path of giving up all of your information that took you time and money to learn and perfect. You do not want to give away your trade secrets but enough information to make them understand that doing it on their own would take too much time out of their schedule which wouldn’t save them a lot of money at all. It will surely end up costing them more. Those who don’t have the money in the first place to pay for this information that you are handing over probably does not have the money to do it right in the first place. Most of your consulting from a business point of view should be aligned with your services as far as figuring out if you are a match for the business. Customer alignment is key in setting up expectations early in the relationship and building the trust right out of the gate. Far too many times does a customer do research on their own and find out the nuts and bolts that need to be done to accomplish their goals and then it comes time to hire someone to do what they just learned but never applied themselves. This is usually one of those red flags that you can see a mile away that it may not be a perfect fit for your business. If you have a great track record for helping your customers you should trust your instincts and continue to provide those products and services that you believe in and not fall off the beaten path or you will get beaten. When you as a business are helpful to the point that the customer understands what they are up agains and trust you to lead them down the right path, the appreciation skyrockets and they will benefit from your knowledge and recommendations all while getting paid for your expertise. Every hour in the day counts so every hour you are not getting paid is an hour you have to make up. They do add up and add up fast if you are not careful and you can’t get them back. The point we are trying to make is that if you are not getting paid one way or another for what you opened your business up for in the first place you are doing a big disservice to yourself and your team. Alway help a business if you are 100% sure it will flourish into paid business. Although you can’t guarantee that will happen all the time you have to know when to cut the ties before you enter the point of no return.
5 – Have Goals, Shoot for the Starts & Hold Yourself Accountable for Those Goals
If you don’t shoot high enough you will never make it. Always have goals that are unreachable, this way if you are trying to reach them you will find out that you are doing way better than if you had no goals at all. Just because you didn’t reach your goal it doesn’t mean you didn’t succeed, it means that you went the right direction. Every day is a fight to make it to the top, without that drive and passion the fight can and most likely will get lost. In order to not lose the fight, you as a business owner needs to identify any issues that get in the way of winning and figure out how to streamline processes and identify any inefficiencies. If you are doing things over and over again with no reward it may be time to sit down at the drawing board and automate some steps or purchase software to keep track of what you do manually. Use the tools on the internet. Rather than reinventing the wheel in may suck to spend $9.95 a month on a service that will save you hundreds of dollars or possibly thousands not to mention any wasted time that went along with it. Development costs are always hard to swallow but if you are taking 8 – 10 hours to quote a project and it is the same way over and over again you may want to invest in writing a program to take in a set of input values and have it spit out the answer in milli-seconds. We have seen several business bite the bullet and spend some time and money to automate some of their complicated quoting for products or services. They have not only saved money in the long run but they also were able to avoid giving away their products or services due to wiggle room for discounts. If you are winging your pricing you are probably losing every time because the customer has some room to negotiate. If you are willing to turn away business you will gain those who respect your pricing for what you do.
Make 2016 the year to embrace change and accept any mistakes you as a business owner have made. Learn from them and move on. There is nothing like ringing in a new year with a new attitude to do whatever it takes to survive and do what you love. You have come this far, do not give up and press the reset button as many times as it takes to get to where you want to be. Make good choices this coming year, each one matters no matter how small or how large. Being an entrepreneur is a gift and an honor. Make every second count!