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Do You Design For Local Businesses And Run Into Issues?


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 29 February 2016 - 12:36 PM

Since I began to help out local businesses I've learned a few things.  The first one is that there is a tremendous amount of education required first.  There is so much incorrect information out there and it comes as a real reality shock when I present what web design and ownership actually is.

 

I would guess the bulk of the inquires I get are people who used Wix or GoDaddy or free WordPress and are extremely unhappy with the results due to the limitations and walls they eventually face, from SEO to outdated code to not being able to make the site the way they want.  Outsourcing to Fiver is another one.  I have a friend (sometimes paying client) whose developers in India refuse to listen to my advice and keep doing insane things like uninstalling WordFence (twice), even after her brute force attacks.  They keep telling her they are doing SEO for the site but when I check it, there is no SEO anywhere.  

 

Even T-Mobile tries to sell websites made on Go Daddy for their business customers.  Unless you know what to do to customize and hack the code, this is not a choice for business that intends on being around for years.  

 

Budget is another huge issue.  Anything over $500 comes as a shock.  It's the leading reason I'm turned down.  "My friend can do it for less" is what I'm told.  When I see the results of that choice, I cringe.

 

I know a few SEO's who refuse to take local business clients because they need to be educated so much, the hand holding and refusal to pay for the correct services.

 

Do you have local clients?  Is it difficult to work with them?  Do you take the time to educate them?



#2 Nny777

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 08:59 AM

My company works with quite a few local businesses, and we have some of these problems - although to be honest, the budget thing is pretty much any small-ish business. We have particular problems with clients who think that they can pay us for a few months, get into the top five and then stop paying. We then have to explain that they WILL drop in the results, and that if they decide to re-hire us it'll take us time to get them back to where they were.

The other common issue we have is company owners deciding to do stuff for themselves on their website, which ends up setting them back quite a ways. From uninstalling plugins to changing headers and backgrounds, it's UNFURIATING - and then they say "well you weren't doing anything so I changed it" and you have to explain that we have in fact been doing lots of work but on-website stuff needs to be left to sit for a while, and that every time they change it they make our job that much harder - the job they're paying us to do! Some of our local clients don't like to put themselves under a geographic definer because they think it'll narrow their business.

 

We're usually pretty blunt about what restrictions you can expect from not having a properly built website made with SEO in mind. Unfortunately we don't have a big enough business to send people away!



#3 cre8pc

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 10:12 AM

Unfortunately we don't have a big enough business to send people away!

 

Me neither!  I'm extremely tolerant and patient but question myself often.  I truly like to help people but hate being taken advantage of or not paid for the quality of work I deliver.



#4 Nny777

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 10:31 AM

It's so frustrating when you're being paid to do a thing you know how to do, and the customer just gets in the way. Like, you're screwing yourself here! Why pay a professional and then circumvent everything they're trying to do?



#5 Black_Knight

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 12:20 PM



It's so frustrating when you're being paid to do a thing you know how to do, and the customer just gets in the way. Like, you're screwing yourself here! Why pay a professional and then circumvent everything they're trying to do?

This is a sign that they think you are trying to sell them more than they need.  It is a trust issue.  It also cuts both ways, because it shows how their mind works, and how they think they would behave in your position.

 

Most small business ventures and new startups fail.  And by 'most' I don't mean a narrow majority.  95% of new business ventures fail within the first few years and never made back even their costs and investment.  So you can understand why a small business will be somewhat paranoid.  They are not really paranoid if the entire world *is* against them, right? ;)

 

So start off by realising that these potential clients and customers are doing something recklessly brave (or just reckless) in starting up their own business at all.  You need to know your market.  Of course they will make bold, even foolhardy decisions ... deciding to start your own business is one of the most bold and foolhardy decisions anyone can make.  Your job is to be on their side.

 

Your job is to be on their side.  Repeat this to yourself as a mantra when they are being difficult to work with.  They call the tune, and your job is to riff and harmonise with them.  If there is resistance, find another way.  Go around, or even take an entirely different path.  It's their money, and their business on the line, so it is only right that they get to decide to take risks and which ones.  There's a very important difference between hiring someone to help you, from hiring someone to manage you.  Be crystal clear up front about which you are.  UNless they bought into the whole "Dictate to me like I'm your kid" package, then be the help they paid for.

 

I say all of the above as an ever-important mindset anchor.

 

Unless you sell yourself and your services by taking a share in the business, and take a share of the costs, then don't get too attached to the results.  You have no more control over what advice they take, how they take it, and what they choose to do against your wishes than you have over what Google places No.1 in search for a highly competitive term.  Over time you can certainly influence and hope, but you don't control.  So, likewise, focus on doing work you are proud of, rather than necessarily getting a specific result.  There are some companies that ruined everything I did where I'm still very happy and proud of my own work, of what I actually did.  I know I gave good advice, and made my case as best I could, even where it was not enough to change a bad decision they made.  Get to that place.

 

Most of the time, if they ignore your advice it is because you either misunderstood what they wanted to do (and how much they were already set on it), or because you failed to make your case well enough.  Accept that, learn what you can about making a better argument next time, and move on to dealing with what is, instead of what might have, could have or 'should' have happened in your opinion.  Always focus on how to do the best you can from where you are right now with a client, even if where you are is a worse position than you'd advised, or even a worse position than where you started at.



#6 earlpearl

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 03:29 PM

Kim:   

 

1.  We are local businesses.  We are the buyers. 

2.  I've sold to local businesses.  I sold consulting/real estate brokerage services.  

 

I've dealt with a lot of smb's and we are one.

 

As a buyer we are lousy clients too often.  I know it.  Our needs at the moment might not work with the providers time frame or thinking. etc etc etc.

 

My best advise is to qualify them from a financial perspective.  At least they can pay.  From a local perspective lawyers and doctors can afford to pay more;  big plumbing outfits or big movers or contractors can pay more.  If they can't pay you'll spend a lot of time for negligible results.  From the real estate side, I could spend the exact same time on a tiny deal as a huge deal.  Most of the things you had to do were similar.  (Okay, with the large one's there could be far more steps)--but a lot is replicable.  For the same effort, the big one's pay more.

 

Qualify your clients from a financial perspective.  And just so you know, as smallish smb's with some very very varied kinds of services targeting very different kinds of demographics we work to qualify every potential lead from a financial perspective.  It matters. 



#7 cre8pc

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 01:19 PM

Your job is to be on their side.

 

 

In my particular work, this is my role.  In my proposals I explain this in writing.  I am the advocate for them AND their customers/clients/users.  It's not something many consultants can do or even understand.  For example, clients who demand that ads are placed on pages or forms added that popup over content. Both are required by site owners, and there is a refusal to remove or change that requirement.  I can produce all the reasons why they are cutting off revenue by creating user abandonment, which is being the advocate for users and that's all they see.  They don't understand that by representing user experience, I'm in fact supporting their business requirements by making sure their revenue ideas work.

 

On the level of small biz and startups, I truly understand the limitations of funding and lack of trust.  I'm launching a new business, where I'm wearing all the hats and facing financial hurdles such as paying for equipment needed to make the products.  Someone offered to make the shopping cart for me...but I can't pay them.  It's been stressful enough as someone with experience, so I can see how many people make choices that make little sense to me.  Education is vital, and it is equally important to follow the advice from experienced people and to check their references, work history, etc.  



#8 earlpearl

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 11:05 AM

Your job is to be on their side.  Repeat this to yourself as a mantra when they are being difficult to work with.  

 

I like the line too.  I've seen it work.  Every time an issue of disagreement arose which could have killed the effort, the person who kept repeating it would reference it again.  And....everything would get back on track.  In that case all the other players kept buying in.

 

Since then I've used it.  Often it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.  When it doesn't its because for whatever reasons others aren't buying in.  Then its time to move to something else.

 

I'd still qualify people and businesses.  Working with others is often tough.  Being paid solves many of those problems.  Make sure you can get paid an adequate amount for your efforts.  If you can't go elsewhere.   


Edited by earlpearl, 08 March 2016 - 11:05 AM.


#9 Black_Knight

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 11:24 AM

I'd still qualify people and businesses.  Working with others is often tough.  Being paid solves many of those problems.  Make sure you can get paid an adequate amount for your efforts.

 

Absolutely.

 

In a series I did on Marketing last year, one of the most important points I made, IMO, was that you and your business are more defined by what you don't do, than by what you do.  The single most fundamental part of your brand, identity, and USP is what you say "No" to.

 

 

(The part about saying "No" is at 16:50 in the video)

 

A lot of people starting out, especially in service businesses to other small businesses, feel they can't afford to say No to work.  The real truth is that you honestly can't afford not to if you want to have any lifespan to your business. 

 

<edit to add note on time of quote>


Edited by Black_Knight, 08 March 2016 - 11:36 AM.


#10 EGOL

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 12:48 PM

Ammon.....  I just watched the video and it was a salve for my mind.

 

I don't ship outside of the USA and people who live there send me lots of unpleasant and begging messages.  I don't have a contact phone number and lots of people cuss about that.  I don't do many other things that people don't like.

 

I know why I don't do these things but the communications from customers and potential customers often makes me feel badly and feel that I need to change.

 

It's hard to steer the straight course.   Thanks for helping me hold the wheel straight.

 

Cheers!



#11 Black_Knight

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Posted 09 March 2016 - 01:35 PM

I don't ship outside of the USA and people who live there send me lots of unpleasant and begging messages.

 

If any of them are particularly vocal and hard to shut-up, tell them if they think it is such a great and worthwhile venture, you are very happy to let them buy from you in the US and have a business simply exporting worldwide, and handling all of those international issues.  (A version of "Put up or shut up" ;)

 

I'm so glad you enjoyed the video and that it helped.



#12 EGOL

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Posted 09 March 2016 - 02:07 PM

if they think it is such a great and worthwhile venture, you are very happy to let them buy from you in the US and have a business simply exporting worldwide, and handling all of those international issues.

 

That's great.  I'll tell my employees about this.  They will enjoy it.  :-)



#13 cre8pc

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Posted 11 March 2016 - 12:58 PM

I think this video is a MUST watch!  I've linked to it on my FB page because my local clients would benefit from watching it.  



#14 Black_Knight

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Posted 11 March 2016 - 04:10 PM

Thanks, Kim.

 

That video was the first in a series that, to me, was the spiritual successor of "the most important discussion in the whole forum".  In essence, the entire series was a chance for me to discuss all of the areas of marketing that people often misunderstand or even outright miss.

 

https://www.youtube....OjjB_Tfcf0Q_mYy



#15 Robert_Paulson

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Posted 27 March 2016 - 07:09 PM

I think the things EP and Black_Knight presented here are critical, especially in the type of industry this is. 

 

Re: what EP said: My nearly 3 decades of experience in my B&M biz market and my decade or so dabbling in SEO confirm what EP hinted at:  most of the small biz people who contact an SEO aren't good leads.  They aren't good clients.  They really can't afford to pay for a proper SEO job, and worse, like the industry I'm in, I think there's a pervasive perception that this service (SEO) is a commodity.  As Kim mentioned, she can often hear "my buddy can do it cheaper."  What that tells you is that whatever it is you're offering, through either the fault of your presentation (active (live convo), passive (website) or otherwise) or the fault of just being in that industry, your prospective clients don't see the value in hiring an expensive provider of the service over a cheap one.  It's seen as a commodity, like gasoline or orange juice. 

 

And there is no amount of selling and/or educating that is going to make that sale worthwhile.  You may spend 4 hours convincing that client that you offer value over the SEO service in India that keeps pestering your client, but if they promise to deliver for $50 less?  You just wasted your time, because they're gonna jump ship.

 

I don't recall who said this, but it's stuck with me for years:  "The more I charge, the better my clients seem to listen to me."  I've found it true in my own business, too.  And why?  It's because when you find those clients willing to pay for an expert, they want expert advice.  They see the value.  And so they listen.  They follow your advice.

 

I say all of that to bring it back home to EP, who said in so many words that you must qualify your leads.  Make sure they can afford to pay.  If they express a willingness to spend $5k, they obviously value that service more than someone who will only spend $500.  For my B&M business, and it's taken me years to get to this point, but I screen prospective clients like an emmer effer.  If they tell me they're trying to decide between what we offer and different type of installation, I know their decision is based on price and not value, and I try to end those conversations as quickly and amicably as possible.  I also will do my best to give them a realistic expectation of cost while on the phone.  And then I try to frame the part of the conversation that immediately follows in a way that they understand that if we meet, it's with the client's understanding that this type of work they're asking about is going to cost $X.  Somehow that seems to be a tipping point for most clients; either they say one of those many things a client says to get out of pursuing work with you, or they commit to meeting, knowing they'll likely end up spending $X.  And now you know you have a solid lead.

 

And I hate to say this, because I've offered SEO services to the small biz membership of my forum site, but I'd bet 95% of small businesses are not ever going to be the client of a professional SEO.  I think it's then incumbent on an SEO to figure out where they can dig their claws into demographics where their work IS valued.  EP hinted at this - businesses that have the kinds of revenue that a $5-10k marketing investment is typical, and they don't need to be sold on the value high rank will provide them.

 

For my own business, it's been a long road and took me a long time to understand what Ammon succinctly said in the video, and to tie it together with what EP said and my own ramblings, I offer this mashup:

 

You can't possibly be all things to all clients, so don't run around juggling every ball, trying to be everything, do everything.  Avoid being a commodity at all costs, and instead focus like a laser on providing a niche of service that is underserved in the marketplace.  A niche that has the funds to spend on your kinds of services and values them.  Become the best at it and then charge more than anyone.


Edited by Robert_Paulson, 27 March 2016 - 08:54 PM.


#16 Robert_Paulson

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Posted 27 March 2016 - 08:33 PM

Kim -

 

I wanted to float this idea past you as a way to differentiate yourself among your small biz clients, and provide you with an angle to sell your services for a higher fee that can be recouped by your client in a direct way, over time. 

 

Part of my B&M website is a blog where I write content designed to demonstrate our superiority in terms of product knowledge, our development and use of best practices, etc.  Some of those pages are a bit tangential, in that they aren't directly a "we provide X service to Y geography" types of pages.  But they get traffic.  Some get a LOT of traffic, but traffic that isn't helpful to my B&M that serves a very defined geography. 

 

I'm sure you already know this, but some of the ad servers out there, including Revival (the reincarnation of phpadsnew/openads/openx), can serve based on geography. 

 

See where I'm going here?  It's where I'm already going with my own site.

 

As I would imagine it, you'd set a client up with your services, and part of that would include setting up an adserver that only served ads to visitors from outside your client's market.  It doesn't hurt their biz because their prospective client base wouldn't ever see an ad.  But everyone outside Mytown, USA would get Adsense.  And maybe generate $3 a day, if there's good content.  Setting your clients up with a freebie annuity?  Seems like a slick way to go.  And might pave the way to a higher initial spend, and repeat business.





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