Over 18 months ago, my business partner and I started a digital marketing and web development business. He was very tech savvy and skilled in the ways of the web, and I was great at writing, with a small knack for platform development. Together, we decided that we could offer services for businesses that provided them real value without being taken advantage of. We were two long-time friends excited to be working together and both with the entrepreneurial itch. So, we launched.
We got a few customers early on, started growing, and brought on more help. Then the real learning curve began. We were becoming a successful business and getting more clients, but it wasn’t happening without plenty of speed bumps and pot holes. The road to success is not as smooth as it appears when you first start the engine.
We learned some important lesson that first year. Since applying this wisdom to our business we’ve a shift that has brought with it less stress, more business, and happier clients. Here are the three most important lessons we learned in the early stages of our business.
Communicate with your team often and don’t make assumptions. Give details about projects, progress, changes, communication with clients, and follow up.
We learned this the hard way early on in our business development. Before we started a business, we were all freelancers or contractors. While you can develop great work ethic in that kind of environment, you often do the majority of your work alone. Learning to communicate with each took time to integrate, but the result has been remarkable. Projects get done faster, and better. There is less stress in the workplace because we are all on the same page.
One of the best ways we do this is with a program called Slack.
By the way, our clients are happier, too.
That brings up the next point with communication.
Communicate with your clients very clearly and often.
Miscommunication between you and your clients can ruin a business relationship. With digital marketing, or any other industry requiring expertise, the client is often left at the mercy of the service provider. Results can be difficult to interpret and progress on a project can go unseen for a good chunk of time. This is especially true when working in web design and SEO, two of our main services. After realizing this gap in communication, we started to provide stats, updates, and check-ins regularly with our clients to keep them well-informed on their project.
This has made a world of difference in how we do business and in client retention, both directly affecting our bottom line.
Never assume you know everything, or that your clients don’t care to.
Even if it seems obvious, let your clients and potential clients know exactly what you do and how you do it. Especially in digital marketing, things can get a little fuzzy or seem vague. Explain processes. Educate on terms and technology. Explain how things work. Be specific and provide stats. The more you educate your client, the more comfortable they will be working with you, the more trust you’ll build with them, and the more likely they will stay with you for a long time.
Educating your client is only half of the equation. It’s also important to educate yourself. Digital marketing and web development are ever evolving. There is always something new to learn, or major changes happening with algorithms, programs, code, design, and so on. This means that you need to stay on top of the changes in the industry and provide your clients value with up-to-date services.
One of the best ways we do it this is by using an online education service called Lynda. It provides a large database of courses covering nearly every aspect of our business, and they stay up to date on changes and new processes constantly.
Give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.
The age-old idiom rings true in client relationships. For instant, when you get lenient with payment due dates, you let your clients know that this is how you operate. They pay late one month, then the next, then not at all. We’ve had to experience this ourselves early on in our business.
Shifting into the proper mindset to run a business means making some changes to the way you normally think when it comes to relationships. While your clients may become friends, or may already be your friends, you must separate your business from the friendship. You must set standards with clear expectations and boundaries and abide by them.
When you don’t stand behind your own business standards it filters into your client relationships. Eventually it reeks of unprofessionalism. The more direct and absolute you are with how you manage your business, the more your clients will respect you over time. This will actually make a client feel more comfortable working with you. They will care that you care.
Obviously, with starting and growing a business there are countless lessons to be learned and knowledge to be gained. These three will give you a great foundation to start and to ensure your business runs smoothly. You will grow in more ways than one as you grow your business. Let yourself be open to learning something new, helping others do the same, and respect yourself and your business.