Lessons From Failure: Part One

Lessons From Failure: Part One

Lessons From Failure: Part One

In business (as in the rest of life) some of the best lessons you learn can come from mistakes.

Our next two posts will feature some ways that we at DayCreative have learned specific lessons from a few key mistakes, and how those “failures” have translated into better business decisions; moves that have made our company stronger.

 

Lesson 1: Find Your Uniqueness

When I (Matt) first started out, one approach I took early on to find clients was reaching out to business incubators. I remember making a call to one of these incubators somewhere in a different part of the state, and while I was talking to the decision-maker about who I was and what services I was offering, she asked me, “Well, who are you? Why should I use Day Creative?” No one had asked me that. I stumbled through an answer, something like, “We’re great, we’re affordable…” and her response is, “Well, we have someone great and affordable doing that already.” I fumbled a response, “Well, keep us in mind!” and that was that. 

But that was the impetus for my consideration about what makes DayCreative different. It forced a question on me that was necessary, and that helped me define what differentiated us and articulate it for the next prospect. It also gave birth to a hallmark of the way we operate; part of our discovery process for clients is helping them discover what makes them authentically unique, in order to bring that out in their design and their marketing endeavors to help them grow.

I bombed on one phone call. But it brought growth that developed my business in a big way.

Lesson 2: Set Parameters for Money Matters

Dealing with issues about payment and how that relates to creative endeavors like marketing can be tricky. Some of my most poignant lessons have to do with money, and one in particular came from a time when I quoted a prospect totally wrong. He was a craftsman, and I was excited to work with him; he did great work, and had beautiful products. I gave him a quote, didn’t really give a timeline for it, and through the course of a year, we went back and forth a little, never really going anywhere, until finally he contacted me and was ready to do it.

I was running a special at the time, and he had made his decision based on the percentage this sale would give him off of the quote I’d made initially, almost a year prior. I went back and looked at the quote and realized that for me to do the project in the present, as opposed to when I’d quoted it at the time (with what my overhead had been back then) it would actually cost me money. I had to tell him I couldn’t do it, and I also started putting time limits on quotes.

Some other good money lessons have led to changes in how we receive payment for work we do. In the beginning my contracts called for 50 percent down, and 50 percent at completion at completion of the project. Seems straightforward, until you realize that very often in this process, the client is the one who ends up holding up progress. Whether it’s reviewing content, getting customer reviews, or something else, we may have finished as much work as we can, and then end up waiting for the client to do their part.

Generally the process of our website completion takes six weeks; when we had the 50 percent down, 50 percent at completion model, we had projects that were taking 6 months. In discussions with my partner about how to mitigate this slowdown, he suggested changing to a model where 50 percent is paid up front, and 50 percent is due in 30 days. When the process is paid for, clients are less likely to delay measures to get the project finished. We get paid, the project is completed quickly…everyone wins.

Clients may not realize initially that’s what they agreed to, or get a little grumpy about paying before completion, but years of struggling to pay people (and myself) to finish projects taught me that it’s worth the grumpiness in the beginning to provide quick completion and great results. Good work finished quickly can take away the sting of paying upfront.

Another issue related to money is setting time parameters on projects. (Time does equal money in business.) Some clients have the view that contracting us means that we’re employees and they can indefinitely tweak the project without consequence, because we’re working for them. Until we modified the way we make contracts, that’s exactly what happened much of the time; we repeatedly got stuck because of not having limits on revisions. I don’t like putting hard limits on revisions (and a good process for figuring out what the client wants before you start will forestall a lot of the need for endless revisions), but our contracts do reflect that after a certain point, if it’s substantially increasing time, then they’re subject to extra cost.

Our goal is happy clients, and completed work makes for happy clients. Honing the discovery process helps streamline content creation and design, and this can reduce revisions (and cost). These lessons not only taught us about ways to protect our business and be as profitable as possible and value the work of our team members appropriately by setting limits, it also helped us refine the way we work, and increase our client satisfaction.

Everyone wins.

Next time; Lessons from Failure, Part 2

Strategic Thinking for Finding A Client Base

Strategic Thinking for Finding A Client Base

Best Practices for Finding a Client Base

Every business is built on relationships. No matter how much money you bring in, or the number of customers you have, it all boils down to the relationships you have with your customers. If customers like you, know you, and trust you, that will go much farther than any marketing investment you could make. But to do that, you first have to get out there and meet people. So how do you do that? Here are some methods we have found effective:

Know Your Customer

This seems like a “no duh” statement, but it is the cornerstone of your business plan. Pin pointing your target customers is the first step for any new business, but you also need to consider where they are as well, as this will allow you to wisely use your marketing budget to focus on a specific region, rather than blindly casting a wide net.

Consider Where There Are Large Groups of Potential Clients

Remember, networking and relationships are going to be the best way to grow your client base. Some options here would be to join a professional trade association or joining some subscription lists that provide you with access to a pool of potential customers. Trade associations are a great option, as they not only put your name in the same arena as established and trusted businesses, but will allow you to build relationships with fellow business owners in your field and learn from them.

Joining a Business District Association

This is something that we here at DayCreative have found to be very beneficial to growing our business and getting our name out there. Anywhere you have a business district, it’s likely that they’ll have a district association of businesses as well. By joining one, you’ll be able to attend monthly meetings and meet both prospective customers and fellow allies in your business arena, as well as make good use of their databases.

Joining the Chamber of Commerce

This is a cost-effective way to entering into basic networking. Most commerce meetings are focused around networking and letting business owners and hopeful start-ups engage with one another and form relationships. You’ll also be able to attend various luncheons and ribbon cuttings, allowing you face-time with people you wouldn’t ordinarily have access to.

Attending a Trade Show

Lastly, if you’re a business owner that has been established for a while, or are in a market that has a more national scale, it’s not a bad idea to look into purchasing a booth at a trade show. While this is more of a financial investment than the other options above, the scale is much wider and you have a much more focused group of potential customers coming to you, rather than going to them.

Summing It Up

Again, this is not the end-all, be-all list of options, but they are different strategies that we have found to be very helpful when you’re starting out with a limited budget. Getting face-time with potential clients and established business owners takes time and you may not see results right away, but the payoff is well worth it, as you will build a reputation for yourself and your business that will be seen and recognized by others.

Strategic Thinking for Finding A Client Base

Marketing on a Tight Budget

How should I best spend my marketing budget?

A question that’s on most business owners’ minds when they first launch their business is “how do I best spend my money? What do I invest in?” Because when you’re just starting out, you don’t have a lot of money for marketing and you have so many other expenses.

We wanted to share our insights on this topic and provide you with our suggestions on how to best spend your marketing budget (we use $1,000 as an example here).

STEP 1

Logo/Business Cards (Est. Cost: $250).  Even if it’s a simple and cheap logo you get online, you need a logo so that you can start marketing your new business. While we would never recommend this for the long term, if you only have $1,000 to spend, you have to go cheap. Just make sure it is different from your competitors and you get the final files in both vector and raster formats (.pdf and .jpg). From there, pick up some business cards to give to your customer leads. Depending on your industry and sales plan, 1,000 cards should last between 6 months to a year.

STEP 2

Website/Domain (Est. Cost: $400).  Once your logo is created, you’ll want to build on that by creating an online presence. Securing a domain not only is the first step towards getting a website up and running, but it also allows you to send emails from a business account, rather than your personal Gmail account, making your business seem more professional. By getting a WordPress or SquareSpace account, you can set up a website that will allow you to present your business to online customers for a small monthly or annual fee without any up front costs. But of course, you have to do the heavy lifting of providing images and copy for the web pages yourself (unless you can find a local writer and photographer who is willing to do it for you for cheap. Just do your homework).

STEP 3

Set up a Facebook page (Est Cost: $0).  This one is easy, as it requires no money! By regularly posting on your account with links pointing back to your website, you can boost your web traffic. In thinking about what to post on your page, try to think of what your customers are looking for and distill your company’s solutions to their needs in quick sound bites. How can you be valuable?

STEP 4

Run Facebook or Google ads (Est Cost: $350).  With the remainder of your budget, we recommend some small investments in online marketing. Boosting posts on Facebook and/or setting up a GoogleAds campaign is very cost effective and can be one of the easiest ways to get some increased visibility for your brand in its early stages. If possible, invest as much of your $1,000 in Boosted Facebook posts. It’s going to be the best bang for your buck (assuming that your target customers are on Facebook). If you’re not sure where to start with boosted posts or Google ads, a simple Google search on the topic can yield a lot of information to get you up to speed.

Final Thoughts

Of course, every business and industry is different, so this approach might not make sense for your business. But, by far, the best thing you can do is know your customer, know your customer, know your customer. The better you can enter their world, the better you can find new customers like them and speak their language….which gives you the best chance to earn their business.

If you have found this blog post helpful, we have assembled a more thorough eBook with even more tips and ideas, which you can download here.

New E-Book: Branding Your Business on a Limited Budget

New E-Book: Branding Your Business on a Limited Budget

To kick off the new year, we have a new e-book!  In this content series, we’ll be focusing on a common question we get: “how can I get my business started on a tight budget?”  Typically after a year in business you’ll need to start branching out into professional help for things such as marketing and advertising, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a strong start to launch your business.

We’ll be discussing the tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years and how you can apply them to your own business, such as how to begin to brand your business (i.e. logos and business cards), as well as how to get setup with a website that will start to establish your online presence.  Then in our follow-up blog posts, we’ll discuss topics such as:

– Translating your new logo into simple sales collateral
– Strategic thinking for sales
– Long-term customer relationship building tips

If you’ve already signed up for our mailing list, the e-book is waiting for you in your inbox.  If you haven’t, don’t worry.  Simply put your email in the form below and we’ll send you a copy.