Lately I’ve come across a lot of situations with new clients where they are having trouble getting access to their existing source files or getting their current providers to cooperate in many ways. So today I’m going to talk about three business fundamentals that should be established when starting a website.
1. Establish Ownership. The first and most important one of these principals is to own everything – your domain name and all of your content (words, pictures, logos, graphics, videos, etc.). There are many, many companies who will offer you great deals up front (such as a “free” website for a year) but then retain ownership of your site, so you are left with little options or flexibility. Although the initial cost may be higher, establishing ownership will pay dividends throughout the lifespan of your website by assuring that certain barriers to progress will not be imposed.
2. Have Complete Access to Your Content. In many (if not most) cases, there is one major exception to the “establish ownership” rule and that is in regards to hosting. Most small businesses just do not have the time, resources, or know-how to manage their own hosting servers so it makes sense find an established hosting company to handle these tasks. However, when you employ a hosting company, it is important that you have direct access to all your files via FTP. Many small business owners don’t understand the process or the importance of this ability, but by having full access a professional developer can instantly add, modify, or delete any website item on your behalf.
3. Adaptability and/or Agility. This is the only one of the three which actually deals with website design (my specialty). The basic point here is that the online universe is rapidly evolving and it is important that your website’s design has the ability to integrate newer features, technologies, and design features. Of course, this is much more of an art than a science because none of us know which innovations are on the horizon. But by keeping your site agile and not “painting yourself into a corner” with too many static features and dependencies, you and your developer will maximize the possibilities for the future.
Sometimes it is not enough to provide an outstanding product or service. More often, your personal approach is just as important. Some of the most successful business owners create a unique connection with their customers and prospects by providing their own custom touch to the marketing process.
Below are seven tips on salesmanship that may help you develop a special relationship with potential customers.
Tease Out any “Red Flags”. It may seem counter-intuitive, but an early step may be to look for reasons NOT to do business. Before you give your sales pitch, take time to research your prospective client and forge an honest assessment. Here, any serious “red flags” may immediately come to the surface, giving you the option to walk away before you invest a lot of energy, time and money. In order to accomplish this, have to ask the right questions in an initial survey or meeting and don’t be afraid to dig deep into the answers with follow-ups. Here, you may discover that the customer’s needs and expectations are not a good match for the services you provide or, more importantly, you may set a solid foundation for the legitimate goals that you want to collectively achieve.
Be Responsive. When a customer or potential client reaches out to you be sure to respond, even if the subject seems frivolous or you can’t provide an immediate solution to a problem. Responding in a timely and consistent manner demonstrates your undeniable commitment to a customer’s needs.
Court Your Clients. In order to spark the interest of a potential customer, you may have to develop a way to hook them somehow. This may be by sending them an interesting article that’s related to their business or highlighting a positive customer testimonial and suggesting ways to maximize its effect. In any case, it is also important to give them the time and space to respond and be respectful of their busy schedule.
Make Your Business as “Close to Home” as Possible. The best way to connect with a new client is to use the “corner store” approach, by remembering the little things and shared references to create an maintain a bond. Use casual conversation and genuine interest to discover common missions, places, values, or passions and make the customer feel that she is seen as more than just a potentialdollar sign.
Communicate on Multiple Levels. While it’s often much quicker and less stressful to email, phone conversations and face-to-face meetings can be far more effective in creating and maintaining meaningful connections. Further, it is important to use other means of communication like social media or online customer sites to lend your support and/or help spread the word on your customer’s business.
Focus on the Big Picture and Look Long Term. Sometimes it’s easy to go on a tangent and get lost in a particular small detail, while losing sight of the real goals of a business arrangement. The longer arc of developing a vision for the future is just as essential as the pressing daily tasks which may require immediate attention. Like many things in life, it takes patience to develop fruitful and lasting customer relationships. Resist the temptation to rush the process and bring the relationship to a level it has not naturally matured into. Take the time to explain how your service benefits the prospect over time and exhibit patience in cultivating a business relationship which slowly works towards achieving those goals.
Be Especially Loyal to Your Most Loyal Customers. This is something that is of particular importance here at 33 Dimensions. We see big companies make fantastic offers to “new” customers while excluding those who have been loyal and true over time and this method baffles us. We do the complete opposite and have always had an unwritten policy to offer the absolute best rates to those who have been in good standing for the longest amount of time. While both are important to growing a business, we place a higher stock in maintaining the business relationship with those who have built a positive bond of longevity than be preferential to the “shiny new” prospect.
As a mission-driven business, we’ve always been more motivated by a greater purpose than simple dollars and cents. The following TED speech by career analyst Dan Pink adds a nice twist on the balance of creativity and motivation.
Recently, I made a mistake of omission which set off a chain of unforeseen events. These events caused a lot of problems for my client and resulted in a few dozen unplanned hours of problem-solving for myself and my company. Initially, it did not appear that there would be much of a disruption to the client’s service but things then began unraveling quickly with new issues seemingly arising out of nowhere. In my frustration, I found myself doing something that I absolutely loath when done by others. I started using the “alternative universe” excuse.
This is the practice of white-washing situations with hindsight justification. “If I had been told the facts of ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘D’, then I certainly would have approached ‘A’ much differently and all these problems would have been avoided.” Now, this was certainly a true argument, as many of the subsequent problems could have been avoided if the client had disclosed all of the relevant information. Still, this was totally irrelevant to the subsequent situation, as it is impossible to jump into that alternative universe where all problems are averted.
This foray into the scientifically unproven domain has become a trend these days. You hear it often from the losing side of a sports contest, and most especially, in the political world. “If I had been in charge, we’d now be in much better shape right now…” or “…things may be bad now, but they would’ve been so much worse if not for my brilliant policies…” These statements are usually made as absolute fact and as a way to divert attention from the reality at hand.
The truth is, we only live in this one reality and we have to own the decisions we make here.This is especially true for small business owners like myself who don’t have much luxury for academic exercises and hypothetical situations. Not all our decisions will be correct, but once made they must be embraced either as building blocks for best practices or lessons learned for the future.
Since our founding on March 3, 2009 (the date which helped inspire our name), 33 Dimensions has grown from a simple concept on how to provide affordable websites for musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs to a thriving enterprise with a worldwide reach and a vital component for scores of businesses large and small.
Running such an enterprise is neither simple nor easy, as the business climate is constantly in flux and highly unpredictable. Throughout these years, we’ve adapted our business to accommodate changing technologies and business needs and, at times, faced our share of challenges. But we’ve persevered and emerged stronger and more committed than ever to our mission.
It is hard to express how grateful I am for all the support for 33 Dimensions and related initiatives over the past seven years.
Founder, Owner, Creative Director, Chief Web Designer, Marketing Specialist, President & CEO 33 Dimensions, LLC
Here are some of the fine companies, organizations, and initiatives with whom we’ve worked in the present and past:
We look forward to commencing our eighth year with more exciting initiatives.
In competition for content relevance, companies and organizations are using images, graphics, and short videos as an extremely effective way to get their message out. 33 Dimensions produces original graphics and video montages which are attractive and interesting.
Marketing & Analytics
For some time now, smart marketers have been using a new set of tools to monitor their markets, with the real potential being the ability to dynamically respond to analytics. Businesses can now instantly meet customer needs and explore new market opportunities.