If you’re a fan of fishing, you’ll know what I mean when I say everyone’s always looking to land “the big one”.
And it seems that the same mentality holds true for WordPress professionals. It’s this idea that bigger clients are better. Not so big of course that you’re having to deal with a committee – because that can cause some serious headaches. But big enough that one client can have a major impact on your bottom line.
Then we have the small businesses – the “mom and pop” or solopreneur types. There’s often the feeling that these types of clients can be harder to land and are equally hard to work with.
I’m going to work to discount some of these concerns – at least to a certain degree. Yes, small business clients can be more difficult to land initially and they can sometimes require more work to keep satisfied.
But there is a huge opportunity to grow your WordPress business by working with small businesses. Not only is it a large market, but once you’ve built a strong relationship with a small business owner, there can be a degree of loyalty and respect that is hard to find with bigger clients.
The Small Business Opportunity
If you going strictly by the numbers, then the definition of a small business is fairly broad. Often companies with 500 employees are still considered small according to the Small Business Administration. For the purposes of this article, I’m generally referring to those businesses where there are fewer than 10 employees and often it’s a case of those who are self-employment with no additional employees at all.
According to statistics compiled by Docstoc, there were approximately 28 million small businesses in 2013 and over 22 million of those were self-employed businesses who had no employees. Additionally, over 50% of small businesses are home-based.
If you stop to think about it for a second, you’ll realize what a huge opportunity this presents. I’m not suggesting that all 22 million of these are great opportunities – not by a long shot. But you can rest assured that there are more than enough small businesses out there who, as clients, are capable of helping you grow your WordPress business.
If you’re willing to spend time figuring out how to sort the wheat from the chaff and how to attract the small business clients that you actually want to work with, then there is opportunity abound.
Pitch What’s Valuable
Figuring out how to pitch small business clients isn’t as hard as you might think. There’s a good chance that your WordPress business falls into a similar size category as the potential clients you are pitching. All you need to do is approach the situation from the perspective from which you would want someone to pitch you.
We hear a lot of talk about the importance of providing value. But what is value? It doesn’t matter whether you’re providing basic WordPress maintenance or you create custom WordPress database solutions for small retailers. In one way or another, you can provide value to your clients.
The exact definition of value will depend upon your client. And the easiest way to pitch small business owners is by discovering what they find valuable.
A recent survey conducted by Constant Contact contained some pretty revealing statistics about the sacrifices that small business owners feel they make. Let’s take a look at just a few:
- 56% felt that they could never be away from their business.
- 43% accepted that vacations simply won’t happen anytime soon.
- 43% found wearing many hats to be difficult.
- 66% cited finding new customers as a major concern.
- 56% cited not having enough time as a major concern.
- 40% found customer retention to be something they worried about.
- 32% were concerned about paying their bills.
Breaking down those thoughts and concerns, we can see that there are three common threads running through all of them:
- Not enough time
- Needing more customers
- Needing more money (either revenue or cash flow)
If your WordPress business is focused on providing any one of those items to small business clients, then there is a good chance you’ll be perceived as providing value.
When it comes time to present your pitch, either in person, on your website or through an exchange of emails, these are the areas you’ll want to draw attention to: time, customers, and money.
For example, too many WordPress designers focus on selling beautiful websites. It’s all about the design – bold colors, beautiful typography, and knockout photography. Those things are important, sure. But ask yourself how many small business owners actually want a website? Few to none would be my guess.
A website brings hosting fees, maintenance, updates and hackers, just to name a few. Does that sound like something you’d want? No, it doesn’t
What your clients want are new leads, new customers, increased revenue, the ability to lower their advertising costs. These are the things that are important to them. Show them how their website can help to deliver some or all of these items and you’ll be seen as a rock star.
Alternatively, if you’re selling WordPress maintenance services or small business blogging, show your clients how much time you’ll be able to save them. Demonstrate how your services will let them get to bed an hour earlier or allow them to spend an extra weekend each month with their family. That’s real value and the kind of things that business owners are happy to pay for.
Landing Small Business Clients
In some ways, landing small business clients can be more challenging than going after big clients. Small businesses present less red tape than large corporate clients, but the process of building connections with small business owners will take more effort and require a more personalized approach.
There are two areas that deserve the bulk of your attention:
1. Building Your Reputation
Assuming you’ve figured out how to pitch the value of your WordPress services to prospective small business clients, how do you get them to actually make the decision to work with you?
There is more to landing clients than simply providing value. Value is important, but it’s not enough.
If you were searching online for someone to help you optimize your WordPress site, assuming you understood the value component of a well-optimized site, what other factors might influence your decision?
Chances are, you would put the individual’s or company’s reputation near the top of your list of considerations. The reputation you build with existing clients and within the small business community can have a dramatic impact on your ability to land new clients.
Where figuring out what value you are providing might take as little as one day, building a reputation can take months or years. It’s not unlike a snowball rolling down a steep hill. It starts out slowly – small and unnoticeable. As you gain momentum, you’ll start picking up clients here and there. As your reputation grows, you’ll be in a position to build more relationships and landing new clients will become easier and more frequent.
Building your reputation isn’t difficult. The easiest thing you can do is work hard for your existing clients. Prove to them that the success of their business is important to you. Whatever role you are playing in their business, whether it’s design, development, optimization or maintenance, put your best foot forward.
When you get a little further down the page there is a list of things you can consider doing with your clients. Virtually all of them will contribute towards building a strong reputation.
2. Network with Other Small Business Owners
Small business owners are usually more likely to refer business to other small business owners. If you’ve ever been a part of a networking group like BNI, Toastmasters, or your local Chamber of Commerce, you’ll know how effective networking can be when it’s done right.
Networking with small business owners is about more than just landing new clients. It can also help to improve your visibility, establish a connection within other networks, meet other professionals within the WordPress field and share knowledge with other business owners.
Working With Clients
Working with small business clients often means you have a direct line of communication to the top of the company – interacting closely with the owner or founder.
In contrast to working with someone who is just an employee of a large corporation, small business owners rely heavily on trust and strong relationships. If you are able to build that trust, you stand a good chance of developing a long-term client.
In many ways, the points discussed below are the most important ones in the whole article because they come into effect after you’ve landed your client. Landing a new client takes work, but once they’re on board, you want to keep them.
Communicate Your Actions
As someone who works with WordPress all day long, you probably take some of your knowledge for granted. Failing to realize just how little some small business clients actually know about the Internet, WordPress or digital marketing.
Never assume that your client knows something just because it’s old-hat to you. Small business owners especially, will appreciate that you share your knowledge and expertise with them.
Offer Your Expertise
Most WordPress professionals have a certain degree of skill-crossover. If you notice your client doing something that could be changed or improved upon, point it out – even if it’s not a service you provide.
Maybe your clients spend a large portion of their advertising budget on newspaper advertising, oblivious to Facebook ads or Google AdWords. Maybe they’re still using a telephone to book appointments instead of integrating a scheduling app in their WordPress site. Your expertise in these areas can put you in the position of being a trusted adviser, instead of just a service provider.
Of course, scope-creep is a concern but to a degree, it’s also a reality. It’s also more of a problem with small businesses simply for the fact that owners are themselves, accustomed to wearing many hats. Out of habit, they often expect others to do the same.
While it’s fine to set boundaries, it’s also in your best interest to remain somewhat flexible. Your clients will appreciate it and as long as they are respectful of your time and capabilities, it can result in a win-win scenario.
Be a Problem Solver
The quickest way to frustrate and annoy a small business owner is to create new problems. It’s the last thing in the world you want to do. And by problems, I’m not specifically suggesting doing something wrong, I just mean creating work for anyone other than yourself.
We’ve already talked about the statistics and how small business owners wear too many hats. They never have enough time and feel like they can’t step away from their business. If you’re successful in adding to these problems, you can rest assured that your contract will be short lived.
Look for ways that you can improve their website, make their business run smoother or add more value. All of these things will be appreciated, especially by small business clients.
I’m not saying you need to make yourself available 24/7 or that you should make weekend phone calls a habit. What I am suggesting is that you make yourself available to clients when they need talk to you. As well, do so in a way that is convenient to them. If they hate email, don’t shrug your shoulders and say “too bad”. Instead, offer a convenient solution.
We’ve all been in the position of wanting to get in touch with someone in customer support and the feeling that comes with waiting. It’s not really an experience that small business clients have the time or patience to deal with.
Ask for Feedback
One of the best things you can do when working with small business owners is to ask for feedback. Ask them how they feel about your level of service and how they think you could improve.
Anytime you’re able to get input directly from the owner of a small business, you can usually count on receiving constructive, and actionable feedback.
As a WordPress professional, it’s easy to be attracted to hunting for big clients. And why not? Just one big client can account for a half-dozen or more small business clients. You’ll end up dealing with fewer people, less invoicing and you won’t have to spend so much time prospecting either.
It’s absolutely true, small business clients can take a little more work to land simply because they don’t yet understand the value you are providing. Being higher maintenance is common as well, primarily during the onboarding process. But small business clients also come with a lot of positive aspects, including:
- They present less red tape. Small business is about taking action.
- You’ll likely develop a much closer relationship with the owner.
- It’s easier to develop a long-term client if you provide value.
- There are more opportunities to provide value.
- Once you’ve built a reputation and established trust, referrals are highly likely.
- You’ll have an opportunity to grow with the company.
It’s a pretty strong argument in favor of giving small business clients more attention. Wouldn’t you agree?
Here are three questions for the community. Please feel free to share your answers in the comment below:
- Do you prefer working with small businesses clients, and if so, why?
- Do you find small business clients more challenging to land and work with?
- If you provide WordPress services to small business clients, how do you manage scope creep?
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