What we’ve learned after two years of coding and campaigns
A little over 2 years ago my colleague and I officially launched the Digital Advisor brand. As career web designers and developers we had sensed a shift in our industry, one that undermined our previously tried and true method of earning a crust. Website development as we knew it was under threat from services such as Squarespace, Shopify, and dozens of other services that made it cheap and fast for small businesses to get online.
Despite this new reality - where getting a website was cheap - we still regularly had conversations with business people that were perplexed about how to actually use the web to achieve any sort of tangible business outcome.
From web designers to digital therapists
It was common for us to hear expressions of fear and anxiety about the internet. The fear was that they might be missing out on opportunities their competitors were cashing-in on. The anxiety was caused by the idea that, in their attempt to catch up, they would make foolish mistakes due to their ignorance of the digital environment.
I’ve spent the last 20 years working in that environment, and it’s one that I know well. I realised that I had been guiding my clients through this terrain for years. I never charged for the advice, only for the code we produced when asked. The emergence of Digital Advisor was the realisation that our advice and our guidance was the real value we provided to our clients.
The mathematics of success
Since then we’ve been engaged in a journey of discovery - finding out through research, experiment, and debate the formula for online success. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned so far:
- Not all markets are created equal
What should be obvious to anyone in business is not always obvious the moment that business goes online. There might be only a dozen searches for your particular service, in your region, in a given year (if say your business is ‘octopus ink removal specialists’) - and so being on page 1 of results is meaningless. But for other business, their position in results is a crucial component of their marketing. Understanding your market is the key to unlocking it.
- A big spend doesn’t always mean big results
We occasionally have clients that want to throw money at a problem (which we don’t make a habit of turning down) but more often than not the opposite is true: budgets are tight. Activity and energy are great substitutes for big budgets: the energy to blog, tweet, share and connect with others online in a genuine way can make up for a lot of cash. In contrast, we’ve come across dozens of businesses that are throwing thousands of dollars a month into SEO with no clear idea of what it is doing for their bottom line (often not much). Be sure your budget for a given activity is tied to the results.
- The clients that are most involved do the best
This leads nicely on to my next point. Those clients of ours who are most involved in the process - whether that’s creating blog posts, sharing content on social media, updating their product listings regularly, or messaging customers - always do well. Our job in these cases is to provide training, insight, and of course some feedback on the results of their activity. The way you engage with people online matters: if you’re distant, if you don’t respond or connect quickly, or if you outsource your engagement to others - people will notice.
- Eggs must be stored into multiple baskets
Success is usually achieved by having a multi-pronged attack: getting your website functioning well, using social media productively, creating good content that can be shared across several platforms, and creating advertising that is synchronised with your other activity. Over-reliance on one digital tool (such as Facebook, for instance) can make your online profile fragile. Come up with a combined strategy that uses every appropriate tool.
- Consistency beats inspiration 9 times out of 10
This rule is true for a lot of things in life. Online it means sticking to your plan and doing the small things right, every day. It’s not always inspirational, but it works: responding to emails or messages within a certain timeframe, posting new content on a regular schedule, or reviewing performance every month. The plan can be flexible, but your commitment to it must be consistently solid.
I know that this is a surface-deep summary. The technical detail of some of these points encompass vast areas of expertise. I’m not an expert in all of them, and so during these last two years I’ve continued building my network of like-minded professionals - people I can turn to and refer to my clients at the right time.
But you know what? Right now it’s Digital Advisor that needs a referral - we’re eager to put our approach into practice for the next generation of clients. We know what works, we know how to make it happen, and we’re ready to take it to the next level. If you think that might be your business, give me a call or email me, and we can arrange a time to discuss it.