I am really very very lucky. No two days are the same in my job. What is my job? I am the MD of Clickingmad, as you know we are web designers and web developers based in Shropshire and Birmingham serving the whole of the West Midlands and other parts of the UK.
Back to the question as to why I am very lucky. I am going to give you a taste of what I do just on two days this week. Not a long diatribe on my company ethos, our services etc. I will not blather on about how wonderful we are at what we do and waffle that we are the best at designing and building websites. I can hear you sigh with relief. No, I am not going to blog about why you should choose Clickingmad to be your web partner. None of the usual nonsense that you get from everyone, not in this post at least!
What I want to share with you is what I actually do and how that makes me feel. “Why do I care” I hear you ask? Well for one thing most people don’t understand my role in my company, and secondly after I have met a potential client they are often heard to say “what just happened?, you didn’t try and sell me anything”. Now that could mean that I am either
a) A rubbish salesperson, after all my company needs to sell our servcies to stay profitable and if we didn’t we wouldn’t be here after 11 years trading etc. Or
b) I don’t sell anything….. I learn.
I have a calendar that controls my time, time that is shared between meeting prospective clients of Clickingmad, running the business and all that entails and then, thinking.
Thinking about my company and my staff and their well being, thinking how we can improve what we do, thinking about how we can increase profitability, thinking how we can work smarter and not harder, thinking about the “interweb” and thinking about my clients.
The most important thinking I do is the latter; thinking about my clients. I think because often they have a unique set of problems, problems that are to do with their business; not enough sales; rubbish website; no clear brand identity; no marketing understanding. Or they may have some of these sorted but have different problems of a more specific nature; why aren’t they controlling how they communicate to the world using the web? What impact on their business is this new ecommerce website going to have? Have they considered the unusual but not unique problem of being too busy, having too many orders? etc etc.
I spend a good deal of my time thinking about the solution that we should provide them, and that is sometimes not the one they expect. For example I have at the moment a client who is procrastinating over the images we should use on their website. They are very very keen to look “just right”. I totally support them in their goal of achieving the correct look, but I am struggling to get across that it’s the message that the website gives, the visibility of the website in search engines, the ability for people to actually buy; based on their pricing and delivery model that is more important to the success of the website at the moment. Images can be easily changed but the structure of a website is not so easy.
Another scenario is that I am in discussions with a prospective client who thinks that it should only take us about 1 month to build their wonderful new website. Now for the record, if you can get a web site development company to design, build and then populate an ecommerce website with 2000 products that will actually work properly in that time, I will show you a company that will not be in business for long. Quality comes not just at a price but quality cannot be created quickly. The best websites we have built have taken many months to build. Sometimes these website are complicated and do things that no other website has done before, sometimes because they have been very large; three or four thousand pages for example. I choose not to automate any of our processes so that we can deliver a bespoke product to each client. One that actually meets their needs. This way it will last a lot longer. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
Now back to the point about why I have the best job in the world. We all get to the point in our careers/lives of questioning what we have done, why we have done it and looking to see if there is anything else we could do that would give us more inspiration, more joy, more job satisfaction and possibly; an easier life. I know I have had those thoughts since turning forty only a few months ago (joking – I am little older than that – nuff said). I feel I am truly blessed to do what I do. I meet all sorts of busineeses throughout my working week, all with problems of one sort or another and all with problems that I can fix (most of the time) how wonderful is that?
I travel the west midlands and wider areas; recent destinations include; Herefordshire, London, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Telford, Shrewsbury, Worcester and others. I meet businesses of all types and sizes, yesterday I was discussing with a client how I can help train their blue collar staff on communications techniques, this client has a great business but doesn’t ring fence their existing customers and keeps searching for more new ones. It’s easier to sell to your existing customers as they have already bought from you once. They have lots of clients who are “dormant”, so my first goal is to show them how they can use the web effectively to maintain communication with these warm clients at little or no cost and how then to turn them into cash business using traditional methods and new technology in a mixed way.
Today I learned all about the reality of Asbestos, I genuinely had no idea that it was a naturally occurring mineral. I did know that it and has great properties for sound and heat insulation, fire protection and many other uses. So whilst filming a client for their website I asked so what’s the problem with it then? I knew about asbestosis we (of a certain age) will all know that it can cause lung problems if breathed in. I recall learning about that when I was pretty young. But did you know that it is a carcinogen? It actually causes cancer? I had no idea. I also did not realise that many buildings used asbestos in their construction right up until 1999. So this client of mine has a very strong message. If your premises is older than that; get it checked! It could not only cost your business money should anything unfortunate happen, it could actually be harming your staff as we speak!
This month I have visited a business that started in 1853, a business that sells fish direct to your door, an electrical business, a manufacturer of turned steel parts, a health and safety training and audit company, and engineering company that makes parts for streetlights by the million, a company that makes tiny washers and grommets using really old, but sturdy machines.
Scheduled appointments before the month is out; a local authority, a hairdressing salon, a company that makes and installs mezzanine flooring, an insurance company, a florist, a bicycle shop, a company that manufactures and installs dynamometers (look it up – it’s interesting), two Schools, a college, a publishing company, a new education to business project in Birmingham, and probably some more. The point that I making is that the Internet can offer opportunities for all types of businesses. I learn so many facts sometimes my head is fit to burst!
The way I conduct my first meeting is to try and understand the client; what do they do, what are their problems, what are their strengths, what I don’t talk about (unless they want to of course) is the technology behind websites. What’s that got to do with real business and real business problem solving? Not much. The more I understand about a clients business the better I can advise them on what use the web could be for them, Our experience of marketing, sales, PR and technology is only relevant if we understand them. The client chooses what they want from us only AFTER we can demonstrate that we understand them. That’s the way I do it. It might not be perfect but it works.
Over the 11 years that Clickingmad has traded I guess we have seen in excess of 5 businesses a week, over say 50 weeks of the year times 11 years; that adds up to over 2700 businesses. Not all have become clients because frankly, we don’t fit with them or them with us. Sometimes we are too expensive and sometimes I just will not take people money because I disagree with them wasting it when they have other more pressing problems. When choosing a supplier in business I think it’s important to choose someone who you can trust and who can trust you, with no nasty surprises and that offers good communication, this to me should equal good service outbound and strong business relationships inbound.
My advice if I were asked by folks starting out on web development as a career would be to take enough time to get to know your client, don’t just give them techno babble, inspire them to choose you not based on price but on real value. The value you can bring to their business. Think about how we all buy things. What are our prime motivators when agreeing to something? It’s not always price, it’s not always features and benefits, there are numerous factors. Most of all it’s about trust.