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February 01, 2012

Dating SmallBox: How We Start Client Relationships

February 01, 2012

I often compare business relationships to marriage. Many of the same dynamics apply- communication, trust, honesty, shared goals, etc. Just as a marriage starts with courtship we often talk about "dating before marriage" when talking with a potential SmallBox client. We know, from years of experience, that a good fit is needed on both sides. We aren't interested in dragging anyone to the altar, telling them whatever they need to hear to sign up. It doesn't work out, we've tried it.
90% of the leads that come into to SmallBox aren't the right fit for us. One of the reasons we started Springboard Marketing was to have a home for some of these leads. Usually these are smaller projects, often new businesses, that need a "starter home" not a "dream home". SmallBox is focused on the latter, Springboard on the former. So Springboard is the perfect solution for many of the leads we field. We also recommend other local businesses and freelancers when appropriate. We believe in helping anyone that comes our way even if there's no monetary upside for us.

For the 10% that appear to be a good fit we have a "sales" process that we've fine tuned over time. We don't actually have a sales team at SmallBox so I feel reluctant to even use that dirty word "sales", but let's face it, we do need to sell ourselves when we have a desirable prospect. First we set up a meeting. Our preference is to have someone from our team, usually myself or Dan Fahrner our Marketing Director, come out to visit with the prospect. We feel it's important to have a face-to-face conversation, see the office, meet some of the team and get an overall feel for the company, its products/services and its culture. During this meeting we will talk about the company's needs, past efforts and most likely walk through some examples of work we have done. We will also talk money and timeline to make sure we are in the general ballpark.


flowers at the SmallBox officeIf that first "date" goes well then we usually schedule a second meeting at the SmallBox offices. This time we bring in some of the SmallBox team that would be working with the prospect. We also do some whiteboarding and get into specifics around what an engagement would look like- what features a website will need, what ongoing marketing services are needed, what underlying problem needs to be solved, etc.

After this second session, assuming both sides agree to continue, we draft a Statement Of Work and send it over for consideration. Our policy is to "quote as far as we can see". Sometimes this means we can quote a new website and marketing plan- soup to nuts, sometimes we can only see as far as a planning engagement. If rough ranges are needed beyond what we can confidently quote we also provide these ranges. These ranges don't include the same level of detail since we need to complete the first phase of the project before we have clarity on the remaining work. This also limits risk for the client who can, if needed, work with another partner for the remainder of the work. This is a rare occurrence but we appreciate that it can sometimes be the best outcome for all parties.

Once we have a finalized Statement Of Work we schedule a kick off meeting. On larger projects with a number of stakeholders we often bring in lunch to the client's office. We feel this is a good, informal way to get the two teams together. It used to be that most business was done while "breaking bread" and we feel this is a good tradition to revive. In smaller engagements we may get straight to work. It just depends on what's right for the project. Once the project is rolling we have a process that kicks in for each kind of engagement- websites, audits, consulting, marketing. Look for another post, or two, on that topic in the near future.

Here's some questions you might have with my best attempt at answers:

What about out of town clients? We are even more selective about working with clients that we can't easily visit with in person. Since we feel it is so important to have face-to-face communication on a project, a little ironic I realize since we are a web company, we need to be 100% confident we have a great match when working with a distant client. For larger projects we are happy to travel.

How much do we charge? It can really depend on the client and project but here's some basic info. Our websites start at $15k and most are $25-75k with some well over $100k. Our marketing engagements start at $2500 a month and most are around $5k a month, not including third party spends (AdWords, Facebook, etc). We also offer site audits and other smaller consulting engagements that usually fall under the $10k mark.

How do you determine a good fit? There are a number of factors- scope of work, budget, timeline, location and, most importantly, culture. If the leadership of your organization doesn't believe in the web and is only signing off on an agreement because they feel they have to, then we aren't the right fit. We do our best work when we work with other believers.

Want to talk? Even if you aren't sure if we are the right fit for your needs we are always happy to talk and help you find the right home. Call us at 317-924-0923 or use our contact form.

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