6 Business Lessons I Learned in 2018

2018 was a great year for our team, and this is the second year I restructured our digital marketing team.

WebHero managed to double its revenue compared to the previous financial year, hiring extra team members to deliver quality work to our clients.

I learned a lot this year, and I want to document this journey and share it with you so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Lesson 1: You just can’t serve everyone in the market

At the beginning of this year, I decided to narrow down our service to a specific market/ industry only. Specifically, if you’re selling products and making a profit from it, I won’t take you on board for our marketing service. It is still ok for us to create a website or get involved in technical work, but definitely not in the digital marketing service.

The reason is simple: I simply believe that I am not really good at selling products while still giving a good ROI to business owners.

This was scary at first because you’re rejecting potential clients, although only ones who were not a good fit for us! But it turns out it was a good decision because the team has less stress, and I have a process that can deliver work without having me doing everything.

How do I choose who I work with right now?

I create a buyer persona document to write down all the characteristics of our ideal clients. This is a little hard if you’re a new startup company and you have no idea who you prefer to work with.

But I have been running this new team for 4 years now, along with experience in a previous company, so at the beginning of 2018, I knew exactly who I wanted to work with and how I could deliver added value to them.

So with the list of characteristics I have on hand, I plan a marketing campaign and approach that can attract this type of clients to us.

Lessons 2: Quit ‘business networking’ events that are trying to get referrals & businesses

6 Business Lessons I Learned in 2018 1For decades, businessmen needed to know a lot of people, meeting a lot of people every day to grow their business. So I was convinced that this was the way to do if I wanted to grow the business.

I joined networking events as often as I could to meet more people, hoping to connect with them so they can use our service one day.

I get quite a lot of referrals. But the problem is the entire sales process is extremely long – I would say it can take up to 6 months to close a fresh deal, meaning tons of time for drinking coffee together and meeting up.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the coffee sessions and getting together with other partners. But, this draws a lot of time away from growing the revenue and monitoring our operation.

Solution: Know where your potential customers are, and try to add value & solve their problems

In the previous section, I mentioned who our customers are. I noticed that I work very well with young business owners who have just started their business or just taken over the family business.

This new generation is usually in their mid-20s and 30s. They are very tech savvy and understand how a website works, how social media works, they do a lot of research before coming to us.

In short: they are educated buyers and require less teaching and maintenance.

So I trace back our CRM and analytics software, the majority of these people come from the digital world, not business networking events.

That helps us to make a quick decision about continuing our membership with business networking clubs. So I only attend networking events that can reach our target audience.

Lesson 3: Get the business maths right

6 Business Lessons I Learned in 2018 2Have you ever thought about what your revenue goal for a year or a month is? Well, most people will answer ‘as much as possible’.

But here’s the thing, if you don’t set a number, that ‘as much as possible’ will be the same as last year, or just 10% better than last year.

You don’t have a clear goal, thus you can’t take action to achieve it.

At the beginning of 2018, I was thinking WebHero should be a 7 figure business in 3 years time, not including any marketing budget that client paid through our agency.

But then after I calculated it, I realised that there is no way for us to achieve that figure. You see, if we continue to sell a marketing service for RM300 – RM500 per month to keep it affordable for most small business, we need to serve 167 clients paying us RM500 per month for the entire year.

But the problem is, servicing these 167 clients isn’t something that can be done by a small team. Every 10 clients, we need a senior team member actively leading the projects.

Break down the monthly revenue, and compare it to the number of clients

So we break things down into a smaller, monthly goal. Then we take the number of clients compared with the number of clients we can serve and see if it make sense.

We prefer to provide a higher priced solution that really solves a problem, than offering the client a partially complete service.

Lesson 4: How to deal with clients who do not respect & appreciate your services

6 Business Lessons I Learned in 2018 3There is a saying – ‘the customer is always right!’ But not really in our team. Some people tend to want everything done in a very short time, working outside of the job scope and even refusing to pay!

It sounds ridiculous, but trust me, there are many people like this.

Not that we won’t go the extra mile to help, but it is costing us way too much to deliver the extra service required to keep them happy. It just doesn’t make business sense any more.

For nearly half a year, I was so stressed out hearing my phone ring! I was afraid to pick up my calls, I could feel my blood pressure shoot up when it rang. I knew it must be some tasks I needed to get done now, maybe without getting paid.

Set boundaries & set the right expectations

After learning all of this, I made improvements to our onboarding process again. I spell out the expected reply time and work hours. So that client know I’m human as well, I need to rest and take some days off.

Most people will respect this, and those who don’t and continue to apply pressure,well I just have to stop working with them after delivering what has been promised.

Lesson 5: Hire team members to work on specific tasks only

In 2017, I had full-time team members trying to do everything from replying email, develop website & design. But none of the tasks were being done at the level I was expecting.

So I decided to hire a specialised team member to handle only specific tasks.

Then I noticed that the quality of work we can deliver went up to another level. Our work can be done in a shorter time because 1 team member doesn’t have to jump around doing different tasks.

Lesson 6: Rearrange priorities & reduce meetings

6 Business Lessons I Learned in 2018 4When someone has no idea what the next step is, they tend to say: “Let’s have a meetup and discuss! It’s easier.” This happens a lot when clients contact us the first time.

No doubt, there are many benefits to doing this. You get to connect more with potential clients, you get to discuss it face to face.

But a lot of times, prospects aren’t ready to sign up our service, having the wrong expectations, no budget and a lot of them aren’t qualified leads.

You see, to get ready for a meeting, on average you need to spend about 3 hours.

  • 45 minutes to travel to the place
  • 1.5 hours to chit chat, understand each other
  • 45 minutes to travel back or to the next destination

If I find out this client isn’t someone we can serve, I have just wasted 3 hours + money for petrol.

Turn down all meeting requests unless they can justify with reasons

I have changed our entire onboarding & sales processes. I will turn down every request to meet unless I talk to them through a phone call first.

Usually, the first phone call is to secure an appointment, mainly because clients always say it is HARD to talk over the phone.

But we don’t do this anymore. If a client can’t explain the concept over the phone, you can expect this client will ask for a meeting every time they want to talk to you. It is not a very efficient way to work.

During the first phone call, I start to dive deep into their goals and expectations first. When I see fit, only then I suggest a meet up for further discussion, or sell them a paid discovery session.

That saves a lot of time wasted on traveling to unqualified leads.


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