Nurturing repeat business

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Web Show we are joined by Jonathan Stark to discuss how to nurture repeat business.

Skip to the discussion or this week’s links.

This season of the Boagworld show is sponsored by Template Monster and Lynda. Please support the show by checking them out.

Paul: Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com, the podcast for those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. I’m Paul Boag. You’re listening to episode 11 of Season 12 of the show. And joining me today is Marcus Lillington and Jonathan Stark. Hello guys!

Marcus: Hello.

Jonathan: Hello.

Paul: It’s good to have you on the show, even Marcus. Even you Marcus! It’s good to have you here.

[Laughs]

I never welcome you. I always welcome the guests and I feel that you are missing out as a result.

Marcus: I am used to it Paul. I am so used to being treated badly, I don’t even notice anymore.

Paul: It’s like an abused spouse…that’s probably really bad.

Marcus: I don’t like that comparison.

Paul: You don’t like the idea of being a spouse to me, or abused? Which is the problem?

Marcus: Spouse to you far more, obviously.

[Laughs]

Paul: Fair enough. Hello Jonathan, how are you?

Jonathan: Good. Starting off kind of dark, aren’t we?

Paul: Well that’s just the way today’s going to go.

Jonathan: I am doing great – it is the most beautiful day here that you can imagine.

Paul: Where are you again?

Jonathan: I am in lovely Providence, Rhode Island which is near Boston.

Paul: Ohh nice… well actually no. It wouldn’t appeal to me.

Marcus: Why not?

Paul: I like where I live.

Jonathan: ‘Cause there’s nowhere to park the RV?

Paul: Yes exactly.

Marcus: It’s a beautiful day here too. July in England is probably the best month.

Paul: Pretty much the only month that is nice.

Marcus: It’s lovely.

Paul: So Jonathan, it’s been a while since we had you on the show. What were you on last talking about? Remind me.

Jonathan: I was on to talk about the mobile web. And we did a bunch of talking also about how I run my firm and not doing hourly billing.

Paul: Value-based pricing. That was it, yes.

Marcus: Even I remember that Paul.

Paul: Oh well, but I’ve had a very busy day. I’ve got a new toy to play with and it’s taken up a lot of time.

Marcus: A new toy? More gadgets Paul?

Paul: Well yes. I’m doing an increasing amount of video and I’ve been shooting it on a camcorder that I bought for a couple of hundred quid because I was tight. And I thought it was about time now I am a grown up. So I bought a Canon 600D which is a lovely SLR camera that also can do nice video recording. So that’s what I’ve been up to, which is cool.

Marcus: I’ve been out to lunch with my wife today.

Paul: Oh yes, that was today, wasn’t it.

Marcus: It was very nice, yes. I had one of the nicest desserts I’ve had in years.

Paul: Ooo what was it?

Marcus: It was a Raspberry Mille-feuille or however you pronounce it. Like layers of flaky pastry with cream and raspberries in layers. Fantastic.

Paul: See Mr American-Jonathon. We do have decent food in Britain.

Jonathan: Geez, I had a hardboiled egg and now I am hungry again.

Marcus: It is 4.00pm in the afternoon and I am struggling to stay awake, I have to say. So you might have to shout every now and again.

Paul: Oh this is going to be a good show then. So what are you up to these days Jonathan? Tell people what your job is.

Jonathan: I am a Mobile Strategy Consultant. And I help consumer brands make the transition from desktop era thinking to mobile first style thinking.

Paul: Oooo. Hey, have you read a book I’ve just finished called The best interface is no interface?

Jonathan: No I haven’t.

Paul: You’ve so got to get it.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s right up my alley.

Paul: It’s really good. Why I like it is because the guy should have been British. He’s not, he’s from the states, but he’s just so sarcastic and rude the whole way through, I just love it. But he’s talking about the post-gooey world where you have a mobile app, for example one of the ones he mentions is the app Moves which you set up and it sits in your back pocket and gets on with it without you having to launch the app the whole time.

Jonathan: Sure.

Paul: And it talks about censors and computers gathering data. He’s so funny about car manufacturers and about how they started moving Mobile apps and so there is now a Mobile app that allows you to open your car door. So instead of just getting a key out, putting the key in, turning the key and done, you now have to get out your mobile phone, swipe to unlock it, hit the button to go to the home screen, find the appropriate app, launch the appropriate app, find the unlock button, swipe the unlock button and then you can get in your car. And that’s progress apparently.

Jonathan: Well that’s the problem we are having with mobile payments. Mobile payments haven’t created a compelling user experience compared to using our credit card.

Paul: No, it’s really interesting, because we’ve literally just got Apple Pay here in the UK. I had a moment of being excited about it and then I realised, well actually it’s easier to just wave my credit card over a terminal as to wave a phone that I could then drop. Do you know what I mean?

Jonathan: Yes I do. I’ve been studying it for years. It’s frustrating because I feel like there have been some examples of Mobile Payments that are amazing.

Paul: Square did some interesting stuff didn’t they?

Jonathan: Yes, the Square checkout thing where you walk in and just pay with your face, was genius but didn’t catch on.

Paul: No, weird. I think you need to explain that because Marcus has got images of running his face over a credit card reader now.

Jonathan: Marcus is used to paying with his good looks, right?

[Laughs]

Marcus: Absolutely. My whole life.

Jonathan: Basically, if you imagine a Starbucks type scenario. You walk into a coffee shop and have the Starbucks application on your phone. They have a Wi-Fi which detects your phone, it knows who you are, your identity and they have a corresponding application on their register (this is the part that is missing right now) that shows the face of everybody who’s wandering around inside the store on the Wi-Fi. So as you walk up to the counter you say ‘Hey I’d like an x’ and they’d say ‘What’s your name?’ and I say ‘John’ and that gets automatically charged to my account. I can already pay with my phone at Starbucks but I have to take it out and scan it on the barcode scanner which isn’t horrible, and it’s just enough better than a credit card that I do that one because of the loyalty points and all that. But the NFC stuff is just terrible.

Paul: It would be ok if we could get rid of the credit card. If you could get rid of the wallet and just carry your phone, and there is an advantage to that, but the reality is that not everywhere is going to take this anyway, so you’d still end up carrying your credit card around so what’s the point, really? As you say, it’s not as slick as it could be anyway. The example you just gave was Square which was one of the ones in this No Interface book, so I think you should check it out, you’ll like it.

Jonathan: Who wrote that book?

Paul: He’s got an amazing name. Golden…

Marcus: …Krishna.

Paul: Golden Krishna. Yeah.

Jonathan: Good grief. I will read it, yeah. It’s right up my alley. I just gave the keynote at Future Insights conference and the title was ‘The browser is dead’ and for a web developer to give a keynote to a room full of web developers about that is the same concept. We need to programme across devices, the rectangle of the browser window is just one little marginalised piece of a much bigger picture that we could all be taking advantage of if we just make our thinking a little bit bigger.

Paul: That’s so funny. What I’ve been doing—I’ve been playing with my new toy, my new camera—I’ve been recording a video and have titled it ‘If you own a hammer, everything looks like a nail’. And basically I am arguing that because of our background in web design, when we think User Experience we think web sites because that’s what we know. That is the hammer that we have. We’ve spent years perfecting our skills in that area, so that’s where we think. But actually there is a whole eco-system of other things that are part of the User Experience that we need to get into. So yeah.

Jonathan: I could not agree more.

Paul: I am so into this at the moment. Like, have you seen Disney’s new Magic Band?

Jonathan: Yeah, I’ve been there – I’ve used it. It’s amazing.

Paul: See I am going to California. Do you know if they have it at both parks?

Jonathan: I don’t know the answer to that. I was at Orlando. And it is jaw-dropping.

Paul: Wonderful.

Jonathan: It’s an amazing User Experience. I think that the User Experience title or the person who does that, should be doing stuff like that. That’s a real User Experience.

Paul: Yes. Absolutely incredible. If you don’t know Marcus… we haven’t talked about this before have we?

Marcus: We have…but I am really struggling to remember what it is. Tell me again.

Paul: So it’s a band you wear and then it can then control the entire experience. So things like no turnstiles anymore, you just go and buzz yourself in with your band. You put your band up against it and it identifies you. You can go to a restaurant and you can pre-order for the restaurant your food and when you want to go there. And then you go to the restaurant and they know you as you walk up because they have detected you coming up with your band on and then you can go sit anywhere you want in the restaurant and they know your physical location in the restaurant so they can come over to you and give you your food without having to… just by magic it just appears. But also isn’t it something to do with queuing for rides and stuff like that Jonathan?

Jonathan: Yeah. The thing that’s amazing with it is that it’s woven into every aspect that you can think of about the park experience. So it’s just a simple little piece of technology that you wear. It’s a rubberised comfortable smart looking colourful band that fits everything from a two year old to a grown adult. It’s comfortable, it doesn’t get messed up. It’s just a simple RFID chip that’s broadcasting an ID that it knows who is broadcasting, who this is attached to. You can use it to unlock your hotel room door, you can use it to pay just about anywhere. I counted about at least twenty systems that I could see that they must have done some serious background integration, server side integration and things like a bunch of different payment processers, different POS’s, a bunch of different hotel properties, the park itself, getting into the park, on and on and on and on. It doesn’t notify you or anything like that, it’s just broadcasting your ID as you walk around. It’s so you know full well that they are also doing like Google Analytics for the park. So they can track where you go around the park and they can see if there are a whole bunch of people clustered up around Space Mountain, then they can send a push notification to the application that is on your phone saying ‘Hey there is no lines over at one of the other rides’.

Paul: You must have been the most boring Dad in the world that day. If you were just going around counting systems and integration points. Your kids must have loved you.

Jonathan: I like to think I hide that from them, but I am sure I do not.

Discussion around nurturing repeat business

Paul: Anyway, we ought to move on. I have got to talk about sponsors before we get into today’s discussion. I just quickly want to mention TemplateMonster because they’ve been so supportive of the show for so long now. They’re the community that provides a lot of the questions that we cover and they’ve been supporting us through the transcriptions and that kind of stuff.

Last week I mentioned Monstroid just because it sounded cool. And I do just want to mention it again because I don’t think necessarily I personally communicated that the thing that I think is most cool about this. And TemplateMonster have asked me to push this thing and I think it’s really cool. What Mostroid basically is, is like a template on steroids – a WordPress template. But it strikes a sweet spot between Squarespace where you’ve got… it’s really easy to use, you can drag stuff around, you can move things about, it’s very simple nice user interface. But the trouble with Squarespace is its quite restrictive and it has to be hosted on their server. So this strikes a balance between the ease of use of Squarespace but the power and the flexibility that comes with WordPress. So it’s a hugely flexible WordPress template system that allows you to manage layouts in a very modular way. It’s got lots of plug ins that integrate into it, but only loads plugins that you are actually using, rather than loading them all in one go, like JetPack used to do. So it’s really well optimised, its super-fast, it integrates with WooCommerce and they’ve got great support around it.

Now it’s only $79 which just blows my mind away and I can’t wait to get my hands on it and give it a go, if you want to try it out yourself, by the time this podcast comes out, it will be available for you to have a play with and you can do that by going to Boagworld/Monstroid.

So.

Although it’s great to spend loads of time talking about the things…what is it with you Jonathan, we get you on the show to talk about one thing and we end up talking about something completely different?

Jonathan: I am scintillating.

Paul: Is that what it is?

Marcus: Or distracting, one of the two.

Jonathan: My super-power is tangents.

Paul: That would be an awesome super-power.

Marcus: I obviously spend too much time within your sphere because I am always going off on tangents to the point of it annoys the hell out of me. Just before we do get going…

Paul: You are about to go off on a tangent, aren’t you?

Marcus: Well no, I am going back to the previous subject of good usability. And I am throwing a spanner in the works really. When we finished eating lunch earlier, I asked for the bill and the bill came. And I looked at my wallet and I thought ‘I’ve got enough cash for this’. So I put the cash down, a round number with a perfect amount for the time and we got up and walked out.

Paul: Mmm.

Marcus: Fantastic usability, cash.

Paul: Err well yes. If you have got the right amount of it.

Marcus: Yes I know. Obviously I had to get that. But for that particular experience I didn’t have to wait for them to come back with the machine…

Paul: Well there is a virtual equivalence of that. For example, there are certain places where you can sit at the table and pay with PayPal. At Prezzo’s you can do that. You open the Paypal app, you pay for the meal and then just walk out. Which is really weird.

Marcus: It’s kind of the same. The waitress was coming up with the card reader machine. I had to say ‘I paid cash, it’s in there. Keep the change’.

Paul: You’re just so retro.

Jonathan: It’s a fair point. Open Table, I don’t know if they launched it or were just planning it, but Open Table which is the service that allows you to reserve a table at a restaurant, they were talking about also being able to pay using that same system.

Paul: Yeah, I heard that. That would be very cool. I’ve just discovered the wonderful—because I live in the middle of nowhere—the joys of ordering take away on an app. Because we’ve now got a takeaway place in Blandford that accepts orders online. And that’s just wonderful because I don’t need to worry about whether I have enough cash in the house to pay for my takeaway now. It’s all just done. I love it. And I don’t have to talk to people, which is always a bonus.

Jonathan: It’s not fun where we are if I want to order a pizza from my favourite Mom and Pop pizza place. Every time I call them I have to tell them my phone number and address and read my credit card number to them over the phone repeatedly. They even call me back some times because they wrote it down wrong, which they shouldn’t even be writing it down…. Anyway. There are parts that can be fixed but cash is tough to beat.

Marcus: Come on, move on.

Paul: Oh we are allowed to now?

Marcus: My fault and I am apologising now. What are we talking about today Paul?

Paul: This is my in subject at the moment, so I could have carried on forever about that. But what we are supposed to be talking about today is nurturing repeat business. Because Jonathan, we haven’t really explained what you are doing on the show. But basically we are doing a whole series on running your own web design business, or digital business, whatever you want to call it these days. And we are covering a whole load of different areas and we’ve got to the idea of nurturing repeat business and we’ve got some really good questions on this one, so I am quite interested to go through these and get everybody’s opinion on this.

First one I liked is ‘How do you keep in contact with clients without resulting to emailing them asking them if they have any new business?’ because that’s a bit obvious. So what other ways are there? Do you do anything like a newsletter or do you ring up clients on a regular basis? How do you do it, Jonathan?

Jonathan: I do have a newsletter but like probably a lot of people I am dead about keeping up with it and I don’t really have clients on it. Its more developers and web developer type people on that list. But there is a really easy way to do this. It works great. And the trick is really—it’s not a trick—but as you are going through your feeds every day, you are listening to your podcasts or you are going down your RSS feeds or you are on Twitter or whatever, you are looking for articles. People probably spend half an hour, an hour every day looking at articles or getting emails with millions of things. So we are constantly filtering all these articles through our brain. And we are deciding as we look at them whether or not they would be interesting to read. We are constantly making this decision.

If you shift your thinking to also think while you are looking at this gigantic stream of links to read, ‘Do I know anyone who would be interested in any of this?’ And if you just grab one of those links and say ‘You know what, that guy I met from Target at that last conference would really be into this. I remember we had a conversation about a Disney Magic band and I know that you’d really dig this’. Just say ‘Hey man, so long, no talk. Saw this and thought of you. Cheers’.

And if you do one of those a day, you will be slammed with business.

Paul: I couldn’t agree more. That is exactly the kind of approach that I take of just going ‘Hey check this out – this might be of interest to you’. It’s brilliant, but I can guarantee Marcus doesn’t do it that way.

Marcus: I don’t keep in touch with old clients. No I do.

Paul: Oh, this is going to be painful.

[Laughs]

Paul: Yes you do Marcus, I know you do.

Marcus: Yes I do.

Paul: You’ve got this kind of natural ability to make small talk with people and chat and stuff. You are like a proper human being. How do you do that?

Marcus: I can’t tell you that Paul. I’d have to kill you.

Paul: No seriously, because if you’re not…. With what we’ve described, there is a specific reason for going to someone, there is a specific thing you are saying. How do you do it? Do you talk to people about their kids?

Marcus: Well for one, in the last fifteen years of doing this—probably more than that now—I probably only thought ‘You know what, I really need to be talking to people more because we haven’t got enough business’ only two or three times, so it’s not something I worry about and think ‘Oh I must be speaking to people more’. I am more concerned that I don’t speak to them enough and do the positive things that you two are talking about. I do a bit, but I find myself run away with whatever we are working on. RFPs come through the door all the time, and I am responding to them and they are usually connected to a client that we’ve worked with directly or somebody’s made a recommendation. And then I’ll often make contact with people to say ‘Thanks very much for recommending us to whoever’. And that’s a reason to make contact.

I do like to phone people up. Sending someone an email saying ‘is there any work coming up?’ is a lot more ignorable than phoning somebody up and saying ‘it’s been a long time, we’ve been working on x, y and z. You might want to have a look at that. Is there anything in the pipeline for you?’ I think if you are having a conversation, it’s a much nicer way to interact with people than via email.

Paul: Yeah. It’s scarier as well.

Marcus: And takes more effort but then I think the more effort you put in, the more you get back. That sounded very cliché but it’s true.

Paul: Well it’s like… do you remember Jonathan, we had Dan James from SilverOrange on and we were talking about winning work. He will actually make up gift baskets for potential clients.

Hey, that brings me onto another question actually that I just remembered. ‘Is it ok to buy clients thank you presents for being a customer, or does it come across as bribery?’ I liked that one.

Jonathan: In very, very rare situations I have sent like a Christmas type of holiday gift to either an entire office like a fruit basket or something, or a big thing of assorted coffees that everyone can share. But there have been times where I’ve clicked so tightly with a long term consulting client, because most of my clients… I don’t do Dev work hardly anymore, I am mostly giving people advice and helping them with strategy and really directing their business at the highest level of the organisation. So when it’s great, you really, really click with these people and just hang out. I have this one client that used to play practical jokes on everybody when they would be on site. And one time, somebody hid under a desk and waited for me to sit down at the desk and then jumped out at me. And there are a whole bunch of people standing outside the door, filming my reaction. And I screamed like a girl, the whole thing. And those guys I sent specific Christmas presents, but they send them to me as we are kind of close.

Paul: Yeah, it moves beyond being a client/supplier relationship.

Jonathan: Yeah, I am still friends with these people, and we haven’t worked together in years.

Paul: Yeah.

Jonathan: I do think it’s a fine line though, especially if you are sending it to the person who is the buyer but not the owner? Because it’s like these conferences where it’s like ‘get a free ipod if you sign up for this conference by x’. The reason that works is that the boss is paying for the conference and the person that goes gets the ipad.

Paul: Absolutely, yeah. I mean it’s also somewhat dependant on sector a little bit as well. Because we’ve had clients who work in sectors where that is perfectly acceptable and we’ve had clients that have to actually have to refuse things.

Marcus: Yeah, so therefore we’ve kind of taken the attitude of we dare not to buy presents pretty much. I can only think of one we regularly buy for and that’s because of a very close relationship. But I worry, in certain sectors it’s the norm to buy all your clients a bottle of scotch or whatever. Because that’s what you do.

So I worry we’ve got clients out there thinking we are tight and ‘where’s my present?’ kind of thing. I don’t worry about it that much, obviously.

Jonathan: I would say a good rule of thumb is if you are asking yourself whether or not it’s appropriate, you shouldn’t do it.

Paul: Yeah, fair enough comment. Erm, ok.

Jonathan: There was one other thing about sending out emails that Marcus started to bring up, which is probably worth mentioning because I think it’s really helpful for people who are having a tough cash flow period. If you need to drum up some work real quickly, you can send out an email that says something along the lines of ‘Hey, just want to touch base. Something fell out of my schedule unexpectedly and I’ve got next week free. I don’t know if there is anything that you need work done, but if you can get back to me within 24 hours I can put you on my calendar for next week’.

Paul: Absolutely. I think it’s that honest approach isn’t it?

Marcus: That’s worked for me with existing clients who have support agreement with us. I have used very similar wording, like ‘We suddenly find ourselves with a gap in our schedule, have you got anything coming up?’ But that’s only ever worked for people we work with all the time, rather than people that we may have done a one of project for four or five weeks ago.

Paul: I’ve had it work even in the little short time I have been in business. But obviously those clients aren’t very old. But clients where I have finished work with and moved on and then I’ve had something drop out and thought ‘Oh I wonder if they are interested in me doing something?’ and they were, but then I kind of do weird stuff as well, so maybe not the best example.

Jonathan: The other thing that’s in play hee is that Marcus talked about how he’s coming in and devoted a lot of time to that, and it’s just way easier to sell stuff to people who are past clients than it is to sell stuff to new prospects. So if you have an hour to spend, spend it pinging old clients and not prospecting for new ones.

Paul: Yeah, which is really good advice. So if we’re not buying our clients big presents, how do we go about making them feel special? So that they come back in the future? I mean, keeping in the loop, showing them you are thinking about them by sending them articles, that kind of thing, but is there anything else we can do?

Jonathan: Are you talking about past clients who are not in an active project with you?

Paul: Oh, both really. Because I mean obviously those you are in an active project with, you need to do good work. It’s about the quality of the work isn’t it?

Jonathan: My advice or my experience here is probably a little bit less useful for most. My main service is a monthly retainer agreement that’s open ended. So it’s like an infinite project so there’s not like a delivery and then ‘Ok, great, thanks, bye’. It’s like if I continue delivering ROI they will never get rid of me, which has been the case. The only time I have ever stopped working with a retainer client is because I stopped doing it because of whatever, I wanted to do less travel because we had a baby or whatever it was.

Paul: I am fascinated by this – tangent time. Tell me more about how that works for you. You say you’ve got open ended retainers with clients, so for x number of hours or what? How does that operate?

Jonathan: So for x number of dollars per month they get access to me on a variety of levels.

Paul: Ok.

Jonathan: So it’s not about what I am going to do, it’s not about my labour or my hours, it’s about them having very quick access to my expertise so that they can make a strategic or tactical decision. So basically if you are going to dumb it down, they pay me so they can pick my brain whenever they want.

Paul: That’s similar. I do a similar thing with the mentorship scheme that I offer. But instead of it being a monthly fee, they buy x number of hours over a period of a year. I think I prefer your approach.

Jonathan: Well the nice thing about my approach is that I don’t have to chart my hours.

Paul: No, which is really good.

Jonathan: Yeah. But tracking your hours sends the wrong message. I realise a month is just another arbitrary period of time, but it makes a big mental difference because it’s blurry enough that everyone starts caring about the right thing, and not the wrong thing. But you have to be very careful because my offer is that you get 24/7 access to me via chat, email, phone, whatever. I get back to you within whatever the agreed upon time is, usually at my favourite price point, which is the highest one, I get back to them within 90 minutes during business hours or the next day if it’s after business hours. They can email and contact me as much as they want. And usually when people hear that, they panic. They take my monthly rate and divide it by hours in the month and think you’re going to make $5 an hour. But it’s never what happens, because if you are working with the right kind of people, which is an important thing to point out, they are busy and they do not want to be on the phone with you every day all day.

Paul: No, absolutely not. And there is a big difference when they are essentially paying for your knowledge rather than sitting down during an eight hour day and writing a big document for them.

Jonathan: Correct.

Paul: Yeah. No, it’s good. It’s interesting. Sorry that was a complete tangent. I was just interested in how that worked.

Marcus, are there other ways that you try and make clients feel valued?

Marcus: Yes. I try and get into the same room as them on a reasonably regular basis. Which might be every two years, but basically face to face and then you can have lunch, buy people lunch—we are back to bribery again aren’t we?—but no, I think people like having lunch and having a chat and basically getting together. Face to face stuff. That’s valuable.

Paul: That is one thing I think we miss out a little bit since Headscape moved to Winchester is that they did like to come to the Barn, didn’t they? They all liked a day out in the country.

Marcus: People like to come to Winchester too,

Paul: Oh do they?

Marcus: Definitely. They love it. It’s a fantastic city. There are many places to go and things to see. I am actually writing it into project specs now, basically that there will be a project day where the client team has to come and spend a day with us. And it’s normally two thirds of the way through the project as it’s really valuable to get everyone around the table rather than all electronic methods of communication. But equally they get a chance to have a nice day out with us.

Paul: Yes, because there is a perception and generally in our industry we go to our clients. But I actually think quite a lot of clients like to escape their offices for a while.

Marcus: They do, definitely.

Paul: And I think sometimes it can be more productive as well. Certainly when you are working…I was talking to Chris who was doing some site work with a client where there was a group of people who were working with Headscape but for some reason they couldn’t do it on their own premises so it ended up happening at a third party location. And I think it worked a lot better actually as they weren’t constantly interrupted, the phone wasn’t ringing, there wasn’t the temptation of normal work. And so things were a lot more productive, so it’s good.

Jonathan: Field trip.

Paul: Field trip, yeah, absolutely which is always good.

Right, let’s pick another question. ‘It would be great to get a regular revenue stream from some clients, but is that possible when you just build websites for people?’ This is Marcus because neither myself, nor Jonathan really do that anymore. We get a regular income from clients by consulting with them and allowing them access to our huge brains. How do you, as someone with a little brain, manage to get regular income from clients?

Marcus: The question is, is it possible? And the answer is yes.

Paul: And you’re not going to go any further than that?

Marcus: And I’ve got a small brain so I can’t expand any further on that at all.

[Laughs]

Jonathan: I’ve got a question for Marcus. I know at one time you offered a post-delivery maintenance plan, do you still do that?

Marcus: We do. We are very specific about them and about what they are. I think there is an expectation amongst some clients as I get asked this question, ‘How much is this support going to be? What percentage of the value of the project?’ and all that kind of thing. And I go ‘if you don’t want us to support you, or you don’t want to work with us after the project then you don’t have to’. There is no hard or fast buy in.

We offer a bundle of hours. And that could be a lot of hours, it doesn’t matter actually the amount, because basically there is no time limit to them, they don’t run out after a year. It’s effectively just a bunch of hours that you can use whenever you want and when they run out you can buy some more hours. And it’s a very relaxed, lose agreement like that I’ve found that clients like and they don’t get too worried about ‘How much am I spending?’ or ‘I’ve got to make sure I spend my budget’ and all this kind of thing. It focuses on what they want to do with the site and whether they want to work with us to make the site better than how much they are spending.

That’s effectively how we do it. It is a support/maintenance/new work agreement but it’s quite loose and we don’t insist upon anything at all. So it works quite nicely and people like that.

Paul: Also for the value of the way that you talk to clients and the way you present what you do I think makes a big difference in terms of regular revenue from them. When I was in the situation of building websites I would always try and talk to clients about ‘Ok this is phase 1’ and what we are going to be doing next, what is the next step when this is finished. Because that’s the way they should be thinking about their projects. It’s not just a sales technique to get regular income. They should be seeing their websites as something that needs to evolve and mature over time and so they need to be continually working on it. So just simply talking like that and explaining that to them rather than having them fixating on ‘Well this is one fixed project, we must get this delivered and then we are done’ thing, if you can move away from that model then I think it makes a big difference.

Jonathan: Yeah. The students in my coaching programme, many of them are web developers and what I try to get them to focus on is not the deliverable of the website itself. Like ‘Ok here’s the navigation that you wanted in and the logo is the size you wanted, and now we are done’. It’s more about why are we building this website? Why are we redesigning this website? What’s the goal of this? That goal is never going to go away. There is probably going to be a big delivery at some point if you are doing a huge redesign like a mobile redesign or a responsive rebuild from scratch or something like that, but if you think a little more broadly about your skill set and what value you are actually delivering to your customers, you could easily do like some of the students do who say ‘Now that we’ve got the big release out, let’s do three months of testing to optimise the sales funnel or the shopping cart or let’s start creating a content marketing approach where we take a blog post and we repurpose them as podcasts or send them out as emails or maybe put one of those hideous dialogues to grab somebody’s email address on the page, or whatever’.

Whatever the goal of the website is, you keep making it better at achieving that goal and they will pay you forever if you can do it.

Paul: Yes absolutely. That does come down to clearly defining the goal which is clearly one of the first few things you should be doing as a web designer anyway.

Jonathan: You can’t succeed if you don’t know what the goal is.

Paul: Yes. Absolutely.

Jonathan: You can only fail!

[Laughs]

Marcus: We’re back to the darkness again.

Paul: Yeah, we’ve come full circle. So here’s a good question. If the client turns round to you—and obviously Jonathan, this never happens to you and Marcus obviously this never happens to Headscape, but theoretically—if a client turned round to you and said ‘We’re moving on, we want to go somewhere else’. Is there any point in trying to persuade them otherwise? And if there is, how do you do that?

Jonathan: Absolutely no point.

Marcus: Yeah. You wish them well.

Jonathan: Exactly. This comes up relatively regularly when people ask me what to do when they have submitted a proposal and they get rejected. So somebody got picked instead of them and they know who got picked and they know that they are better, at least they think that they are better than the other company. And there’s this bitterness. They want to email ‘Well good luck with that…those guys are going to ruin your website or whatever’. So definitely, definitely you have to stay super far away from sour grapes. Because if you are actually right and the project is a failure and you gracefully say ‘That’s cool. Let me know how it goes. I’ll check in in six months and make sure you are all set or whatever’. Whatever the situation is, just be super professional and move onto the next thing. And it will make you look like you are a little bit more in demand and not as desperate which hopefully is true. And if things do go belly up then hopefully you will be the first person they think of.

Paul: Well would you go as far as following up on that and asking them how the project goes, further down the line. Four months later or whatever and nothing has happened, would you contact them?

Marcus: I do.

Paul: Do you really Marcus?

Marcus: Yes I really do.

Paul: And has that actually helped?

Marcus: Usually. It’s quite interesting that you are saying there Jonathan that everyone thinks they are better than everyone else is because what happens when you check in later you think ‘Oh that’s alright, what I am seeing is a good job’ or ‘Nothing has happened’ so I might get in contact to see how things are going and it will be ‘Yeah, fine’. There are a couple of occasions where we’ve rescued people, but they are rare. I think most of the time, I think people get what they want and what they need.

Paul: It’s so much better than going in…you never know, things come back, don’t they? And it’s very dangerous to sour the relationship. Something that could potentially turn into something good further down the line. We’ve had that at Headscape. We’ve had clients come back to us or we’ve lost work and then later on it’s turned out it turned into something. So you never really know.

Marcus: Just be professional. Even if you are chewing the side of your face off to stop yourself saying something, just keep doing it. Because it will come back and bite you.

Jonathan: Yes, if any time I’ve ever gotten the least bit snarky and somebody’s strung me along and strung me along and then they are like ‘Oh you know what, we’re just going to keep it in house’ or whatever. That is annoying. It is annoying. It happens to everyone, but just walk away from the email. Answer them the next day.

Marcus: I mean, we were talking previously about responding to RFPs, writing proposals and doing pitches on other podcasts in the series. You will write a proposal where you are just making up the numbers. I am pretty good these days on recognising I am being asked to make up the numbers so I decline gracefully. But I know there will be situations where I am just making up the numbers and you’ve just got to accept it. That’s life. Move on.

Paul: It is. It is indeed. Ok, I think we will draw that to a close there. I’ll just have a quick final look through the questions. No actually, I want to do this last one because this is something that has happened to me in the past. Me as in Headscape, which is ‘How do you prevent yourself getting lazy with long term clients and just falling into a routine?’ Because we got accused of that I remember once, Marcus.

Marcus: Did we?

Paul: Do you not remember?

Marcus: You have to remind me.

Paul: It was with Wiltshire Farm Foods.

Marcus: Oh I didn’t work on that one, that’s why I don’t know about it.

Jonathan: It’s probably why it happened.

Paul: If you’d been involved it would have all been fine.

Marcus: Basically, the same answer to the previous question. Take people out to lunch, chat with them. Meet them, talk to them, simple things. But long term relationships are bound to become a bit routine because you do tend to be doing similar work over and over again. I guess the not lazy approach would be to pro-actively look for continually come up with ideas about how their website which could be improved. Doing that for every single client when you’ve got loads of new stuff on, you are probably not thinking about that maybe as much as you could be. So that’s the lazy word in there that I guess I am guilty of. I probably could be spending more time thinking about how clients previous and current could be doing things better and providing recommendations. I could probably do more of that, definitely.

Paul: I think also, is there not a kind of element here of asking the client? Because if they get to the point where they are saying to you ‘I am unhappy with the situation’ then it’s almost too late. They’ve got really, really frustrated. Because it takes quite a lot to turn around and say ‘You’re shit. I am really unhappy with things’. You’ve got to a bad place. But if you every now and again you make a point of almost having a retrospective with the client, you sit down with them and say ‘How are things going? Are you happy with the relationship? Is there stuff we can do that would be better?’ I think that just shows a certain level of caring and keeps you on your toes as well.

[Music]

Paul: Right. I am going to stop at that point. We’ve done enough for today. So before we wrap up, let’s quickly talk about Lynda. I am really excited to be talking about Lynda.com this week because I finally win!

Marcus: What?

Paul: I finally win in my… don’t you remember my Lynda.com competition? I have got this thing Jonathan where whenever we talk about a topic on the show I go and see whether they’ve already covered it. Ok? And they always have. They’ve always got a video on whatever the subject is. But this week they haven’t! It’s great! They’ve done nothing at all on nurturing repeat business. Not one video I could find. I found loads of videos on sales, loads of videos on customer service and they’ve got over 3,000 on demand video courses—not even individual videos but video courses—on business, creativity, technical stuff, all kinds of things. But they don’t have anything on nurturing repeat business. So boo-sucks to you Lynda.com!

That’s not how you are supposed to do sponsor slots. But they are great. Check them out. A great place to learn new skills, whatever that skill may be. They’ve got thousands and thousands of streaming video courses on demand that you can watch at your own schedule. All those courses are made up of lots of different individual videos so you can pick and choose and work when you want to. Lots of bite size pieces. All of it is available for a flat fee. There is a ten day free trial that you can get if you go to Lynda.com/Boagworld.

And that is about it for this week’s show.

Marcus?

Marcus: Thank you to Darryl again, sent me about ten jokes and I think I can use one of them, maybe two. So this is short and sweet this week.

‘I went to the library and found a medical book on abdominal pain but somebody had ripped the appendix out’.

[Laughs]

That’s pretty good, what more do you want?

Paul: It was ok. There was one that you mentioned in Slack that you were going to say?

Marcus: It was that one.

Paul: Was it that one? It was funnier in slack.

Marcus: Well it was written down then. It doesn’t sound as funny when you say it.

Paul: It’s the way you say it.

Marcus: It could be that. It is that.

Paul: So anyway, that’s it for this week’s show. A huge thanks to Jonathan for coming on the show. It’s always great to have you even though we never talk about what we are supposed to.

Jonathan: Any time. I love coming on.

Paul: Did you notice how animated the conversation was when we were talking about what we were not meant to be talking about?

Well next time I get you on the show Jonathan, we’re not going to have a subject and we’ll just see where it goes.

Jonathan: I’m up for that.

Paul: Alright. Thank you very much for joining us, dear listener, and join us again next week when we will be looking at growing your business. But for now, good bye!

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