I held my breath last week as we sent out a survey to customers. We’ve done these in the past, and they usually come back positive. Frankly, they come back too positive.
I started to make the questions a little more challenging. 30 people received a survey, which isn’t useful if 20 take it and answer multiple-choice questions. It’s not a statistically significant amount to notice any real trends.
The results were great. Out of 22 survey takers, 20 strongly agree they’re satisfied with the work. 2 “agree”. 15 and 7 strongly agree and agree that our work is improving over time. People trust us, agree that we’re efficient, and that the rates are an unmatched value. No one doesn’t trust us or doesn’t think we’re easy to work with. Results were equally high in ratings on website features, stability, responsiveness, and overall feelings toward us.
So why don’t I feel great about these results?
One of the new questions I asked was, “What are the top three things you wish we could improve?” The breakdown looks like this:
The top results are, naturally, the hardest things. And, they’re the hardest thing to deliver on the budgets we typically work in. A good SEO agency, for example, likely charges what we charge for literally everything else in any given month. We’re not really an advertising agency, per se, but everyone wants the work that comes from an ad agency. And “social media help” is equally high up the list. One thing I’ve personally not cared much about.
Everything clients suggest they want here is reasonable. Truthfully, more agencies need to pursue this kind of commitment. Web designers that focus exclusively on making a design, or building a site, work great for huge clients with money to spend. And it has huge career growth upsides for them personally. It’s a worthy tradeoff, but a tradeoff that favors the designer than the small business.
That model doesn’t work for small businesses. It doesn’t work because the logo designer, SEO pro, print and web designer, developer, and copywriter all want about $3000-$5000 each, either upfront or over a few months or longer. That’s never been our business. We charge most clients about that much per year. It’s also why I don’t worry too much about people getting competing quotes. Once people really think about the kind of work we’re doing, no one has a lower salary and overhead cost for the experience we have within the United States.
But there’s only so much time in a day. The ability to have questions answered by me personally can only scale so far. One survey taker asked for “more suggestions about improving our website, web presence, and give updates on new online business trends.” Another asked, “How to develop our business from a media, print, marketing, web-related standpoint.” A couple of suggestions centered around a way to consistently assess and evaluate work and projects.
The thing is: we already do those things. I don’t know who those individuals were in the survey who asked for it. But we’ve been holding monthly check-in calls for a while with several people. I now have about an entire week of the month that’s just dedicated to that.
These are growing pains, no doubt. Some of this has to be scaled, and thus delivered differently. I can’t spend ~30 hours a month, or the equivalent of about 4 solid days, doing nothing but phone calls. I wish I could, but I can’t and professionally don’t want to. I also need a way to spend time to improve and grow my SEO abilities — mostly through increasing time dedicated to it. SEO is an incredibly time-demanding task. That’s why it usually costs about $1500/mo. forever just by itself.
Likewise, a significant amount of time needs to be devoted to merely thinking about what to do. A lot of the “create unique and creative advertising” work requires budget, ad spend, and a lot of time to, you know, think up that stuff.
If I’m being honest with myself about the business, this sort of work is out of budget and scope. A person paying $200 a month just can’t sustainably get a lot of the blog writing, SEO, and creative work someone paying $2000 a month can. And still, a person paying $2000 a month can’t get email campaigns, social media graphics, copywriting, development work, and SEO at a scale that works all in the same month. I’ve never been great and setting boundaries on what is and isn’t included, but some stuff just isn’t in the cards. You can’t get your lawn mowed for $5 if it requires a bushog to cut it.
These are interesting questions and the things worth thinking about for the next step in web agencies and the industry. I don’t have many answers to them yet, beyond figuring out ways to distributing knowledge and power across larger groups of people. But these thoughts are on the forefront of my mind.