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Focus on your Business to get more Business!

How many of you have watched lions chasing their prey on National Geographic? You usually see hundreds of zebras and only a few lions. Now, the older, experienced lion spends some time watching the heard looking for the perfect prey. She seems aloof, almost disinterested but then when she spots that zebra with the limp she snaps to attention. Her focus on that single beast is so intense it affects every muscle in her body. She waits for her moment and then springs into action with such single-minded intensity that the outcome (a zebra dinner) is usually assured. You may have also seen inexperienced lions trying their luck. In contrast to experienced hunters, they run this way and that, being distracted by every tasty looking zebra that runs past. Often they fail to make their kill, despite their exertions!

We can apply this lesson from nature to our selves in business. There are lots of zebras (clients/buyers) out there in the market place, but not all of them limp (are our perfect clients). I am Candace Carter, partner and lead designer, for Back2Front -The Web Site People. Back2Front is a web site management company serving the small business market. We specialize not just in web sites, but specifically in web site design and management for small businesses. Now let me explain what that means and tell you why our focused approach works.

Most web site companies are unable or unwilling to provide a high quality management service to their clients for any duration of time. They prefer to build a web site, then hand over the keys, leaving clients to manage their site on their own, sometimes this is even sold to clients as a benefit; "You can do your own updates!". Alternatively forcing the client to scrounge around every couple of months for some one to do updates for them. In actuality, this is not done for the client's benefit. Believe me, if they could figure out a way to keep their clients long-term, profitably, they would, but other web site providers find this difficult, as they do not focus on a particular niche. Most web site companies take all comers! They are indiscriminate in the type of work they do and for this reason, the hosting arrangements they make are very generalized. Working with many different kinds of computer systems, and a wide range of software and server configurations requires a new learning curve with each new web site. Dealing with the unexpected, missing information, or new restrictions imposed by various computer systems slows web providers down and costs them more. Few if any take the time to build software that automates or stream lines any of the services they provide.

Back2Front provides small business clients with a complete, high-quality web site service, and we intend to work with clients for the long term. By serving only small businesses that want a complete, quality web site service, including hosting, Back2Front can keep our prices low and provide exactly the same excellent level of service to each of our clients, and we can do it over time, profitably.

Narrowing our client base to only those who desire a fully managed service allows us to control the kind of systems and software we use to do our work. This in turn enables us to automate many of the routine tasks involved in creating and maintaining web sites, which adds up to the best quality service at the lowest price to our clients. An example of the kind of software we've developed is our link-checking program that runs every night and tests all of the links on each of our web sites. This script generates a report that we get each morning and allows us to correct any broken links, even before clients are aware of them. This kind of service would be simply impossible for any web site company that tries to service web sites on numerous disparate systems (in other words, most of them).

Another way we provide a competitive advantage is our low price. At Back2Front we made a decision to service only small to medium business clients. When we did our initial market research, we found that one of the biggest complaints small business people had was that they were uncomfortable not knowing how much their web site was going to cost up front, before they committed any time or money to it. They were not looking for the lowest price. A reasonable price was fine, as long as they could be sure exactly how much it would cost and when they had to pay.

Most web companies provide a quote on a project only after the client has spent a significant amount of time providing detailed requirements. As well, many companies cannot stick to their quote due to changes the client makes during the construction of the web site. As you can well imagine, being quoted $1000 for a web site and then being surprised with a $3000 bill some months later does not make for happy clients. Alternatively, getting stuck with a web site you do not like, or paying an extra $2000 to get it right, is not fun either. But without narrowing the client base, and the possibilities for the type and amount of work involved, providing accurate, reasonable quotes in a short timeframe is a challenge for most web companies.

To avoid these scenarios and provide the level of comfort needed by small businesses engaging a web site company, Back2Front created a pricing structure that works the same way for all clients, can be calculated in advance, is fixed, and gives the ultimate ability to control costs to the client. How? By charging by the page, regardless of the time it takes to create the page. We even print our prices right on our public web site! (This is rare in the industry.)

You may wonder (and I am sure that our competitors do) how we can justify a low price that is fixed in advance regardless of the amount of work involved, and wonder how you could do the same thing? The answer again is because we focus on web sites for small business people. We listen to what they want, we know what they need (even if they do not), and we have developed systems that help us cater to our narrow client base effectively and efficiently. Large corporate or government prospects often send us (RFPs) Request For Proposals. We do not take the time to create customized RFPs but merely redirect these prospects to our pricing page. We know that this will seldom result in a sale. Why do we turn away such large and possibly lucrative clients in this way? It is not so much that we want to turn them away but that we have decided to give our best clients what they want and need... a fixed, up front, easily understood and budgeted for, price.

Over the years we have been asked to create logos, business cards, brochures, baby-sit, and while these requests were tempting, especially in the early years when clients where hard to come by, we knew that expanding our scope would only divert our focus. Many of our competitors have a laundry list of services a yard long that include web sites as a after thought, "Oh Yah, and we do web sites too!" But I know that they are not doing a good job because their clients come to us to get their web sites fixed! I wonder if the rest of their services are as bad?

In my experience, if you try to serve multiple markets instead of specializing, you will have difficulty growing your business. Clients want to deal with specialists who are experts in their field. When you spread yourself too thin and try to serve multiple markets you undermine this positioning. When you try to sell too many services, your message becomes diluted and hard to follow. We all know how hard it is to communicate a single business message in the 60-second intros at our networking events. When you have multiple offerings the message is even more difficult to convey! The reason people won't specialize is because they are afraid of what they might have to give up. You may think that having multiple offers and serving different markets covers the bases, and prevents you from having all of your eggs in one basket. But this is self-defeating in the end. Think of it as juggling those eggs to get a better perspective.

When you decide what you do and who you do it for, your perfect prospects will hear you more clearly, see you more clearly, and will want to become your clients. Better yet, they will be happy clients because you will get to know them well and be able to serve them well.

Ok that's all well and good, you may be thinking, "But I see successful business diversify everywhere I look, it works for them. Why not me?"

The key here is the word successful. Once your business is profitable, is well branded and is well known in the market place, you have your team assembled and your suppliers are giving you preferential treatment, your core business is secure. Then and only then will it be safe to extend yourself and your business into new areas and chase other tasty zebras.

But you will tackle each of them as you did the first, with a focus on the bottom line. If your new venture turns out not to complement and contribute to the success of your base company, you will decide not to pursue it, because by that time you will be the experienced lion.

By Candace Carter, Back2Front - The Web Site People, 2006