For the first post of 2015, I wanted to take an opportunity to explain what it’s like working with Upward, for those who may be considering a partnership. What follows is a glimpse into the process and methodology we use to help others in their “going upward”.
I’ve been “doing websites” since 2003. For years, that’s what I told people at the social mixers and other meet-and-greets: “I build websites.” Sometimes it would lead somewhere profitable for me, but usually not.
In 2011, I started to really shift the way I thought about myself, my expertise and the way I help my clients. I realized that while I was still telling people “I build websites,” I was actually doing much more than that. I was helping with email campaigns. I was handling social media marketing. I was helping with video, on occasion. I discovered that most of my clients who needed me didn’t just need me for my mad website skills – they needed a consultant. So I modified my answers to include that. I don’t “build websites.” I now tell people I’m an online marketing consultant – because that’s truly what I am.
I don’t tell this to people in order to hopefully cover a broad range of skills, but because the word “consultant” conveys the things I want my client to think of when they consider hiring me: experience, expertise and value. It also conveys the shift in my mindset and the way I work that makes for very good products for my clients.
The Old Days
In the old days, I built the website the client wanted, and they got what they paid for. I move on to the next project, end of story. Now though, I help the client understand what they really need, and help them build that. At the end of the day, we have something that’s legitimately valuable – actually measurable in terms of dollars and cents or some other goal we’ve set (like visits). We’re able to measure and tweak, react and respond. And we work together longer, to see the goals we set together happen. No more “one-and-done” projects. My clients are my partners in my success, because I’m a partner in theirs.
What Does This Look Like?
A project that’s built for success starts with a ton of questions. That part’s the same as the old days, but what’s changed are the kinds of questions I’m asking. Instead of things like “What is your company color scheme?” or “How much is your budget?” I ask questions like, “What kind of work do you want to keep doing? Which of your products do you hate to sell? Why is that? What are your business goals for this year?” This leads to some great conversations – and some insight for the client as well. I bring things up that they haven’t thought of yet, but when presented, they see how valuable it is to think on these things.
After questions, we don’t talk pages, budget or content, we talk strategy. We set goals. We break those goals down into milestones and tasks. We consider the tools, the resources and the labor. We figure out together how we’re going to reach those goals.
And then, we begin to tackle those goals, one at a time, piece by piece. Most “I build websites” types go straight to Photoshop for mockups. Not us. We start small, launch fast and adapt quickly. There are not many of the bottlenecks you see in a run-of-the-mill design shop. We don’t have a drawn out processes for handling design revisions or tweaking the copy before launch. We shoot first and ask questions, later. It sounds brash, but it’s essential to making the changes you need based on real data. We gather feedback from the visitors that actually use the site instead of launching some beautiful thing that we hope works well. The longer we delay the launch, the farther out we are from hitting our goals, while our timeline continues to shrink.
The change we’ve seen since adapting this “agile methodology” is amazing. While some clients have balked at releasing anything in the wild that may not be fully polished, they usually come around when we start collecting the feedback and releasing updates almost immediately. They’re comforted in knowing that the changes we’re making aren’t based on guesswork, they’re based on data. Real, actual numbers from real, actual visitors. Our goals get met more easily, strategy doesn’t take as long, and a client doesn’t have to wonder if what we’re doing is working. Consequently, they trust us more when we advise them and it makes for longer, better, more fruitful partnerships.
If all of that sounds fantastic to you, and you want to be a part of it, we’re currently lining up projects for the Spring and Summer of 2015. If you’d like the change to have us take your business upward, let us know by filling out this short form. Looking forward to hearing from you!