Matt Medeiros runs a great WordPress podcast called the Matt Report that talks about entrepreneurs who are building a business in the WordPress space. Make sure to get over there and catch up on his ever-growing archive of WordPress business goodness.
One of the questions that he frequently asks people he interviews is “How do you handle the $500 client?”
Now I know there’s no ill will, but the way the question is asked, it sounds to me like the $500 client is something that has to be dealt with, like a stack of unopened medical bills, or a funky gym bag.
And the reality is that with many WordPress consultants or agencies, that’s exactly how they’re regarded. They’re always wondering how they can say “go away” without being rude. Or they setup a fancy form on their website to filter out those that aren’t worthy. There are a number of different approaches.
But why are we so quick to brush off a client based on one project where they might not have what we consider an ideal budget?
Now I’m a realist. Are we going to build a custom eCommerce website for a client with a $500 budget? We’re not. It’s just not a feasible way to run a business. A quality team costs money, and there are plenty of other operating costs that are figured into a proposal for a big project like that, but we’ll never shy away from the conversation.
Sometimes what the client thinks they need for $500, and what they actually need are entirely different things. We had a client approach us just recently with a $400 budget, a 3 day timeline, and visions of website grandeur. If the website he envisioned were a pro wrestler, it would have been Macho Man Randy Savage in the flesh. But after a quick phone call, the suggestion of a premium theme, and a third party booking system, we were able to get the client what he needed. Now we probably delivered Jake the Snake, or Jim Hacksaw Duggan, but the bottom line is that he was thrilled with the solution we came up with.
The proof is in the tweets:
“Drew, thank you for the referral to @wpsitecare! They were just what I needed! They’ve done a great job on my website.”
— Drew Barton (@drewbarton) January 18, 2014
We Love to Move Fast
Nothing feels better to me than completing a task. Well, almost nothing. Ahem. Every time I put a check in a box I feel invigorated and like progress is being made. Sometimes I can get too caught up in the routine of finishing tasks, but for the most part my desire to ship is great for business.
The small budget WordPress client facilitates that. They come to us with issues and we solve them… fast. We don’t mess with RFPs, we’re quick to scope projects, and we’re always trying to cut down our pre-sales time (Spoiler alert: Changes coming very soon to streamline pre-sales even more).
Mini projects make us agile. We can always take on the next client because we’re rarely scheduled out over a week, so we don’t need to turn away business like many of the big agencies do.
Nagging Voice: But Ryan, aren’t you worried about the stream of customers disappearing at some point?
Not really. They haven’t yet, and I know for a fact that there are a lot more people with $500 in their pocket than $50,000. Even Chris Lema, the man who thinks pretty much everything is too inexpensive, agrees that raising prices isn’t always the best avenue. Add to that the fact that we already run lean, and can easily shift our model slightly, focus more time and energy on marketing, or just lay low and provide a great service for our current customers, I feel like the future will continue to be bright for a long time. With WordPress’ continuous trend toward the top, this is item 45,081 on my list of entrepreneurial worries.
Support then Maintenance then Support then Maintenance
We run one of the few businesses I know of where clients pay us to become a long term customer. Don’t follow? We’ve found that nearly 50% of our recurring maintenance clients, came to us initially because they needed some type of quick a la carte service. Either their site was hacked, or a plugin broke the hamster wheel. It could be any number of issues, but when they first reach out, it’s because we provide a service that they need. They pay us fairly for that service, and then frequently they end up having us proactively manage their WordPress sites for the foreseeable future.
How many other businesses are you familiar with that can pull that off? The majority of services online have to bring people in with a free trial, or some kind of referral bonus. It’s almost always “try before you buy” these days.
Once we have a client on one of our maintenance plans, as long as we’re doing a good job for them, they don’t even shop for WordPress help anywhere else. We’re their first point of contact every single time.
Embracing the $500 Client
So what happens when we have a client approach about that 5, 10, or 50,000 project?
We give it away.
Nagging voice: Shut UP! What do you really do with it? You take a commission or something right?
Nope. We work with plenty of great partners who specialize in building that $10,000 site. We’re happy to hand the client to them because we know they’ll do a phenomenal job for our client, and in the end, that’s all that really matters, right?
We’ve also found that sending those clients away makes everyone happier in the long run, and frequently turns into more “small” business for us down the road. That’s not why we do it, but it’s definitely a nice added bonus.
High volume with a quick turnaround time is what works for us. In a WordPress ecosystem that’s begging entrepreneurs to raise their prices, we still believe in premium services being available to consumers without a premium price tag.
Not everyone has a Ruth’s Chris budget. Some people can only afford In-N-Out Burger. Both are quality, and both provide great value, and one is obviously significantly less expensive. But let’s be honest, the Double Double Animal Style will outsell that Filet every single day of the week.
So how do we handle the $500 client? We offer them a side of french fries and a milkshake, of course