Day 42- Update

Reinvigoration and Branding

A lot has happened in the past couple weeks.

I am now the proud dad to the cutest little baby girl on the planet.

Pictures just don’t do it justice, she’s seriously the greatest small human out there.

Anyway, family life is going great but seems to have put me back business-wise. I haven’t lost any money per se, but I’m scrambling with getting caught up with current clients- meaning I haven’t had any time to reach out to potential clients and generate new business.

This doesn’t pose an imminent danger to my business, but it definitely screwed up the momentum that I had gained over the past month. I had a couple new leads coming in every week with phone calls and emails scheduled. I had in-person meetings that I pulled out of when we went to the hospital. Again, all of this was justified, but I haven’t quite caught up yet.

The Switch

I started using my middle name for a lot of my business stuff in order to physically separate from all of my personal accounts. So I created a facebook name, Dan Merlon. I started the blog under that name.

But I realize that was a mistake.

I even had a couple people advise me not to do it, but I didn’t listen. Oh well, there really wasn’t any harm done. In fact, I now know where I stand on such issues.

The Problem

As I was thinking about my business, I realize that the majority of my clients are referrals, meaning they know me. They already know my name, who I am, and what I’m about.

Creating a new “persona” didn’t help with that at all. It also led to a few weird problems, like what name I should use on my official website. Should I use the name that my friends and family know (my given name) or the name I had started to use online?

That’s what led to the Branding Discussion.

In a small business, you are your brand. There’s very little distinction there. For example, one of my first clients still can’t remember the name of my company! He started to write a check one time and wrote it out to “Morning Star Marketing”. Ummmmm… that’s a great name, but it’s not mine :-)

To be honest, I don’t really care that he doesn’t know the name. He cares about getting great service and doesn’t care that much where it comes from.

You Do You, I Do Me

I have found a lot of success in the local business niche. Plumbers, pest controllers, medical practices, construction companies, etc. That’s my happy place.

I have gotten into offering link-building as a one-off service, but so far it has been hard to obtain new clients that understand its importance and are willing to pay decent money for it. I of course know they’re out there, but it has been a challenge, to say the least.

Since I started offering link-building, I haven’t looked for or approached local businesses at all. I think this is also a big mistake. This is one of the only “edges” I currently have. I don’t have a lot of capital. I don’t have a decade of experience and connections. I don’t have a lot of web assets.

But I know my area.

And I know SEO.

So I’m going to try to find a good mix between the two.

The Plan (for now)

I’m going to continue promoting the link-building because it’s a narrow focus that can be systematized. It’s a service that is needed, and people will pay out the nose for it.

But starting today, I’m also going to leverage my locality to bring in business. It seems so simple to me right now.

The Challenge

Many of the local businesses that I’ve spoken to in the past are doing great work, but don’t value online marketing. Therefore, their budgets have been sub $500 level, which is a challenge in itself.

I don’t shy away from these types of budgets, but it’s hard to build up a business fast if you’re only growing in $300 increments.

The way that I’ve dealt with these type of clients is two-fold:

1- Have Them Pay for Consulting- in this arrangement, they’re getting some simple SEO each month that just takes a couple hours of your time, but they also get access to you through email for consulting any time they want. Obviously if they emailed you every day this would get cumbersome, but I’ve never had that happen.

The key here is expectations.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • A couple hours of Onsite Optimization
  • Social Bookmark Links
  • Monthly Stats Report
  • To-Do list that they can do on their own time, like citations

These don’t take long to do, but it helps their site marginally without any sort of guarantee involved.

2- Use it for Momentum, Referrals, and Link Opportunities- Again, the expectations are the most important thing here. If during your communications you can tell that their expectations are out of whack, you don’t have to take them on as a client.

You have to frame it something like this.

This is below my minimum budget each month, but I’d still like to help you out. The purpose of this will be to get your site some momentum so that when you have more budget you can see some great results.

No guarantees involved.

Once you get them as a client, you’ll be opened up to one more person that could potentially refer someone else to you. You should mention this to them as part of the conversation.

I’m sure your business loves referrals, it’s the same with me. If you know of someone that needs any online work done, send ’em over.

Not to mention, you can work out a deal where if you take them on, they’ll provide a link to your site somewhere.

With my business, I refuse to make less than $50 an hour for the work I do. Anything under that becomes a case of someone shopping for a bargain instead of a premium service, which is what I strive to provide.

So when someone pays $300 per month, the maximum hours I’ll put in during the month is 6. If they want more done, they can up their budget.

This is one way to prevent small clients from taking advantage of you.

An Idea

I came up with a pricing idea late last night that I think would work well for local businesses. The idea is that they only pay a portion of the price until they get on the first page for their keyword. Let me know your thoughts on this, it could be just another almost-asleep thought that doesn’t make much sense in practice.

I can see a couple issues with this as it puts too much focus on keywords and ranking while discounting important things like links, content, etc.

But here’s the kicker.

You set your minimum that you’re willing to make, and then add 1/3 on to it as a bonus for hitting the goal.

So let’s say you set your price at $750- that’s the minimum that you’re ok making per month from the client. So you add about 1/3 and it becomes your “regular price” = $1000

So here’s your pitch:

I understand that you want results, that’s what I’m here to give you. So you get a discount my services until I rank for the keyword. My normal price is $1000 per month, but I’ll only charge $750 per month and you only owe me the other $250 after you rank.

Sign them up for a year and get to work. You still make decent money, but now you have a $3000 bonus for ranking within the year. And unless it’s a crazy high competition keyword, you should be able to easily perform this.

What do you think?

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