And how they can fix it
In my work at uGurus helping web professionals build wildly successful businesses, I talk to a lot of WP fanatics. My career in web started in 1999 which means I have weathered the storm of many, many platforms.
While I know WordPress is by far the most wide reaching and used platform on the web, for some reason those that build on it never fail to astound me when it comes to their own business.
Here are the top things that I know are crippling many WordPress professionals...
1. They think their business is about WordPress
It’s not. Your clients don’t care about how free it is, how widely it’s used, or how cool that new framework or plugin is that you’ve been drooling over. Rare is the client that would wake up in the middle of the night thinking to themselves: “I need WordPress and I need it now!”
No my friend, they are thinking about their bottom line. They are wondering where they are going to get their next customer. Curious as to how they can defeat that cash flow beast to make payroll to fight another day.
If you follow any of my advice, follow this: position your business around what your customer’s #1 problem is and if you are able to solve that, I promise that you won’t hear “we just don’t have any budget for our website” ever again.
2. They lead with the technology
Just like I mention that your business isn’t about WordPress, it’s also not about the technology. I made a strong case for this in an article I wrote a ways back that garnered quite a reaction from the community.
The fact that WordPress is a piece of FREE software immediately devalues the work you do when you present this upfront.
If you lead with the technology, spending your initial customer interactions gobbling over a demo or how WordPress is going to solve all of their web problems, you are losing valuable time to build value for you and your business that will be hard to win back.
Do yourself a favor and don’t mention WordPress for the first four to five client interactions.
3. They don’t value content
Everything is about design and development, yet the #1 project complaint I hear from WordPress professionals stems around getting content from their clients.
Let me bring you in on a dirty little secret:
“Your clients have no idea how to create their own content.”
Not only are your clients completely devoid of design or development skills, but they also lack the prowess to effectively write web content. However, I bet you’ve asked them to provide all of their content.
And I bet you will be sitting there on launch day with an empty website that can’t go live and you can’t get paid because of it.
And the second dirty little secret:
“Content is more important than your design, code, and the grandeur of WordPress 4.0.”
Stop asking your clients to provide the content. Create the content with them and they will love you forever.
4. They don’t know how to sell
I get told all the time, “I don’t like selling - I’m not interested in learning how, I prefer to just build sites.” Ok, then keep building sites for bottom dollar. Be ok with not making enough money to pay your bills or live the life that you want.
Sales isn’t about selling. It’s about finding the right customer and getting paid what you’re worth for the work you do. The more you hate sales, the more you should spend time learning the practice.
Think about it this way:
“The better you are at sales, the less you have to do it.”
If instead of $1,500 for your last project you could have gotten $4,500, then you could have gotten 3 times farther without needing to sell your next project. You’ll need less customers, fewer projects as you charge more.
5. They have no idea who their customer is
Many WP pros confide in me that they don’t have enough clients. They struggle to get work in the door and this leads to all sorts of problems (sometimes the biggest problem which is going out of business). But, when I ask them who their customer is, about 90% of the time I get this as the response:
And herein lies the problem. No, everyone is not your customer. I promise you that you’ve already chosen at least some type of smaller, more focused customer segment. You just don’t think of it like that.
Perhaps you can only realistically get clients in a certain geographic region. Or maybe you are only equipped to handle businesses of a certain size. Think about this long and hard, because the only way to get more customers is to know who your target is. Not knowing who your customer is is like playing darts without a dart board. Football without a field. Basketball without a court. Sure you can throw darts around the room and stick them into the wall here and there, but there is no game. There is no way to focus your energy, let alone score a goal.
6. They don’t make support a part of their business model
At the peak of my web agency, about 20% of our regular revenue came from ongoing client support. Many WP professionals I speak with don’t even charge their clients for ongoing support. They’re like, “it’s just like five minutes here and five there, I can’t bill for that.”
If you don’t bill for that, eventually you’ll have enough clients that those five minutes here and there will be taking up the majority of your week. For years I didn’t charge for ongoing support. At the bottom of my business’s trajectory in 2007 (when we almost closed our doors), I finally decided to track my time.
I found out that I spent 50% of my week dealing with customers who were 60 days past the launch of their website. They were asking for small tweaks, content updates, and basic platform training. How on earth could I ever try to build a profitable business if 50% of my time was going out the window for zero revenue?
Not only that, but the longer I spent doing unbilled support for those clients, the less profit I was actually making on the projects I had billed for long ago. Once we started billing for support, we started caring about it. It was a profitable part of our business model, not a nagging annoyance from clients long past.
7. They have no strategy for their business
If your strategy for growing your business is “referrals” I wish you the best of luck. While much of my business comes from word of mouth, I don’t rely on this as my core business strategy.
You can’t control word of mouth. It is based on a foundation of hope. I sure do hope my clients refer me. I hope my phone rings this week. I keep rubbing it like a genie’s lamp...I know it will start ringing it any minute now!
But developing a strategy for your business takes choices. You have to choose who your customer is. Choose what problem you want to solve for them, what solution is best for that problem, what your value proposition is, and how you plan to reach those customers. You have to think about your revenue model beyond a basic target hourly wage.
It appears that it is easier to just not make these choices. There is fear that if I choose X, then I leave Y on the table. Most would rather keep both X and Y as options. But alas, by wanting both, you get neither.
Thinking strategically keeps me up at night. There isn’t an evening that goes by that I don’t think:
“Am I in the right market, am I solving the right problems, is my business model profitable.”
But when I choose my strategy, I stick to it. I work hard to test the model and I choose to come up for air to rethink it only four times a year during my quarterly all day offsites. In between those sessions I am gunfire focused on the strategic direction I’ve chosen.
So there you have it, if you are a WordPress professional and any of the above resonates with you good or bad, hit me up on Twitter (@brentweaver) and lets discuss!