I have been struggling to grow my business and am hoping to get some help from those who have been here.
I own a web design and digital marketing firm. We have been in business for about 10 years. I have been full time for just over 6. We have averaged 110k in sales (not including client ad dollars) for the last 6 years, 75% coming from one main client.
We only have 4 month-to-month clients and we pick up a few other projects (usually websites) each year. Two clients have been with us for over 6, one for 5, and one joined in 2018. We have picked up and lost a couple of ongoing clients along the way. The large client keeps getting us more work and we have a very good relationship with them, but I do fear our lack of diversity.
“We” is me - a 70% owner. An incredibly talented graphic designer/programmer who does client work and oversees a small group of contractors @ 20%. And a 10% owner who was intended to lead sales, but we lost to his day job where he is very happy. Because he was not able to hold up to his end of the agreement, his ownership will amiably return to me. The 20% owner prefers to commit fewer hours and is happy with the current arrangement. I take a salary; the 20% owner take a smaller salary and earns bonuses for work completed and the 10% owner was on commission only. Our contractors are of high quality and have given us flexibility with what we can take on. As of now, I am the only one attempting to grow the business.
I have tried to grow our sales with search advertising and social advertising, but I just don’t seem to be able to duplicate the success we have for our clients. I know this in part due to a limited budget, but we have run several campaigns and earned almost NO good leads.
I have also tried networking in a few different ways, but it too just does not really feel right for me. Clients and other people seem to like my passion for my product and have respect for my subject matter expertise, but I struggle getting them to the table - and to be honest, I’d rather not try. This might read like I have trouble with interpersonal relations, and that really is not the case but when it comes to chasing leads, I seem to be missing part of the formula. I could try and get better, but I really think my strengths are in the operational aspects of the business and sales to current clients - which currently account for 35% of sales, albeit to clients who are already happy with us.
Here is where I am at. While most of our contractors are people we have real-life relationships with, I have also had some good luck hiring contractors from the web and I am thinking of outsourcing some aspects of sales. I am thinking of buying a list, hiring an appointment setter/cold caller and it even crossed my mind to hire a closer that the appointment setter could hand them off to instead of me. I can afford to 20, and even up to 40% commission on the first sale to small business because our clients have a high potential lifetime value. We don’t have great cash flow, so it seems impossible to commit to hiring anyone besides contractors for a few hours a week + commission/appointment fees. We have the expertise and pipeline to serve larger clients but again, I don’t know how to get them to the table to prove it!
We have also looked at growing by using our skill set to launch another business and I have put a lot of time in this year working on the logistics of that. I am confident this model has promise, but I am 100% certain there is enough primary work in my own community to have all the growth I could ever need - but how do I get it!?
I am not too proud to admit all I have done up to this point is to replace a day job. How do I take this to the next level and turn it into a real business? Is it worth outsourcing sales? Should I offer sales a path to partnership?
We offer the following services and primarily get new clients via websites.
This is a throwaway account because my financials are mentioned.