Honest truth. I never wanted to start my own business. I didn’t want to have to work my day job and then come home at night at work some more. But all that changed when I met my husband. Together, our business development firm can do amazing things. We can do SEO, public relations, online marketing, website design, social media, IT, network management – basically you name it, and we can do it. If not, we’ll find someone who can.
Another truth. I’m not young anymore. There I said it. And one day, I will be forced to retire but I’m not ready. So owning our own business, WinnComm, will keep me thinking, producing, telling stories, long into my future.
I’ve read several articles and most say it take three years for a business to be successful. The first year you lose money. The second you break even and the third, there is profit. I would say that is the track we are on. And although my patience wears thin, this is not the hardest part of owning a business. The hardest part is managing client expectations.
When a client isn’t satisfied, it frustrates me. I even go as far as feeling as though I’ve failed, even though we’ve done everything we can to meet client’s expectations. I’m a perfectionist and I go beyond the scope of work WinnComm has been hired to do so yes, it hurts a little when a client isn’t satisfied. I try to not take it personal but this is my time, my effort, my brainstorming ideas all for the win and to make client successful! You can get a client in the top spot of two high ranking search engines, BING and Yahoo! but it’s not Google. We got them to page four within one month and it was climbing but they lost their patience. We told them upfront it would take time. It doesn’t happen overnight, especially with Google and especially since Google penalized them for doing blackhat tactics not long before they hired WinnComm. They needed to build credibility with Google, Our strategy was working but they lost their patience. We were disappointed that our client lost faith in the strategy. We had wins. We had Bing and Yahoo! Google was climbing. But it wasn’t the big player. They wanted out after only two months.
Another client. A start-up company tackling one of the hardest topics for businesses. Diversified team and how to make them successful. The firm hired WinnComm to get speaking opportunities. After researching local and national conferences, I’ve learned that most want speaking experience, video tapes of speaking gigs – none of which our client had. We felt we needed to step back some and try to establish reputation through media relations. I’ve spent countless
hours creating media lists, researching stories about diversity and discrimination, introducing the firm to local and national reporters. The firm had no news to share. No clients to use as an example for stories. No speaking engagements. But she had passion, 30 years of human resources experience and her own personal testimony. We’ve gotten her three interviews, one live spot on TV, another TV interview, and a blog interview. I’ve introduced her to over 125 reporters. We’re establishing credibility, building reputation. And yet, within 2.5 month, she gave notice – just as we were going to present her with the PR plan. There wasn’t even enough time to build, grow and get local speaking opportunities so that we could videotape her and submit her for larger opportunities. She was sure happy when we got her those interviews, but it didn’t lead to work, so she got deflated.
At this point, I’ve had it. I wanted to quit WinnComm. I take it too personal when I need to look at it as just business. I reached out to other PR professionals and they agree that managing clients’ expectations are the hardest thing to do. One firm puts a clause in her agreement that PR is never guaranteed. It you want 100 percent guarantees, do advertising. She set expectations right up front.
And it’s not all bad either! We help a local veterinary animal hospital with their storytelling, client relations and social media. They love us. We’ve grown their online reputation, increase their engagement, give one-on-one communication with their clients so they are learning why their clients come to them with their beloved pets. When we get emails of praise, we are happy! Plus, we get to play with cute puppies, kitties and guinea pigs.
We helped a non-profit organization that helps veterans get a radio interview, a TV story and a story on a Veteran’s blog with only two days notice about an event. It was just a one-time thing but they were happy with the results we got them in such a short amount of time. (We also almost had a second TV interview but were called away on their way to our story location. Bummed but used to it by now).
But like I said, I’m a perfectionist and I want to make all of our clients happy. What the saying, … you can’t please everyone? So here’s what we’ve learned over the past year and half of starting WInnComm about client expectations. (Now, my husband has had many businesses so maybe this is what I’ve learned).
Manage expectations upfront – your own as well as the clients.
Discuss with the client that there are no guarantees and that it takes time. Don’t just put it in their contract. Verbalize it
Small businesses with minimal funding have higher expectations. Realize this if you decide to hire them within their budget, which is typically way below your normal prices. Then communicate often, maybe even over communicate. Let them know you’re not sitting idle and you’re working hard on their behalf. It’s the truth.
Develop goals and strategies upfront before doing any work. Create KPI and a timeline. This is will help manage expectations and they can decide upfront if they want to proceed with the contract.
Don’t take it personal. If you know you’ve done everything you can, even beyond what the agreement called for, then know you’ve done your best. Maybe sit down with the client, let them know the scope of work you’ve completed and if they still want to give their 30-day notice, then it’s just business. (I keep telling myself this over and over… I hope it works one day but I’m new to this. I haven’t been able to sleep and it’s stressing me out big time. It’s just business. It’s just business).