If only we could see into the future. It would make life easier wouldn’t it? I’d know that eating those ultra-hot buffalo wings would be a bad idea the night before I ran a marathon. I’d know that 1100 volts doesn’t feel great and not touch that electric fence to see if it worked. That’s not the way life works, though. Is it?
2016 was a good year for my little agency and myself. I took a look at my P&L reports for 2016 and 2015. While overall revenue was marginally better in 2016 (4.6%) than the year previous, I was floored when I saw the net income totals for each year. In 2016 my net income was roughly 3400% higher. I re-checked the math on that and did yet another double take. Insane.
What did I do that created such a massive change?
More monthly and annual billings
Well, for starters, we began taking on more and more maintenance retainer work. I’ve had more clients pay for monthly and annual maintenance agreements, and that’s been a huge difference.
Doing a better job of scoping projects
Next, I feel like I’m scoping out my projects better and that has come with time. I’m asking for more and not backing down on my prices. I’m also adding a lot more value to each project, too. These aren’t just website builds, but they are solution building projects based on facts, raw numbers, and best practices; and all of that is married to end-goal. I think being able to tie these together with the price I charge helps to better justify my price point.
Though, I have done better with scoping projects; there are still a few projects from this past year I knew better and scoped a project that took much longer than anticipated. Live and learn. Right?
Doing a better job of qualifying leads
Qualifying prospects can be a challenge, especially if you’re like me and you just want to help the sh** out of everyone. Not everyone can afford you, and that’s okay. Not everyone knows the value of the services I provide; that’s not my problem. I can only tell them why it’s value; it’s up to them to decide for themselves.
I used to fall victim to being a crowd-pleaser. I would often think Oh, well, maybe if I do this for cheaper they’ll like the work and pay for more later. Wrong. That’s never, ever, happened. I’ve stuck to my guns.
Automating the sales funnel and lead management
This is probably my MVP right here. Early last year I resolved to choose a CRM for myself so that I could keep track of leads and conversations. And I tried A LOT of them. AgileCRM, Pipe Drive, Streak, Cloze… None of them were solutions I liked. AgileCRM was close. It was between AgileCRM and ActiveCampaign. AC came very highly recommended from colleagues who sell digital goods online. So I tried ActiveCampaign and never looked back. It has email marketing, a light CRM, which I love, and the master stroke is their Automation system. Oh, my goodness is that thing the sweetest. I LOVE it.
Using automation, in fact, is what has helped me increase my monthly maintenance billings. I notify my leads of various tips, updates, and more and I typically get one signup or so per month. I’ll take it since I got zero before.
Holding things closer
DigiSavvy was a two-man shop when it started back in 2010. This past year I decided to do things on my own and shift DigiSavvy’s focus onto the things that I know I do well: Custom WordPress Development, Content and Digital Strategy, and now Marketing Automation (We’re a certified ActiveCampaign Consultant).
Doing so has let me focus more time on the things I know I like to do while shedding the things that were not bringing any new business.
Finding the right partners
Finding like-minded folk to work with is tough. But in 2016, I’ve been able to add design and development resources that have helped me do more, and it’s made a huge difference.
I love SaaS and pay for a lot of things, but there were certain functions I wanted to bring internally. For one, I wanted to bring in Invoicing and Project Management. I chose Sprout Invoices Pro and ActiveCollab respectively, and I haven’t looked back. Each solution is robust and straightforward to use and over the long run each saves me money.
What about the future?
Well, how about it? My company looks different now than when I first started, and that’s a good thing. Change or die. But for the coming year I want to add additional revenue streams and I’m determined to get a pair of products out into the wild. I’m working with two of them now. One is an add-on for a popular WordPress forms platform and the other is a theme for non-profits and political campaigns. So we’ll see how these go.
More than anything, I just want to keep hustling and surprising myself.
A bit o thanks
I’d like to thank so many people who continue to help me and have had an impact on my growth in the past year. Natalie Maclees, Nathan Tyler, Greg Douglas, Wes Chyrchel, Noel Saw, Steve Zehngut, Dan Jameison and so many more. Thank you, kind folks.
Here’s to keeping it growing.