We’ve been on autopilot at Outside Communications since going to ICAST in 2012. A few of us showed up and began creating videos and write-ups for top brands in fishing. Since then, we’ve had a steady stream of work and have been fortunate to work with some really cool companies.
When we started, our own website was an afterthought. We were buried with work. The phone was ringing constantly, and all we had time for was our customers. Their websites, their video projects, their SEO, their businesses. We were consumed with serving our customers. As a small business, all our resources were devoted to them.
I’ve always known that our website stunk, but our customers already knew us. I don’t think most of them thought anything about our less-than-stellar website. Our personal relationships with our customers carried us through. I believe the trust that bound us allowed Outside Communications to win business that we might now win when being lined up next to other agencies.
About a year and a half ago, I made a decision to start working for businesses other than those in the outdoor industry. We love the outdoors and still love working with fishing, hunting and marine businesses. We felt the work we did in the outdoor industry could transfer well to just about any vertical. Yes, we’d have some things to learn in some industries, but our processes and ability to be strategic and execute in the digital world could work for any business.
We began picking up new business in a variety of verticals. Some business is elsewhere in the country, some is located right here in the Lake Oswego/Portland area. In December 2016, we were given an opportunity to provide a proposal for building a new website. It was a B2B opportunity that looked like a lot of fun. The marketing director was a friend, and I was confident we could do a great job on the project. If things went well, we could potentially acquire digital marketing work on the project’s backside.
A day or two went by. Then, I heard the news that we didn’t get the project. I believe this was the first project in four years that we didn’t get. I asked for some feedback and, not expecting any, I was given a great gift. Below is the response.
Here’s what I sent to our exec team which we discussed and made decision on Friday to hire xxxxx. Our CEO xxxxx xxxxx, so I thought mentioning I knew you through church was good…it was. But ultimately he looked at your website and didn’t think your firm looked as strong as xxxxx (they’re a 50 person firm) and he/we like that they are a custom software company with a lot of IT expertise. I suggested that we might hire xxxxx to create the website and you/your firm for the SEO work. Might be a possibility down the road. From my POV, xxxxx was the most “buttoned up” – our call was just half hour; their pricing/proposal came the next day and was thorough and had upside for me/us keeping to scope. And I know the graphic designer there xxxxx who is excellent and easy to work with.
This email was the fuel that made our most recent website redesign happen. We didn’t lose this project because of any lack in capabilities. We lost it because of how we were perceived. And I certainly don’t blame them.
The last two and a half months that we’ve taken to completely rebuild our site (still had to have time for customers!) has given me plenty of time to reflect. I’m convinced this was not the only job we lost. I’m sure we’ve had plenty of potential customers who heard of our work, showed up to our site, and summarily dismissed us as an option.
Perception is a funny thing. It’s not always right, but it does influence our choices. First impressions in the digital world happen in seconds. Though people heard many good things about our company, our digital footprint didn’t back them up.
What marketing manager is going to stick their neck out for a web design, development and digital marketing company whose own website looks like junk? Every prospective customer goes through a decision-making process, and the visual appeal of a company or product is a significant consideration.
While we may not win every new client relationship going forward, our new website is certainly not going to cost us any business. You could say we now we practice what we preach.