How to generate the data needed for a cohort chart- cohort analysis Part 3
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 1:15:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Sean Ronan pointed out on twitter that "what" the columns on www.quickcohort.com are which is a good point so I thought I would fill in the gaps a little. The data for a cohort is fairly simple and can be as granular as you decide but the columns needed are:
- First Action Date/Time
- Most Recent Action Date/Time
- Count of customers which have this First/Most Recent Action Date/Times
Most of the time you can strip the time part from the date/time (especially if you're looking at the data on a month basis) but the tricky part is getting the count of users within each date grouping. You can't just select min/max dates as you need the data grouped by your unique customer identifier. If you're running SQL Server 2005+ then you've got the benefit of Common Table Expressions.
For this example, I've assumed a simple order table structure which contains a Customer Reference (CustomerId) and an Order Date (OrderDate). You could however use any date and identifier which groups actions together e.g. ProfileId and LastLoginDate.
SQL 2005 or later
WITH Actions (FirstAction, LastAction, UniqueId)
SELECT min(dateadd(dd, datediff(dd, 0, o.[OrderDate]), 0))
, max(dateadd(dd, datediff(dd, 0, o.[OrderDate]), 0))
FROM Orders o
GROUP BY CustomerId
, count(a.[UniqueId]) AS [CountOfCustomers]
GROUP BY a.[FirstAction]
ORDER BY a.[FirstAction]
Otherwise, I think you'll need to write something using temporary tables e.g.:
Pre SQL 2005
CREATE TABLE #Actions(
INSERT INTO #Actions
SELECT min(dateadd(dd, datediff(dd, 0, o.[OrderDate]), 0))
, max(dateadd(dd, datediff(dd, 0, o.[OrderDate]), 0))
FROM #Orders o
GROUP BY CustomerId
, count(a.[UniqueId]) AS [CountOfCustomers]
GROUP BY a.[FirstAction]
ORDER BY a.[FirstAction]
DROP TABLE #Actions
This should then generate some data that looks like this:
Which you should just be able to drop into www.quickcohort.com. I've not written a version for MySQL as I suspect someone far better at MySQL will be able to pop something together but the pre SQL 2005 script should work.
Estimating the real value of source code
Thursday, October 13, 2011 12:16:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
If you run a software development company of virtually any size, you've no doubt been asked/bullied at some point for the source code; sometimes it's even stipulated as a requirement of the contract.
At The Site Doctor we don't tend to quibble over the source code (especially not for standard websites at least) and that's mainly because we know that the value of what we do isn't in the files of code themselves; instead the value is in our knowledge of you, your product, your requirements and our past experiences in our respective areas of expertise.
Putting to one side for a moment the knowledge gap (this can be filled over time/with enough resources), depending on your future plans, getting access to the source may not be the holy grail you think it is. If you are actively developing your project on an on-going basis (you should be), consideration will need to be given to how you ensure your copy is up to date. We have systems to handle this (called source control) but you have to question whether the additional time required to learn and manage the various processes are of real benefit to you.
There are a few instances however where having access to the source code is definitely worth it. Have you for example got a contingency plan in place for if your supplier was to no longer exist? What would you do and how would you cope if the development company was no longer around? In these instances, having a copy of the source -or more importantly knowing how you can get access to the up-to-date copy is very important.
How can I quantify the worth of the source code to me?
As with many scenarios like this, there's not really a "one solution fits all" answer however after a little internal discussion we came up with the following:
|Value of Source ||Considerations |
|High || |
- Was the system completely bespoke?
- Is it integral to your day-to-day operation?
- Is it your only source of income?
|Medium || |
- Although integral to your business, you have a copy of the software in a usable form and it doesn't change regularly.
- The system offers "standard" functionality which can be replicated with relative ease should it be required e.g. e-commerce functionality.
|Low || |
- The system is something generic, does not need to be changed
- You have control over the aspects that you need e.g. it's a website with a content management system
Is it worth getting the source code as a client?
Yes; but I would consider the message it's giving to your developers. If you ask for it at the beginning of the contract then there shouldn't be a problem but bringing it up after delivery might leave the developers wondering what your motive is (even if it is totally innocent).
Should I give the source code to my client?
Yes; unless you've clearly stipulated otherwise to the client from the start for some reason e.g. to reduce project costs. You should always write your code in a way that is readable to others anyway and knowing that you might at anytime be offering up the source code will encourage you to keep it that little bit leaner.
How do you handle source code with your clients?
To handle a scenario in which The Site Doctor no longer exists (whether it's because we've gone into administration or we're all hit by a meteor), we use Crisis Cover; an online information storage system that securely stores all the information our clients would need if we were no longer around. Crisis Cover then checks that we're still around and if not, distributes the information to the designated contacts.
If you've not already got some form of contingency plan in place I urge you to set something up now whether it's a service like Crisis Cover, Excel or paper!
In closing I would definitely promote the attitude we have at The Site Doctor in that it's better to build long-term partnerships but you should still have some disaster contingency plan in place.
Treat all prospects with respect and courtesy
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:06:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Don't judge a book by it's cover -we've all heard that 101 times before but I can't stress how important this mantra is in business.
As I suspect you do, before we meet with a new client/prospect, we perform a little due diligence on them to build a picture of them, the business and their core values. This then prepares us for the meeting and allows us to show interest/knowledge in who they are and what they do.
If you don't do this already, it is important to do as it means you're not completely blind before meeting with the client. If nothing else, it allows you to tailor your offerings for them. At a minimum, for us this usually includes:
- Checking their website (if they have one)
- Searching on the company name
- If we have the registered name, search companies house
- If we know other companies or friends in the same sector, ask them if they know of or have heard of the company
- If you know any of the names of the people, a quick search on those too
- Have a quick search for any potential competitors
Although it might appear a little creepy, if the prospect contacted you then they've no doubt done the same to you and your company before contacting you.
Despite doing these checks however you can still misunderstand who the client is, what they do and what they're about or who they deal with. This might not be your fault, it might just be that they've not updated their details for a while (like us, our website mentions very few of our existing client base -all of who we're very proud of).
I doubt you'll manage to get it right every time, I can think of three separate occasions in the past few years -one of them very recently, where; despite our research, we had built the wrong perception of the company before meeting with them. However, by being interested, courteous and respectful at all times we didn't jeopardise our potential working partnership and have since worked on some fantastic and interesting projects.
Although you both might think you know each other, give them a chance to introduce themselves (keeping an open mind while they're doing so) and also take time to introduce your company. Even if you think you know the answer, ask them what they're about so you can verify the information you've found. Most importantly be interested in them, they've taken the time to meet with you -which you should be grateful of. It's all too tempting to think that it's you that doing them the favour -it's not (or at least not until you deliver them your beautiful brilliant solution).
Only once you've met with them and allowed them to introduce themselves to you will you be in a position to start deciding whether they're a client you'd like to work with.
So before you form your opinions on future prospects, show them the same interest, courtesy and respect that you would receive and get to know them. You never know where it might lead!
New Twitter SEO spam scam -protect your twitter name even if you don’t want to use it
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 8:43:54 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I came across a really interesting method of spamming Twitter on Friday, presumably for SEO benefits but it was intriguing so I thought I'd share. I came across it on a Twitter account that was setup under one of our client's name: @RomanOriginals.
We're currently in the process of claiming it from the spammer so here's a screenshot of how it looked when we found it:
So what's the scam and why's it interesting?
From what we can see, winslim.com has signed up to one of our client's regular email shots and is harvesting links from it. When an email goes out, they then tweet the subject line (this is usually less than 140 chars), "shorten" your url and throw it onto a twitter stream registered under the company's feed.
Although it appears to be a standard URL shortening service, if you look at the request/responses using Fiddler you will see that each one of the winslim.com links e.g. www .winslim.com/3CShT4H (I've popped a space in there to stop it linking to them) kicks the user over to a winslim.com product promotion page (winslim.com/winslim/SweetDeals/SweetDeals.jsp?d=d) which then redirects the user to the original url!
Although unscrupelous, I still think this is a very clever method and suspect we'll see more spammers doing it shortly so if you've not already registered your company's official Twitter username, it's worth doing it now!
CodeGarden 09 Open Space Minutes - Space 1: How to sell Umbraco
Monday, July 27, 2009 10:53:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It's taken some time to get here and there's still more to add as I think this is a pretty big topic but I thought I'd get started. I wanted to keep the session more focused on the selling points of Umbraco and how people pitch Umbraco to the clients than selling techniques which on the whole we managed to do.
The first thing I stressed was that I wasn't going to teach you how to sell or selling techniques as I've never found that hard selling works -though I'm not saying it doesn't, I just prefer to educate the client into the most suitable solution (even if that isn't us).
There were a number of questions that were raised and I'll answer what I can here, if you were at the session and I've missed something, please let me know and I'll get it added:
- What are the key selling points of Umbraco
- How do you pitch Umbraco
- Do you tell clients it's open source (or use that as a sales point)?
- How do you price Umbraco
- Once you've won, what do you ask your client
- How do you support Umbraco
- How do you get around the question of "What happens if you get hit by a bus?"
What are the key selling points of Umbraco
A couple of the attendees came up with better 30second sales pitches so I'm sure they'll post those up shortly but here's a few I remember:
- It's easy to use -you don't need any previous computer experience
- You can edit any page's content yourself at any time
- It's highly flexible and lightweight
- It's search engine friendly
- It's open source (this really can be a selling point at the right time)
Do you tell clients it's open source (or use that as a sales point)?
We do and we don't. Again it really comes down to who you're pitching Umbraco to. Where the client has had issues with developers not releasing source etc then it's clearly a selling point.
Generally we do tend to explain to clients that we will base their website on an open source project that we then build on and customise further to suit their needs and that by using best practice methodologies, any developer can in theory pick up the system and continue to develop it (even if they have no experience of Umbraco).
How do you price Umbraco
This question was asked in a couple of different ways throughout the session and it's a topic in itself (see the article I wrote a while ago about pricing your work).
If you look at Umbraco in the right way you'll see that it's actually rather easy to price as there are a few components that you can sell either individually or together:
- Installation and configuration
All you need to do is work out a minimum cost for each component and then that will give you a core system cost.
Once you have your core Umbraco costs (don't forget to factor in your license costs) you can then alter the costs accordingly for your client -and this has to be on a case-by-case basis.
How do you pitch Umbraco
This is easy, there are so many selling points to Umbraco that regardless of what the client is looking for, as long as it's CMS based, Umbraco will have some benefit you can overview to the client.
When pitching Umbraco, we have found educating the user as to the benefits and what the client should be looking for in other systems. If you do this, then the majority of the time, the rest of the competition falls by the wayside.
If the client is a large corporate it's always worth mentioning that it offers much of the functionality that SharePoint does but with little of the cost (or setup pain!).
Once you've won the contract, what do you ask your client
The first thing to do is to get all the information you need to complete your contract (or at least tell your client what you'll need and when). You should know what you'll need already but we tend to ask for:
- Design inspiration (websites the client does and doesn't like -and why)
- Logos and other source imagery
- Text for the website (you'd be best to load the initial content during training but get the client to think about it while you're developing or you'll never get there!)
Next, you'll need to make sure your paperwork is in order. Once you have agreed the general premise of your contract, it's important that you confirm all deliverables (what you'll be doing for the client) in a work order with the client. This avoids an ambiguity on what you'll be delivering and when. This doesn't need to be pages of text (though sometimes it needs to be) but avoids disagreements later.
You should always request signed work order and deposit (we request a minimum of 20% regardless of project spend) at a minimum before starting any work.
Once you have the signed work order (you sign one for the client to keep and keep one yourself), you can start thinking about the project. If it'll take longer than a week to deliver, I recommend you provide the client with rough timescales, this will have the added benefit of helping you focus your mind.
How do you support Umbraco
This is something that Paul Sterling addressed through another session and if he doesn't write up his notes I'll make a few notes in another post.
How do you get around the question of "What happens if you get hit by a bus?"
Although this was asked a couple of times throughout the session, I avoided answering it a little due to a conflict of interest. For the past few months we've been working hard on a new system called Crisis Cover which has been designed to help you with this exact question.
Crisis Cover monitors you to ensure that you're still around and if you don't respond to a number of alerts, it will contact your clients informing there's something wrong.
I'll post more information about Crisis Cover, but if you're interested in getting involved with the beta, leave me your email and I'll get one sent out.
There is a lot of information about selling and business in general in my previous post "Business start-up advice" which if you're starting out, I really recommend you reading as it should give you a really good start (and includes example Service Level Agreements, Contracts and other useful documents).
Settling with “It’ll do”
Friday, December 12, 2008 11:55:48 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Do you really want what you do to be classed as "it'll do"? At the moment it would appear that a lot of businesses are happy to say "It'll do" rather than put that extra mile to "It's excellent".
We've been avoiding "it'll do" like the plague for over a year now and although it's not always easy is so much more rewarding and produces a much better end product. I don't think this applies just to work you produce, what about a job advert or your working environment?
We've just started looking for new offices and staff, in both cases and we wanted more than "just another job" or "it's just another office", I want people to love working with and at The Site Doctor so we've been working hard to make it a reality. Finding THE office in THE location doesn't cost that much more (perhaps another month looking and a few extra quid) and making our positions that little bit more enjoyable won't really cost a lot more but will make our employees enjoy working with us and ultimately more loyal.
Does it really cost you more? I don't think so no. Getting a really special office will make you feel happier at work, feeling happier at works means you're more creative, being more creative generally results in being more productive. Feeling appreciated and enjoying your role will also increase the likelihood you'll want to rock up at work each day and do more while you're there so in both cases, going the extra mile will pay off.
What about marketing campaigns? Well it's the same thing, who talks about an "OK" viral advert? What buzz surrounds something "that'll do" in contrast to one that really goes the extra mile like the advert from Nike a while ago? I wonder how much more it cost to produce that against how much it cost to produce one of the awful run-of-the-mill TV adverts that are around at the moment?
Ask yourself, do you really want to settle with "it'll do"?
What’s Google missing this time?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008 2:22:34 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I guess it's something to do with fair competition etc but I found this rather interesting when adding a client to Google's Business Listing the other day.
Can anyone else spot a missing payment option?
How about "Google Checkout"?
A new email domain scam to watch out for
Friday, November 07, 2008 1:48:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This came through to one of our clients today, I thought I'd share it as I've not seen it before and it made me chuckle. Note the placeholder: <Online since>
Thought you might like to share it with your clients :)
Knowing what to say in meetings -Part 1
Thursday, September 25, 2008 9:34:48 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It's important when going into any meeting with a client that you prepare (everyone know's the old motto "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail") but how can you do that? First of all, consider what sort of meeting it is, find out who's going to the meeting and why they're there. Once you have this information you're good to go.
The first client meeting
Although you may be a little nervous at the first couple of meetings, this is perfectly normal, just remember that they've asked you there so they're interested in what you have to say -after all, you're the expert!
It's very likely that they client will want to know more information about your company (not you!) so having a short synopsis of your company that can act as a base is very important. For instance, The Site Doctor has something along the lines of:
The Site Doctor specialises in creating bespoke web based applications centred on your business requirements. We work with some of the world's largest and most successful organisations in both the public and private sectors as well as a wide selection of SME's.
By combining specialist technology skills, with excellence in design, usability, accessibility and a unique business management process, we are able to deliver results-driven solutions including websites, intranets, Content Management Systems, enterprise portals, business applications and extranets.
As well as developing major applications, our skills in marketing and communications ensures that we deliver a consistent message across a number of interactive communication channels and also integrate your objectives within an off-line environment.
Since establishing The Site Doctor, we have encouraged all those involved to participate in the relevant online communities to not only improve their own knowledge and expertise but also give something back and help further other's careers.
To be fair, this monolog changes depending on who we're meeting and the general feeling of the meeting, for instance if you're addressing a panel then we might leave off the SME part and replace it with a list of your clients as they're more likely to be interested in your larger work.
Whatever your monolog is, it should be short and concise (I can digress somewhat sometimes when introducing The Site Doctor), make sure it's no longer than 2 minutes as if they want to know more, they'll ask.
Make sure you've prepared a short list of questions for the client either about themselves or the project they have in mind, some of these you might already have answers to so prepare questions on the responses. Here are a couple of standard ones:
- What are you looking to achieve with this project -do you have any goals/objectives already defined such as number of visitors, % increase in sales etc?
- Similar to above, a good question is "What would make you consider this project a success?" -then link it to their targets above
- Do you have any literature, designs or mood boards that would help with this project already prepared?
- What are your timescale's for this project?
- Are there any events or meetings that you would like to have this project completed in time for (99/100 there's a trade show coming up that they forgot to tell you about without being prompted
- Have you thought about a budget for this work? (They'll most likely say no, you tell us what it'll cost and we'll decide -there's a way around that which I'll blog about later)
If you manage to get this information (and any other relevant information) you're off to a good start with your project! Don't fret too much though if you can't get all the information or you don't manage to get the budget from the client the first time around, there are ways around it.
The most important thing about the first client meeting is that both parties feel at ease with one and other as this will form a good base to build the project on. If you're liked by the client they're more likely to do business with you -especially if they have to pitch you to their superiors.
My next post will blog about the project meetings and client feedback/sign-off meetings. At some point I'll blog about my successful networking tips and how to get a budget out of a client but that's enough for today!
What do you say when in your first meeting? Do you have any tips for what to say in meetings? Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Do you yell dot com?
Thursday, August 28, 2008 7:53:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
We've recently (and somewhat oddly) had a lot of dealings with Yellow Pages. In the past when asked, I've suggested people shouldn't bother with paying to be listed within the Yellow Pages -especially if you're an IT related company. This was purely based on my experience of stupid numbers of callers wanting an e-commerce site for £50 and the fact that I've believed for a long time that it's quickly losing any useful market share thanks to the likes of Google, Yahoo! and MSN. Now however I've got several reasons not to.
A little history/background for those of you who aren't aware who, or what Yellow Pages is
Yellow Pages has for a long time been the place to find the telephone number of a local company. It neatly organises everything from your local kebab shop to your nearest funeral parlor (not saying the two are linked!).
Yellow Pages ran into a problem a few years ago that I don't think they ever really realised/addressed -this little thing that wouldn't catch on called the Internet. Although they launched a website somewhere around 2001 they were (IIRC) more interested in competing for the 118* directory service (btw how many variations are there? 35ish? -How many do you remember!). Then, by the time they started to realise the potential of the web over the premium rate call lines, they pricked their ears up.
But instead of following suit on the web by opening their service up as widely as possible, they decided to dig their head into the sand and take the same course of action many large corporate do of "We're so big, we don't need you piddly client, you need us", and this leads me to believe Yellow Pages (and to a large extent) yell.com will soon be a thing of the past (thankfully some might say).
So what's my gripe? What've they done to me?
Nothing is the simplest response but that's also what they've done trying to satisfy a couple of our clients. I'll refer to two of these to argue my point, both SMEs, for arguments sake we'll call them Company A and Company B.
Company A spends approximately £5,000 advertising in Yellow Pages each year. This equates to about 20% of their turnover (a fair chunk of it!). Company A has also had a website for the past few years. Originally developed by Yellow Pages, but updated by us in 2003.
Ever since the website was created, Company A claimed that the majority (est. 80%+) of their custom came from Yellow Pages so each year, when the Yellow Pages rep gave them a call happily invested yet more money.
Recently though, Company A decided to redesign their website as their old one wasn't snazzy enough anymore. Despite fairly heavy traffic and our objections, the decision was made to turn off the existing website (rather than replacing it a temporary holding page) while the new site was being designed and developed. This was only going to take a month (it took a little less than this). But in this time, Company A found that his bookings for the next month or so were massively down on the same period last year. As soon as this was realised, a holding page was put online with a telephone number but it served to prove a point -Yellow Pages' share of the "record search" industry is depleting.
I realise that it's not always as cut-and-dry as I've made it out to be here (mainly for simplicities sake) but the most of the traffic to the site originates from keyword searches on the service rather than the company name or direct traffic (suggesting that they're not looking at Yellow Pages and then coming to the site).
Further to this shock, Yellow Pages originally registered the domain name for this client but despite having fully paid all his accounts, Yellow Pages are yet to release the domain name into our control (we've been chasing them since 2003). This is despite several promises (both verbally and written) that they would release the domain. Needless to say this was unnecessary aggravation over something quite minor.
Thanks to the trouble caused over the domain (and apparent lack of interest from Yellow Pages -despite a huge spend) Company A is now looking at completely stopping their advertising with Yellow Pages.
Unlike Company A, Company B has historically had a much smaller spend. Usually opting for the smallest advert in a single directory because very little business has come from previous adverts. Company B is in a fairly competitive industry but features prominently.
This year when the Yellow Pages sales rep came calling, they explained to Company B the reason they'd only seen a very small return on their investment was because they were advertising in very few of the Yellow Pages directories. To get more sales Company B should advertise in two other directories and pay for a premium listing which would ensure his company was always on the first page within his area. This sounded reasonable -and logical (advertise in more places, get more enquiries) and as Company B had had a few good months trading decided it was a good investment.
For the first month or so Company B checked on their yell.com listing every few days, sure enough there they were on the first page. A couple of months on and several hundred pounds later however, something wasn't right. Where Company B had previously had 2-3 enquiries in the same period this year they'd had none. Company B asked us to look into their online position as far as Yellow Pages' yell.com was concerned and despite being promised a first page position on certain areas/phrases, they were rarely appearing inside the top 40 enhanced listings (there are currently 47 listings).
Somewhat concerned Company B decided to monitor the situation and started to monitor their position regularly (and we did too). Between all the visits, they were lucky if their result showed up in the results for the areas they serviced -let alone the one they were based in! Having spent over 3 times what they did the previous year, Company B felt somewhat cheated by the sales person so decided to complain.
The customer services rep was somewhat dismissive of Company B's claims and told him that he was appearing in the searches but despite this, they would have their sales team look into what he felt he was sold. The sales team phoned back and informed Company B that they'd only paid for an enhanced listing -which meant the advert wouldn't always be on the first page and there was no way the salesman would have said this as this would cost several thousand pounds. Company B however remembers the salesman stating this so asks us to talk to them about not appearing in the results as when asked, the rep started "talking technical".
When I called to discuss the account I was meet with a very pleasant lady "Sarah" who was the technical sales person who after spouting a little crap about web metrics explained the situation:
After this she hung up (I kid you not). Ok the easiest way out of the conversation by Company B hit the roof when they heard.
We're still awaiting an explanation but have mysteriously started to appear on the first page more often-than-not. Clearly they have some weighting system at play...
So what's my point?
I don't think I really have a point, I just felt like a rant but here are a couple of other reasons why I think Yellow Pages sucks and won't be around for much longer:
Enquiry rates down
I heard another advisor talking about some analysis he had been involved in with a local company. For the past few years they had been recording every enquiry to their firm and aggregating the statistics for comparison at the end of the financial year to decide on whether to advertise next year.
These are the approximate number of enquiries per month:
· 04/05: 110
· 05/06: 80
· 06/07: 40
· 07/08: 32
Their service is not seasonal and the competition has not changed dramatically over the years (certainly not enough to warrant the change seen here). Furthermore their turnover had been increasing. Oh, and the advert for comparisons sake was always the same.
I'd love to get hold of some statistics on Yell.com and Yellow Pages enquiries in general to see if this matches the general trend. Google Trends suggests it's started to drop a little.
Prices staying the same
Despite massive competition online, Yellow Pages are still charging a fair whack for their service and have no intention of changing this. I think as soon as the smaller advertiser cottons on to the fact that they can run a pretty intense pay-per-click campaign for the same amount of cash and reach a larger audience Yellow Pages will be in some serious trouble.
Would you believe it? In this day and age, for some reason our recycling people won't take away your Yellow Pages? I tried putting it out a few times but each time they lifted it out and put it back in the box for me.
I expect there's some logical reason for it but I know very few households now that keep the heavy directory so where do they all go? The tips? Disgraceful!
That said, I think I do have a point. I think Yellow Pages is a very good example of a company that has disgraceful customer service. Taking the two (I have more) examples mentioned here I think the issues could have easily been rectified:
Company A: Transfer the domain into the control of the client.
Company B: Simply apologise for the misunderstanding (no-one said they were sorry for the misunderstanding, instead they just made out that Company B was stupid) and if needs be, offer some form of discounted service next year.
I can only hope that Yellow Pages reads this and realises they're going to seriously P off their loyal customers in time to save themselves, but I don't think my blog is important enough for that to happen yet, sadly.
If you're asking me in the future. Steer clear of Yellow Pages and talk to us about some Google AdWords advertising.
Market rates –can I have the same hourly rate for all clients?
Thursday, July 03, 2008 8:36:01 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This started out as a response to a comment and then I thought it might be better as a post in it's own right.
In his comment David Conlisk said:
First off Tim very well done on providing some excellent information on the site. I've just spent my first afternoon as my own boss reading your business start-up advice and it's been excellent (it's called research, not slacking off!)
One question I would ask you about this post is what about market rates? I am going from being a contractor on an hourly rate to being a limited company. I never considered working out a base rate like you've done, instead I spoke to as many people as possible in the marketplace to gauge what the rates are and I price accordingly. Of course this works fine for more corporate clients, but I doubt I could charge smaller companies similar rates. Let's hope I can make a good enough impression on my corporate clients to keep that kind of work coming in!
Keep up the good work,
Thanks for your kind words, I'm glad to hear you found it of use.
In regards market rates, it's one of the oldest debates in the book AFAIK and has a rather unhelpful answer of "You should charge what you feel comfortable charging". I'll try to improve on that a little as it's always hard but in essence it's true. Basically from experience I would keep it as simple as possible, have as few rates as possible for all clients, just make sure you feel you're worth the rate in your own mind.
Although you need to keep an eye on the "market rates", you'll find your rate will determine the type of client you work with. Being the cheapest on the market is not necessarily a good thing. One advantage of offering a freelance service to other development companies is that we get to see what happens when your prices are rock bottom -take it from me, more often than not, it's more hassle than it's worth. When you have someone going el-cheapo all the way you often find they're overly picky about every aspect and require a lot more management time (that's not to say those paying higher rates aren't, I guess you just notice it more).
As long as you're reasonable with your rates, clients who are willing to pay your rates, will use you (they may complain a little but it's unlikely) but at the end you'll both be happy with the work produced. As long as you believe in yourself -and your rates, this will be conveyed to your clients so if you know you're value for money you will be able to justify it to any client (corporate or otherwise). It's up to the client to decide whether you're value for money.
Believe it or not the service industry is not the only industry to set it's fees and then get them negotiated on -Stacey used to work in Debenhams a few years ago, for those of you who don't know what Debenhams is, it's a large department store in the UK, they sell items for a set fee, everyone knows this but regardless of this she still had people trying to negotiate on the fee. Be open to negotiation but don't be silly about it otherwise the client may always expect a discount of that level (so stick to no more than a 10% variation).
Don't worry about having clients not use you because of your rate, as long as you're around the market rate there will be a client for you. At the end of the day, you can't realistically expect to service every prospect that comes through your doors -sometimes you just have to say "sorry that's the price".
I'm not saying charge £1,000ph when the market rate is £10ph as that's just silly but I would say your base rate shouldn't be cheaper than the market rate or more than 3 times the market rate (unless your service really is that good and you're bogged down with work [I did have a link for here about an ?SEO company charging $1,000ph and still being too busy but I can't find it atm], in which case go for it!).
Tip: How do you find out market rates? That's simple, find a couple of companies who offer similar services, to a similar client base who are a similar size to you, call them up and just ask them what their daily rates are. Call 10 or so companies and you should have a few prices to compare :)
Another tip: Always ask for an rough idea of their budget -even if it's just a range, this will give you a good idea of they're realistic or not.
And one more: Don't forget your rates don't need to be fixed. If you find you're too busy, increase your rates a little, if you're too quiet (whereas everyone else is really busy) then you may need to look into how you market your business, your presentation skills and finally possibly reducing your rates.
A word of warning: I would avoid dropping your rate "for the nice client" as the majority of times you'll end up regretting it, either because it gets out of control and you get frustrated because "you're doing them a favour" whereas they feel they just negotiated your service rates down (and so should be getting the same level of service. Remember, it's business, you don't need to do anyone a favour, charge what you feel is fair for your time and you'll always enjoy your work :)
On the flip side of this, if you're lucky enough to get a large corporate, make sure your rate is their market rate as we've lost work for being too cheap (and in my eyes we were already overcharging for the workload).
It's easy to be busy and cheap, but being a busy fool is no way to live!
Florame organic aromatherapy hits the press
Saturday, November 24, 2007 11:23:50 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Having one of the business owners work in PR can't be a too much of a bad thing for a company, especially not when you manage to get your name into Sunday Times. I'm not sure whether this is something they pushed for themselves or whether it was just the editor happened to come across it but I thought I should share :)
The response from getting into something like the Sunday Times is quite phenomenal, there was a very noticeable shift in the number of sales put through the website and searches performed so if you ever have the chance of a mention, jump at it!
25% discount at Florame organic aromatherapy
Monday, November 19, 2007 10:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ahh Christmas is fast approaching again -and for once I've actually got a few presents (I usually buy them all on the 24th of December) -not that I can take any credit for that, it's all down to Stacey. Anyway I wanted to share this 25% discount for www.florame.co.uk with you all just in case you were in the market for organic aromatherapy gifts this Christmas :)
And if you're thinking about treating someone to a hamper full of luxury food and wine why not check out www.WineAndHamperGifts.co.uk. Oh and don't forget Miss Mays for some festive fun ;) haha, ok that's all the pimping I'm going to do this year.
Well perhaps not!
Quote of the day
Thursday, August 16, 2007 5:57:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"Charge less and just do it quicker" -or- "Charge less, just spend less time on it"
That's what I got from someone that (infrequently) passes me work when I quoted him on some development yesterday. It sums some clients up though, they think you can do the work required -and- get the results by doing less and as for working faster -you can forget that, do they not think we go as fast as possible so we can move onto the next project sooner?
Made me smile so I thought I'd share :)
Discounts on organic aromatherapy products including essential oils and more
Friday, March 30, 2007 2:05:09 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I don't want to be seen to be using my blog as another way of pimping out my client's services to my lovely readers -I'm really not, it's just that I've been so busy recently I've not had a chance to finalize some of the content that I'm going to upload shortly. In the mean time though, if you're into aromatherapy -or more to the point organic aromatherapy check out Florame organic aromatherapy's special offers on all sorts of great items.
Here's the email (there's no need to use a special offer code with this one)
Hello and thank you for signing up to receive our newsletters which are designed to inform you of new and exciting changes at Florame - including our first ever sale - our Spring Sale!
Our Spring Sale begins today (Friday 30 March 2007). There are over 30 organic items on sale with discounts ranging from 25% to 50% including:
However stocks are very limited and once they're gone, they're gone!
View all the items in our Spring Sale here
Don't forget, if you've got loyalty points you can use these to buy your bargains and remember you'll collect more points for every purchase you make.
All orders over £30 (exc VAT) receive free shipping.
All orders made before noon will be shipped the same day (except weekends, when they'll be shipped the following Monday).
We hope to welcome you to www.florame.co.uk soon and happy bargain hunting!
Marketing your business in the newspaper
Tuesday, December 19, 2006 8:10:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I had an interesting chat with Chris from Jump'in Jacks'bouncy castle hire about marketing his new business Mad Hatters party shop (website coming soon I hope!!) in the newspaper. Basically he’s taken out an advert with a local paper but I don’t personally feel he’s gone about it the right way. Seeing as he’s not the first client I’ve spoken to about this in the past month (Miss Mays adult store to name another) I feel I should explain why I feel he’s made a mistake.
You want to promote your new fancy dress shop to the local market. You decide the local (free) paper is the best method so you take out an advert in your local paper that is along the lines of:
*This is similar but not exactly the same as Chris’ scenario ;)
What’s the problem?
I’m not a marketing person but common sense tells me there are a few issues with this scenario but primarily you have no way of evaluating its success. How will you know whether it’s worth spending that £x again?
What should you do?
When planning on promoting your business in i.e. the local newspaper, a little research wouldn’t go amiss. Firstly work out who you want to target with your advert, then work out what the best medium to contact them over is and then research that medium itself.
Taking the scenario of a fancy dress shop that would like to capture more local trade, the local paper is a good place to advertise. The first problem I foresee is; locally we’ve got at least 3 different newspaper publishers and each has its own main catchments area, more than this, I know at least one has a dedicated paper for each area. With a little research you can work out which paper is most suitable for your establishment. Remember that you should identify the local paper for your establishment not the local paper for your residence as unless you live above your shop, you’ll most likely find out that they’re two different papers…
Depending on your budget I would recommend running a single campaign in each local publication. How you go about this is up to you, if you’ve got time, select a different paper each time until you’ve had at least one advert in each (you could run two different areas at the same time but having two adverts within one area may mean you’re advertising to the same person twice which would be an unfair test), you’ll then be able to judge which paper had the best return. Make sure you use the same advert for each paper to make it a fair test! It’s also worth noting that it’s commonly recognised that people need to see an advert three times before it registers with them.
Once you have your chosen publisher it’s time to design your advert, you’ll obviously be restricted by budget but get the biggest area you can afford (within reason), for a voucher promotion something A5 size should be more than enough. If you can afford a designer give them the brief and have them mock something up. They should be able to do something pretty decent that can be reused for around £100.
When you’re designing the advert, don’t just throw on your contact details and think that’s enough. You need a clearly defined call to action, this could be anything from a discount to a competition. The idea is to get someone into your shop so give them a reason to go there!
It may also be suitable to gather some data about your customer, many people don’t mind giving you a little information about themselves if they’re getting something cheaper (or free!) so take advantage of that* -you’ll be able to use it for direct marketing or customer analysis later.
*Also look up the rules and regulations around Data Protection.
Ready to go? Not yet. You still don’t have any way of telling which campaign was most effective. Most email campaigns now include something called a beacon image which tells the campaign manager that you’ve opened the email, sadly you can’t get this information from the newspaper but you can track the conversions by adding some form of identifier to the voucher. In my example below I’ve added a tracking code “EP19120310P” it’s perhaps a little overkill but it basically stands for: “Example Paper 19th December 2006 10 Percent Off”. This is important as when you come to analyse the conversions you’ll quickly be able to identify not only which paper it came from, which date but also the offer. Using something along these lines will enable you to track different offers in different papers (or even the different offers in the same paper), by varying the offers you’ll be able to identify the best conversion.
Now you’re ready to go, get the advert placed and on the day of publication get hold of a copy and check out your location, see how you stand out in the paper, if you feel your advert doesn’t stand out as much as the others on the page, work out why, is it the use of specific colours? Or perhaps theirs is in a better font –make a note of it for the next advert!
Finding the ideal combination of paper and offer will be trial and error but as long as you have a method of tracking, analysing the results and quantifying the conversions it shouldn’t take you too long to establish which campaigns pay off and which are just costly.
This is just a quick mock-up using the same area as above as an example, I’m neither a marketer or designer so I’m sure there’s plenty of flaws with this (hint: post a comment on them)!
- Research your target audience
- Identify the best publisher to use
- Plan your advert and clearly outline your call to action
- Add some method of tracking to the advert
- Analyse your results and adjust your future advert(s) accordingly
Miss Mays Adult Store finally releases discount voucher
Wednesday, December 06, 2006 11:16:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Miss Mays Online Adult Store has finally released it's Christmas discount voucher for your festive fun, check it out -this post is safe-for-work if you don't mind seeing some honies but if your boss is looking over your shoulder, perhaps save this one for home-time ;)