Captain's log, stardate d16.y38/AB
As your company grows, so do your headcount and salaries. This applies to solo freelancers and agencies like ours alike: you need to hire other people, pay for other services, face price increases by other providers and keep up with the market changes.
Here are the ten latest things we've tried, which have contributed to our company growth since the beginning of 2018.
We have always wanted to grow our company organically. Never cutting corners nor taking shortcuts. We're hiring three to four people a year, always prioritising existing clients, and focusing on quality, not quantity.
Today, we’ve incorporated a new developer in our company, José Francisco, which means we’re 12 full-time employees now. In turn, this also means that we need more and bigger projects.
Project after project, we need to find the perfect balance between servicing our current clients in the best possible way and opening the door to potential new clients. This applies to both freelancers and services companies.
I'm sharing the ten latest sales/marketing tweaks we've applied to MarsBased, which have resulted in a significant increase in the dealflow. Just the deals we're getting through the website have gone up from one to seven or eight per month.
Let's get into it!
Being a global-first company, our website has always been exclusively in English.
Following our "less is more" philosophy, it also made sense to keep up with just one language on our website, even though we've always had a significant percentage of clients in Spain. Most of them, however, are English-speaking companies.
Why did we decide to localise the website? To diversify. We wanted to see if other companies in Spain were not finding us because our content is not available in Spanish.
We've decided to localise most parts of the website. The blog, for instance, will remain in English only.
Since we launched our website, we have always had a blog. However, for different reasons, we never implemented the tags system.
Our site went from about 60 pages to over 300, with both the tags and the localised version of the site, thus resulting in a more interesting page, according to Google.
These two actions have also increased our position in different Google queries.
This is a tricky one for agencies, not so much for freelancers.
Development agencies, like MarsBased, make money by employing their developers full-time to work on client projects. Every hour not billed to a client is money you don't earn.
At first, therefore, it sounds counter-productive to have your developers write blog posts. However, the pros far outweigh the cons here:
I've briefly mentioned this in the point above, but I want to emphasize the importance of this.
Some blog posts have the power to bring a lot of traffic to your website if distributed correctly.
Take a look at this:
One of our blog posts was included in a couple of big newsletters, last year. You can notice the spikes caused by that influx of new readers.
We're submitting our technical blog posts to RubyFlow, and the more business-oriented to our favourite Barcelona newsletters Novobrief and Barcinno.
Tech people are not going to like this, mainly because LinkedIn is constantly spamming them with new job offers and recruiters contact requests.
Besides recruiters, however, another important tribe reside in LinkedIn and check it frequently: your next client.
According to some studies, like A Guide to the Demographics of LinkedIn Users, by MarketingMojo, show that 43% of LinkedIn users are in decision-making roles, and another 40% have been working for over 12 years.
I have been posting a content every day on my LinkedIn profile every day since the beginning of the year to be top of the mind of my contacts, and I've gotten a few deals out of that.
The kind of content I post varies, but I tend to juggle between these:
We have started a bit late with this, but I'm happy to have launched the MarsBased newsletter in May.
There's a saying that goes like if you want to have a newsletter next year, start it now, so we consider our newsletter as an investment.
We haven't seen any deals coming directly from it, as we have barely 200 subscribers for now, but we're seeing influential people signing up for it (former clients, serial entrepreneurs, people working in corporates, etc.).
A newsletter will help you to keep in touch with your existing network regularly. Try sending them your best content, some business/tech tips and other cool stuff you've learnt to make sure you deliver proper value to them.
Here's an example of our newsletter: June Edition of the MarsBased Chronicles.
We have never believed in pure outbound strategies. As a specialised development company, chances are that most companies do not need our services.
Rather, we need to make sure that when they do, they find us. This is why we focus on inbound strategies (building a network, writing the blog, improving our ranking on Google, etc.) which align more with our long-term thinking.
That being said, it is also true that sometimes we reach out to companies we want to work with. If we really feel like we can help them with our development or business skills, we will drop them a line, or ask for an intro to a common contact.
Having a full-time member devoted entirely to business development (yours truly) has really helped our company from the get-go.
The right events will not only expand your potential client base, but they will also provide a regular meetup to meet with them.
One of the projects we're working on right now we found it by attending the Websummit in Lisbon.
Clusters are business associations of companies with something in common. For instance, we have always belonged to Barcelona Tech City, a cluster for digital companies in Barcelona.
This year, we have decided to broaden our network and we've joined Catalonia Logistics, after a client suggested us to do so.
Clusters are created to generate business between all the members, and they also provide visibility, regular events, going to conferences, and other ways to up your game.
As a business developer, I learn new tricks every year. One that is really paying off is having two lists of people I regularly check with.
The first list contains a selection of companies and individuals I will contact once a month. This list includes most of our clients, some influencers, providers, our Startup Grind Barcelona sponsors and cool people I want to be top of the mind of.
The second list contains a selection of companies and individuals I will contact once per quarter. These are higher-profile people, or even some moonshots I am building a relationship with at a slower pace.
How do you contact them (phone, email, meeting...) and what to send them is up to you, but I make sure I tailor a bespoke message/content for each, absolutely avoiding generic email lists.
To these contacts, I might send our best blog posts, or even the blog posts where we mention them (if applicable), VIP passes for an event I might attend, speaking opportunities in events of our colleagues, business leads for them, invites to our events, or invite them over coffee to just catch up and have a good chat. These are some ideas, but I'm sure you can come up with more - and better!
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