At that first meeting, the team also assessed the company’s weakness and zeroed in on a major shortcoming: marketing and sales.
So by the second meeting, John and Lauri surprised everyone by introducing a newly hired “executive producer” in charge of sales. The man has strong ties to the auto industry, a segment Digital Cut is interested in exploring. But several weeks after hiring him, the couple and the man parted ways. In a small, family-run business, hiring can be a tricky balance of personality and talent, and Lauri Oliva said things just didn’t work out.
Since Digital Cut doesn’t sign extended contracts with its clients, it’s important to maintain contact and also ask for referrals, the team said. And the Olivas, Schor said, should be devising a plan for every single client.
“How often do you see them, what do you send them and what’s the potential revenue?” he said. “You don’t have five-year contracts so you always feel like you’re starting from scratch....You guys as single entrepreneurs always have that issue.”
Along with maintaining client contact, the couple needs to do more to market for new ones, which can easily be done through a website. Mike Paim, a Web developer and marketing specialist with Island Water Sports, came up with several suggestions for improving Digital Cut’s site, including posting samples of Digital Cut’s work, a slide show to demonstrate how the business works and profiles of the couple. He also suggested the couple add backlinks — other sites that link to theirs — as a way of boosting Digital Cut’s positioning in search engines.
The company can also get better play by using Google Adwords or paying for listings and running testimonials, Paim said. He also recommended using Google Analytics, and checking it monthly to track how many people are visiting the site.
“Our website had been done organically over the years, but Mike gave us amazing ideas on how to maximize social media and blogging,” Lauri Oliva said. “That’s been a difficult thing to get to with doing work, keeping the business going, administration and constantly updating social media and blogging.”
Eventually the couple plan to hire someone to take over those labor intensive chores.
One other idea the team toyed with, and the Olivas may consider, is branding.
What branding allows a business to do, explained team leader David Harris, who is director of marketing at Davie Golf & Country Club, is “create an image for yourself out of thin air....Something that says wow. This is different.”
But settling on that brand can be tricky and should be based on the company’s strengths. For Digital Cut, John Oliva said, it’s the company’s level of experience and professionalism.
“There’s a lot of backwards ball caps and torn jeans and ‘Oh, I’m a creative.’ We’re not like that. We’re still creative, but we can work within the corporate structure.”
The best brands, Harris said, get in the heads of potential clients and what they want.
“Whatever it is, it needs to be short and on the website all the time, so it becomes the brand,” he said.
Added Paim: “Brand yourself to who you want to be and who you want to attract.”
Two months after they started the Small Business Makeover, the Olivas had a plan in hand for how to move forward and three new mentors.
“The makeover project is never something you complete in three to four weeks,” Harris told the couple. “It’s something you do over time. You roll it out over the next year, and I think you will find yourself with a very different, improved business.”