I recently talked to Perry Stevens about how he founded a marketing business, moved to Thailand, and built a remote team. He filled me on how he handles pricing, client negotiations, and onboarding new customers.
What kind of work does your company do?
Blend Local Search Marketing is a 360 marketing company, started around 2007, now focused around building great websites and content for U.S. orthodontists. The team works remotely - people are in Thailand, Italy, USA, and Singapore.
How do you choose your rates?
Perry explained that like most people who start out consulting, this was a challenge in the beginning. He started out by selling to local dry cleaners, hairdressers, and the like. The disadvantage of these customers is that they are small business on low budgets that want everything and can’t pay.
Eventually, you want to find clients that make more money by obtaining new clients. When you find these customers, it’s much easier to justify the service you provide.
What does the negotiation process look like for your company?
A lot of small businesses have been burned by bad SEO firms, so new clients start out really negative towards marketing services. To reduce the risk for clients, you can pitch just trying something for 2-3 months. If it doesn’t work out, let people walk away. Encouraging the client to do reference checks also helps.
The goal is to implement “consultative selling,” where you spend time with customers to get an understanding of their problems before recommending solution for their specific needs. This ensures that you are working with people who can get value of out what you have to offer, and that you are getting the right types of customer.
What does the process of bringing on a new client look like?
When a new client sends an inquiry, Perry sets up a conversation on Skype where he gets to know their business. After talking to someone for 45 minutes, it should be fairly clear whether you can work together - having the right clients is what lets you grow.
Before doing these calls, he researches the client in advance, so he knows as much as possible about the prospect’s business.
Project proposals for new clients are phased, to reduce the risk for each side. Each proposal is transparent and includes data on target keywords, volume, etc.
I always enjoy hearing how people got their start in business, and find ways to provide value to some set of customers. I’ve heard about people who leave expensive urban areas for far-off Asian countries, and I’ve always been a little skeptical about whether this works for people, but Perry is the real deal.