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Business Strategy Session with John Gouin graphikitchen.com

A strategy session with Adela has been a powerful experience for me. I have a tendency toward imposter syndrome, suffer a lack of confidence in my business decisions, and I was struggling to find a solution. Adela is a compassionate and patient listener, and helped to clarify and simplify an approach to deal with my particular challenges. She helped me to define a series of real actionable tasks to address my situation, and I can enthusiastically recommend her strategy sessions for anyone sorting through the noise of running a business.

John Gouin

Owner, Graphi Kitchen

John
I do have a specific question that I think the rest of the conversation will probably revolve around.

Adela Mei
Okay, let’s start right there.

John
And this is going to be a common question, but there’s more details that go into it that I’ll sort of fill you in. So – I am not busy enough. Right, easy. I have built my whole website presence and my whole business around local SEO. And that’s been fine.

But it’s just the competition here in Ann Arbor and I’m not sure if you’re familiar, but it’s a university town. And it’s also an emerging tech hub. Like a lot of small tech companies and software companies move here, there’s a lot of creatives here, there’s a lot of that sort of thing going on. So I didn’t really consider that at the beginning. And there’s a lot of competition here. There’s probably eight different web designers doing the same thing that I’m doing, within a quarter mile of here.

So that’s my problem. I need a strategy to increase my reach beyond my local outreach, and of course, I do several networking groups. My local stuff is great, like, I have a good reputation here. Almost all my customers are local. And that was intentional. But it’s not. It’s not enough to be sustainable. So I’d be interested in hearing what you thought about that, and good ways that I could expand beyond this little geographical thing I have going on, into other communities and whatever. And maybe it’s niche – defining myself as a niche web developer for a certain segment of the small business community or something else. I just thought, I’m not sure what to do at this point.

Adela Mei
Do you have any ideas already about a niche you could go into. Something that maybe you’ve got added expertise? Like, for example, I’ve got a background in environmental science. That’s my education. So that’s something that’s quite different from most web designers, or business coaches.

John
Yes. So I have a background in, I don’t have a personal background in, other than my father was a contractor. So I have friends who are contractors. I’ve worked for them. I’ve done that sort of thing. So building trades, construction, heating and cooling, plumbers, electricians. And I’ve done a fair number of those websites as well. So if I had to pick one, that to me seems an obvious one, because I can speak at least semi intelligently about it. And I have the portfolio to sort of back that up. So if I had to pick one, and being a niche web developer is the answer to this, that would be the direction that I would tend to go.

Adela Mei
Sure. I mean, not only that you can speak the language, which makes you very approachable to people, because you don’t have to have like a translator between the tech, the agency and the company. And I imagine I mean, that’s not my industry, but I imagine they’re just too busy trying to get on with the work. I mean over here, honestly, trying to find a plumber or an electrician or a carpenter is impossible. Everyone is so busy. So that I mean number one, yes, that would be wonderful to explore. I’m kind of I’m laughing inside because I spoke to someone yesterday who just said all they’re attracting is plumbers and electricians and carpenters, and it’s not the audience they want, they want a different one. So the irony is not lost on me today.

John
Right.

Adela Mei
I mean refer them to you, that’s the easy solution there for one!

John
The other good thing is that I have several I’ve got a lot of testimonials from tradesmen for the work that I’ve done also.

The other one might be health and wellness coaches, job coaches, health and wellness, yoga instructors, like, I’ve done several of those as well. Although I’m not as I’m not so much of an expert in that field, I would rather work with tradesmen. I seem to connect with them with that sort of niche better than most others.

Adela Mei
Also with the health and wellness coaches type niche is one of mine. And it’s very competitive, because everyone thinks they can do it, or everyone wants to do it. Also that niche don’t necessarily have the budget. I’m generalising. But when you’re in trade, you are working, you’re up early and you’re working, and those companies are bringing money in because everyone needs them. And I would hope in the US, they’re paid well.

John
Yeah.

Adela Mei
Over here it’s a pretty good living, it’s a hard living, you’re working with your hands. And that rapport as well, like you, this is very judgmental, but you physically look the part, to go on to site, to speak to the owner of the company if you need to. It’s very, very relatable, and it’s not intimidating or anything like that.

I think you’ve answered your own question. Because it seems maybe too easy as a solution. So maybe we look for something more complicated, like maybe it’s not glamorous enough, or it’s not six figures enough, but actually, you come across to me as a very salt of the earth person. Very down to earth. It’s a down to earth audience. It’s a really good match.

John
I guess my question is, is the answer to this not being busy enough, is it to become a niche web developer and choose a certain space to work within? Or is there another answer ? Is there an SEO answer to this? Is there? Can you be a web developer for everybody? Can you be the answer for every small business owner? Or medium business owner or whatever? Can you? Is that viable? And my sense about it is, that maybe it’s not, but I’m not sure.

Adela Mei
I would go with your sense. My perspective is quite strong on this one. But I’ve done a lot of copywriting courses and really dived into that. So when, generally and especially at the moment, when people first find you, they’re going to find your website, or maybe something you’ve posted on LinkedIn. They’re going to be reading your words and your messaging.

So if you’re busy, and you’re Google searching, or you’re scrolling on LinkedIn, and you read something that says, ‘I’m a web developer for anyone and everyone get in touch with me,’ people are going to be like, there’s no indication that you’re the right person. But if you literally do some bombing, and by bombing, I mean, like, brilliant and bold designs and posts, where you’re genrally saying, you know, like in the army, that old poster, ‘we want you’, right. That’s on of the cleverest bits of marketing like in the world ever. Speak directly, you know – ‘I build I build sites for these industries’. And that’s obviously very boring the copy, but you speak very directly to them.

Find a client you’ve worked with, speak to him or her directly as if you’re speaking to them. Hey, Jack, do do do, and then you start really really personalising your copy. So when I look at your ad, I’m like, well, I’m not a plumber. I don’t think John’s for me. I’ll keep scrolling. I’m looking for a coach with pink posts, right?

Your tradesman and maybe the Office Admin, and again, I’m generalising but the tradesmen themselves are likely not going to be hanging on LinkedIn, but it could be the receptionist or the admin, whoever’s in charge in the company. They’re going to scroll and go ‘oh man’ so imagine my boss has told me to find a web designer by the end of today. How am I going to know who’s the right one? And then there you are literally, zinging. ‘I am the right person. If you’re looking for someone with inside info and experience of the industry, I can talk your talk, here’s my portfolio’ and make it so easy for them to get in touch with you.

Does that help, as this is really copywriting and messaging and, I’m guilty of it, myself and I’m always working on it. But if you also imagine that when people are on the internet, they’re generally on their own. So you just speak to that one person as if, you’re in a pre scope meeting with them right now. You’re talking just to that one person. It’s not the whole company sitting there having a cup of coffee all looking at their computer. Right? And going ‘well, what do you think Bob? Oh yeah, he looks great’. There’s one person who has to make the decision. And it might, depending on the size of the company, it might well be the receptionist, or the project manager, who’s been told by the director. ‘Hey, guys, we’ve really got to bring in more work, we need our website refreshed. How the heck do we know who we’re gonna hire?’ And then like I say, you make it so easy to be that good fit.

John
Yeah. So in a practical sense. What we’re talking about is changing my messaging. Right. And you mentioned, you alluded to this, contractors and plumbers and electricians, and builders are not likely to be hanging out on LinkedIn. Right. So how do those kind of folks find me, right? We know they can Google search, you know, whatever. Practically speaking would I create a new landing page? Would I change my current homepage? I’m wondering what it looks like on my website. In a practical sense, what does the outreach look like? I mean, I could do like LinkedIn posts.

Adela Mei
So if the tradesmen themselves are finding you, it’s because they’re probably a freelance one man band. I would say that’s not what you’re after, because that’s going to be a three page website, refer them to a colleague of ours, because she does small websites for independent, one man and one woman bands.

So if they’re not doing it, it’s going to be their bosses, it’s going to be the owners of the company, is gonna be the support staff. They’re the ones who’ve been told, ‘go and find a web designer’. So it speaking to them to make sure, to reassure them, that you’re the right fit. And I know you have a meeting call to have that conversation. But, I’m just imagining, because I mean, I used to work in corporate and if I’m tasked with something, there was a bit of fear there about ‘what if I recommend the wrong subcontractor? And what if I get it wrong? And what if they’re not the right? You know, what if I get into trouble?’. That agency needs to reassure me, ‘yeah, you can tell your boss, we’ve got that covered? No problem’. And they’re the ones that will then be talking to the person in charge.

Does that make sense? So sounding already, like bigger companies?

John
Yes.

Adela Mei
And I think on that practical level, a landing page, don’t drastically change your site. Yet.I mean, you know, you can clone your homepage, tweak the images, tweak the copy and play with that. You can do A/B testing as well with if you’re building with Divi. That could be something, but that’s a long term strategy to see.

John
Sure. But that seems like a logical way to do it. Create a new landing page specific to this niche that I want to work in, leave the current page, the way that it is, right.

Adela Mei
Leave that as it is because it will be generating local SEO traffic anyway, so don’t be radical about changing – yet. But then also because these are tradesman they’re in your physical area. So I don’t know how out and about you can get, but you do print don’t you, print design?

John
Oh yes.

Adela Mei
If you could design your own, and I would go strategically put leaflets, and actually go talk to people and put leaflets down.

John
I think that’s a great idea.

Adela Mei
And that’s something I’m starting to do here. Because I just got really fixated to be honest with digital, everything’s digital, you don’t actually have to speak to other human beings. And I’m like, no, no, hang on a minute. Right now, particularly, people are craving for contact and a conversation. They really are. So it won’t be December, after Christmas, after we’ve got through Christmas, I’ll be going around leafleting, or business carding, talking to all the local people in my area that I would like to work with. I’m also doing a bit of networking with some business groups, so I’ve got another hat to wear as well. But it just came to me really clearly, people are craving for someone to talk to, to listen to them to, to not talk to them about masks or hand sanitising. You know, like just going, Hey, I’m here, let me help you with your problem. Basically.

You can do the design yourself if you have some time on your hands. Spend that on designing. And then, I don’t know if you’re gonna walk past building sites, talk to people, be a face about the town. I chatted with another client about something similar. If it’s a smallish town, you walk around, you become known for what you’re doing, for being approachable. If you that nice guy in the street. Then you’re that nice guy to work with.

John
All right. Well, that’s my plan, then.

Adela Mei
That’s the plan.

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