How you deal with negative experiences is very important.
Here are five things that have happened to my small business over the last couple of decades and how I learned from each example. The result is that I am a better, stronger small business.
1) The Unexplained Cancellation: I had a client who loved the work we did for her, and she was actually shaking when I unveiled the website design prototype. Her exactly quote, “I can’t believe how beautiful the site came out”. She had a few minor changes, which we made and were ready to launch the website. I didn’t hear from her for a few days then all of a sudden she said she decided to go in a different direction with no explanation. This was strange as she was so happy with the work. I sent her an invoice and she paid me every dime. She then had some questions on how to point her domain to a new site she built herself (sadly it looked terrible). Now, at this point I could’ve walked away, ignored her emails and I certainly would’ve been within my rights to do so. I hadn’t pointed the domain to my server yet, so the changes she requested had absolutely nothing to do with me. However I spent some time wrote up detailed instructions and helped her in anyway she needed.
Lesson Learned: Being the bigger person is always the right way to go. I’ve had several incidents where people left and came back due to our stellar support and because the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. And, hopefully this person may even recommend RooSites at some point to a friend or colleague.
2) The Middle Of The Night Exit. Early in my company’s history I did some work for a company for a few years. At this point I was working a full-time job at Fidelity Investments and was managing and building sites on the side. We had a very good relationship and I answered all requests the same day as we always try to do. I was billing each month on the first (Just $50!!). Well one night at 11:59 pm she sent us an email canceling her account. As she had access she moved her files and canceled her account. A few minutes later her account was billed automatically. I was at my desk at 6 AM and had a note from my payment processor saying that she had filed a complaint, as I wouldn’t refund the money. LOL, she cancelled the account just before midnight and complained at 4 am I hadn’t refunded the money!!!! At 6:01 am I refunded her $50.
But here is the funny part: she moved the site in the middle of the night but she forgot her emails. She told me this a week after canceling and had already taken down the website. I told her I could put it back up and get her files but there would be a couple of hour’s worth of work at most. She got angry and had an attorney send me a threatening letter that I was causing her to have to re-create her entire website cost of $25,000! Of course, I had only charged her $1500 to build the site! Fortunately I have a very good business attorney who wrote a 15-page response outlining the fact that she canceled the account and didn’t want to pay me $50. She then didn’t want to pay me for couple of hours, which would’ve been $100 or so at the time. But she expected us to believe it would cost her $25,000 to build a new site! Well of course she had no grounds and it ended up with us both walking away agreeing not to sue.
Lesson Learned: at this point in my business I did not have a contract. From this I learned a valuable lesson and now have an ironclad contract that protects both my clients and me. A good contract lays out everything including what happens when service is terminated.
3) The Nasty Client – I was working for a guy who was representing his child who was a very talented individual. He was one of these people who came from a very established family but he himself was a total failure and trying to live vicariously through his kid. The process of building the site was difficult as he was one of those people who were very hard to please even though you were working off of his exact requirements and using all his images. Well, we got through it and built a very nice site that was very well received. As we always do, we answered every request the same day. He would send us things to post and then get mad at us, although what we posted was what he sent, exactly! He would leave nasty voicemails in the middle of the night, and I finally told him to get someone else. He of course was ignorant but went on his own way. As with most narcissists, he was incapable of empathy or seeing how truly wrong his thinking was.
Lesson Learned: Dealing with some difficult clients is par for the course for a small business. Sometimes you need to bite your tongue and just accept the fact that you’re getting paid and running a business is not always going to be fun and games. BUT, no one deserves to be attacked and treated poorly. Especially when you are doing your job and doing it well. So if you have been abusive client for customer, sometimes it’s better just to walk away. Your health and well-being is at stake when you’re constantly under stress and you cringe every time the phone rings or an email comes into your inbox.
4) The Middle of the Night Exit #2 – I was away over Christmas and I woke I Christmas Eve to an email that I had a database issue with one of my sites. I immediately logged in and saw a new site had to replaced the one I had built and managed. Now here’s the strange part. The client had actually had me make several changes the day before. I dealt with their vice president of marketing and we had a very good relationship. The day before she even sent me a note telling me how much she appreciated my quick responses to any tasks she sent.
So I was shocked to see if they had taken down the website and put up a new one. They hadn’t cancelled their account, so I call the VP of Marketing and asked what was going on. She was very apologetic and said she had no idea that this change was even coming. The company had a new CEO and hired somebody to build a new website. The new site was a very cheap e-commerce site, and it was very strange to see this beautiful custom website down and a cheap, ugly site in its place. So it turns out this new CEO was trying to save money and impress the owners and that’s why he went with this cheap alternative. (which I am told has led to a decline sales of over 50%!) Shortsighted, he was just trying to make points with ownership with cost cutting measures. He also figured he would cancel the account with no notice and not pay us. They counted on us backing down as they were a big company and I was just a small business. Fortunately, as I learned in Example 2 I had an iron-clad contract and although they attempted to screw us over, in the end we got paid in full.
Lesson Learned: If you have a solid contract, don’t be afraid to go up against a larger company. In the end they will discover it is cheaper for them to pay you rather than drag this out in court. Also, have a good business attorney who can be straight with you and tell you whether it’s worth pursuing. In this case it ended up just taking a couple of letters and it never got to court. Their company’s attorney knew they had no case. You will on occasion run into people who would rather spend years in court, and there are times where you just have to walk away. Again a good attorney should be able to advise you whether or not to go forward.
5) Clients are being sold a bill of goods: Sadly in business you see clients and customers being sold solutions that you know will not succeed.
The first time I witnessed this, a marketing company told a client of mine that they would do some writing for them and promised all this wonderful stuff. So they thanked me and went about their own way. I knew something was fishy as they said to do the writing they needed to host the website. I asked why as it was a WordPress site and they could login and make changes. No answer. Also I have the best servers there are for this type of website, so there was no reason to move other than they wanted to make it harder for the client to leave.
I had another client that had us take their website (which they liked) and converted into a more user-friendly content management system (CMS), WordPress. They loved the work and could now add content easily. Well, fast forward a year and they told me a marketing company was going to take over their website and move it into another content management system. Sadly, this particular solution would be five times more expensive and most of the tools they brag about were things they will never, ever use.
Lesson Learned: As with example one, I try to be the bigger person and thanked them both for their Business. However, on the way out I wrote a nice email detailing why I thought they were making a mistake. This is a good way of dealing with adversity, as you get your thoughts out rather than keeping them bottled up inside, yet you do it in a nice, constructive way.
Well, in the first case the client came back a year later as they said I was right and this company’s content was poor at best. My guess is they were outsourcing the writing and not getting much back in terms of quality content. The clients own posts have been much improved and well received from their customer base.
In the second case, I explained why this new solution sounded good but down the road would be very costly and how do they would not be able to use most of the tools and therefore they would be overspending for no real return.
I am continuing to work with them until their new website is ready. I am being as helpful as possible, as I know there is a very good chance they will be back after overpaying and not getting much in return.
Bottom Line: As the expression goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. In a small business setting, you have a lot of interaction with clients and customers. I am fortunate in that 99% of my client interactions are great and most of my clients end up being friends as well as people I do business with. This is important as these are the people who are most likely to refer you to their friends, family and colleagues. It is not always easy to weigh what is good for you financially against your own well-being. It is easy to get caught up and get angry, but in the end that doesn’t do your business or your health any good. While having to sometimes bite your tongue is not fun, you do need to make money in order to survive and flourish as a small business. We learn from the experiences in our lives, some positive and some negative. But if we can always be adapting and growing, we find ourselves improving each and every day. And one of the most positive things you can do is wake up every day and do a bit better than the day before.
Here’s an example:
I recently had a long-term client re-brand their nonprofit which included a new logo and a spanking new website. When we started it was a one-man show, which grew into a big organization with a Board of Directors and several employees.
The marketing company in charge of the project did a wonderful job from a look and feel standpoint. They built a nice WordPress theme, and I don’t have too many negative comments to say about the development work in general. I like to give credit where credit is due. And as I will be managing the site going forward, it’s always nice to start with quality work rather than having to go in and rebuild everything.
(you knew there was a but coming) the one mistake they made was to lose all the old content. Now we had worked hard to create quality content and had close to 1000 pages in Google’s index. They ditched all the old content and now the site is being penalized by Google as it went from 1000 page website down to a 15 page site. It is only common sense that a 15 page website no matter how nice is not as good from a search engine standpoint as having 1000 pages of quality content.
Listen, we work too hard to create quality content. So consider this when you’re building a new website. My recommendation is to bring over the old content, especially blog posts and news. Perhaps you have a link to these pages from within your site so that they’re still picked up by the Googlebot. On your new blog/news page, on the sidebar for example you can have a link to the older content. What I would do is put the old posts in a category all by themselves, call them archive, older news, whatever you feel like. So this way you will have your fresh new good-looking site but we’ll still have a link off to your older content which Google will be able to find as it is hyperlinked from an existing page. So, this may be the best of both worlds.
If your site is built in WordPress, exporting and importing those posts is a simple process. So, you can have the best of both worlds as we discussed above, a brand-new flashy website, and plenty of good quality content with the longevity that search engines like.
Google rightfully gives credence to sites with longevity. Think of it in terms of a brick-and-mortar store. Say you had a business that had been established 50 years ago. Along comes a brand-new flashy store. Who would you think would have more credibility? I would say the company with 50 years of experience deserves just to have more cred than a new store. The new store still needs to prove themselves to their customers. Well, it is the same thing with websites; a brand-new site does not have the same credibility the site has been around for decades. (Hard to believe websites can have been around for decades, but now that the World Wide Web is over 30 years old you do have sites with a long history)
Yes. If you have content that over time has become incorrect, or irrelevant then it is fine to get rid of those particular posts. You don’t want to be giving out information that you know to be wrong. However, in some cases you may be better off updating that content to correct anything that was wrong in the original article. When I do that, I typically advise to add a paragraph at the top explaining the change. The other thing about that is that Google actually likes when you update content and will re-index those pages. In your Google Webmaster account you can actually request that the page gets really indexed when you have a change. This will actually speed up the process as opposed to waiting for the Googlebot to find and update the content from within their index.
Rebuilding your site is not a bad idea, after a few years they all start getting tired looking and new technology keeps on coming down the pike. When you are rebuilding that new site, don’t ditch all the hard work you put in to build a site that does well in searches due to your efforts to produce quality content which your visitors have enjoyed and which search engine have indexed.
Unfortunately, most people decide to build a website and then after the site launches they look to improve their search engine optimization (SEO). A better way to handle a new website project is to always be considering your search engine rankings. So as you’re building each page, consider what you’re looking to be found for. But, remember, don’t build your site just to do well in searches as the result will be a site that people may find you, but when they got there they will quickly leave, as the writing is so poor. Also, be sure not to align yourself with black hat SEO firms. You may have a temporary improvement in rankings but will ultimately be penalized by Google and maybe removed from the index all together.
And, as always feel free to contact us, we are happy to assist you with building and or managing your website.