As a small business that has been passed over by large corporate clients for being too small, I understand the frustration in being "the little guy" trying to get ahead and build a business. While my company has all the boxes checked, from 5 star Google reviews to over 10 years in business, it has been nearly impossible to convince larger corporate clients to hire us, based on our small size. Let's take a look at that mentality.
So why are the small businesses, that work harder to stay in business, get snubbed by these larger versions of ourselves? I've had the gall and courage to ask my prospects that declined my services in favor of a larger, less reputable company this question, and received a few responses that make no real sense. So, let's do a little point - counterpoint.
1. We want someone more "quantifiable"
The only thing I can gather from this statement is that this prospect is either looking for someone with more experience, more portfolio items or more staff to support. As I have 20 years in I.T. and 10 years in web development, and my portfolio has over 100 examples of my work, I can deduce that they want more staff in my crew. Now, I have 3 developers, 1 copy-editor and support from numerous development companies, not to mention my assistant, accountant, lawyer and other supporting staff both employed and hired by us to run day to day operations. Would a project manager, tech support in India, and 48-hour response time make them feel better, or worse?
2. We want a company with more staff resources.
I used to employ over 25 employees with 3 offices in 2 states. As technology improved and the markets changed, we fell away from our retail locations and closed our other offices, as we needed less and less employees to get the job done. As we saved money and overhead, we were able to compete with large web design sales firms that outsourced everything to India and the Philippines, while they kept a small sales staff here in the USA to keep the money flowing overseas. I'm not saying that all large web design firms outsource everything, but many we know of do. So, do you want more staff for your web designer to support, pay more for the product, get less personalized service and become a number, or have your marketer know you and your company personally?
3. What happens to your company if something happens to you?.
This question is apt for large businesses as well. If your owner and CEO had to suddenly stop working, your company would falter or even go under, just as easily as a small business. So yes, if something would to happen to our owner, you may have to go elsewhere for ongoing service. It doesn't mean we won't deliver a superior product you'll be able to use for years to come.
4. You charge too little.
This one always gets me. If I have less overhead and do all of the work in house with developers that get paid every Friday, I can afford to charge less than large companies with huge overhead. Just because they have more employees doesn't mean they have superior services. If fact, the opposite is true for the majority of large web design companies. Here is the proof: just Google Search the names of larger web design firms in your area, with the keyword 'review', 'scam' or 'rip off' and you may be surprised what comes up compared to smaller firms.
There are probably a dozen or two more reasons you've heard, but the bottom line is that larger companies simply feel more comfortable dealing with other larger companies, because they speak the same language and have the same channels of communication. It seems to get these clients, you need to have more employees to screw up their account, replacements lined up for your job, and charge as much as possible so you can afford all these extras that do nothing to improve their service, but clog up the gears of web design.
This is a little offensive to us small business owners, but not entirely wrong. These companies are successful because of their size in most cases, and simply assume that if you are small you're not as smart as your larger competitors. This could not be further from the truth in most cases, especially in web development. As someone who worked in the private sector for many years before starting my own business, I can tell you that this mentality is pervasive throughout the business world, and prejudices against small businesses are as American as apple pie. I have also seen firsthand, this mentality can drive these businesses out of business. Let's take a look at something as simple as a new web design, and how it can make or break even large companies.
Hire a large firm with some bad reviews - You follow your prejudice and hire a large company to do your website. They charge 150% more, take twice as long and deliver a lackluster site with no real content that describes your business to the public. You have 'news stories' on the front page, bad content, and the navigation is terrible, among other factors that make the site blend into the crowd. But you paid so much for it, you settle and make it live.
More than a dozen of my clients have been through this exact scenario.
Here are some effects we've seen from these sites:
- Most of these expensive sites have bad or no SEO. They fall off Google or never get past page 4 for relevant searches.
- Customer feedback becomes very negative, and results in a negative reputation.
- Without proper FAQs, contact info or easy navigation to customer areas, customer retention drops.
- Money is thrown at other marketing venues, while office heads struggle to grasp what is wrong.
- Layoffs and tough times ensue.
Now that they have spent their marketing budget and sales are down, there is much less to go to a new website, but they finally realize that without it, they will go out of business. So now the 'cheap guy' is the best bet in town. This evolution can happen with or without financial strife, but more often than not, is damages the cash position of the company.
Now come around to a small web development company - You hire the little guy with great reviews and he builds you a beautiful, functional website with all the bells and whistles you want, for half the price of the first. Not only that, but you get full SEO, improving your rank and getting you more traffic. The improved navigation and graphic design engages more customers, bounce rates decrease and sales start going back up. They also work more closely with you, listen to your needs and deliver in half the time. This is not some fiction, but actual events I have witnessed, and my small business has pulled many companies out of these 'ruts'.
It saddens me when I lose larger clients due to my 'small size', not just because I want their business, but mainly because when I see what they get, it's always less than what we can provide. My advice to larger companies looking for web development is not to hire a firm based entirely on their size, but on their reputation, portfolio, reviews and time in business. Just because we're small, does not mean we don't blow away the competition.