In the second year of COVID-19, our agency was starting to see a plateau. Whilst several businesses were starting to adapt to working remotely, we were remotely working since 2017. But this wasn’t really the problem.
As businesses started to cut expenses, hiring interns to do the work or simply going to big firms for their marketing afraid not to waste any marketing ad spend, we were starting to feel that going from the only nutraceuticals agency to having multiple competitors overnight, just because a kid was laid off and decided to start an “agency”, wasn’t going to cut it.
It was this time that our team (we take decisions together) decided to split the agency into two and expand, as I first mentioned in this blog post.
So looking back now, I realise that I learned a very important business lesson.
Ready? Here it is:
Start doing one thing, and do it well. Do not be a jack of all trades.
So from serving supplements and nutraceuticals to expanding to eCommerce businesses while offering more than twenty different services – content writing, Facebook ads, PPC, influencer marketing, social media management, photography, conversion optimisation and more, really drained our team, which at that stage was a small one – just short of 30 people.
We now narrowed our focus to just three services – website design, which we didn’t offer before but everyone was asking for it, email marketing and ads.
Here is the secret on doings so: it doesn’t matter which sector we serve now, as long as we focus on these three things. We do not do everything, just these three. We hire faster and train better, which skyrocketed our results.
And if I am not mistaken it was the Master of Kung Fu, Bruce Lee who famously said “I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.”
We now live by that quote.
How this applies to your business
Whether you are selling supplements online, offer yoga classes or are a plumber – find what you do best and offer it. Become really known for it. Soon enough, people will come to you with their problem that can be fixed by your product or service – this specific one.
It is easier said than done – It took me nearly three months to decide to actually make the decision, bring the team on board, scrap years of blog posts that were addressed on the nutraceuticals sector AND come up with a new business model.
Are you facing change in your business? If so what are your thoughts and how do you plan on tackling the challenges?
You’ve probably come to the point where you realised that you need a website for your business. After all, what on earth are you waiting for? It doesn’t matter what type of business – from selling scrap metal to offering tarot readings there is a website for everyone.
And why not?
People are LOOKING for your business either locally or internationally. Not having a website – you are doing a disservice to them (actually, they will go to the nearest competitor who HAS a website).
So let’s say you take the plunge and you are out in the market to shop for a website for your business.
Enter the world of endless searching. You will probably come up with a few thousand options – a designer has a beautiful website but doesn’t say prices, so you are too scared to contact her for a quote. An agency has a huge portfolio but you see Nike amongst them – not for you.
Another designer has prices but when you dig a bit, you see that they offer additional elements which cost even more.
So you end up on Quora, Reddit and several Facebook groups to ask around to find out how much a professional website costs.
You end up with hundreds of options – with 5 pages, 4 pages, 10 pages, with contact forms, with plugins, without plugins, being on Shopify or WordPress – even my head is spinning right now.
Depends on options, they say.
Websites start from 1,000 Euros to 9,000 Euros, maybe more.
So how can you create (the real question you want to ask is, how you can have a website created for you) that doesn’t break the bank?
As your search indicated, there are many options.
Step 1: Start With The Platform First:
The two leaders in the market are Shopify and WordPress.
However, there is one deciding factor in choosing:
Will you be selling physical products or services or will it be just an online presence?
If the second, there is no need to select Shopify as it is used for eCommerce In this case, you only need WordPress.
So let’s continue with our reasoning – but first, for you who want to sell stuff online, let’s do a little comparison between Shopify and WordPress.
What are the major differences between Shopify and WordPress, in OUR experience?
Whilst Shopify has its own servers and runs fast, it forces you to pay a monthly fee (as you would in WordPress hosting), a percentage in every sale and a monthly fee for nearly every plugin you decide to use. Want a loyalty program? You pay per month. Want a pop-up? if your theme doesn’t have one installed already, you pay this per month.
On the other hand, on WordPress, you have to be very careful with your theme selection. If the theme you select is slow, then kiss goodbye to sales, leads and site visitors, as a slow website means fewer people visiting it (and also is a ranking factor).
However, on WordPress, you do not have to pay anything on a monthly basis, except hosting. Plugins? You buy them once and IF you want you to pay a yearly fee for free “updates”.
Plus, there are a ton of drag and drop editors which can help you design new pages, like Elementor, Divi, and many many more – which are free.
Whilst we like Shopify as an agency – my heart lies with WordPress, so I am a bit biased 🙂
With that, let’s say that WordPress is more for you (pun intended).
Step 2: Take “Inventory”
So the next step is – BEFORE you find a web hosting company and start designing your website – to (unfortunately, I know you are shutting down now, I can see it) make a list of what your business does, and also make a list of your competitors.
The reason for this preparation?
To avoid getting charged a monthly fee for a hosting plan you will not use for at least two months. Yes. you read that right. I have noted that it takes an average of at least 2 months for new websites to launch – and in the meantime you pay hosting fees, for a site that’s not there.
Growth hack: if you insist to spend money on a hosting provider before you properly assess your needs, including researching your competitors and your market, finalising your copy (the text) etc – simply put up a landing page that says “Coming Soon” with an email form.
This way, any potential customers may sign up to receive your updates and when you launch you can “go to the market” faster (obviously this is more complicated than this, but you get the point).
Anyway, back to our train of thought (which was obviously derailed).
So, in another post, we will be discussing HOW to gather intelligence on your competitors, what free and paid tools to use, and how to write effective copy (text, yes, yes).
For now, I have a list for you (for those who do not know me, lists are my second name)
Step 1:Write down what your business does. Do you sell services? If yes, how many? What are their prices for each? Do you sell products? List them, along with prices and characteristics.
Step 2: Once you have that list, write down your goals. So, what I mean by that. Obviously, your END goal is for someone to buy from you. Yes, but you are forgetting that in order for someone to do that, she/he needs to earn your trust. And in order to earn your trust, they need to pass through some stages (called the customer journey).
And you thought marketing your business was easy. Ha! (well, it beats being an employee at a bank – sorry bank employees).
What I mean by goals. Let’s say you are a photographer. Your obvious end goal is for people to buy your photography services. So before they do that, they need to see your work. In order to see your work, you have to upload samples of your work on your website (called an online portfolio).
So goal one for the photographer – I want people to see my online portfolio. This translates into having more website visits on the portfolio page. Goal 1 accomplished.
Goal two:once people see my portfolio, I want them to sign up for my email newsletter. So goal two accomplished – send people to a lead capture form that is connected with an email service (which is free, for up to 2,000 users – now how about this for a goal huh?)
Goal three: once people see my portfolio, and signup for my newsletter, I want them to contact me to get a quote.
After that, it’s on you.
Ok, I am having a feeling that we are derailing the entire objective of this post so let me gather my thoughts and get back to you.
(after a two-day break for coffee)
Ok, we are back! So what were we were saying? Ah yes.
Fantastic job on writing down your goals (if you have actually done that, send them to me and I will reward you with 50% off for any plan for a year!)
Step 3: Design Your Website Architecture
So now it’s time to actually start scheduling your website architecture.
Based on your goals, what pages will you need?
Let’s use another example (sorry photographers, but … ). Let’s say you are a yoga instructor.
You already have your goals, so if I were you I would need:
A Home page to briefly explain what is the site about
A Services page to list all the Yoga classes you offer
A Contact us page for people to contact you
A Booking page for people to book directly – which needs to be integrated with online payments. The last thing you need is to have a class where people book online, and they do not show up (at least, you will get paid upfront).
A Newsletter page, connected with an email service.
Maybe a video section where you could upload tips
And lastly, a blog, where you also write about exercises, tips, lifestyle – even dieting – and distribute it via the newsletter and your social (see how everything is connected?)
So in total, you need 6 pages.
Here is an example of a design architecture I created in less than 5 seconds:-)
1500 Euros please, thank you. I do not take checks, just cash, double thank you.
Ok, joking aside, since you have your site structure, what you need is to start looking for a design.
Step 4: Find Someone To Design Your Website (Or Try To Design It Yourself)
Take a look at your competitors. What websites do they have? Who is the industry leader?
Make a list of what impressed you on your competitors’ websites. Go even further by visiting other service or product-related websites and make a list of what you liked.
It’s a lot of work, I know. But you have a business, and businesses require time and investments (I am not going to say money – oh wait, I just did).
Then what you need to do is design what we call a wireframe.
Start by pulling a piece of blank A4 paper (ok, any size, whatever) and draw your home page. How would you like it to be, based on what you saw from your competitors?
Here is a design I pulled from Hubspot (a CRM system) that I liked and matched our colours too:
The basic structure is:
A headline that communicates what benefit someone gets (and not what you do)
Text that explains a bit in detail
Any video that you have and briefly explains or gives a sample of what they can expect
A signup form and reason to signup
Continue as the above for the rest of the pages, i.e. in the Services page you will have:
A sub-headline about what they are about to read
A list of services with proper explanation, keywords and possible pricig, a book now button
A closure at the end like “Lets us know if you need any help choosing! Contact us today to change your lifestyle for the better” (or something like that)
Since you have the structure now, it is time to think about the design.
So many options here. Who will design your website? Will you go with a bespoke agency? Wil you try make it on your own?
Everything depends on your budget and THE PERCEIVED and FUTURE value you believe your website will give you.
To put things in perspective, a designer agency (or a freelancer) can get a basic site working in under 5 weeks time. She/he will need all the above to start with (see how much time I just saved you) and then they will need one week to think about it, and a couple of weeks at best to come up with designs. When you approve a design, they will start to design it and then you will have to be able to change stuff if you do not agree/change your mind. Normally you get 1-3 revisions on an approved design.
Typical design services charge between 5,000 to 10,000 Euros for a custom-made, bespoke design specifically made for you.
Will you try and make it yourself? Services like Wix.com, GoDaddy.com and or self-hosted WordPress allow you to experiment with designing your own website. This will cost you a small monthly fee plus lost of time experimentation and mistakes (aka time).
Or maybe, cut the development to zero, and go for a semi-custom web design service – there are agencies out there who will show you a few premade websites, which can be customised to meet your needs. These designs already have a suite of plugins that are already purchased, and you end paying like 90% less to have this created, with your own text, images, videos and colours.
One of these agencies is Centis. When you decide you need a WordPress website for your business, you have the option to go slow.
Plans start from 129/month for a 5-8 page design, including all the plugins, web hosting AND we write a newsletter for your subscribers on a monthly basis. We hate setup fees, so we do not charge to set up with anything – Google Analytics, Facebook Pixels or newsletter.
You have beautiful lead capture and contact forms, access to optimised blogging, and you can select from a collection of semi-custom sites that we customise to your needs, including text and images.
As you have the website and brings you leads and sales = making money off it, you can upgrade to any of the other plans that include ads on Facebook/Instagram and Google Search, with laser targeting your clients.
At the end of the day, the semi-custom website will look nothing like anyone else’s website – it will be your own branding.
Step 5: Start Wondering. What happens if you prefer to go with designing it on your own?
The sky will come crushing you, and the fires of hell will open and ….
Nothing really, you will just trade your time with experimenting, until you make it right:-)
If you decide to go with self-hosted WordPress, you will need to
Select a WordPress hosting provider (we recommend SiteGround)
Install the WordPress app (SiteGround does this with a few clicks, no coding)
And then, either find a theme to install and customise or create your own.
What about plugins?
In any typical installation of WordPress, you will need (at least what we recommend)
The above simply replaces the Google Site Kit (we love this plugin by the way, but the less plugins you have the better) and Facebook Plugin.
Any booking plugin that can connect to payment gateways like Stripe, Paypal etc if you sell services
WooCommerce and various extensions if you sell products or downloadable assets, like photos, ebooks etc
All of the above, except the booking plugin (which you can possibly find something out there), are free!
If you need advanced “systems” like Adroll (for retargeting) or enhancing your posts with calendar, social shares etc, this adds up:-)
Plugins come and go – each week/month you will be wondering how to enhance your website, make it better, faster and more. So you will start searching for plugins that do just that.
All the above means, if you are creating a new website and have no experience whatsoever (if you do, you know what to do) that if you do not have the budget, or if you do, but you do not see the value in having someone creating a website for you, that you will spend some considerable amount of time designing, redesigning, deleting and recreating.
That’s where Centis comes in. For just a very small monthly fee, you sit down with (virtually) a product design expert and helps you to select the design you need. Then, you write your content for each page and send him your images and logos.
In just a few days, you will have a brand new website, lead capture forms, a blogging platform to express your thoughts and create leadership and a newsletter (which you will NOT have to write it, just approve the content every month.
Since we launched back in 2017, our focus has always been in the nutraceuticals industry. Here’s why we decided to ditch niching down.
It actually started when I realised a problem after an morning conversation with one of my VAs:
VA: “Sal, Mark called again”
Sal: “What do you mean, I told him that we do not deal with department stores”
VA: “He insists, as he comes referred by our accountant!”
Looking back to 2017 when I transformed my consultancy to an agency, I decided to follow the wisdom of older marketing giants and niche down.
So I thought, I am most familiar with supplements. And what is the biggest problem with supplements? Nutraceutical manufacturers.
If you are a supplement brand owner and you are reading this line, you are probably nodding your head right now.
Try to contact any supplement manufacturer and you will be met with indifference. I mean, send an inquiry via their form – no reply. Call them and wait. Most likely they will tell you to call back or they will call you back – which never happens. Send them a message on Facebook (wait, what?).
So we decided to jump in and solve their conversion and marketing problems.
And boy, was that a ride. In the short years from 2017, when we started – we were the ONLY marketing agency in the entire world working with nutraceutical manufacturers exclusively – we managed to acquire huge clients from Germany, Belgium, Italy, Hong Kong and of course, United Kingdom.
So eventually, managers and business owners referred us when they have a friend who needed help.
And we turned them down. All of them.
Whilst my wife (who is also a partner) was sceptical, she remained silent except for the hours we had our we-time.
“Do you think it’s a mistake to turn these people down? I think we are going to regret it eventually”.
“Nope, our market is within the nutraceuticals industry. How clients are going to react if they hear we are now taking customers from every direction? We stop being specialised and we lose our competitive edge”
“Ok, you are the expert.”
She was right.
I was the expert. But I made mistakes before.
Fast forward to COVID-era, we noticed a trend. People start losing their jobs. Business executives working at major firms are getting fired.
And then what happened?
They started their own marketing consultancies or “agencies”.
We start to feel the trend.
Prospects we qualified and nurtured for months told us that they would go with a cheaper alternative, despite our warnings that people with no knowledge of the supplement regulations are going to burn their ad budgets and get their social media accounts banned.
But they didn’t listen – when you have the option to get a “Facebook consultant” to manage your Facebook ads for $200 per month whereas Centis was asking for 750, at best – what would you do?
You would try your luck with the cheaper option.
A few months later, I took a big decision.
In the middle of summer 2021, I announced the split of Centis into an e-commerce focused agency and the launch of NutraceuticalsMarketing.com
This was an effort to diversify – accept more customers from other industries and still serve our old and new supplement customers who wanted to know that we still specialise.
But this generated several new major problems.
Four Reasons Why We Took the Decision to “Kill” Our Agency
We spread ourselves too thin. At Centis, before 2022, hiring people was a very difficult process (not because we want to be difficult people, but we owe to our customers the most quality possible). Ok, we are not Facebook or Google, but to hire someone means weeks of interviews, background checking, proof that our interviewee knows their stuff, plus training. Lots of training. In fact our new hires spend their entire first two weeks in getting trained, and then they start to slowly be deployed to customer accounts with the help of a surpervisor (and most of the times, this is me:-)
So we asked our current employees if they can handle more work and less “specialised” work – eCommerce.
They said yes.
They made a mistake too.
Our team of 35 people, previously trained in supplements and nutraceuticals marketing had to “adjust” to marketing eCommerce companies from every field imaginable – electronics, clothing, food, even vaping. This meant that they had to figure out what worked in each industry and adjust by writing SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), creating templates from scratch and more.
How we solved this problem:
After September 2021, we started reconsidering the whole idea of opening up and offering a multitude of services to eCommerce AND nutraceuticals. With the previous month’s experience, and having a new model at hand, we sat down with everyone, put benchmarks and completely revamped the service offering. We now offer just three services for our core offering (web design, ads and email marketing) and completely streamlined our processes, hired a training company to provide to also revamp our training process, making the training faster (but more efficient) and now we do not have a limit on how many customers we take. The sky is our limit 🙂
2. We lost the ball with promoting our own agency. Ever heard the proverbial saying “The shoe maker’s kids have no shoes”? That was us. With two own brands to promote, centis.net and the now merged nutraceuticalsmarketing.com that meant we had to post content into two of our own websites, update eight different accounts on social, create an additional email sequence, automate everything from scratch tailored for eCommerce clients and much much more.
But wait, Sal, is that what would you do when you have customers? You are correct. The truth is, we didn’t invest in our own marketing, saying “Nahh, I will post an article later”. We didn’t really care as our priority was, and will always be, the customer.
Bottom line? We did the bare minimum and we lost credibility by not promoting ourselves regularly.
How we solved this problem:
For starters, we merged the two sites into one and repositioned our offering to just three services, not fifty as before. This allowed us to split our team into two groups: the people who will handle the core services and the people who will handle the Full Stack.
Then, we simply hired and trained more people AND placed three people to write and promote our agency. Problem solved.
3. At the nutraceuticals niche, the prospect pool was too small. We eventually hit a point where we ran out of prospects so we had to go back to past prospects, pestering their inboxes. A big no-no.
How we solved this problem:
Again, by repositioning our agency to accommodate more businesses that need our help. Create a product that really is affordable, is streamlined and nearly anyone can buy was a big, internal win for us.
4. The nutraceuticals industry is too secretive and we couldn’t show our work. With every new client, we signed an NDA, which means that we couldn’t publicise our work. This eventually came back and bite us in the a#$%^s, as EVERY client wanted to see examples of our work. When we finally found a way to actually create screenshots with redacted brands and products, they thought they were fake!
How we solved his problem:
By repositioning our agency, NDAs are a thing of the past. We no longer accept working with an NDA and we also make an effort to publicise our work, which in turn, really promotes our agency culture, ethics, and effort.
So I had enough. But I was scared to make a change and I didn’t know what to do.
Until it hit me.
Centis was already a productized agency, meaning we didn’t bill on a per hour basis, but clients would select a package (with some necessary negotiation of course) and then we delivered our services on a fixed fee.
So far so good.
What I didn’t know is HOW I could expand our services to more people that needed them, since we were already an expensive agency (hence, the cost of specialisation).
So I spent the entire November and December working on different business models but it all came back to the same conclusion:
Centis should stop being so specialised and expand to whoever needed its services.
So, in the middle of December, I presented my team the view for the business:
Scrap the point-based fee, enter the monthly rental fee.
2. We will become the WIX of the agency world. Or the Netflix of the agency world, whatever you prefer.
For a low monthly fee, instead of shelling out thousands of Euros for a website, clients will be able to have a beautiful website and very specific marketing growth actions, like a newsletter, as well as Facebook and Google ads to help them grow.
We had to tell our customers about it.
Of course some people will be disappointed.
But what we did is that we kept our legacy clients as is- and in some cases, we lowered our fees.
Without a doubt, some clients will hate working with us. Whilst nothing will change from our end, some clients specifically came because we are (were) so specialised.
But having a very clear 12-month goal makes our decision much easier.
Centis was capped by the small volume numbers of the nutraceuticals industry. The new goal is to be able to help 10,000 businesses by the end of the year, so we need to innovate and keep our resources focused on that goal.
And as much as it hurts to change the entirety of our website, our business model and our product offering, we need to.
How To Implement Change In Your Business As Well
When you have worked your ass off for a few years to perfect a business model that works, and then your reality changes (actually, everyone’s reality changed since 2020 – it is extremely difficult to accept that you have to erase from the map what you have created and re-build.
But with adversity comes opportunity, and this is an opportunity for you to really look hard on your product – and your clients and ask yourself:
Does your product or service:
Deliver more value to your customers than if they were using a competing product for that feature?
Deliver more value to your business than the resources you spend to support and maintain it?
Clearly have a direct impact on you meeting your goals as a business?
Clearly have a direct impact on client’s lives and businesses?
If the answer is “no” to any of those, it might be time to make some tough choices.