How do you grow your design business from a handful of customers, to hundreds, while maintaining both service quality and your sanity? This was the question on our minds as we sat down to chat with Derek Brown, the founder of Pronto Marketing, which provides internet and email marketing services to a growing list of small businesses worldwide.
Hi Derek, Pronto Marketing provides email to literally hundreds of clients now - what was the secret to successfully growing this side of your design business?
We sell email marketing as part of a complete 'internet presence management' package - with everything from website creation to SEO bundled in, pretty much all-you-can-eat content creation and customer service and pay-as-you-go pricing. The average small business owner or manager is busy running their business and taking care of their customers. They don't have time to keep their website up to date, send out newsletters, think about SEO, manage social media and more.
Our secret to success is that we do all of this for our clients, so they can focus on whats really important - their business.
Do you have a specific niche, or vertical that you cater to? What makes Pronto attractive to these clients?
We started with a focus on small business' IT service providers. Previous to founding Pronto, I worked with Microsoft and as a result, this was a market I knew well and was fairly well known in.
For the first few years, this sector was our focus - now, we have over 650 IT service provider clients in over a dozen countries. More recently, we started taking clients from all industries and have found that clients outside of the IT industry are the fastest growing segment of our business now. We also recently launched a major push towards health and fitness clubs. Combined, we have about 750 clients around the world on our monthly program and growing.
Our focus will remain on small businesses, as they need a cohesive and effective internet presence and marketing strategy, but typically don't have the resources to create or maintain one. That's our gap to fill.
Given that there is such a variety of email marketing services out there, how do you maintain client loyalty and stay competitive?
Customer loyalty comes from service, not price. We know value is important, but service is what really matters.We remain competitive for 3 reasons; we invest in the best systems such as Campaign Monitor, or we develop tools and API integrations internally, as needed. Secondly, we work hard on our business processes so are super efficient and deliver consistent quality and service. Finally, being based in Bangkok, Thailand provides us with access to a lower cost, highly skilled workforce.
We are super-focused on delivering amazing service to our clients. Our Net Promoter Score (NPS) runs around 60%, while our help desk satisfaction tends to be over 99% on service requests. That compares to a global benchmark of 84% amongst the 10,000 companies using our help desk system provider (Zendesk). Our business model requires us to provide exceptional service to our clients day in and day out, so we just stay focused on listening and improving.
Customer loyalty comes from service, not price. We know value is important, but service is what really matters.
Finally, our pricing is very fair, flexible and competitive - US$247 per month for most clients. No setup, no design or copy fees and you can cancel anytime.
As someone who has been there themselves, what's your advice to designers who are just starting to offer email to their clients?
If you're working with small businesses, make it easy for them. Give them simple choices. They are busy, stressed, overworked and underpaid. This doesn't mean dumbing things down, or providing low-quality work, it means getting into their shoes, thinking of the right thing to do and giving them clear choices. The more you can provide, the better. Either by yourself, or in partnership with other providers such as writers, try to offer an end-to-end solution that you can take care of.
Importantly, keep things simple for yourself, get organized and develop good production and business processes. Don't make things like approving artwork painful for your clients - find ways to make it easy. There are so many great Software as a Service (SaaS) tools out there for managing projects, communications, customer relationships and more - we must use between 20-30 of these apps and services to run Pronto. Do your homework and take advantage of the great tools that are out there - like Campaign Monitor!
Many thanks to Derek and the team for sharing Pronto Marketing's secrets to email marketing success. To see how they bundle email with design and marketing on a big scale, visit their site.