Today, I will share our story on what triggered a complete rethinking of our service business, AirDesigns, the challenges and opportunities of developing an industry-dominating strategy, the exact steps we took, and how we ended up achieving 67% year on year growth.
Let me start from the very beginning.
We started our web agency AirDesigns back in 2013 when a friend of ours came to us and asked us to help him, and his team create an Interactive HTML5 banner creation platform. He has the idea, but that was all. He didn’t have a technical or business background, and he needed help with pretty much every side of the project.
While working together, he referred some of his friends, so our business started to grow naturally. At first, it was just us. Then we focused on adding new services, coming up with a business strategy, finding the right partners, etc.
At some point, we realized that natural growth was a good thing, but solid companies do not rely on luck to get new clients. We needed a marketing plan. After several months of trying different tactics and spending marketing budgets, we got very little traction in the market.
The ugly truth was that we were struggling to figure out how to market our company. We weren’t different. We just used the same marketing tactics that all web development companies do. And we didn’t have huge budgets to outspend them.
We needed a stronger, distinctive brand, a clear message, and most importantly, a powerful, industry-dominating strategy.
Do clear differentiators matter that much?
Yes, they do.
With the fierce competition out there and the easy entry-level in the web development business, you can’t just rely on putting your website on the web doing the same things everyone else is doing and hope that the sales will start pouring in. If you don’t stand out in the market with clear differentiators and services at least 5x better than your rivals, you will never crush the competition, and achieve top-notch revenue growth.
What are the industry challenges we solve?
We’d been thinking about how to differentiate ourselves and create an industry-dominating strategy for a while but I think the real conversation started in 2019 when we clearly recognized two huge problems in the web development industry:
- 1/3 of the websites never achieve their goals – A HubSpot.com study found that 1/3 of marketers were unhappy with the results.
- 49% of web projects go beyond the deadlines – Many web projects don’t launch on time or never get finished. Actually, that happens to 49% of websites, according to HubSpot.com. Delaying means more costs and loss of potential revenue for the client. Not to mention that some redesign projects take so long that they quickly get out of date again by the time they are ready for release.
These real challenges have been accepted as industry norms. We knew we had to address them to put our business in the driver’s seat.
But what might be the solution that would give us an exponential competitive advantage (4-7x) for our industry?
The answer is simple: hiring really good web developers
The utopia of the mediocre developers
Or why there isn’t room in the web development industry for providers that use the cheapest developers available
The conventional wisdom in today’s business world seems to be that the most important thing is reducing the cost of developers.
Many web agencies prefer to hire mediocre programmers and can’t justify hiring A players, simply aiming at decreasing their costs.
The real trouble with using mediocre developers instead of A players is that they will never produce something as good as what great programmers can create.
The same way as three mediocre composers will never write Vivaldi’s Four seasons no matter how long they work; three average programmers will never create the website, app, or e-commerce store you need to stand out on the web. You’ll get something average at best.
But average is not enough.
These are the characteristics that software products (websites, apps, ecommerce) must possess to make a market hit. And if startups and businesses don’t get this stuff right, they may solve their customers’ problems, but their product will never become the #1 hit that makes everybody in the company rich.
Businesses can’t afford to be number two or to have a “good enough” product. It has to be remarkably good, which means that it should be so good that people talk about it, refer a friend, and come back regularly.
The product that you get from a really talented web developer is your only hope for remarkableness.
That’s why we committed to hiring only highly specialized, talented developers whose expertise in a particular technology is remarkable. We built AirDesigns on that promise.
How we make our services 5 times better than anyone else’s?
Next, we had to create a powerful strategy around our beliefs. Let me walk you through the steps we took:
Step 1: Craft a unique brand promise
Your unique brand promise is your key differentiator. It’s important for your employees to keep them motivated and aligned with your company’s values and for your clients to know what they will receive partnering with your company.
Our promise is very simple:
Your next web project – website, app, or e-commerce:
- Remarkably good – deserving praise
- Delivered on time – not getting stuck in the loop of “a few days away from launching”
However, a promise has no weight if you don’t keep it.
We didn’t want to lose customers and get negative word-of-mouth publicity, so we had to think about how to make our brand promises measurable.
The #1 reason websites fail is because they lack a clear business objective. So we always set S.M.A.R.T (S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) website goals for every project we work on to measure success.
Step 2: Brand promise guarantee
You are asking yourself why you need a brand promise guarantee?
For two distinct reasons:
- to keep your team laser-focused on keeping your promises
- to reduce customers’ fear of buying from you.
For us, giving the code we’ve done for our clients for free is the guarantee behind our promise to deliver them a remarkably good website on time.
// Our clients either get a remarkably good project delivered on time, or they can take the code we’ve done to our competitors for free //
Step 3: Your tagline
Can you state your strategy in a simple phrase or sentence? Think should summarize the underlying activities that differentiate your company from your competition. For us, that is:
Choose web wizards, not averageness
When you draft your tagline, make sure that it captures your competitive value’s essence and is clear, concise, and memorable.
Step 4: HOW do you deliver on your promise?
Do not worry if your competitors use the same brand promises and guarantees as yours. Your real differentiation should come in the form of HOW you deliver on your promises. “How” you run your business in a way that is different from the norms of your industry, helps you be more profitable, and is hard for your competitors to copy.
What other web development companies do is outsource the code cheaply to subpar programmers. And then wrap it up in an overdressed interface and toss it over to their clients with a bill.
We take an entirely new approach to building custom websites and ecommerce:
- We assign only really talented, highly-specialized developers for the project at hand so that they could create remarkably good web products. We never use full-stack developers.
- We use modular development methodology and automation tools to avoid long and unpredictable timelines
- We are 100% independent from local staff shortage and can replace developers for a project within two weeks, while the average industry standard for employee replacement is about 2-3 months.
- We have a transparent and flexible workflow for managing complex projects that help keep our clients and the team happy.
Each of these innovations contributes to an experience that feels entirely different from other web development agencies. They also contribute to our ability to deliver remarkably good websites on time.
So this was our story of how we found our competitive advantage and created a winning strategy around it.
The months in which we had to rethink our company’s values to offer 5x better services than our competitors were challenging for all of us, but they definitely paid off. The 76% year-on-year growth is the proof.
I am sure that you can follow the steps described above to develop a winning strategy that will give your company a head start.
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