Today I present another written interview, this one actually intrigued me and I’m even thinking about signing up for this service!
Meet Jeff Hall, entrepreneur and business consultant who works at Overflow Cafe – a business that helps small business owners gain website popularity and success. Jeff has helped Overflow Cafe grow to over 40,000 clients and beyond.
Checkout the interview:
1. What got you interested in online marketing? Share your story for helping Overflow Cafe grow.
In the late 90’s and early 00’s Overflow Cafe used to do website design, consulting and marketing – but it was the marketing successes that our clients would rave about. Our websites were just as good as any other company, our consulting was just as good as any other companies, but our clients found that we were better at website-marketing than other companies they were used to. So we decided to drop design, reduce consulting, and
expand on marketing, to be the best at promoting websites.
When we fine tuned our focus just on website promotion, Overflow Cafe started growing organically. Customers sending us more customers, word of mouth. As an example, in the early days, we had small local print shops sending us new customers daily, because we helped those customers succeed in
business and the print shop ended up retaining his clients (instead of them going out of business). Some of those customers sent us new customers. We asked for referrals, and most (not all) of the time, we got them.
2. SEO companies are very competitive these days, how is Overflow Cafe able to stay so competitive with it’s pricing model?
Up to 2007 we used to charge the same amount as every other SEO company out there. A big fat setup fee, and a triple digit monthly fee with an annual contract. We regularly survey our customers and found that everyone hates setup fees and long term contracts, especially small business owners and people starting out. So we set out to do something risky, we invested 6 figures into automating as much of our work as possible, thus eliminating the need for a setup fee, lowering our monthly fee to where a new or small business owner could afford it and also removing the annual contract. The only part I struggle with is the lack of contract.
It’s important for business owners to know that building a business takes a lot of time, years – not weeks. So business owners who understand this fact always do better than those who don’t. Once in a while we get a client who signs up and expects to be #1 in 2-3 hours, even though we’ve made it clear that this sort of thing takes a long time. Every SEO company faces this struggle.
3. What types of tactics were involved in growing Overflow Cafe’s client base to over 40,000? What would you say has helped the company grow the most?
We still work with our very first client from 1995. A local realtor in Toronto Canada who hired us back then to help her promote her services. She doesn’t need us anymore because she has more business than she can handle, but I think she stays with us out of loyalty. My point in saying this is that we do the best work we can and hope that our clients will stick with us.
Our company has grown mostly through word of mouth and direct marketing, making as many customers as happy as possible (and no, we can’t make every customer happy, but we try our hardest for everyone). In the old days (the 90’s) we used to go door to door and that helped a lot, and telesales in the early 00’s was fantastic for us as well. Currently we’ve grown a lot through giving away free accounts to single parents starting businesses and Canadian and American troops coming back from the Middle East who are starting a new business.
We gave away at least 3,000 free 1 year accounts as far as I can remember, and many of those people converted into paying clients, and referred other people to us. We got a bit of positive press from it as well which drove in more people. It was very expensive for us to give away 3,000+ accounts and service them for a whole year, but we figured that if we invest in our clients, this will pay off for them and for us. And it has. Looking forward we are
planning TV ads for 2015 and we want to start sponsoring business training seminars.
4. What are the typical results a client may see over 2-3 months after using the service at Overflow Cafe?
As soon as a client signs up Overflow Cafe, we scan through their website, picking up their keywords, checking their site for problems. We then create a checklist for the client to look at, steps we recommend they take to fix or improve their site, making it as healthy as possible. We then match the client’s website with great online properties they need to be listed on, this could be specialty search engines, local business directories, local business
listing sites and forums and more. We get our clients listed in all of those places, and if we find a place where we can’t get our client listed, we’ll provide the client with a list so they can go ahead and try.
We then guide the client into making sure they have an informative, useful website that converts visitors into paying customers. At the end of each month we provide our client with a report detailing all of our work for the month, their rankings movements, possible future problems, what we’d like them to do in the next month and miscellaneous business tips. This is all a long term, ongoing process, but within 2-3 months a client would expect to have a much healthier website and moved up several pages in search engines for their top keywords plus have a more reasonable outlook for their business and a solid long term plan.
See this is where Overflow Cafe excels – a typical SEO company will help you with rankings, but what good is that if you suck at business? Overflow Cafe’s goal is to help you with both.
5. What are your future plans for 2014 and beyond?
Our clients have been asking us to help them with business planning and training, so that they can be the best business person they can be, so we are investing into hiring MBA’s to create automatic, actionable business advice and business plan templates and step by step instructions for business owners to start, grow and succeed in business. We find that a plumber might be amazing at plumbing, but really bad at running a business. An event planner might be fantastic at planning a wedding, but a poor business owner, so their business fails.
We see this happen over and over – we take a client to #1, they make a ton of money, then because they can’t manage money or manage a successful business, they go bust after a couple of years. One of our clients made $6Million (CAD) in profit before taxes, and lost it all. That made him feel like a loser, and it made our staff feel like losers because we worked so hard for him.
We want our clients to be the best they can be, and we are starting by making Overflow Cafe the best it can be.