Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogel Paul, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. We’re going to be talking about creating automated WordPress group engines. And this episode is going to be a fun one. We’re going to learn how to grow by saying no to your agency clients. And joining us for that conversation of Brian customs is Katrina Martin Katrina, welcome to prestigious. Thank you so much. So glad to have you here. I know I’ve gotten to get to know you from around the way within the WordPress Genesis communities. And so we’re going to have you on here to talk about your strategies for saying no to clients and your agency business. And I believe you get some benefits out of that, including perhaps delivering more value to your customers and of course, less headaches for yourself. But to kick us bits off Katrina, I was wondering if you can tell me a little bit about your WordPress origin story. When was the first time you use WordPress.
Katrina Martin: So the first time I ever used WordPress, I was looking for a new platform to create and better learn. So I learned by breaking things. So I used to use blogger posts the MySpace template creation and I went to blogger and bloggers not that very intuitive. It’s very messy. Does it make sense? So I tore apart randomly One day, a WordPress theme. And it was like, Oh, this is really cool. I literally learned PHP and never looked back.
DV: Nice. You know, I know a lot of people’s journey is similar in terms of like tearing things down and learning by looking. What year did you tear apart that first WordPress theme? Do you recall?
KM: 2007, 2008 was very early 2000s. I think MySpace went off from 2006. So it had to be around that time.
DV: Okay, okay. So right in the thick of blogging getting really popular. And then but still before custom post types and custom meta fields. So kind of before that, what I consider to be like the CMS era of WordPress right now, even since you broke down that theme and kind of learn PHP and of course learn WordPress along the way. You started right at customs and you do this work for others now, right. Can you tell me a little bit about Riot Customs?
KM: Yeah, so I started right before I got into WordPress. I used to be a graphic designer, I went to design school, and I would make flyers and things like that. So I started the business writing custom sells probably around 2004 maybe. And it just progressed. From there. I like to design for fun versus designing for businesses. So I kind of took that completely off of my services and just went directly into development because I found more comfort there when it came to creating a business with it.
DV: That’s interesting. So you started right before using WordPress but as a designer that I guess was it tearing apart the theme that gave you the kind of thirst to learn to code or was it something.
KM: Well, I always done it. I was doing CSS because my face when I did CSS and HTML for blogger, and I just have this natural urge to want to learn more and more and more all the time. So the more I got in the way I found where I just got into this, like, Oh, this is really cool. It challenges me I’m I’m constantly learning things even today I’m still learning things.
DV: Have you fully purged the design part of you like you’re all nerd if you feel like you’re a blend.
KM: I’m a blend of the two because of my house. I have turned the need to do design more to interior design. My roommate constantly buying things. Um, but I still have that desire to design things just not for other people.
DV: Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha. Okay. So you can scratch that itch in other ways. And lead and nerd part of your percent, I suppose, is inside. Very interesting. So it sounds like in this journey, even things you love like design, you end up having you ended up having to kind of say no to over time in some capacity. So could you tell me a little bit about like your journey? Like, how did you discover that saying no, was a good strategy to use in your business was by accident, on purpose, we understand, like, what the process of discovery was, like, it was a little of both.
KM: So I, um, a few years ago, I got really, really sick and had to deal with my health. So I’m trying to run a business and get clients. And also, not remembering to take care of myself was part of that journey to say no to people. So I’m a part of the no is where I end up being design off because they weren’t, it wasn’t fun anymore. Um, burnout is real, especially when we’re sick. So I had to develop this new way of how do you stay alive and keep a business alive at the same time? And the best way that I figured that out was by saying, No, in fact, it’s my favorite song. At this point. I have no problems telling people No. And I don’t just do it in business I do in my personal life as well. So me getting sick had everything to do with me learning how to tell people No, I’m not going to do that. Or no, that’s not gonna work. There’s so many ways to say no. Um, and I think people respect you more as a person and as a business.
DV: So it wasn’t that you sat down one day you were like, I’m saying yes. Literally, that your hand was forced. got sick. Yeah. You had to run a business kind of lost your passion on the design side a little bit. And it was just a matter of me. had to say no. And so it was in that journey that you discovered the value and like, kept it up, since this forces have abated.
KM: Yeah, like it’s the worst thing. I like really crazy life experiences. You, especially the bad ones kind of give you perspective in life. So now I’m in the process of teaching my clients who currently we had to, like force her hand to shut down. She was falling apart physically at this point she had COVID and then our back without a whole landslide happening and I had I’m teaching her to say no her to say, even though she knows that I tell her no all the time. To the point where I call her family.
DV: That’s right. You probably say no more than you say no to strangers. That’s right. This is a general observation.
KM: Yeah. So she ran herself ragged to the point where she finally listened and said, You know, I do need to start saying no.
DV: And it’s such a relief I know like on a personal level If I had some event or thing that happens that transcends and I have to say no to things. It’s essentially a relief or like the simple Have empowerment to like get that control back with what you’re working on. Did you experience that? Or was it just a relief for the pressure you were feeling or getting sick and the pressures on the business? Did you feel that sense of relief within the business itself?
KM: It was a relief on both ends, but especially my business because at first just like everyone else, when you’re first starting off, you’re just trying to get in as many Clients as you can to make as much money as you possible and stay in business and that kind of contributed to my getting worse, medically. So when I started re evaluating along that journey of saying no to people my business isn’t as busy, but it’s more manageable, physically emotionally happier, because they have more time with me. Versus Oh, you get this little amount yada yada yada, because I got to change my services to where they can still have me when they need me the most because it’s a retainer business now.
DV: I’m gonna say just real quickly, it sounds like you know, by by taking that journey course, you ended up ultimately in a better self, Place yourself and your clients also did. But I want to dig into this a little bit deeper, but we’re gonna take a quick break and we’ll be right back.
KM: Welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on w Mr. This is your host, David mobile And interviewing Katrina Martin, about how to grow by saying no to agency clients. Katrina right before the break we had shared how You kind of were forced into this journey of saying no to due to circumstances but then found great value in your business and then of course, great value in your customers businesses as well. So I know like the inclination for particularly kind of New freelance and agency businesses the you know yes ma’am or a yes man, client or whatever They ask, Why do clients ask for things they don’t need? Like why are they asking for these things?
DV: I think just in a general sense is that we have gone through Business wise with the customer always been right and that’s completely false. I worked in customer service for 15 years and I can tell you they’re wrong all the time. This is why you have policy This is why you have contracts because they’re not they don’t know. They’re not experts in whatever field you’re in, they don’t know they just want things. So you as an expert telling them they can’t have things probably will help you end Both in the long run than it will in the short one. Yeah, they’ll probably get mad But then they’ll find out some or later they might toy Yes man. That’s the whole thing with Complete out of control, dating get exactly what was needed. They just got a bunch of bells and whistles and they have a broken website. This is from personal experience and I’m noticing that that I got a lot of clients based off of terrible experience. Is prior. They were told that they could have all of these things and it didn’t work out the way that it was supposed to. When a lot of time that came with me, it was well, this whole list of things that she wanted should never happen. Beat me down. They were unnecessary and they don’t even work for your business goals. So if you find them ground where It’s more important to have quality over quantity than that. will change the way that customers come to you.
DV: So it sounds like from the high level customers are kind of getting this notion that they need a, b and c or wherever made, I guess Facebook posts or blogs they read. They come in and ask an agency or Freelancer for the thing. Some folks say sure, oh, Do that for you. But kind of your view is kind of funny. This is very similar to how I thought about customer engagements in my agency days. Was that that no If the customer’s always right doesn’t always apply when the customer is inquiring about, you know Essentially consulting services about like what they should do. And I remember in our marketing arm we would have, you know, SEO and PPC People come in and say we need SEO like tomorrow, we would say, Well, what do you really need tomorrow? And they would say, Well, we’d say, Okay, great. You do PPC, PPC. And they’re like, no. And then, of course, the recommendation would be to start with PPC, rather than SEO to get those sales to the door faster. But it sounds like from your perspective, thinking about it for your clients, you’re like, basically, like lifting and I like thinking, is this really the right thing? I should be hearing this company or this person? That sounds about right, Katrina?
KM: I’m working for other people in different industries. Um, I can tell you that I have clients come into the workplace demanding things that had nothing to do with how their business function. Um, and you’re just like, why would we do that when that’s not going to help them?
DV: I love that way of thinking. And of course, businesses hire agencies and freelancers usually to grow. So if you’re not achieving that outcome, it’s probably time to say no, to of course, I feel like when you say no to things, when you point out, hey, don’t really need this, you need this everything. Like, that’s a pretty easy conversation. But how do you think about saying no, someone asks for more than they bought, like, scope creep? Like, you should have done this, or I expected you to do that. But it’s not necessarily clear the agreement or the scope of work or whatever, like, how do you how do you say no, in this situation?
KM: Oh, that’s my builder, my favorite people. Um, I’m a queen of difficult people, I worked in a call center. So I can handle any kind of type of customer or client. Um, I did it for so many years. So those are the creepers, I like to call them, um, they are the ones, how I deal with them is how you deal with a child who wants more of something. Um, you, you have to not use condescending, don’t be rude, just flat out, say like, hey, make sure you have everything written down, make sure you have your contract solid. Like, hey, this is what we agreed on doing. This is not part of that agreement. If you want to do that as well, we can do that at another time on a different project.
DV: So then, of course, some clients reply back and say, ah, then then, of course retort, so you just keep escalating the No, I guess until they get it our ways.
KM: If they doubt, or Yeah, I basically tell them like, it’s not gonna happen. Like, if you don’t want this to happen, this is another project that we can do. I was like, but right now we’re doing what we agreed on. If you don’t like that, we can end the contract. And that’s usually when they back down.
DV: Yeah, that notion of, you know, kind of, not just burning, but like representing that respect, that you’re providing a quality quality craft, if you have a team member, maybe a quality team members and like, know, what we do is important, what we agreed on this important, and we’re gonna, you know, keep our business healthy, keep our team healthy, keep our team know, well cared for it everything else by having these policies. Yeah, like saying no is a big boundary that you should have. What’s in your contract is your boundary. And they have to respect that boundary, you find that more often than not, you get the client to agree to the additional to pay for the additional work, like can always just be like, No, I’m not going to do it, right. Like, Oh, well, that’s not the additional scope. But for a little bit more money, we can totally knock that out.
KM: Yeah even in my contract is says if you’re going to add more, it’s going to be more money. And they know that upfront, if you decided that you want to add an extra whole page that you’re going to be paying for that whole page of extra work, because it’s not part of the breakdown of the project. And they usually respect you more for doing that, especially up front. And they most of the time, they will agree to it. Or they’ll come back they say not right now or they’ll come back at another time. And that is also the best way to get repeat business.
DV: Because I’m curious, like, the other side is scope creep. Like there’s the obvious ones where it’s like, I want you to build out this whole section of the website that we never agreed on. Then there’s more like insidious ones, those small like 15 minute fixes. And I remember my agency days, my staff would often do these things on you know, on the fly, if you will, just to get the customer happy in it as a big fan of one of these, like, I don’t know, reality TV shows about bars and they talked about this notion of over tipping over pouring to get a bigger tip from the customer. form of giving away assets, if you will, that kind of immediate benefit in that tab. And so I often think of the thought of this 15 minute micro projects, like emotional over chipping, like, I just want to make this person happy, I can do this picture quickly. So like, where do you draw the line? Do you do those like little incremental fixes? Just because it’s 15 minutes? Are you like super strict? When when you start to think about when you say no?
KM: Uh no, for certain clients, I’ll do extra, because I know they’re not going to x again. Um, you kind of have to pay attention to what type of client that you’re doing that for those people that will take advantage of that and will constantly try to do that. Um, it’s all trying to fill, fill it out. And I’ve been in situations where I did a little bit of extra work because it took like, two or three minutes, but then you get, you know, there’s a 5050 chance that they will keep doing it, or they won’t.
DV: Through thinking about it through the lens of like, Am I setting precedents will this cause me more headaches later down the line? I think that’s a great way to think about that. But have smart questions, but we’re gonna take a quick break.
DV: Welcome back to Press This. This is your host, David Vogelpohl. I’m interviewing Katrina Martin of Riot customs about how to grow by saying no to agency clients. Katrina right before the break, we talked a little bit about saying no to clients asking for more than they bought the word scope creep. So my next question is, like, when you’re saying specifically No, someone asked for something that they don’t need, like, how do you like how do you do that? Are you saying like, Hey, no, you’re totally wrong. I know better? This is what you need. Are you like taking them on an educational journey? Like how do you kind of prove that saying no, is the right call because they don’t always go the education route.
KM: Don’t tell them because you’re, you know more than them. You’re right. That’s just gone, you’re gonna end up in a crazy situation, I’m always use, always make it a learning experience for them. So whatever they’re asking for, that doesn’t make sense. Look up references to why that doesn’t work for them. And show them because they’re not they don’t really know. That’s why they’re coming to you because you are the expert. So you have to teach them why that thing is going to help them or that extra feature is immediate. This is why at the beginning, you need to have that full conversation of what it is that they are looking for and kind of find a mutual ground of what is actually needed in that conversation for their business. Their business goal isn’t always just getting more clients. Sometimes that business goal is to get a better quality acquiring clients. So how do you get that versus having certain features on the website that doesn’t bring in quality customers but just customer so you have to find where that places prior to that point. And I know that clients will literally just ask for things because they saw somebody else have it and you have to tell them why that this person would do that versus why you shouldn’t do that. So that’s why I always say that educational route is always the best route to go.
DV: Okay, so you’re you’re kind of bringing the customer along in the journey. Like, better search results, or more traffic, like you kind of went straight to the like business outcomes like what kind of customers that the number of customers. You buy like you have to bridge that gap a lot with customers where like they come in asking for an incremental metric and you’re like well wait a minute, what are you really trying to do here.
KM: yeah if you’re a online shop. I’m just because you have a large amount of traffic on the site, that doesn’t mean that they’re buying anything. So the goal is to get people to buy versus just get a lot of traffic so the goal to have more traffic makes absolutely no sense.
DV: Yeah, so that that notion of saying no becomes a lot easier. You kind of balance the strategy against the outcome. I also remember from my agency days I had a client who had given us a target cost per customer to acquire which we were hitting in our PPC campaigns, and they fired us though because we didn’t have as many visitors in our campaigns as an agency that was managing the Facebook campaign who basically had no conversions. And I explained to them why our approach was better, our lives, obviously, and they still didn’t see it, and I decided not to press it any further and just walked away from the deal. Have you ever walked away from a customer, because you had to say no, and they just were not.
KM: You need to what is the angle what is a long term. I like to look at the big picture versus the now, and I think a lot of people are in this day and age are now now now now now they want instant gratification versus but that doesn’t carry on to, like how will your business survive just now part. I’ve seen people go business go viral, and they couldn’t handle the orders.
DV: Real quick last question Katrina, how did adopting a purposeful strategy around saying no positively affected business positive affect.
KM: My business that I have long term clients versus one off clients so saying no to them, and making sure that they’re getting the things that they need versus what they want, has created. I have my oldest longest client is, I think we’re going on, five years. Wow, That’s amazing. That’s exactly what I was picturing when you would say, like, you described contrasts you were building in your business. Say no more often to family than strangers. So it’s good to see leveraging that to gain trust with your customers, thank you so much for joining us here today. Thank you for having me. That was awesome.
DV: If you’d like to learn more about what Katrina is up to you can visit Riot Customs.com.