Why I no longer advertise the services of my company

    Clients are the foundation of any business. The first clients came to my IT outsourcing company on the recommendation. It was an unpredictable and extremely modest stream. At times, for 3 months no one was even interested in us. In order to somehow push the growth of the business, two years after its opening, I invested in advertising and promoting the company's website on the Internet. Things went a lot more fun.

    Over the 4 years of using advertising, my company’s staff has grown from four to 25 professionals. But the further, the less it brought joy. The use of advertising eroded the goals and values ​​of the work that were laid down during the creation of the company. The company was turning into another “outsourcer”. As a result, in order to rectify the situation, I had to abandon the use of advertising, and in the next two years to part with the majority of customers attracted through it. Now we work only with clients who have come to us on the recommendation. In this article I want to talk about the reasons that prompted me to take this step.

    I'll start with the banal things:

    1. Advertising requires money

    The more money you invest in advertising, the more you get from it. In the first year, three new customers provided us with 50% growth. The next year, for 50% growth, it was already necessary to attract 5-6 new customers. As a result, advertising costs only grew. Four years later, three new customers could only compensate for the loss of old ones, but did not lead to business growth. Refusal of advertising at that moment would inevitably lead to its reduction. Simply put, after 4 years we were completely “on the needle” of advertising.

    Recommendations require satisfied customers. The more you have satisfied customers, the more often they recommend you, and the less you lose customers. Competent specialists and attention to detail increase the likelihood of a recommendation. The costs of advertising make "a little" to save on engineers and "a few" to optimize their principles of work. By the end of the fourth year, the advertising budget of my company was equal to the salaries of two sensible specialists. Further it would only get worse. But even this was not the main trouble:

    2. Advertising takes time

    There are a lot of advertising requests and they all need to be processed. Communicate with potential customers, find out their needs, go to meetings, work out commercial offers. At the same time, nine out of ten requests will end in nothing. Nobody will return the time spent on them, and there is always not enough time. You have to constantly choose who to pay less attention to: sales or current customers.

    Refusal of advertising significantly reduces the number of "random" requests. Without good reason, no one turns to you for services. There is free time in which you can solve the internal problems of the company or carefully process incoming requests. After the ads were turned off, I finally got around to writing articles on habrahabr, an invitation to which I received 3 more years before. Interestingly, these publications also led customers different from advertising because:

    3. “Advertising” customers have less confidence

    Cooperation with "advertising" customers begins with a trial period. This term can reach several years. All this time, the client is cautious about your recommendations for choosing hardware and software. Something can be justified by specifications, instructions, reviews. But some things can only be substantiated by experience. And it is precisely this experience that advertising clients often ignore, preferring to relive it again on their own. As a result, working with such clients resembles Groundhog Day, when you are struggling with the same problems that might not exist.

    Clients arriving on the recommendation completely trust your experience. With them you do not go on the same rake. At the same time, the fewer errors in the operation of systems at the client, the more profitable cooperation for both. But the most important thing is that the number of problems in maintaining systems depends only on your decisions, and not on anyone else's. Eliminating your own mistakes at your own expense is much easier (at least from the moral side) than those made through the fault of the client. To reach the level when in the client’s IT infrastructure there was simply nothing to break, we could only come with clients who came to us on the recommendation. Advertising clients might want the same result, but:

    4. Advertising customers cannot evaluate technical competency

    Most company executives do not understand anything in system administration. All “outsourcers” are one person for them and differ only in the site, location of the office and the price of services. If your company’s services are superior to the competition and the office is not in close proximity, then the chances of making a deal tend to zero. Companies that do not understand anything in system administration became our customers only when their office was close to us. It’s good that our office is located next to Gazprom.

    Our services through advertising were mainly bought only by customers who were knowledgeable in system administration or who recruited familiar admins for the duration of the search. But such customers turned to advertisements to find a service provider last. At first, they tried to find outsourcers through recommendations. As a result, attracting such customers through advertising was of low efficiency. But this would not be such a big disaster, if not for the fact that:

    5. Advertising clients dictate their rules

    Maintenance of IT infrastructure is too responsible a task to entrust to its first company. No customer will buy your services just because your ad is hanging on every corner. Advertising can only ensure your participation in the competition for the "best supplier". The criteria of "best" (and the rules of work) each client sets independently. You can match them, or not participate in the competition. If you have your own requirements for the client, then you most likely will not win the competition either. Simply put, if you are advertising the services of your company, you need to be prepared to work with any customers on any terms. In this case, one does not have to talk about the high level of service and long-term relationships.

    Clients coming on the recommendation are already set to work with your company. It is only about the terms of cooperation that suit both sides. Moreover, “satisfactory conditions” do not mean that any of the parties needs to make concessions. If it is impossible to maintain a client’s IT infrastructure harmoniously for both parties, then this is an occasion to choose another solution to the challenges. For some clients, we have modernized the IT infrastructure and selected sensible admins in the state. Some conducted audits and “reconciled” them with their existing admins. But we took up the service of “recommending” customers only when both sides were satisfied with the conditions of cooperation. Thanks to this, it seems to me that over 8 years of work, we lost only two “recommendation” clients, and those in connection with the closure of the business. For comparison,


    My experience with advertising is that it works. If my company sold consumer goods or one-time services, then advertising would be an excellent tool for their implementation. But IT outsourcing relationships are, above all, long-term relationships. In outsourcing, trust, openness and harmony between the client and the supplier are important, which are difficult to achieve with companies that have learned about you from advertising booklets. Despite the fact that advertising creates a feeling of demand for your company’s services, this feeling is deceptive - a much more significant factor is the number of recommendations from existing customers. Refusal of advertising allows you to concentrate on the work of receiving them. And for this very reason, I no longer advertise the services of my company.

    Have a nice day!

    Ivan Kormachev
    IT Department Company

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