An Ottawa web design company owner shares his tips on being unique in a competitive industry.
Phil Alexandre is the founder of Mobolo, an affordable website design and maintenance services company that helps small businesses throughout Canada.
His business, which is based in Ottawa, Ontario, was started in 2016 as a way to merge his love of tech and entrepreneurship. While Alexandre graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering, he worked for a tech firm after he graduated. But while he enjoyed the work, the entrepreneurial itch eventually got the best of him.
"I always wanted to start a business," he said. "I think there is something very interesting about creating something from scratch and molding it to fit the needs of other businesses."
Mobolo offers small businesses an affordable way to get a modern web presence. But when Alexandre launched the company, he knew it would be hard to stand out from the competition. He decided to focus on being a simpler solution than others on the market by offering paired down packages at flat rates with the option for extras.
“Web design is a competitive industry since we're competing will people around the world," he said. “By creating packages that are easy to understand for business owners, we are able to set and exceed expectations."
He says his customers liked the simple cost breakdowns and monthly packages that include things like e-mail addresses, design changes, and updates – often at no extra cost. This helped businesses forecast their website costs and guaranteed Alexandre regular monthly income – a boon for a small business.
Getting that first sale
Despite Alexandre's winning strategy, getting his first sale was still difficult. So, he stopped trying to give his elevator pitch and started to listen instead.
“When I focused on talking to other business owners about their challenges, I realized that most of the time people are looking for people they can trust," he said. “I learned that you can obtain this trust by committing to things and delivering on them in a timely fashion, at a level that makes it worth it for the client."
Alexandre learned that most other web services providers were known for over promising and under-delivering. He therefore committed to managing expectations in order to build trust – which helped him get his first sale and get referrals after that. Committing to only what he could deliver and delivering it well and on time has become the cornerstone of his business success.
What advice does he have for other business owners?
A well-executed business plan was critical for Alexandre's success. In fact, he believes entrepreneurs should spend more time planning how they'll achieve success before they even launch their business.
“I think the most important piece is knowing what you will do on day one, day two, day three, day four, day 99, and day 199," he said. “What's the first thing you need to do? Make cold calls? Setup your online presence? Create and send flyers? Tell people about your services? Reach out to existing contacts?"
He suggests that you start work well in advance of your launch to try to get early sales.
“This will allow you to gauge your understanding of the market while allowing you to pivot before you even launch the business," he said. “Some people call this market research, but I think calling it market research doesn't make people work at it as though they were actually in business and as though they depended on that income to survive and eventually live."
Once you've got your business set up, be willing to recalibrate, Alexandre said.
“Don't be afraid to rethink your service offerings," he said. “If you can get paid well to do specific things or sell specific goods, then sell what's profitable. It's the long-term vision that will drive long term success."
What's next for him?
Alexandre is excited for his own long-term success which he sees connected to technological innovations that will drive automation and reduce the labour necessary to create, update, and maintain his client's websites.
“I believe that automation will help deliver great value in the future," he said. “Making sure clients are satisfied while allowing the company to scale as needed."
That future is around the corner and he's ready and eager to watch his business continue to grow and succeed in the coming years.
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