Vivid Strategies for Customer Retention:
12 Steps to Increase Your eBusiness
By Charlene Rashkow
When hearing about Vivid Image, Inc., I was both encouraged and refreshed by the unique and effective business model firmly in place. The owners, Steve and Beth Gasser, exemplify the impact good planning as well as good attitudes can have on the success of a business. I believe that the aptly titled Vivid Image, Inc. paints a vivid picture of how a successful business evolves and what methods are required for achieving one's ultimate goals. Beth and Steve's story is truly an entrepreneur's dream.
When I asked Beth why she thought their company had been so successful, she explained that their adoption of a somewhat unorthodox business model versus a product model was the reason their enterprise soared. Since neither Steve nor Beth had a business background before starting their own company in 1995, they sought the guidance of a business adviser before getting started. Steve had worked at the multi-media department at Ridgewater College so he took advantage of the small business management program offered at the university. Quoting Beth, "What we didn't know until much later was that the advice we received and applied would ultimately be the key to our success. We learned the importance of building upon an innovative business model that has taken us very far. We also discovered that our success would have nothing to do with what we offered but more with how we offered it."
Steve, who had been involved with computers for many years, had already learned programming, computer languages and web design way before there was anything he could do with the knowledge. With that foremost in his mind, he established that computer technology and marketing were going to be huge, although he had a hard time convincing Beth that it was the way to go. In fact, Beth actually discouraged him from buying their first computer.
Starting small, they used their own money to begin their business, taking only a minimal $5,000 business loan in 1996, which they paid off within one year. Beth kept her full time job until they stabilized, and now they are debt free. In the beginning, Steve offered computer enhanced graphic design work at the request of a client. Multi-media projects and web design soon followed along with a shift in business focus. Steve quickly realized that each business had different needs, so their business model focused primarily on goals that surrounded customer satisfaction. Before long, Steve's personal approach when dealing with customers led to vast word of mouth advertising and soon they had more clients than they could handle.
"Our retention rate was 98% and we hardly had to do any selling," said Beth. "We had seen too many companies spending most of their budgets on advertising, trying desperately to attract new customers but we saw the potential opportunity of investing in and working with our current client base. With that idea firmly in place we listened to our client's needs and let them help us drive their services."
Today Vivid Image, Inc.'s clientele is international, national, statewide and local. Because their services include web design, graphic design, online and offline marketing, advertising, programming, application development, intranet work, custom applications, business and marketing plans, their services require varied solutions. Their specific growth strategy is built upon providing innovative solutions for their already established client base. All of their solutions are unique and customized to the industry of the client. As a result, they continue to retain clients at an extraordinary rate, obtaining new clients via referral.
I asked Beth if she could simplify their basic growth strategies by sharing the precise methods they have implemented since the inception of their company. She shared the following:
1) We started with a business plan, strategic plan, office culture, budgets and projections and have continued to keep our plan updated regularly.
2) We encourage utilizing a holistic marketing approach; holistic marketing is a process that builds on team oriented activities.
3) We involve employees not only in weekly meetings but include them in strategic planning procedures as well; employees help identify areas of strength as well as areas needing improvement, therefore their input is vital as a resource.
4) Being highly organized individuals, we keep procedures and systems written and in place in every area of our business.
5) We want our clients to be happy, therefore we make sure to involve our clients in focus groups as a means of gaining feedback and necessary changes.
6) We ourselves are involved in our community; we join civic organizations and encourage employees to get involved as well; we also conduct public speaking presentations and attend community events. To our way of thinking staying involved in the community keeps us abreast of what's out there.
7) We meet frequently with a business advisor reviewing financials and other areas of growth.
8) One of the most important things we had to learn was to delegate; although difficult for most entrepreneurs, it was important that we reached a point of letting go; now we allow and encourage each person to contribute in their own special way.
9) We carefully consider that human beings are behind the numbers and since people are the driving force behind and within our business, it is imperative that we keep our employees and clients happy.
10) We allow our company to change and surprise us; by continuing to let our company evolve and grow naturally, we have realized greater satisfaction and more success than we could ever have imagined.
11) We set new goals and reach higher continuously; we project and envision how we'd like it to be by including in our plans and goals those we have yet to meet and hire.
12) We never forget to express our gratitude and appreciation to our clients; without them we would have no business therefore it is an actual policy at our company that we each write at least one thank you note every day.
As testimony to their success, the Vivid Image, Inc. Web Design and Marketing firm www.vimm.com, recently received the Silver AXIEM Award for 2002. This is the second straight year Vivid Image, Inc. has been the only web design firm in Minnesota to win the prestigious award. Over 1,400 entries were received from all 50 states, as well as other countries. The AXIEM (Absolute excellence In Electronic Media) is an award judged against an extremely high set of standards in four areas: innovation, creativity, technical merit and overall experience. The caliber of work entered in the 2002 AXIEM AWARDS is the best of the best.
Apparently Steve and Beth are doing something right. Their overall recommendation is that whether a company is a small Mom and Pop or a large corporation, holistic marketing and measurement tools as suggested above should be incorporated into any forward thinking organization. The lack of holistic marketing seems to be a common denominator among companies that have a high turnover of employees or are simply not succeeding. Although Steve and Beth of Vivid Images, Inc. are aware that new sales might grow their business at a faster rate, they would much rather build upon and retain their current client base. To risk what they have by focusing on what they sell and not on how they sell it, would go against everything they have come to appreciate and value about their business.
About the Author
Charlene Rashkow brings 15 years of experience as a Writing Stylist and Author to her creative efforts as a freelance writer/consultant. She has successfully helped companies and individuals reach their objectives by writing outstanding press releases, bios, articles of interest, business plans, resumes, web site content and all other forms of marketing material. You may contact Charlene Rashkow at www.allyourwritingneeds.com or write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call her directly at (310) 514-4844