In this week’s “From the Ground Up” interview, we sit down with Mikel Bruce from Tiny Frog Technologies, an UpCity Certified Premium partner and one of the top web design companies in the United States. Below we discuss how TinyFrog got its start in the early days of the internet, how they scale their service offerings, and more!
Q: Tell me a little about your company and how it got its start.
A: TinyFrog started as a marketing company in the early 2000s. Around that time, businesses were just starting to invest in websites. We saw the need and opportunity, so we hired a web designer and started offering that service for our clients.
Q: What was it like being in the industry before SEO and search engines really came into their own?
A: Not too long ago, websites operated like an online brochure and had less of an impact on marketing efforts. For a number of reasons, websites were much simpler. We mainly provided template websites because our clients’ interests didn’t lay in user experience. Back then, sites were designed in basic HTML and the search engines weren’t quite as significant a factor in terms of marketing. This obviously changed very quickly, and we started shifting more and more of our resources to web design and development.
Q: Tell us a bit more about the shift from a typical marketing company to offering traditional web design to evolving into the company you are today?
A: We found that it was difficult to offer marketing services and web design/development services and do both very well. There was a strong tendency for agencies to focus on digital marketing services due to the recurring income, but our strengths were in the web design and development areas. We decided to shift all of our resources into that area then discontinue the more traditional marketing services. It ended up being a great decision and had a significant impact on the quality of our work and service.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge in growing your business thus far?
A: One of the biggest challenges for our business is scaling to meet the needs of our clients, while also not overstaffing. We’re constantly assessing our team’s workload & resources to make sure every client is getting the same, top-level of service.
Q: When it comes to assessing your team’s workload, what signs do you look for that signal you may need to expand the team? On a similar note, do you ever consider other methods of scaling your operations like outsourcing some services or investing in increased automation?
A: We only expand based on necessity due to the expense, our primary indicator is when our team is doing a lot of overtime and showing signs of stress. In the past, we used to outsource to more contractors, but due to shifts in California laws, it has been increasingly difficult to continue with that solution. We are always looking for ways to make the company more efficient through technology and to improve our processes, though.
Q: Shifting gears a bit, what strategies or resources do you use to stay on top of the latest industry trends?
A: In this industry, staying on top of all the quick changes in design trends and technology is a huge challenge. A few times a year we attend WordPress conferences to stay up-to-date on our CMS platform. There, we gain new ideas for internal design testing, network with other industry pros, and get to acquire new techniques and strategies that we can offer to our clients. Many of our employees take a personal and professional interest in educating themselves on a wide variety of industry-related topics; we encourage all team members to share ideas and things that they have learned.
Q: What strategies do you use to keep customers engaged from first touch to conversion and beyond?
A: We have a team dedicated to qualifying clients, making sure their needs are the right fit for our services. As the owner, I handle most of the sales process, which gives me the chance to connect with future clients, set the tone of how we’ll work together, and make a strong first impression. For onboarding, we have a great team that makes sure the project starts smoothly once the client engages with us. With the majority of our clients, we host and maintain the finished website, so we continue that relationship after the project is done. We’re very fortunate to have worked with a lot of our clients for many years.
Q: Can you talk more about how you engage with clients after a website is launched? You mentioned that you host and maintain websites for clients, so that must obviously enable you to stay in touch with clients. Do you do any kind of upselling/cross-selling? If so, what strategies do you use to encourage those kinds of sales?
A: Our client support representatives regularly follow up with all our clients to make sure their needs are covered first and foremost. In many cases, we share ideas with clients based on what is new in the industry and offer suggestions based on any website improvements or questions that the client brings up during the call. In addition, we film weekly videos on the latest website tips and trends that we share on our blog, social media, and in a monthly email newsletter.
Q: How important is being recommendable to your company?
A: This is huge for us. Fortunately, we do very good work and have a very talented team. A good portion of our work comes from being recommended. This allows us to minimize our resources dedicated to marketing and to devote those resources instead to taking care of our existing clients and new projects. We have a huge focus on being responsive and responsible with our clients and to not nickel and dime. That’s gone a long way in continuing to get referrals and business!
Q: Can you give us an example of an occasion where your reputation has helped you close a client?
A: Our online reputation in terms of reviews and the portfolio on our website has helped us close many deals as well. We have a lot of prospective clients who reach out and are excited to work with our team based on reading our online reviews and seeing our portfolio.
Mikel Bruce is the founder and CEO of TinyFrog Technologies, a San Diego web design agency specializing in WordPress web design, development & secured hosting. Founded in 2003, TinyFrog offers a conversion-based approach to web design. Its team has built over 1,000 websites and currently hosts & maintains over 600 WordPress sites for businesses nationwide.