Lee Blue is an online marketing consultant, business coach, and WordPress developer on a quest to raise up a team of outcome-oriented web designers who drive high-value results for their clients and are paid accordingly for their work.
I graduated from college with a degree in Computer Science and spent the first few years of my career doing bio-terrorism surveillance for the United States government. As important as that was, it wasn't satisfying my entrepreneurial spirit.
In 2002, I launched reality66, my own web design agency. While I continued consulting and developing large scale applications in the health sector, I also began to focus my attention on serving small businesses. It became obvious that ecommerce was going to have a major impact on how businesses operated. My clients were asking about accepting online payments and I even launched my own ecommerce website selling noise reduction headphones.
The Advent Of WordPress Ecommerce
At this time in the WordPress ecosystem there were only two available options for ecommerce and both of them were designed under the assumption that you were going to be building an Amazon-style store with hundreds (if not thousands) of products that you might want to sort by name, price, popularity, etc. I only had one product – a single set of headphones. But, they were unique in that they were invented by a drummer in Missouri and they could passively block sound by 29dB. In other words, this product had a story behind it.
They weren't a fancy name brand. John, a drummer in a band, wanted to be able to hear his band members while playing the drums without cranking the volume to the point where he blew out his eardrums. Incidentally, they also worked great for coders who needed to block out home and office noise so they could concentrate and get work done. So, I built Cart66, a WordPress ecommerce platform that we ran for 12 years that made it easy to run a story-based ecommerce business.
What Is Story Based Ecommerce?
I tend to divide ecommerce into two broad categories – product based and story based businesses.
Product Based Businesses
A product based ecommerce business is one like Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc. where the focus is all on the fact that you're selling products and you're probably trying to compete mostly on price. A business like this often sells name brand products that are also for sale on other websites. There are relatively low margins. While there are plenty of cool things you can do to scale revenue with businesses like this such as email marketing and recapturing abandoned carts, personally I find it rather boring compared to working with story based businesses.
Story Based Businesses
A story based business is one that has just a few products, perhaps only one product, and there's a fascinating story behind the business. For example, Casper Mattress, the original foam mattress. Another example would be a business like MVMT Watches who believe that “style shouldn't break the bank.” Pretty much every business you see on Shark Tank tends to fall into the category of what I call a story based business.
The truth is there are many more story based businesses than there are product based businesses because almost every small local business can qualify. For example, I've worked with a housecall pediatrician, an amazing naturopath, and a concierge medical practice. Story based businesses are everywhere. I recently bought a new piano, but rather than discarding my old piano, I had my childhood piano transformed into a stunningly artistic bookcase from a guy who specializes in turning old pianos into functional art!
These are the types of businesses I find to be thrilling and energizing to work with because the people are amazing, their stories are inspiring, and they are on a mission to make a difference in the lives of their customers.
Both Business Owners and Web Designers Are Suffering
Small businesses have gotten into a very unusual problem because it seems like we've made such great progress over the last few years in terms of how easy it is to get a website but we've sacrificed results in the process.
I can remember a time when a business would pay over $20,000 for a static website. It wasn't a bad deal either. It took a lot of work to build and it was a new frontier for businesses. Simply having a website gave you an advantage over competitors who weren't online yet. So, yes, it was expensive, but it was also a worthwhile investment for those who could afford it.
Business Owners Aren't Seeing Results
Over time it has gotten easier and easier to get a website but it's been at the expense of results. With WordPress and all the page builders available, all the low-budget developers on Upwork and Fiverr, platforms like Wix and Squarespace… anybody with a budget of a few hundred dollars can get a pretty decent looking website. The problem is, those websites aren't helping business owners reach their customers and grow their businesses. It's a sunk cost. Their sites are just sitting there with little to no traffic… making little to no impact.
Sometimes these low-budget websites can even have a negative impact. Most business owners don't have the ability to update their own web sites. So office hours, contact information, and other business details get outdated. This means that they are broadcasting inaccurate information about their business, when they are open and how to reach them… and they don't even know it.
WordPress Consultants Are Suffering Too
As the technology has gotten easier to work with, more and more people have flocked to WordPress and are offering websites at incredibly low rates. Hang out on Facebook for a while and you'll see WordPress developers begging to build websites for $50. No, I didn't miss a zero. I literally mean fifty dollars.
There are highly-skilled web designers with degrees in graphic design and years of experience who are unable to land clients willing to pay anywhere near what their skills are really worth. They're trying to compete for work against overseas developers, young kids just getting started, and people who are just dabbling for side-work all of whom can afford to charge ridiculously low rates.
Breaking The Stalemate So Everybody Wins
Right now both business owners and web designers are stuck in a stalemate because we have two contradictory situations happening at the same time.
On one hand, the WordPress and online marketing ecosystem is the strongest it has ever been. The tools that are available today simply didn't exist even a few years ago. These tools can drive rapid and amazing results for businesses. The opportunity for success is the highest it has ever been.
On the other hand, most businesses aren't seeing any results at all because they've gotten abandoned by their low-budget developers who were only providing one-and-done cheap websites.
The truth is businesses are willing to pay for high-quality work provided that their investment produces results. Web developers and WordPress consultants are out there who would LOVE to deliver those results provided they could charge enough to afford to put the time in to generate genuine results.
Why DoubleStack Is The Answer
Most web designers and WordPress developers are struggling to get their clients to see the value of their skills in the midst of all of the low-budget alternatives available today. They are also lost in the noise where everybody is offering the same services – web design, graphic design, branding, social media, hosting, maintenance, etc. Consequently, they are working ridiculously long hours for insulting low rates.
Skills alone will not solve this problem. There are very talented web designers and online marketers who just aren't landing the clients they need. The clients they do land aren't paying them the rates they deserve based on their expertise, skill, and experience.
The solution is for web designers and WordPress consultants to change the way they approach their business by shifting the emphasis of what they offer to their clients. The web designers who are running their own 6-figure businesses have shifted the emphasis off of their technical skill sets and onto the results they deliver.
Showing WordPress consultants how to do this is what DoubleStack is all about. It's not enough just to have a strong tech stack you also have to have a strong marketing and business development stack as well.
DoubleStack Means Doing Two Things At Once
Today, a self-employed web designer who wants to make over $100,000 per year needs to approach their clients with a results-oriented mindest not just a technical list of skils. This means doing two things at the same time.
They are providing business consulting by showing their clients how powerful today's online marketing tools are and how effective their online presence can be. AND they also have the technical chops to actually implement the things they are describing to their clients.
That's DoubleStack – The business development stack to lead clients to success PLUS the tech stack to pull it off.