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I’ve been running this business for nearly ten years now, and in that time, I have experimented with several different ways of organizing the admin/project management side of things and let me tell you- having a CRM (client relationship manager) that does all of the heavy lifting for you sure beats the messy + stressful combination of ridiculously long email threads, disorganized spreadsheets and forgotten post-it notes all over your desk.
I’ve been using Dubsado as my CRM for the past few years and can’t recommend it enough for fellow service-based businesses. Having a streamlined, efficient and automated (or even partly automated) process and client experience has completely transformed my business.
CRM stands for customer relationship management (referring to the software you’re managing your customers with). Client relationship manager is more straightforward to me, so I just call it that, haha. The capabilities of a CRM can vary greatly, but Dubsado covers pretty much everything I ever want or need to do, so I’ve been using them for a few years.
Oh man, so much. The amount of work Dubsado takes off my plate is honestly incredible. There are so many features to take advantage of, but here’s what I use it for most:
I have embedded a Dubsado lead capture form on my website to act as the inquiry form. This means that when someone fills out this form, their information is imported into Dubsado and I don’t have to set up a new client myself. I can then turn that lead into a client if they book and save myself the time of filling out their info again.
Once a lead fills out my inquiry form, I can send them a scheduler link directly through Dubsado (assuming they’re potentially a good fit and I’d like to learn more about their project). I have pre-set my availability in the scheduler, so I don’t have to do anything other than send the link. You can also use this to feature book calls at any time during the project.
You can set up all sorts of canned emails and attach them to various parts of your process. For example, I have canned emails set for when an invoice is sent to a client, when a scheduler link is sent, when a specific form is sent. The options are endless here and honestly, I don’t currently use this for as much as I could. There is massive potential here to automate a ton of your communication.
This is where Dubsado really shines, in my opinion. Dubsado gives you the ability to create as many different forms as you want (and by forms, I mean questionnaires, contracts and proposals) which makes onboarding an absolute breeze. I have forms created for every type of service I offer, so I never have to create a form from scratch for a client. You can also create packages and payment schedules for all of your different services which makes invoicing easy as well. Here is a little rundown of how this works within my own business:
As mentioned above, I do all of my invoicing within Dubsado. Everything you do in Dubsado is branded with your business logo and colors, and I love that this means even a plain ol’ invoice can be on brand. You can connect Stripe, PayPal and Square to Dubsado. You can send as many invoices per project as you want, you can set up recurring invoices with autopay and you can choose your own payment schedules.
You can set up a client portal which has pretty basic functionality at the moment (I’m hoping they expand on this in future), but is very helpful for clients. It houses all of the forms/invoices/etc for the project so the client can access everything in one place rather than being sent several different emails to keep track of. I add my brand and web questionnaires to the portal as well as the content planner (if it’s a web project) and send my client a login to access all of this. It’s just one of those things that makes your client experience that much more streamlined and professional.
Dubsado does a ton more than this, but these are the main features that I use right now. If you want more insight on how I use Dubsado specifically as a brand + web designer, check out my feature on their site.
They have excellent support and customer service, and they’re always working on developing new features- the amount it has grown since I started using it three or four years ago is crazy. There is also an awesome Dubsado Facebook group that is so helpful.
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Would you believe me if I told you that the most important part of a brand isn’t having a nice looking logo, but rather a clearly defined brand strategy? Sure, an aesthetically pleasing logo is great and all, but if you haven’t figured out who to make it look good for and why they’ll be attracted to it (among a slew of other things, which we’ll get into below), then you’re wasting both time and resources by taking stabs in the dark- and in the meantime, having your dream clients pass you by.
This is where brand strategy comes in. But before we dig into what brand strategy is and why you need one, let’s clarify what a brand is first.
Your brand is so much more than just a logo. It’s every single touchpoint that a client has with your brand, from the colors used on your website to the style of imagery you post on your Instagram feed. It’s the way you speak to your clients and the feeling people get when they think about or experience your brand.
Brand strategy is the basis for all of the above, and that’s why it’s such an integral part of the design process. It’s essentially the guide for how you’ll market (and in turn, grow) your brand, which is why you want to have all aspects of your brand strategy clearly defined from the get-go. It ensures that every single aspect of your brand is cohesive, which is so important when you’re trying to stand out and make a name for yourself.
What is the “why” behind your brand? Why are you in business doing what you’re doing? Having a clear brand purpose in mind can help guide a lot of the decisions you make in your business and how you market it.
Your brand purpose can also serve as a guide to form a short mission statement/elevator pitch that you use to convey what you do, who you help and how you help them. Be authentic and true to your brand- you want to stand out from your competitors, not blend in with them. It’s best to revisit the creation of this once you’ve worked through the rest of the brand strategy.
What does your brand value? Defining your values will help you connect with your target audience on a deeper level, as well as differentiate you from your competition. Perhaps you’re a small organic farm who values family and health, or you’re an elopement photographer who values love and adventure. Whatever your values may be, they’re an important part of your brand that’ll help you connect more meaningfully with your ideal client.
Determining your target audience is one of the most important parts of brand strategy. You need to know exactly who you’re speaking to in order to know what to say to them. Knowing their demographics (age, gender, income level), their values, their “why” for seeking out what you offer (sometime referred to as pain points) and their hesitations/fears will make an enormous impact on how you go about successfully marketing to them. The more you know about the exact type of person you want to work with/sell to, the more you can tailor your brand and business to potentially convert them into a paying customer.
Defining a brand voice will help say you the right thing in the right way to your target audience. If your brand is high-end and luxurious, it’s voice may be more formal, minimal or poetic. If your brand is more casual and fun, it’s voice may be friendly and conversational, or even a bit humorous. Knowing how to speak to your target audience will help keep your messaging consistent.
Identifying your competition is important because it allows you to analyze both what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong, AKA where you should be aiming to position your brand in the market. Use this information to figure out how you can differentiate from your competitors and set your brand apart in a way that will appeal specifically to your target audience. Beyond that, don’t spend too much time focusing on what competing brands are doing as every business is different and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. You want to stand out from the crowd, not blend in with it!
Having a super clear brand strategy set in place before diving into the visual identity (the logo, patterns, typography, etc) allows for so much more intention behind the choices that are made during the design process. This ensures that your branding not only looks the part, but also attracts the people you want to work with/sell to (whilst simultaneously turning away you don’t).
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