I recently had the good fortune to interview Chandra Clarke regarding the role marketing played in her company’s success and growth. Chandra is the founder of Scribendi.com, one of the world’s first online editing and proofreading companies. Based in Ontario, Canada, the company’s primary goal was to provide clients with fast, informative, and affordable revision services.
Chandra founded Scribendi.com from her home and grew it to have over $1 million in revenue, all while raising 3 little boys. Let’s hear what Chandra has to say about the role marketing played in her success.
Q) How did you market your business in the beginning?
By placing ads in writing magazines to start with, and in some student publications as well.
Q) How did that change as you grew?
I started using search engine marketing as soon as it became available. It was just a natural choice, considering Scribendi.com is 100% online. It was also an affordable way to market to an international client base.
Q) I saw that you started your company in 1997 and it looks like you grew slowly for quite some time and then really started to expand. What was it like in the early times?
Tiring! I was wearing all the hats and struggling to keep up – especially with the bookkeeping, as that’s time consuming. It was a classic catch 22 – I wanted to grow the business enough to hire more people, but had trouble finding the time to earn the income to do that.
Q) Did you have a plan as to where you wanted the business to go?
Oh yes, always.
Q) When did you write a plan?
I didn’t write a classic, full-on business plan to start with, but I did have a set of written goals and objects and so on, pretty much from the beginning. The plan has evolved ever since.
Q) How did having a plan help you?
It helped me to stay focused. There are many things you *can* do for your business, especially when it comes to advertising and marketing. Without a plan, the tendency is to take a shotgun approach and waste a lot of time and money.
Q) What bootstrapping tips do you have for people?
Some of the best advice I ever got was to think of my business as a franchise – that is, get my way of doing business down pat and written down, such that I could take anyone off the street, hand them the manual, and they’d be able to run the business. It prevents you from “winging it” all the time, and makes you much more efficient and productive.
Q) How do you handle marketing?
Up until recently, I handled all marketing myself. About a year ago, we underwent a complete reevaluation of the company and drafted a marketing plan outlining what our future marketing goals should be. I now employ a marketing coordinator who works closely with me to help attain these goals.
Q) Do you have a staff?
Yes. Our in-house team currently consists 13 staff members. We also employ over 100 telecommute editors from around the world.
Q) When did you add staff versus outsource vs. do it all yourself?
I started bringing external editors on board in 1998 as the demand for my services quickly grew. I hired my first support staff member in 2001 to help with the book keeping.
Q) Did you start with a clearly defined customer?
I had identified my target markets early on, yes. Knowing who your product or service is meant to benefit is crucial when starting a business.
Q) When did you segment your customer base and how did that help you grow?
Pretty much straight from the beginning. It helped me grow because I was able to offer what they were looking for, rather than what I thought might work. While editing and proofreading services may seem pretty straight forward, they’re actually quite complex when you break them down into the various subcategories. A seasoned academic is not going to require the same type of editing as a student who has difficulty speaking or writing in English. Clearly defining these different customer bases and creating services that catered to the customers’ unique needs were absolutely critical in Scribendi.com’s early years.
Thank you Chandra for taking time out of your schedule to share some of the keys to your success with fellow business owners and entrepreneurs.
OK, my takeaway from Chandra is the power of a plan and how important it is to write your goals down. She also was very clear on what her customer needed and how she could deliver it. Really tuning in to your customer is key.
What are your takeaways?