The Marketing Expert – what I learned from losing my first ever client

This month, Shaz Memon, the Marketing Expert, opens up about one the biggest mistakes he would ever make and what he learned from the experience of losing his first client.

I came up with the name Digimax when I was in school at age 16. A portmanteau of Digital Design and maximum effect, the D in the logo we use today is unchanged from the time I sketched it during one particularly dull maths class.

By age 18, I had officially started Digimax and secured my earliest clients. In essence, designing dental websites, marketing, SEO and branding is all I have ever known. Since then, I have worked hard to hone the skills required.

Growing up in a family of designers as the youngest by 10 years, I was immersed in what was ostensibly a design workshop that never closed.

I witnessed the oldest ways of designing – pre the computer-aided design era.

In fact, pursuing a career in anything else was never an option. I was made to design, create, build value and help businesses grow. I just didn’t know that then.

Read more on my story here.

Deep connection – and digging deep

When you form a deep connection with a role you enjoy, it can elevate that desire to learn and take you to new heights.

As a young and ambitious individual, I stopped at nothing in my endeavours to broaden my experience and better my skills.

Looking back, I went through the motions of university life whilst juggling my start-up from home.

My father, who loves to hoard, had a garage full of his life’s collectibles stocked up in disorganised harmony in the uninsulated, cobweb-infested garage at the end of the driveway of our three-bed semi in the suburbs of London.

He gave up a space he cherished for me to turn into a workspace. My parents were probably over the moon to swap the green glare of a computer screen in the corner of their bedroom to somewhere that didn’t directly cause unhealthy light pollution in the room where they tried to sleep.

I used my student loan to insulate the garage and carried out most of the laborious tasks needed to turn it into an office.

What was left was paid for a plasterer. Sure, I didn’t have money but I did have style. It the best garage conversion ever seen created on a shoestring budget.

And so, the scene is set. I am in my garage, working all hours my body would mentally and physically allow me.

Visions – and lies

A few years on, I had built up momentum.

With a few dental clients under my belt, I knew what I was doing and had a passion I couldn’t see in my competitors.

Then a potential client approached me and shared her idea: to create one of the most beautiful practices ever seen.

Every sentence she spoke sparked an explosion of ideas in my mind. She had to give me this project and I was prepared to work long and hard to win it.

She told me: ‘Shaz, I don’t think anyone but you can fulfil my vision.’

I simply said: ‘I won’t let you down.’

This was going to turn out to be the first lie I told her.

I got to work almost immediately. Ideas always come to my mind, and I don’t need weeks to think about how to execute – this is still true today.

There was an animation style I had in mind. I didn’t know how to execute it but I knew how I wanted it to look.

So, I set about designing the best possible piece of work I’d ever created.

Every ounce of design energy, passion, love, knowledge that I had to give went into this project.

This is no exaggeration. I moved things, changed things, moved them back. It went on for a long time until I reached perfection.

Some say, there is no such thing as perfection. And I can agree in the right context…but this was different. And, as you get to the end, you will understand why I can say this.

Having doubts

Daybreak a few hours after I had finished, I had set my alarm to email the client. I didn’t want to send an email at 4.00am – I felt it would appear unprofessional.

So, I waited until 8am to press send. And then I waited. A whole day had passed…and I was thinking my work hadn’t pleased her.

Why wouldn’t she like it? Maybe I am not cut out for this.

But I am. I know it was amazing.

Why hadn’t she come back to me yet if she loved it? I give up…

All these conversations were happening in my mind until she called me the next morning after a very uncomfortable night’s sleep.

Client: ‘Shaz, I didn’t want to email you. Emailing wouldn’t be fair on you.’

My mind: ‘Oh God. Fudge…don’t…’

Client: ‘I couldn’t have even in my dreams imagined a design like this was even possible. My mind is blown. I can’t even find the words.’

She went on to ask me how I did certain parts, what inspired me.

She was similar to me –  hugely passionate about her business and brand, and she said: ‘My patients are going to absolutely love this. Thank you so much, Shaz!’

I slept like a baby that evening and continued to complete the project. This was back in 2009 and this is a website I am still proud of today.

Updates – and down days

Fast forward five months on, the client reached out to me for a website update. She had to add a new team member to the website.

I replied instantly: ‘No problem, I will get this done for you.’

I was working alone, as you already know, and when you are good at what you do, it really doesn’t take long for people to start recommending you.

Reader, I am sure you may already have seen or experienced this yourself.

Like this project, many others were coming in all with their own dreams and aspirations and all with their own pressures.

No problem for me, I am fully invested – and it’s a pleasure. It didn’t ever feel like ‘work’ to me.

I was burning the midnight oil and designing these concepts with the same fuel I used for the earlier successes.

And then I get a follow up email.

It read: ‘Shaz, any news on my update?’

I didn’t reply too quickly as I thought OK, I better make her update shortly and email her to let her know I had done it.

Another day disappeared where clients were calling me. I had to make changes to designs, work on pages, and juggle all these new and exciting projects.

I knew making the website update was important. But I didn’t feel it was as important as these big shiny new projects.

One of the biggest mistakes I would ever make!

A big mistake

Two days passed and, in my mind, I 100% knew I would make the team member update. But I just didn’t take it seriously as I thought it’s not a big deal if it takes a few days to add a team member to the site.

The site is amazing, it’s online and it’s working – I will get around to it.

The client emailed me: ‘Shaz, thank you so much for the website. You did a great job. I have been speaking to a friend and she has given me the contact of a larger company who will be taking over the website and will be able to offer me a prompter service. Thank you again for everything.’

I had just created the best website possible. She even said herself she has never seen anything like it – yet she was going to leave for another company over a little website update.

There was no changing her mind. She had decided.

And, after the polite email and many exchanges, she frankly felt let down.

Shaz Memon on losing a client

I still felt it was a major overreaction. Just being honest with you here.

I thought she was ungrateful for my efforts and that it was wrong of her to want to leave.

It took me weeks of thinking about this situation with no real closure. To add salt to the wound, the new company that took over had removed ‘Design by Digimax’ in the footer and changed it to their company name.

I wanted to punch the walls…but I had paid too much to the plasterer to do that.

And then, whilst still mourning the loss and nursing the anger about someone else ‘stealing’ my work, I happened to stumble upon this line: ‘The little things, are the big things.’

Beginnings – and a happy ending

I realised the most important lesson in business.

A client’s expectations of you are just as important once the project is complete as they are at the beginning and throughout the process.

I let the client down because I was stupid enough to think her update was not that important. But, in truth, it wasn’t my decision to make.

I lost a client over it, and probably a ton of future business to a competitor because now they were using my work to advertise their own business.

I told myself at that point, I will never let this happen again.

As I built Digimax, every team member heard this story on every onboarding. Any opportunity I received to use this story in context, I did.

However, deep down, I still didn’t have closure. I had never had a client leave because the design work at Digimax was not the best they had seen.

We haven’t built a team of 35-plus, earned close to 500 five-star Google reviews, worked with leading brand names and someone from Dragon’s Den, and become the world’s highest-rated dental marketing agency without working hard and being incredibly good at what we do.

10 years on

I see an email enquiry into Digimax.

This is a new Digimax – bigger, stronger, better and far, far away from the garage where it all began.

The same passion that gave me growth is what I injected into building every moving part of the business we have today. All our systems, ways of thinking, values and culture are the result of harsh lessons like the one I experienced above.

The email enquiry is from the same practice I lost 10 years ago because my communication was not good enough.

My eyes widened. I told my colleague: ‘Do you remember that story about…’ He finished my sentence: ‘About how you lost a client because of the website update?’

I said: ‘Yes, that one! How did you remember…’

He rolled his eyes.

‘Well, they have enquired and you will get this client, no matter what it takes. Please tell them that I remember them, and I want them back.’

They came to see me in Marylebone at the office. We spoke about what had happened.

I sheepishly said: ‘I have been waiting for you for 10 years.’

They said: ‘It’s about time we had our website redesigned and the service we have been receiving has been shocking.’

They were leaving the company they were with for the same reason they left me…only to come back to me.

Making amends

I asked: ‘Would you like to see the website I made you 10 years ago?’

They were surprised I still had it. I showed them. They looked at each other and their eyes lit up.

Then they asked me to place it side by side with their current eight years newer website and they said (to which I agreed) that their old site is far more powerful and beautiful than their current website.

They even made a comment: ‘Could we not just go back to this site?’

But I knew way too much about user behaviour and had learned a whole heap more in 10 years to accept that.

I told them about the lesson I had learned. I explained that, thanks to them, I now have a culture that is hard to find elsewhere.

  1. Express website update service (subject to task complexity)
  2. A concierge service for clients after launch (no monthly fees for life)
  3. Five people in the website update team (when we could run with three)
  4. A quality control department to ensure website updates are done correctly
  5. Training videos to self-update a website for immediacy of review if it’s a weekend or late night and they need something done.

And most importantly, the team have been trained to communicate better than I did all those years back!

They were impressed.

I worked on their project and ensured they received the new Digimax service. Their project was a winner.

I asked them if they wanted to enter the Dental Website Awards, and they did. I received a picture from the awards night as I wasn’t able to attend and they had won ‘Best website, London’ – the hardest category to win in.

What did I learn?

The aftercare of any website client is the most important part of customer satisfaction – and it is your reputation.

The most time consuming, least profitable areas of business should not be treated as less important.

I know now that it isn’t what you deliver that’s important. It’s how you deliver it and, subsequently, what happens after you deliver it.

My team know how important aftercare is. And recognising this basic principle is transferrable to dental practices.

So much so that we invested in a business just to teach customer service to practices around the UK – Clinics.

Digimax went on to win many customer service awards, inside and outside of dentistry.

Patients are already expecting the smile they dreamed of. But, what is the process like? What is the greeting like? The communications? The aftercare?

All these parts are just as important as the end result – because it is the whole experience that people will always remember.

I have a lifelong friendship with clients now. I understand them and their dreams. They are no different to the dreams most of our clients have.

If someone trusts you, never let them down. Remember, once that trust is broken…it may take 10 years for it to come back.

‘It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it’Benjamin Franklin.

Contact Digimax

Catch Shaz’s previous Marketing Expert columns:

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