The Charity Wishlist

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, we celebrate as a nation, our independence. I decided to start the celebration off early, and announce the launch of our new business: The Charity Wishlist.

What is The Charity Wishlist? The Charity Wishlist is an organization that provides both no cost and low cost options for nonprofit organizations and charities to support their fundraising and donation needs on an ongoing basis.

Through the use of our hosted technology, we have designed a system that gives nonprofit organizations and charities a way to support their donation needs, whether monetary and/or physical goods, with no up-front costs, or monthly fees depending on the options they choose. We have also designed a web site management engine, that allows us to give these groups a way to have a web site for a fraction of the cost that most development companies would charge them.

For those of you that know me, you know that I am a huge believer in philanthropy, and have worked with many organizations over the years to help support their causes. This new business is the ultimate expression of my desire to help all charities and organizations in need. It is reflected in our chosen tag line: “Bringing the World Together Through Charity”.

The Charity Wishlist also has another key service it will provide. We have created an opportunity for the public to contribute to a Disaster Relief Fund, which will be used to purchase and send needed goods to areas that are impacted by natural disasters.

What sets us apart from other companies that do similar things? The Charity Wishlist is in the process of filing for our own 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Status. We literally are going to be a charity helping charities.

Our new website will be live in a few short weeks, and available at: www.TheCharityWishlist.org. You can also follow us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/CharityWishlist) , and like us on FaceBook (www.facebook.com/TheCharityWishlist).

We hope you share in our excitement and enthusiasm.

Solution Ram Rod

Today I want to share with you something that happened recently, that quite frankly has left me angered. It is a practice that my team coined the “Solution Ram Rod”. It is the practice many underhanded technology companies use when they want to sell their client on a specific solution, regardless of the viability for their needs.

To give you some background, last week I was contacted by a technology company, asking if I was available to help them with a short term eCommerce project. As you know, we often do work for other technology companies, so I set up a call to discuss their needs. They have a client here in Delaware that is looking at eCommerce solutions, and retained the services of this group to help them complete their business analysis, prepare solution reviews, make a solid recommendation based upon their needs, and help with the implementation.

Since my company has worked with numerous eCommerce solutions, this was a project that was right up our alley. After a lengthy discussion, they asked if they could schedule a call with their “evaluator” to make sure this would be a good fit for the project. So, later on that day, this lady calls me from India to conduct her “evaluation”. Well, after 10 minutes on the phone with her, and all of the questions she was asking with regards to Magento Enterprise, I stopped her and asked if she was going to discuss other solutions. Her response was “I understand there are other solutions, though we want to recommend Magento Enterprise for this client, and want to make sure you know enough about the platform to make it stand out.”

I was stunned. Here is a company with a new client that has not conducted business on the internet before, and they want to recommend a solution that will cost the client a minimum of $15,550 in licensing fees right out of the gate.

I got off the phone with her, immediately called the project manager, and asked him if he could disclose some information, just to make sure we were on the same page. He said it depended on the questions, so I told him the primary one was “How many products does the client have?” He said “I believe a few hundred, though we haven’t gotten that far in the analysis.” So next came the obvious question: “Then why are you pushing Magento Enterprise?” His response was “They have both client and business facing needs, and Magento is what our people know.” At this point I was a little dumbfounded, so I asked the question that stood out in my head “If you have a staff that knows the system, why do you need me?”

Readers, the answer he gave me is one that drove home what I have preached about with regards to working with a company half a world away. He said “To be blunt, they are hesitant to work with an India based company, so we wanted a local American face there to work with them, and set their mind at ease about buying the solution we want to offer them.”

I said thanks for the info and hung up. The realization burning in my mind that all they cared about was selling the client exactly what they wanted to sell them at any cost, and in the process take more jobs away from Americans. It made me sick thinking about it.

If your company is getting ready to become a victim of these type of ram rod practices, stop before it is to late. I have seen way to many companies get sucked into this type of situation, and in the end it winds up costing them more than they ever imagined or budgeted for.

If you need help making a decision on a solution that is right for your business, we here at Delaware 302 can help. We will offer you honest unbiased advice, and help you choose the right solution that will not only fit your needs now, but one that can grow with your business.

Let’s build the future together.

 

Up-charge aka Price Gouging

For those of you that know me, you know that I believe in being very open and honest with people, in both my personal life and in business. I am also not afraid to speak my mind, especially when it comes to something I am very passionate about.

The same belief is carried over to my business. Delaware 302 is built on both honesty, and offering affordable solutions to our clients. We set our prices lower than the competition because our business is about helping businesses grow, not how much money we can make. We also never charge our clients something they don’t need. Not every technology company has these same beliefs though.

What many people don’t know, is that my company is also the development arm for numerous technology companies here in Delaware. To date, we have 4 that we work with on a fairly regular basis to build web sites and applications, host, and create graphic designs for. This is actually a fairly common practice when a technology company doesn’t have the staff or resources to handle the work.

This has led to numerous challenges that we have had to address, the primary of which is maintaining the illusion of being the technology company that the contract was signed under. The other one, which is the focus of this post, is pricing.

As I said in my opening, not every technology company has the same beliefs as we do. We have watched in disbelief as companies we did business with in the past took our project scopes and quotes, and up-charged the work as much as 115%. I will point out I did say DID work with. We no longer do business with these companies because of their practices, and insane price gouging to make as much money as they can from each bid.

It is the client that ultimately suffers from this practice that has no rules or regulations in place to stop it. Web site solutions, and the prices charged, seem to be at the complete whim of the company quoting the build. The type of client, and the perceived revenue stream they have also comes into play. Many technology companies charge more if the potential client is a well know store, law firm, or financial company, compared to a local mom and pop shop or a start up.

To drive my point home on this, I will share with you a recent project we quoted for another technology company. The client is a fairly well known company with locations in both Delaware and Maryland, and they wanted a new web site. I was invited to attend the meeting with the client’s marketing person, and she came to the meeting prepared with research she had done on their competitor’s web sites, and a wish list for the new site based upon this.

Armed with her research and wish list, we scoped out the project, calculated in the needed custom development, and wrote up a quote. We then sent the quote over to the technology company we were working with, so they could work it into their proposal. About 2 weeks later the owner of the technology company called and said the client had some sticker shock, and asked if we could cut our prices on the project. I came to find out shortly after that call, that they tacked on almost $11,000 to my quote.

I was in shock when I found this out. Who in their right mind would up-charge 115% on a site build when they are doing absolutely nothing, except generating a contract. Then have the brass ones to call me and ask me to cut my prices on top of it.

No wonder companies have such a bad taste left in their mouth when dealing with technology companies like this.

At Delaware 302, we strive to be different. We charge the same for our solutions no matter who the client is, without any up-charges. We also offer the same level of exceptional service to all of our clients.

If you are ready for a change, contact us and let us help you build a solution that works for you.

Let’s build the future together.

Provider Nightmares

Today I wanted to relay to you a conversation I had recently with a potential client. Sadly the story they told is one that I have heard time and time again, and each time I hear of the nightmares they have gone through, it leaves me wondering how these solution providers can treat their clients this way, and still stay in business.

This company’s story goes like this:

About 2 years ago we were in need of a new web site, so we contacted one of the local development companies that seemed to do most of the web sites in the area. We sat down in an initial meeting with them and told them exactly what we needed. They said they would draft up a quote and send it over. Shortly after that started a back and forth process that quite frankly took a lot longer than we expected, and each time we were talking to someone new over there. Finally, almost 5 weeks after the first meeting, they came back with a $15,000 quote for our site. At this point we were already behind schedule, since the new site was a key element to our marketing, so we signed, and cut them a check to start work.

A few days later, their graphics designer called us, and said he would have a proof for us within 2 weeks for review and approval. About 2 months later, after calling them repeatedly on a weekly basis, we received the proof, and came to find out the designer that contacted us initially, was no longer at the company. We were promised at that point that once the design was approved, our site would be ready in less than 3 weeks. 6 weeks later they sent us a development link to look at. At this point we were hard pressed for time, and said go with it.

Finally, almost 5 months after our first meeting with them, our new site was launched, and then the nightmare really began.

Over the next 9 months we experienced constant email outages, with one stretch being a week. Our site kept going down due to server issues. Every little request we made for a change to the site was followed with a $120/hr invoice, even it it was something very simple. Never being able to get someone to respond to our calls or emails. It was finally capped off with the owner of the company telling us point blank, after our 20th some odd complaint, “We have no contract. If you have problems, and don’t like the way I run my business, leave.”

So we gathered around in a meeting at the office, and decided to take our site and go. Unfortunately we found out that we were locked into his system, and leaving was no simple task. So we did the only thing we could think of at the time, since we couldn’t afford to do this all over again, get as much of the site as we could, and created a new one ourselves.

Needless to say, the experience they had has left them wary of any technology company. The only reason they were even willing to talk to me, was because of my reputation as being straightforward and honest. I assured them that my company was different, and was willing to do whatever it took to prove it to them.

Is your business going through similar issues? Are you tired of your solutions provider treating you like you don’t matter? Are you frustrated of being overcharged for everything?

At Delaware 302 we treat our clients the same way we would want to be treated, with respect and honesty. Drop us a line and find out how we can help your business grow.

Let’s build the future together.

Buzz Word Overkill

Recently I was asked by an organization to do an independent review of a proposal that was submitted to them by the PR firm that they have been working with, as a lead up to their contract renewal. This is something that I have done time and time again over the years for clients, so I was more than happy to help them out. What I read left me scratching my head, and quite frankly angered. This proposal was literally a blatant attempt to take advantage of the client, disguised behind that WOW factor of buzz words.

The proposal was broken down into 2 sections, Branding/Marketing and Social Media/Web, each with a price attached to it.

I read through the branding/marketing section, and while some (emphasis on some) of the general marketing aspects made sense, there was very little substance to it to substantiate the price tag they attached to it. The item that glared out at me larger than life though, was the fact there was no breakdown on pricing. That is a huge first sign indicator that you are about to get taken to the cleaners. Without line item prices, you can’t completely evaluate exactly what you are getting. It would be like going to the grocery store, and having the person at the register look at your cart and give you a price. I don’t know many people that would shop that way.

The second part of the proposal, Social Media/Web, is what really got me. It was crammed with so many buzz words that my head was spinning. Things like: seed your social media, ongoing SEO performance enhancements, engage your audience, and campaign saturation monitoring with targeted site modifications. Again I looked at the price tag (this one was an exorbitant monthly charge), with no breakdown of what cost what, not even listing the Social Media platforms to be utilized. Knowing that this was a contract renewal, and now being very suspicious, I decided to do some research and digging. This PR firm had no idea how deep they just stepped in it.

I decided to start with the web site and social media, since these are the core of my business, and where many businesses and organizations get taken advantage of. Here is what I found:

  • The FaceBook page and the Twitter account for this organization were both active, and currently maintained, including an active engagement with their audience. This raised a red flag as to why the PR wanted to charge for the “engage your audience” in the proposal.
  • The web site was being hosted by a small media company in Maryland (Red Flag raised high). Upon further digging, I found the server domain name was also registered to this company, and I would be willing to bet the server is located in their back room, given the IP look-up location ping back.
  • There was NO SEO done at all to the site. The only reason it came up in the search engine is because of the organic content and the site name. If this is ongoing SEO, it should have been there to start with.
  • The website was built on WordPress, which isn’t a bad thing, except that there didn’t appear to be any tags.
  • The PR firm was in charge of building and hosting the web site, and the maintenance.

There is more, though hopefully you get the picture.

So what lessons can we take away from this experience I just shared with you? The answer is: you need to be fully aware of what you are paying for, and if you have any doubts, ask questions. If the company is honest, and values you as a client, they will answer your questions.

At Delaware 302, we take pride in being transparent with our clients, and building trust. Our solutions are geared to be affordable, and we don’t believe in a one size fits all approach. We also will never charge our clients for something they don’t need.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your business grow.

Let’s build the future together.

The Art of Illusion

Have any of you ever watched a magic show, and sat there in awe as the magician preforms all of these great magical feats? The magician slowly builds up the anticipation, until the grand finale, when the entire audience is at the edge of their seats watching. Then the show is over and the lights come up. People start to leave, and the air is buzzing with conversation about what they witnessed. These people will swear that this is the greatest magician they have ever seen.

Many web development companies do the same type of magic act with their clients. They bring the client in, show them the best examples of their work, and build the excitement and hype. The client gets drawn in, and starts to believe that no other company can do the same thing for them. Once the development company has them hooked, they know that they can get the full allotted budget the company has.

The truth is, that what you are getting sold is pretty much all an illusion.

On one side, you have the development companies that aside from the design of your site, use free one size fits all platforms to put it on. All of the “special features” that are charged for, are no more than widgets that they have gotten for free, or paid a nominal fee to use. The justification is that you are paying for the “development expertise”. Don’t be fooled by that smoke and mirrors trick either. Many of these companies hire kids out of college, because they work cheap.

On the other side, you have the companies that sell the products and services of another development company, and make it sound like it is theirs. They build the illusion that you the customer are getting one total solution company, when in fact it is multiple companies that are doing the work. The customer usually pays more too, since there is always a markup.

So how is it that the businesses get sucked into this great magic act, and don’t see the mirrors or wires? The answer is simple. Building a web site is probably one of the most grueling processes a business can go through. I had a client of ours tell me: “It is like writing a business plan.”

So what makes my business different from the rest you might be asking? The answer to that comes in two parts, and is easy to answer.

First our core beliefs are different. At Delaware 302 we work with our clients to build a complete solution that works with their business. We believe in total transparency, and in offering our solutions at an affordable rate. We will never sell you something you don’t need.

The second part to this answer, is our technology. Our core system, the 302 engine, is a module based system that has been designed to grow with the business. It was built by us using the latest in technology, and for each build, we customize the system to meet the needs of our clients, without forcing them to use something “as is”.

Contact us today, and let’s build the future together.

Getting Value For Your Money

Today I wanted to relay to you an experience that I had recently, that made me take a real hard look at exactly what value I was really getting for my money.

If any of you have ever been house hunting, you know that it is a long process that seems like it can take forever. You look at house after house, and either this doesn’t work for you, or you don’t like the layout of that, or maybe even the location of the neighborhood. There is also the fact that there are other people looking at the exact same houses, and you may start to feel pressured to make a decision rather quickly, which only adds to the growing frustration that this process brings.

The frustration of this process is why many people start looking into new home construction. If you have seen the signs, they are very enticing, basically offering you a new home for the price of the other ones you have been looking at. You start to think “Hey, we can get a new home built the way we want right from the start for the same price”. So with this thought in mind, you leap forward and go in to talk to their sales person. The thing you should pay attention to though is the “Starting At” on the sign.

Now every builder has multiple models that you can look at, to find the layout that is perfect for you. The catch though is that these models have been finished with every extra and add on that you can imagine. They also have professional interior designers come in to finish it off, so that you are presented with a product that is as close to perfect as you could imagine for your new home.

You find the model that has the layout that you want, and now you are excited because you are going to get your new dream home.

So ready to build this house, you then look at the map of the neighborhood, and pick the open lot that you think would be perfect for your new home. The questions you should ask though before you even sit down to go through the process are:  is that lot available now, and is there a homesite premium for it? Many lots might not be available now, and many come with an extra charge for them.

Now comes the process that can be a shell shock to any home buyer. The process of picking out your “upgrades”. This is where that “Starting At” price comes into play. That price is just for the lot and the construction of the home, with a few “base level” items. The “elevation” of the home also impacts the price. For those of you that don’t know, as you go through the letters A,B,C etc… the fancier the look of the home from the outside.

So, after an hour of going though picking out the outside look of the home, the optional this, that and the other thing, picking out flooring, the cabinets, counters, baths, tile, etc…, which you have to pay for no matter what you pick since it is not included in the base price, they give you the final price on this home. To let you know, we pretty much went right down the middle with our selections to get the look we wanted, and those “upgrades” came out to almost $98,000, plus an extra $10,000 for the lot since it was a premium (all 3 available lots were premiums). After looking at that, I couldn’t get out of that office fast enough. I was in shock and reeling over the final price.

As we drove away, 2 things hit me. The first was if we did buy this house with all of these upgrades, we would be paying for them in the mortgage, meaning they would cost us more than $200,000 after all was said and done. The second was that we could purchase a resale home and renovate it for less, thus getting a greater value for our money.

After reflecting on this whole exercise, I realized that many technology companies do the same thing with their clients with regards to their web site and solutions. They bring them in with the whole “affordable solution” sales pitch, then show them the ultimate in web site design and functionality. The business gets excited that this is what they are going to get, are ready to move forward, and then get hit with the “upgrades”. More often than not, they are sold a package that is more than what they need, and wind up paying a small fortune for it.

At Delaware 302 we don’t believe in charging our clients for extra upgrades, or for things they don’t need. Our solutions are module based, and designed to grow with our clients. We don’t charge for a full re-design as your needs change, instead, just like with renovating a home, we build on as needed. We also do this at a cost far lower than our competition.

If you are a business owner and struggling with your web site and solutions, drop us a line. We are here to help.