Strategic Resources for Small Businesses: A Formula for Delivering High Value During COVID-19

This blog is usually geared toward "big" projects. The kind of stuff that a creative digital agency loves — designing cool platforms from scratch, building brands, heading up ecommerce website development, and rolling out multi-layered email marketing strategies… Fun stuff for sure. But global realities are changing the game right now. The landscape of doing business (not to mention living life) has shifted beneath our feet in the last month. As the COVID-19 virus continues to impact us so universally, it's hard to believe anyone could have wholly escaped the fallout. Certainly no small businesses have. And that's where our formula comes in.

There are approximately 30.7 million small businesses in the U.S. alone. Sadly, that statistic may no longer be accurate. Quite a few have not survived the last few weeks, and more will struggle to make it through the coming ones. But we've already seen so much inspiring global support for individuals and groups. In our own bubble, some Columbus companies with the capacity to hire a web development company during this period have actually chosen to increase their engagement with us, jumping in to take advantage of our expanded bandwidth.

November 2021 update: While this LawnStarter resource by Rachael Elizabeth shows that a third of US small businesses did close during the pandemic, it also shows that the sheer number of small businesses has actually risen to 32.5 million.

Looking Ahead

We have to assume in the Columbus small business and web design communities that giant projects may be fewer and farther between — at least in the short-term. An ecommerce website design company won't probably see as many whole site overhauls. Social media marketers and advertisers shouldn't expect to see increased Facebook and PPC campaign budgets.

Many prospective clients simply won't have the budget, or they'll be reticent to spend what they do have. With that in mind, it's going to become increasingly important for many of us creative digital agencies and small businesses to advertise and gear marketing toward projects that might not require full-service options — projects that won't break the bank for our customers and clients.

As service providers, agencies and small businesses alike should view this period as an opportunity to exercise and increase efficiency while driving high value in the details.

This will require a strategy shift. By way of example in looking at what that strategy might look like, we're adjusting our own marketing and outreach efforts to help businesses optimize specific elements of their websites. It's a smart way for businesses to get professional website development when they can't quite swing the price tag of a total overhaul. Sometimes it does make sense to redo a website all at once, sure, but prioritizing one or two key areas like SEO, social media services, or homepage redesigns can also have a tremendous impact. Companies can see results at an absolute fraction of the cost. The point is that small businesses may be wise to focus their marketing efforts on landing a greater quantity of smaller, more granularly-focused projects.

As small businesses continue to conserve and seek out resources, all of us have begun thinking very creatively about how to move forward. Read on for the formula that can help small businesses — not just web design companies — stay on track and continue landing successful project pitches in a shifting business landscape.

The Smaller Project

Our team gets an undeniable feeling of accomplishment when we push a project — say a six-month ecommerce website development build for instance — out the door. It feels great! Nine times out of ten, a strong partnership has been forged through the triumph of a successful launch and all the work that went into it.

Partnership accountability is one of the major benefits of finding a web developer within a creative digital agency instead of, for instance, an Upwork WordPress developer. But how about when someone reaches out with an immediate short-term need and there isn't that big ask for a full rewrite or massive PPC campaign? How do you ignite that big-project spark of ambition for a one-off task? How do you exceed a client's expectation when that expectation is just a singular task? The answer is to frame potentially "one-off jobs," not as quick cash, but as potential seeds of partnership instead.

You want to be planting the seeds of partnership by paying attention to and calculating the value that your business relationship is driving (I'm assuming you can provide a great product. We have a number of articles on ways to improve your skills if not. Go get trained up. But if you're all set there, let's get into it!

What can a big-thinking creative agency do to deliver on the smaller projects?

We all deal with data as developers, marketers, and SEO pros, so let's try to quantify things. The long-term goal of a small digital project is to convert that tiny amount of responsibility over your client's digital scope into a larger amount down the road. By building trust, we can set ourselves up to add more value over time. With that in mind, I'm going to share Chek Creative's process for ensuring we put your very best into every project, no matter the size.

Luckily, we have an easy formula for it!

Evans Farm Property Project

Long before all this COVID-19 stuff happened, we had the pleasure of doing some minor yet modern website development work for the team at Cua Builders.

As much as we would have loved to design a stunning new website from the ground up, it wasn't where their immediate need was. When Tom Cua reached out, what he really needed at that moment was to showcase a particular property.

Tom and his team built this home for the BIA Parade of Homes in Lewis Center, Ohio. The property did well. It did very well as a matter of fact. Cua Builders has received the highest award in architecture from BIA for the last 17 years. On top of that, this year's Evans Farm Home won a couple of People's Choice Medals:

Evans Farm Awards:

***BIA Award***: Top Marks in Architecture (17 years running) ***People's Choice Awards***: Gold Medal for Favorite Decor Silver Medal for Favorite Landscape

So here's a way to measure what kind of value you're delivering to the folks you work with. It's called the High Value Formula, and it's simple, but extraordinarily effective.

The High Value Formula

Considering their work on a current or past project, rank your team numerically (1-10) for each section.

Attention to Detail (AD)
Compared to the biggest project your team has accomplished, how much effort did they put into the little things.

Rank your AD:


External Communication (EC)
How frequent and smooth are communications with your client or partner?
(1 = radio silence, 10 = you're all drinking buddies now)

Rank your EC:


Failed Follow Through (FFT)
Has your client called you out for dropping the ball on a task?
(Starting at 1 as your baseline — add 1 for each medium to large-sized mistake, and add a 1/2 for relatively minor things)


Partnership Value Quotient (PVQ)

Here's the full equation to evaluate your PVQ:


Assuming your product is solid, a score above 7 is pretty good. Above 15, and you're likely to leave a lasting, positive memory.

So did you notice what didn't play into that equation?

Did you guess project size? Don't want to blow your mind here, but that's your answer. There's no real trick here, but this can be a useful tool for gauging your strengths and weaknesses and keeping your team honest, especially when faced with a different average project scope than you're all used to

Planting Seeds

One of the most helpful lessons I ever learned is this — and it applies across the board in both business and in life — you never know what will happen when you show up for the details and do your best, but it's always a better result than if you hadn't.

Now more than ever, we must meet our partners and clients where they are. We should always be giving them what they truly need. When you provide high value to a partner (PVQ), they're likely to remember it down the road again. And ultimately, that's how long-term partnerships start.

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