Marketing Agency Just Digital Continues To Help Businesses Target & Maintain Clients, Even Through COVID
Hugo Fernandez knows the value of making a sale. The founder and CEO of Just Digital, a creative marketing agency based out of Los Angeles, Fernandez has taken his innate understanding of entrepreneurship and turned it into a thriving company aimed at helping small businesses grow their client base.
Educating businesses about growing and sustaining client leads follows the old adage about teaching a person to fish. Fernandez and his Just Digital team have the tools, but they don’t just want to give them out and hope for the best — they want to teach other business owners how to use them to thrive.
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Starting With An Unshakeable Foundation
For Fernandez, business roots — and the know-how to convert a sale — go back to childhood. In his book, The Client Acquisition Blueprint, Fernandez describes his three-year-old self taking people leaving the local church by the hands and leading them to his mother’s food stand. When his family emigrated from Mexico, he carried his small business acumen and those hard-won lessons into his life in the United States by selling Mexican food and candy door-to-door.
Eventually, as he learned graphic design, he became an invaluable marketing tool for his family members by creating flyers and marketing materials to help them grow their own businesses. “I was hustling to help my parents make ends meet. I went into sales by default,” Fernandez said. “I never thought I could turn it into a business or a career.”
But he has.
Giving Businesses A Fighting Chance
Opening his doors in 2012, Fernandez started Just Digital with the intention to help small business owners access their target clients. He knew small businesses were leaving clients/customers, and therefore money, on the table. “My passion has always been helping the little guys, helping small businesses. I want to give small businesses a fighting chance,” he said.
The statistics from the SBA about those fighting chances are sobering. Says Fernandez:
There are 28 million small businesses and 21 million are making less than 60K a year in gross sales. That means 80% [of small business owners] are making less than if they went out and got a job. Regardless of that specific statistic, most businesses aren’t making much money, and I don’t think people start a business thinking they won’t make many sales.
It’s harder and harder when you’re a small business dealing with limited resources and budget. So, Just Digital has an education portion that is really huge. We want to point small businesses in the right direction. Sometimes it’s not, ‘Hey! Hire us to build your website.’ It’s us saying to a business, use Squarespace to build your website. We’ve been doing a lot more on the education side of things.
In his book, Fernandez lays out his plan for success. He wants businesses to have an unshakeable foundation built on a solid understanding of the inherent value of their business. This should be combined with a researched, accurate knowledge of their customer base — and the best way to reach them. Everything from brand identity to a sales strategy is crucial to converting sales.
The book reads like a conversation with a successful mentor at a lunch you were lucky to get; his ideas are attainable, easy to understand and follow, and current. It’s clear that he brings passion and know-how to every client. For his part, Fernandez makes it his job to stay on top of trends and small business needs.
Adapting To COVID…For The Long Haul
And what does the forecast look like for small businesses during COVID-times? The future isn’t clear.
According to Fernandez:
From a small business standpoint, there is an ominous cloud approaching, but this time businesses are feeling more resilient. Some of them now have cash in the bank, and they are okay and growing. Some businesses do think this is the end, but … in general, there is more optimism. Everyone is just adapting. We’re in this for the long haul, so we’ll see what happens. When COVID first hit, no one knew what the disease looked like, and just going grocery shopping was fear-inducing. And now you can go and shop, and it’s not the end of the world.
Like many business owners across the world, when the novel coronavirus hit, Fernandez ran the numbers and prepared for the worst.
“The biggest shock with COVID was how it riled everybody up,” says Fernandez. “Businesses left and right are failing and shutting their doors. If the big guys are struggling, then you can imagine your local barbershop, florist, or coffeeshop is doing when they are really relying on that foot traffic.”
Just Digital’s clients, unsure about their futures, initially scaled back their marketing needs. In the aftermath, his company lost 35% of its gross revenue and had to lay off one employee.
All of March and early April was a rollercoaster. Every single day, opening your inbox, expecting to hear something. Or picking up your phone and talking people off a ledge. That was scary and difficult for the first two weeks. But then I’m like, this is a lot bigger than just me, so I’m not going to freak out.
Then came the government’s EIDL and PPP loans — a stimulus that worked. His own PPP loan was small (several of his employees work in other countries, and the government aid did not account for their employment), but he saw the resurgence in energy from businesses looking to spend the government aid.
Fernandez adds, “By May, we picked back up. The [PPP/EIDL money] did what it was supposed to do; it stimulated the economy. June, July, August, have been some of our biggest months.”
Just Digital’s Tips For Small Businesses Starting Out
Fernandez has a message for small businesses. “You are selling things to people that make their lives better,” he said. He wants businesses to see themselves as adding value to the lives of the people they can reach with their service or their product. Sometimes there is fear or trepidation about marketing and putting oneself and one’s business out there, but Fernandez wants to assist small businesses to overcome those worries.
You are selling things to people that make their lives better.
His quick recommendations for business owners just starting out are succinct and valuable. “If I were just starting, I would get a Square account — I’d want to send invoices quickly. Then I would build a website with Squarespace or Shopify. Next, you have to focus on getting clients.”
For email automation and newsletters, Fernandez recommends Mailchimp. And QuickBooks is still the gold standard if you need something that can manage everything from your accounting needs to inventory management and payroll. While in the past his company has primarily handled marketing professional services, he anticipates the eCommerce growth from the past few years will continue.
While small businesses figure out the future, Fernandez is holding on to his optimism about the future and ready to help. “Businesses at different times will need different things. Anything they need help with, we can help with,” he said.
No one knows what next month or next year will bring, but small business owners understand the hustle only adapts and never ceases. And with Just Digital and Hugo Fernandez’s help, his clients can be ready for the future of small business and to find the clients looking for — no matter what.