Dan Hine has been a small business owner for over twenty-five years. In the early days, Dan owned a cloud-based IT company (ProNet Technologies, Inc.), when the concept of cloud-base was fledgling and new. As internet technology in general evolved, so did his business. Dan continued into a broader digital online space, eventually dropping the IT focus altogether and emerging as a marketing-focused business.
Though his degree was in IT, Dan never felt a real passion for the field, so when social media started gaining popularity 10+ years ago, he jumped on the opportunity in hopes of helping other businesses grow with this new technology. While Dan and his team’s primary focus is digital marketing and social media, they have other internal projects that keep them current, sharp and profitable.
Success Fueled by a Passion for Small Business
Dan’s career is fueled by a passion for helping small business owners who are struggling but have the determination to make it.
“I’ve been where they are: starting a new business, but not sure if you have what it takes. I gave up a great salary at a stable job in ‘98 to start my own business, but I was scared to death. I had a wife and kid at home and it was a very chancy move for me.”
I asked Dan what the one thing was that he wished his family and friends knew about running a business:
“That starting a business is a thousand times harder than it looks. If a client doesn’t pay you or they don’t pay on time—your first worry is employee payroll. It’s one to not pay yourself, but if you start slipping on paying your staff, they’re going to start looking for a job somewhere else. It’s a tough balancing act”.
Dan started Crimson Fly, Inc. (a Digital marketing firm) back in the early 2000’s and has several brands that fall under its umbrella. Outside of their normal digital marketing clients, his team designs, operates and manages, “The Loudoun Homeowner,” a locally focused digital content marketing platform that allows businesses to share and promote helpful information about their line of work as it pertains to the homeowner.
The platform gives homeowners the ability to read helpful self-written articles (written by local businesses) when looking for someone to perform a service in their home and get better overall sense of that individual or company before picking up the phone to hire them.
“If it’s a plumber for example, they might write about ten tips to keep your pipes from freezing in the winter. They are not ‘sales’ articles, only informational.”
These business owners can submit informative articles up to twice a month for free.
“We are starting to monetize the site a bit more now. Thanks to PaySimple and our Customer Success Manager, we’ve been able to put together packages for people who are willing to pay a little for additional outreach from the Loudoun Homeowner, where we’ll add a significant push of their article and advertise for them. So far, this has been very successful.”
The second brand within Dan’s business portfolio is one called EatLoco.org. ‘Loco’ in this case stands for Loudoun County (the county in which Crimson Fly’s home office is located).
“It’s kind of a fun play on words and the purpose of the site is to promote local and healthy eating, exercise, and healthier lifestyle options in general.”
The site includes resources in eight different categories from “Farmers Markets,” to “Healthy Kids,” to “Tips for Your Garden.”
Both the Loudoun Homeowner and EatLoco.org meet a specific need for a local marketplace where small business owners can reach prospective customers seeking helpful information. Dan recognized the need to help small local businesses and has been growing his business around it ever since.
Supporting Small Businesses Through Building a Community
Because the majority of Dan’s customers are small business owners, he is well versed on the common challenges among them.
“As an example, the electrician must spend 99.9% of his time being an “electrician” and then does not spend enough time on his business. They know how to be an electrician and they don’t want to work for corporate America so they start their own company—but they find out quickly, they aren’t great at accounting or marketing or staffing. It all weighs on them and makes success and growing their company extremely hard.”
The Loudon Homeowner gives these businesses the opportunity to get in front of a larger audience of prospective customers in the local community that their business serves. The site aims to provide value to the community and to also help these small businesses grow.
Using Technology and Marketing to Grow Your Business
Dan’s business has gone through its own growth phases to get where it is today. One thing he attributes to that success is that he has never been afraid to implement technology in order to help improve processes and save costs. He urges other growing businesses to do the same:
“I like to recommend businesses look for apps that can be purchased (cheaply) instead of hiring people. There are thousands of apps that can help your business. An Automated Attendant (hundred bucks per month) can easily replace a receptionist (couple thousand per month), for example.”
Being a Marketing company, Dan also recommends that business owners seriously dedicate both resources and time to their own marketing efforts. While he does suggest finding marketing experts or agencies to help grow their business, he also suggests starting off slow.
“The best marketing a business owner can do is join networking groups, chambers, etc, and let word-of-mouth get them off to the right start. Or if you work in Loudoun County, of course, contact me.”
About Crimson Fly and PaySimple
To revisit Dan’s point about payment processing, when Crimson Fly was ready to streamline its payment processing, they did some research and decided to partner with PaySimple.
“The biggest role PaySimple has played in our business is consolidating some of the things I had already been doing. I love the e-commerce piece of it and wasn’t sure how I was going to sell our array of products before I met the PaySimple team.”
Dan has provided a lot of feedback during his time as a PaySimple customer and much of that feedback has been helpful in informing product innovation.
“I like PaySimple. When I mention something to my Customer Success Manager, they often consider bringing it to the product development guys. It doesn’t mean they implement every idea I have, but it means they are listening.”
You can learn more about Dan’s growing business at www.crimsonfly.net