In the web development business? Perhaps graphic design? Getting clients a colossal pain in the ass? 😉
I know the feeling.
Today, I operate the Blog Marketing Academy. Before this, I was a tech blogger. But, at the same time, I was also a for-hire web developer. I did custom projects in PHP and created projects like a custom content management system, a fully-custom patient management system, an email reminder service… and a lot of smaller projects in between.
Most of those clients came from word of mouth. Plus, I guess you could say I was “lucky” to never completely depend on development for my income since I did had the tech blog going at the same time.
But, still, I wanted clients. And it was a hard thing to get.
It is even harder today.
We’re in a global marketplace where you’re now competing with people overseas who can easily undercut you on your rates. Plus, there are a lot of people out there who do this. So, the problem is that…
Web development is a commodity. Graphics design is a commodity. It is literally being sold for the bargain basement price of $5 on sites like Fiverr.
So, how do you compete with this when your livelihood depends on finding new service clients?
Plus, there’s the hassle of dealing with clients who look at you as a commodity.
- Some clients will expect huge projects out of you for chicken scratch money, and actually get rude with you if you don’t deliver.
- Some clients will take their sweet time getting back to you on stuff you need, then get rude with you when you don’t get back to them immediately.
- Some clients don’t even know what the hell they want in the first place.
Need I go on? 😉
It is easy to say that clients suck (and I’ve heard more than my share of service providers say that), but the truth is that much of that comes from the WAY you manage your business.
If you play in the sandbox of being a commodity, then you’re going to get treated like one.
The answer is to run your business a little differently.
So, if you’re a web developer or a graphics designer, I want to help you grow your business.
Let’s go over 8 specific business strategies that I would most definitely set up if I were back in the business myself.
#1 – Don’t Hide Your Personality
I see a LOT of small business websites where they try to look a lot bigger than they are. They use “we” everywhere when it is really just an “I”.
Why hide who you are? It doesn’t make you look small-time to have your personality on your business site. You know what it makes you? HUMAN. And people want to do business with a person, not an anonymous “we”.
One of the most effective ways to not be a commodity is to inject your personality, because there is only one YOU.
#2 – Create Outcome-Focused Content
Service business owners often struggle with the notion of creating content for the purposes of marketing. One of the biggest questions is “What the hell do I blog about?”
Legit question. I mean, talking code isn’t exactly exciting reading. And boring as hell to write about, too.
What you need to do is put yourself firmly into the mind of the prospect you’re looking to serve.
What outcome do they want? What are the benefits they’re looking for? What would that mean for them?
For instance, perhaps you create custom website designs. Your client wants a web design, but why? If you deep dive on it, you’ll find the main benefits they’re seeking are:
- More money
- To look better than their competition
- To not have their site lose leads or sales
So, imagine the power of a content item which compared two business websites… one which sucked and the other which was done professionally. Show them EXACTLY what you would change and why. Talk about the real-world results of the better design. Record it in a video. Under the video, include a call to action.
Now you’re talking about stuff you can do, but in terms your prospect cares about.
#3 – Stop Saying “Contact Us” All The Time.
Most service provider websites have as the only call to action to fill in some contact form. Something like…
“If you’re interested in a free quote, contact us”
… and then this extremely impersonal form for them to fill out.
That call to action will only possibly be relevant to the hottest kind of lead… the person who is actively looking to buy right now.
See, your leads go through certain phases…:
- Not Looking. These are people who could likely use your service but don’t know it.
- Thinking About It. These are people who are thinking they might want to hire somebody like you. They’re not ready to take any action, but they’re just… thinking about it.
- Engaged. These are people who are actively shopping for what you offer.
- Need. These are people who need what you sell and they need it now.
Most of the world is in the “not looking” phase. These people will likely not visit your website unless you specifically have marketing in place to attract them. More on that in a bit…
Some people are “thinking about it”. These people might be seeking out information. Or they may be looking for something to put them over the edge and decide to pull the trigger on it. If your small business website has nothing to cater to these people, then you fall flat.
A few people will be “engaged”. This kind of prospect may very well end up on your website, depending on what kind of prospect outreach you’re doing. But, then they see that generic small business website, perhaps a portfolio page, and a generic “contact us for a quote” call to action. To them, YOU BLEND IN.
And very few people are in active “need”. The way to get these people is to have them be aware of you BEFORE the need arises.
So, I hope you see that the standard “contact us for a quote” call to action is extremely weak and ineffective for almost all kinds of leads.
If you have that, you’re being a commodity. So, what do you replace it with?
More on that in a minute…
#4 – “Productize” Your Offer
The other problem with “contact us for a quote” is that it is incredibly open ended and vague. They don’t know what kind of ballpark pricing to expect. In fact, to them, asking for a quote probably just says you’re expensive and they’ll bypass you.
So, instead of just being some kind of general hourly developer, or a fully custom service provider, how about you turn some of your services into packaged products and sell them that way?
This will allow you to set up your offers into funnels and lead magnets. More on that in a bit, too. 😉
#5 – “Systematize” Your Delivery
Most smaller custom service providers run their business and their delivery by the seat of their pants.
Every project is different. Every quote is different. Every client is different. Every day is different.
But, you can’t grow a business like that. You’ll be constantly feeling as if you’re just barely catching up.
So, if I were doing it, I would systematize things. Turn the things you do into processes that repeat and document them in checklist format. Boil your projects down into particular phases that are consistent with all of them. Find anything you often have to repeat and turn it into a checklist and/or find a way to automate it.
Here’s what this will do for you…
- It will provide consistency of delivery to your clients.
- It will improve your efficiency so you can deliver more during work hours.
- It will provide clarity to your clients and your prospects.
- It will reduce those weird random client requests that don’t seem to fit into anything.
- It will allow you to better “productize” your offers, per above.
#6 – Set Up Actual Sales Funnels
Sales funnels don’t apply only to info products. It is a universal concept. And, you know what isn’t a funnel?
VISITS WEBSITE —> Contact for Quote
That’s not a funnel. It’ll rarely ever work unless that person was pre-sold before they got there.
A full funnel as I teach it to my Lab members would be:
- Lead Magnet
- Front-End Offer
- Core Offer
- High-End Offer
Now, if you’re in the custom development business, you’re in a position to re-position what you do into funnels. This is how productizing and systematizing delivery comes into play.
A lead magnet is supposed to get people to become an email lead. Yes, you want prospects on your email list! And you do NOT want to depend on just a dumb quote form to get them. You want to be able to capture people in the other lead phases (see above) and not have a website which completely drops the ball on the vast majority of potential leads there are out there.
The job of the front-end offer is to turn people into a customer – at any level. Look at it as a qualifier. A front-end offer isn’t supposed to be the main focus of your business. It is just how you get customers in the door. Think about how an auto mechanic might offer a cheap oil change and a free A/C check. That’s not their core business, but it gets customers in the door!
Then the core offer and high-end is where you begin making your money. That’s where the big design projects, or the custom websites happen.
So, here’s a potential sales funnel I might explore if I were in the business of creating custom sites for clients.
- Lead Magnet – Invite them to opt-in for a free website evaluation checklist. They get it as a free download, perhaps with a video explaining how to use it. This checklist will open their eyes to the “holes” with their existing site and most likely raise them up the lead phases to the next level.
- Followup Emails – By getting that lead magnet, they’re now on your email list. So, FOLLOW UP. Automatically. This is something you automate via an email list provider. Send them a series of emails regarding that checklist. Did they fill it out? What were the results? “Gee, if you want to know more about the effects of improving this aspect of your site, go look at this article.” Do this in a series of automated emails over time.
- Front-End Offer. Take a productized service and offer it as a front-end offer in your funnel, priced such that it gets their attention. Like, a logo for just $99.
- Core Offer. “You know, you don’t want to put that snazzy logo onto some crappy site where it looks out of place, do you? I can do X, Y and X for you to have a new site built for you, for $499.” (Note, you obviously price this at something that makes sense for you, and you strip down the service to accomodate.)
- High-End Offer. This is where your custom stuff comes into play. By this point, you’ve done some work for them. They’ve gotten results. They trust you. By this time, if they need custom work done, a quote is probably a mere formality. They’ll hire you because they know you.
You get it? 🙂
In most cases, all you’ll need to do is take the stuff you already do for your clients and simply RE-POSITION it into products you can sell and into a funnel which properly accommodates the different lead phases.
#7 – Productize Toward Certain Audiences
Another huge problem with the standard small business website (with a portfolio, a generic about page, and a quote form) is that it is so generic that it applies to nobody.
What you WANT people to think when they see your offer is that YES, it is indeed what they’re looking for. And you can do that by re-packaging and re-positioning for different markets.
For instance, if you’re in the lawn maintenance business and need a new website, what will jump out at you most?
- “We make great websites. Contact us for a quote”.
- “We create sites for lawn businesses that have been proven to get new clients. Opt In Here to see our 7-point Checklist For How to have a lawn business website which converts!” (and of course, they opt-in and they’re in your sales funnel).
Obviously, the second one will work better. It directly speaks to the target audience: lawn maintenance businesses.
This makes your generic offer suddenly APPLY to people who would otherwise never pay any attention.
You can also accomplish through areas of focus. For instance, what if you had a landing page specifically for people who need a membership site built? This page would be custom written to apply to membership sites. That’s guaranteed to work better than just randomly hoping a person interested in that comes across your generic services page.
#8 – Do Guerilla Marketing
Get down in the trenches. And reach out to prospects but not in a way which turns you into a commodity.
For instance, if you’re trying to get clients by competing with the world on Upwork or Elance, you’re probably pretty freakin’ frustrated.
But, what if you singled out a particular business in your local area? You then find that person’s email address. You then sit down and record a custom video – just a few minutes long – that critiques their current website and shows them the opportunities they’re missing with it.
That’s not an email they get everyday! It will almost definitely open their eyes. You just made clear to them how their current site is losing them money. And you’ve got their attention in their email inbox.
Boom. Sold. 😉
That’s It For Now…
I hope it is very obvious that the kind of marketing we do here isn’t just for internet marketers or information product creators.
It works very well for service businesses…. even local, small ones.
In fact, the results would probably be pretty stellar because I can almost guarantee you that your competition in your area isn’t doing any of this.
This is how you stop being a commodity. And these are the kinds of things I would most definitely be doing if I were still in the web development business myself.
So, I hope this was helpful. If it was, spread the word. Send it to somebody who you think would benefit. 🙂
If you are in a service business, you can join the Blog Monetization Lab. Yes, most of my members are in the digital marketing space. However, I hope this article has made clear that what we’re building inside the Lab can apply to services just as much as it does courses and the like.
Don’t let the words “Blog Monetization” allow you to think that’s all we’re doing. This is BUSINESS building training. This is SALES training. That’s what we do inside the Lab.
And, if you’re a busy business owner who doesn’t have the time to sit down and learn it all yourself, you can consider jumping into the Platinum program with me. I’ll help you ramp it up much faster and get you moving in the right direction with your business. Then, once you’re good to go, you can cancel. No problem.
OK. We’ll talk soon. 🙂