“My nephew can do this for $800.”
I call this The Kiss of Death.
It’s not your fault that people say it. But it is your fault if you let it define your business.
Don’t let our industry fool you. You are not a commodity.
Massively competitive labor marketplaces, free content management systems, and cheap hosting have convinced an alarming majority of web professionals that their skills aren’t valuable. Maybe even convinced you that the problems you solve for your clients aren’t worth much.
Who can blame your clients for thinking what you do should be cheap… If you have failed to communicate the value you provide, the problems you solve, and the impact you can make to their business or organization, why wouldn’t they hire their nephew for $800?
I believe in a simple concept: “High value work for high value pay.”
Take 5 minutes to watch this video and see what I’m talking about.
When you’re trying to run a successful business as a web professional, you need to know more than just how to code and design. You probably haven’t received much formal education about how to run a business. And it could get you in trouble. I know it got me in trouble. I almost had to shut down my agency on multiple occasions.
But, with the right guidance, process and tools, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can succeed.
Many web professionals don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs. I didn’t for almost a decade. I thought of myself as a skillset. A basket of hours to farm out to those willing to pay me. Because of this, I was always reactive – asking clients what they wanted instead of asking probing questions.
I would answer the phone with:
“Tell me what you need.”
The prospect would unload on me. Outline their project. And my reply would be:
“Great! Let me email a proposal in the next couple of days and I will follow up with you from there!”
In short, I didn’t know how to sell.
Despite this, I did get some customers (and you might too); they’re just getting the wrong ones.
In addition to lacking sales skills, I had no strategy for my business. I would talk to anyone that would listen to me. Most of those people were people considering starting a business or they already had a small solo operation and they needed help.
I call these “micro startups,” and you’re probably dealing with at least a few of these new businesses that have no revenue.
In many cases, the owners of these businesses are using their MasterCard as seed funding. This is a recipe for disaster, yet I hear too many telling me these are their “ideal customers.”
When a business owner has an eight thousand dollar limit on their card, it’s impossible for you to sell them a high value website or digital marketing solution. You’re only going to get low value projects from these types of clients. And unfortunately, these are the types of clients who are usually high maintenance and have no follow on work.
Here are some things to consider when thinking about when getting out there to find clients:
These are more likely to buy high value projects. On top of that, they will need more support and ongoing work which will keep you from having to go out and find new clients constantly.
If you want to sell higher value projects, you’ve got to set yourself up for success from day one by going after higher value clients. It’s hard to turn a bootstrapped startup that is flailing all over the place with zero money coming in, to a high value client that pays their bills and is excited about working with you.
You need to develop a better strategy. Hone in on a well defined, tight market (“small business” is NOT a well defined, tight market) and get aggressive about sticking to this strategy.
You do this in two steps:
Many web pros start by choosing a marketing channel before knowing their ideal customer. This is a mistake. Choosing Google, Facebook, direct mail, or any other channel before you know your customer means you’re guessing about what your ideal customer needs.
And worse, you’re guessing if they are even listening on that channel.
I was on the phone with someone the other day who said “Facebook ads are terrible for my business.” I did some probing and it turns out they were creating generic ads with their logo for “web design” and marketing it to adults within a broad age range in their geographic region.
I dug deeper and discovered they didn’t even have an avatar or ideal customer defined prior to spending money on Facebook. My response, “of course Facebook didn’t work… nothing will work without a strategy!”
Define a market that’s so tight you only get a list of about 100 people when you search the constraints on LinkedIn. (You can get even more refined if you’re up for getting laser focused). This will give you a manageable list of potential clients to make contact with.
Pro tip: Many think they’re focusing by choosing “lawyers.” This is still too generic. You’re going to get thousands of results. Instead, think: “lawyers in Denver that belong to this association, making 1 million +.” That type of focus gives you a smaller pond to fish from, one where you might actually succeed (or fail quick and realize you have to pivot).
If you pick up five clients at $10K apiece, that’s a good business. Once you gain some traction and experience in a particular area, then you can ratchet out and explore new areas.
To me, a cold call is any cold interaction – so don’t get all huffy and think that I’m talking about actually calling people on the phone (unless you are ready and want to!). Even calling your best friend to ask them if they know anyone in your chosen market is a cold call. Granted, your friend knows you, but he isn’t expecting your call and you are interrupting him.
Here’s where many go wrong: they call a potential client and launch into a pitch. Your only goal should be to set a future meeting. Don’t get into the details. Just try to be a human. I like to start in with something like this:
“My company is looking to offer products and services in your market. I learned about you from XYZ and at this point I’m just trying to learn as much about this industry as I can. Would you be open to meeting for coffee (or a Skype call if you’re remote)?”
Offer them something. Give them a free video review of their site. Share an article. Ask if they would like to be interviewed for your blog. Get creative!
I once heard a story about someone sending live carrier pigeons with a contact note to potential clients. We won’t talk about what happened to the pigeons that didn’t return.
The idea is to create three to six ideas that you can execute on the same list. You have to get in front of the same people at least seven times before they’re ready to make a decision. One call is not enough to get traction in a market.
Networking at conferences and events in your niche, or joining a mastermind group are also great ways to get in front of potential clients. Find out where your people hangout and be a heartbeat in the room!
Everyone asks me – when they focus on a market – if they need to update their website or create landing pages. Sure. Those are all great things. But I prefer to start with conversations first. They are low maintenance and require zero upkeep. I want to talk to 20, 30, or even 50 people in a market before I start investing in marketing material.
When you are able to get in the head of your ideal customer to the point that you can talk like them, think like them, and even predict what they are going to want before they need it, then you have the basis to create amazing marketing.
Once you get to know a niche, people come to you. This is hard to do when you’re starting out, but with a plan and some persistence, you can get there!
All of this might sound straight forward and simple, but there are so many obstacles that can come up when you’re just getting started. Hopefully, the two strategies above and your experience have given you enough insight to jump in.
But if you are ready to take action, join a community of like-minded peers in the same pursuit, and have a team of world-class mentors hold you accountable, then you might want to consider joining our $10K community.
No matter where you are in your business right now, we can help.
There is no silver bullet. No magic trick. Our methods require you to invest, work hard, and commit to building a better business.
Consider this an invitation. We have built a roadmap to help you land web projects worth $10,000 or more.
Have a look at our newly revamped program site and let us know if you have any questions. We’d love to have you join us.
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