Growing a business takes time and effort. It takes consistent delivery of quality work and happy clients referring more clients to you.
The hardest part for growing your business is in finding a steady stream of leads and prospects to be wowed by your web design skills. This guide will kick your business prospecting and lead generation to a new level and give you ideas to find new clients and grow your business.
You can put all these ideas you’ll learn here into practice when you join my free Business Growth Workout
This ultimate guide to getting more clients for you web design business, has 18 ideas to help you grow your business. Use one of the ideas or all of them, but please do something with them. You can get a downloadable PDF of this ultimate guide here.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky.
1. Produce better work
Seriously. Is every piece of work you produce for your clients the very best work you can possibly produce regardless of the amount of money the client is paying you?
If it’s not, then what’s special about you and your company?
If it’s not, then how are you going to be able to showcase your work to any potential prospects which shouts to them “they need to use XYZ web design”.
That’s not to say that the website or design that you produce for them should have features that the client didn’t want or specify.
Producing in your best work is about having a very deep understanding of your clients business and what they are trying to achieve from the website that they are asking you to design. Showing an interest in your client and what they are trying to achieve will get you noticed.
Action: At the start of any client project ask the client to list out for you their goals for the particular project you are working on and get them to think about what the successful achievement of those goals looks like. Make sure the goals are measurable and understand what the current situation is. Before you send over your masterpeice to your client make sure that your final product meets these goals.
2. Focus on a niche
Look at all your clients you have ever dealt with.
Are the clients from different industries or the same industries?
Do the same types of business keep cropping up again and again?
Do similar types of work crop up for different clients again and again?
If the answer is yes, then this could be a client group for you to focus on and target your marketing more effectively. You can then find more businesses in the same field and approach them about the services that you can offer them.
For example, say you were a web designer and you had a number of jobs in the past designing websites for restaurants. Don’t you think that you could offer a restaurateur more insight in what works for the their restaurant business than the general web site designer down the road?
Plus, having relevant work gives you relevant examples to show a prospect and a reason to talk to them.
Note: This technique worked very well for a sign writing client of mine. At one point nearly every bar in the city had “A boards” outside of their premises, shouting the latest offers – some bar owners even coming to my client because thier competition had signs already.
Action: look at your client list and split them into types of business. Does one type of business stand out any more than another? If it doesn’t is there a type of business that you’re more interested in than another type of business? Similarly if you’re just starting out and have had no clients previously is there a type of business that you’re interested in?
3. Work with Local businesses
Instead of being a faceless service provider, pitching your services over the internet, why not consider focusing providing your services to other local businesses? As a business you’re part of the community that your local business serves and therefore you have a vested interest in making the local business a success for the sake of the community.
Almost as importantly, the fact that you’re local means that it’s much easier to phsically meet potential prospects at local networking events.
As a starter, make sure you visit Google Places and claim your local listing which will improve your rankings in local search results.
Action: What local networking events are happening in your town or city? Get yourself an invite and go and talk to business owners about their businesses and see if you can help. Check these 7 Tips for Better Networking
4. Educate don’t sell
Instead of pitching your services offer your prospective client advice.
If the client already has a website, explain to them about Search Engine Optimisation and explain why it’s important for them and how they can improve their search engine rankings.
Explain the importance of capturing lead information from visitors to their website and that any sign up boxes to an email list should be in a prominent position to maximise sign ups.
The more knowledge you share with your client the more the value you provide increases in the clients eyes. This in turn ultimately means the more they will be prepared to pay you to help them out.
For example, I have a client who as a result of a free website review, replaced a whole load of custom code that the previous web designer had put in (which meant that each time the site owner wanted to change the site they had to have an expensive maintenance call to the original designer to change it) with a set of customisable “widgets”. This allowed the site owner to make the changes themselves, quickly and without any on going costs. New business for my client, plus his client saved money.
Action: Always seek opportunities to educate your clients. Produce videos about how to use social media to drive traffic or produce helpful guides (like this one 🙂 ).
5. Pitch for work on job sites
With wage inflation increasing in many low cost economies, the costs savings of having web design work undertaken overseas is not as cheap as it was.
Plus there are a number of businesses that have had bad experience of dealing (particularly when it comes to support) with workers overseas and maybe willing to pay a premium for same language and great support (especially responsiveness) on their next project.
Freelance switch produced a Monster List of Freelance Job Sites which was massively popular. By popular demand they updated the post in 2009 with an even longer list of places that you can pitch your services.
Action: Check out the Monster List of Freelancing Job Sites – for all types of freelance work you can pitch for. This list has been updated several times since it was first published in 2007 and represents probably the most comprehensive list out there.
6. Help other service providers in a related field
When you attend networking events always be on the look out for service providers in related fields that offer complimentary services to the ones that you offer.
For example, say that you met a copywriter at a networking event. This could be a really useful contact to refer your clients to when they need help writing advertisements or sales pages.
Don’t you think that when you start sending business to your new copywriting buddy that they will start referring clients back to you in return?
Action: Attend networking events and look to connect the people you meet with other members of your network.
Always be referring.
7. Ask for introductions, not business
Ask your clients or network if they can introduce you to other businesses or contacts in their network rather than asking them to refer you for business.
Many clients are happy to make or facilitate introductions, as this is much less onerous task on them than referring you. This is because a referral is effectively an endorsement, which they may not be happy to give (especially in the early stages of your relationship).
However, when you’re looking for introductions be specific in the type of introduction that you want. So that it’s easy for your contact to connect you to the right person
For example saying to your client “could you introduce me to a professional couple with children who may need insurance” is a lot easier for the client to introduce you to suitable prospects than “can you introduce me to someone who may need insurance”.
Action: be specific about the type of introduction that you want to make and ask your clients if they can introduce you to their contacts or network.
8. Love your existing clients and provide great service
I saw a TV programme the other day where the CEO of a UK based Truck company gave her customers her home phone number to call if they had a problem. I don’t know how many calls that she gets from her customers, but nothing signals “I want to help you” more than providing her home number.
What are you doing to show your customers that you care? It needn’t be giving your customers or clients your home phone number, but it could be sending them a card on their birthday or inviting them to an event that you’d know they’d love or be useful to their business.
Action: Think about what you could do to show your customers you care. How well do you know your customers? Create a database and add to it with new information every time you make a connection with a client. Similarly before you meet or talk to a client review the database for your least interaction and see what you discussed with them.
Note: When dealing with a large corporate or a Government department they may have very strict policies on what you can give so that it is not seen as a bribe. Keep it low cost but thoughtful and/or useful to the other person and you should be fine. Although check before hand that it’s ok.
9. Be an industry expert
Your clients use you because you have more expertise than they do. Which means that you’re an expert.
Being seen as an industry expert will increase your credibility and prospects confidence in your services. You can be seen as an expert by speaking at networking events, especially ones in the related target market (see #2) – maybe you could speak at the local Restaurant Association or other local trade body.
You could provide industry updates or updates on the market or even providing advice on a particular subject, like 10 things every restaurant owner needs to know when building their website. This lets people see you as an expert in their field.
Of course these might be the same 10 things that the local plumber needs to know too, but personalising to your target market will make it much more effective and see you as the go to person for websites for that field.
Action: Find a subject that you have expertise in and offer your speaking services to your local networking event or trade group. If your networking group isn’t interested in having speakers, consider holding your own event.
10. Talk the same language as your client, avoid jargon
Every industry has jargon.
That’s the language you as a professional use to communicate with you colleagues, your employees, your peers or your suppliers.
But, the thing is that this jargon / industry terms probably means nothing to your client.
Using lots of buzzwords like HTML 5.0, RSS or Camtasia may make you look clever but in reality it makes your client feel inadequate or stupid because they don’t know what you’re talking about.
Don’t you think clients would much sooner work with someone they felt understood them and more importantly could understand you.
If you want to see this in action go to your local Apple Store – they never use jargon when talking to a customer (but if they do they explain what it means and what it means to you)
Action: Avoid the use of jargon in every presentation, speech or face-to-face meeting. Whilst sometimes it’s difficult to recognise that you’re using jargon, ask friends from outside your industry to review your materials and ask you to explain anything they don’t understand. If you are going to use jargon, make sure it’s the customers jargon.
11. Give something away for free
One of the most effective ways to generate interest for your business is to give something away for free. Everyone likes something for nothing. The objective here though is to give something of value to the prospect which enables you to start a conversation with them. If you’re a web designer, offering a free website review will promote interest.
However, you don’t have to give away something that costs you time. May be giving away a free report or guide might be valued by your potential clients.
Action: come up with a giveaway that you can give to your clients. Maybe it’s an ebook or a report. It might be a video tutorial or a webinar, but think about what you could do that the clients would find of use. Get it produced.
12. Work with local media
You may have seen it before, your local newspaper or radio station has a giveaway or holds an event and provides some sort of prize, opportunity or added value to it’s readers and listeners. Well, you could get in on the act and provide either sponsorship of the event or provide a prize, which promotes your business or services.
For example you might decide to contact your local newspaper and say that you’ll provide a free web site design as a competition prize if they give you publicity in the competition. That publicity alone could be worth many times the cost of providing the “freebie”.
Action: Think of something you could offer your local newspaper, radio or TV station and contact their PR department with your idea, to provide value to their readership and publicity to your business. Always think about the value that it will bring to them.
13. Promote yourself
Don’t miss an opportunity to promote yourself and your business. Come up with a tag line that clearly identifies who you help and what you do for them.
Then get that tag line printed on your business cards. Have the tag line in your email signature and on your website. Have it everywhere.
For example: Specialists in web design for bars and restaurants.
If you’re focusing on your local market then use the names of the areas which you serve in your site keyword meta tags to help let the search bots know who you’re serving.
For example: Specialist web design for bars and restaurants in London.
Don’t you think that’s better than “Web Designer” – especially when a restaurant owner is going through the cards after the event and they see 4 or 5 web designer cards? Which one do you think they will call?
Don’t miss an opportunity to promote yourself, but don’t be overbearing. When speaking to prospective clients at networking events ask about them and their business, don’t just talk about your own.
Action: Is your marketing message or the market your serve clearly stated in all your marketing materials? Website, emails, leaflets and brochures? If it’s not change it. Make sure the message of who you serve is clearly stated.
14. Grab Attention
By now you should have a fair idea of the market you’re serving. In a spreadsheet or on a sheet of paper list out every business you can think of in your chosen market. Maybe you might need to do some more research to find who they are, but list them all down. Next find out what everything you can about that business, note down your impressions of their website, whether they have one or not. Who the directors are, when the business was founded. How many employees they have etc.
Then for each business on the list come up with a hook that will get you attention. Maybe the business is celebrating 25 years (or 10 years or 5 years for that matter) in business and you could send them a birthday cake to celebrate and take it personally to the offices or premises of the business and ask to speak to the owner/marketing manager or whoever will be responsible for web design and present it to them. Don’t you think that will get you noticed and at least 5 minutes of face time with a decision maker?
Action: Come up with a list of prospects in your chosen niche, then work out what you could do to get yourself noticed and grab attention of the decision makers. Then follow it through and go and meet them.
15. Networking events
At networking events always ask for the other person’s business card and jot down on the back of it what you talked about. That way you can follow up with an email to them later.
“Hi I’m Matthew from XYZ Web design, we met at XXXX the other night and talked about your trip to London for the weekend. How did it go? etc.”
After the event, if you have a smart phone like an iPhone, which allows you to turn the camera around to face you, then you could produce a short personalised video message with your contact details and attach it to an email and send it directly to your prospect, in less than 20 seconds. That way your prospect will receive a totally unique video message and they’ll be reminded of exactly what you look like
Action: Follow up with an email, postcard, or video message. Then a few days later follow up with a call.
LinkedIn is an amazingly powerful way to market your business and one of it’s most overlooked features from a marketing perspective is recommendations.
Recommendations not only look good, but they are social proof that you know what you are doing.
Of course you can grow your own recommendations by asking people to recommend you, but a better Ninja way to grow your recommendations and influence is by recommending others.
Recommending others helps you in you in a couple of ways. Not only does it get your name out there by exposing you to people who you aren’t connected to (i.e. the readers of the profiles for the people you recommend), but it generates an enormous amount of goodwill with the people you recommend who in turn are more likely to recommend or do something for you.
But don’t just say that the person you recommend was really nice….
The best recommendations are the ones that describe an outcome – for example:
- The changes they made to your business
- The benefits they delivered
- How they created value for your business
Action: Go to Linkedin and find 5 people you are connected to and write a recommendation for them (but only if you genuinely mean it!) then repeat on a weekly basis.
17. Ask for referrals
I know number 7 said ask for introductions and not referrals, but when you’ve been working with the client a while, it’s ok to ask for them .
When you’ve completed a job for a client ask them if they are happy with it. (If they aren’t it at least gives you the opportunity to do something about it) – then ask them the follow up question of “would you recommend our services to a friend or colleague”. If the answer is yes, you can follow that up by saying “do you know anyone in the XYZ business who also might be interested in us creating a cool website for them”.
Ask for referrals but strike whilst the opportunity is hot and they are excited about what you’ve just done for them.
Action: Ask your clients for referrals when you complete each piece of work for them then follow up on those referrals. Even introduce yourself to the referral “Jim at ABC has just had his website made over and he thought that you might be interested in having yours done too, as he said it was something you’d talked about last week”.
18. Putting it all together
If you do all of the tips in this guide, pretty soon you’ll have more prospects and contacts you can shake a stick at.
But only a superhuman can keep track of his or her entire network using just email and a mobile phone.
You need to have a proper Customer Relationship Management system (CRM)
There are 100’s of different versions, starting with Outlook and going up to enterprise systems you really can’t afford.
You could spend years researching the best CRM system for you, and debating about whether or not you need one.
So let me save you several years of wasted effort.
1. Do I need a CRM system?
2. Which CRM system should I get started with?
Contactually Click that link and sign up now (for free). Every day passing is a day wasted.
Contactually have a basic version, which is free. This is an excellent way to get started and a useful tool to remind you to touch with people. You can categorise people by type (eg prospect, customer, vendor) and keeping track of what you said to who and when.
Many of my future clients live a business life of frustration and long hours.
In many cases, they started a small business without much knowledge of starting and growing a successful business.
In many cases they left well paying jobs for a better life, but have now created a glorified job for themselves.
..actually, it’s worse than a job, because everything depends on them.
Soon they become frustrated, overwhelmed and work whatever it takes to stay on top of things, but always with the nagging doubt that the business isn’t reaching it’s full potential.
Working so hard that they rarely have time for the important things in life; like taking a holiday or spending quality time with family and friends.
If that’s you then we need to talk. It doesn’t have to be that way.