Ahh, the age old question that pops up time and time again in forms, articles, and blog posts all over the web. For good reason too, it’s a rough world out there for the fledgling designer!
While we don’t claim to know all the answers, Kyle and I have had some incredibly smart guests on our podcast and I’ve gathered together each one of these here (in no particular order) in this post along with the major takeaways from each episode if a TLDR fits your busy schedule a bit better.
I recommend watching or listening to these episodes in full to really get into their respective topics though – there’s just far too much awesome information in them to unpack in the write-up below.
What You Need is a System
Guest: Jim Galiano
Jim, who’s been in the industry since 1998, joins us to talk about his motto “less moving parts”. Although this isn’t strictly about obtaining new clients, setting yourself up for success in the beginning is going to be a major stress reliever later on.
You might not be a “sales person” but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Are you shy? So was Jim!
People don’t buy from you because you’re a sales person, they buy from you because they’re comfortable with you. We’re taught that in order to be successful, you need to wear a ton of different hats and roll many professions into one, but that’s not necessarily the best thing you can do for yourself.
Rather than try to become a sales person, which many of us aren’t, lean on your strengths…but not too much. As developers and designers we know the tech and design principles inside and out. Where many of us tend to shoot ourselves in the foot however, is OVER-leveraging this knowledge. When talking to potential clients, try not to use “geek speak” or industry jargon – relay your knowledge in ways the average person can understand. Doing this will help to garner trust and comfort rather than potentially confuse and frustrate – and in the worst cases makes one seem like a know-it-all and no one likes that. People don’t like to be “sold to” and they certainly don’t want to be sold. You're here to try to help your clients, to make their lives easier, and one of the easiest ways to impart that on someone is by sincerely trying to help them and listen to their problems. Once someone trusts that you’re not there to take advantage of them or “sell” something to them, you’re golden.
Simply put, you sell yourself before you sell your services.
Using Site Audits as a Sales Tool
Guest: Clifford Almedia
Clifford joined us to talk about website audits and how they can be used to land new clients.
Have you spent too much time on sales prep and project discovery only to hear from your lead that they’ll “be in touch” or that they’ve been comparing you to offshore companies. Tire kickers = wasted time.
Add value up front. I’m not talking about giving things away for free, but rather in exchange for client trust. What information can you give to a business owner and stand out from the crowd? We know that while a website might be stunningly beautiful, that doesn’t always translate to ROI, which is what your prospective client is really looking for. When auditing a website, we look at the design and technical sides. However Cliff brings up the point that ultimately when creating a website audit, look for issues and opportunities that you can present a business owner that they can understand and value that they understand that once resolved, will grow their business. Businesses don’t hire you because you work in WordPress, they hire you because you’re able to solve their problems.
Many times when a lead contacts you with a low budget, it’s not because they’re unwilling to invest in their business (although there are some of those out there), but because they don’t fully understand how much a website can increase their profits, leads, and solve other problems. I’ve hand plenty of “low baller” leads that when presented with a website as a solution rather than a brochure site decided to move forward with my agency – and down the road I’ve had testimonials written from these same clients who touch on aspects like the quality of leads increasing, the ROI seen from their sites more than tripling and other things that they may never have seen realized had they gone with a pretty, albeit fruitless direction.
Ending the Feast or Famine Sales Cycle
Guest: Matt Davies
Holy cow, hold on to your hats, this is a great one. Matt Davies joined us in April of 2019 to talk about one of the major stressors of any business owner in the design industry – the feast or famine cycle. You know the one, where one month you're up to your eyeballs in work and stressing over getting it all out the door in time only to find that a month or two down the road you’re stressing over finding new work and aren’t making the money you need to. Stress. Stress on both sides and that’s dangerous to any agency, not just financially, but it’s a massive mental strain that can lead to burnout. Luckily, we’ve got Mr. Davies to help change that!
This problem tends to creep up on us, when you’re super busy, you may be less likely to take on new projects, but when it’s slow you may be more apt to take on small projects or projects that you might not be super jazzed about which then may cause the need to pass on better projects when you’ve loaded your list up with these jobs you took on under pressure to bring in income. Ugh…what a mess.
So what helps us step off this roller coaster onto solid ground? Matt brings up a few! Firstly, look at ways you can generate recurring income. MMR or Monthly Recurring Revenue takes some time to build, but it’s by far one of the best things I could have done with my agency. Money you can count on every month for the foreseeable future – how great does THAT sound?! A common way to generate MMR is with website care plans. If you’re having difficulty getting clients to sign up with your care plan, check out the Website Owner’s Manual we offer, it’s a great foot-in-the-door tool that has a crazy high success rate. The biggest impact that Matt’s seen when combating the Feast of Famine Sales Cycle is his sales funnels.
With a sales funnel, you’re able to set it up once, drive traffic to it, and then take your leads through the funnel: from not being aware of the problem, to being aware of the problem, to understanding the problem and the solution, and then at the end of the day allows you to sell your services much easier to an already warm audience.
The best bit? Once it’s set up it continues to work in the background! Funnel Packs has a TON of different options and funnels for different services from SEO to web design and the list goes on.
Sounds cool, right? Check them out!
Guest: Dave Navarro Jr.
Dave’s talk is about networking, but you know, networking of the not-so-typical kind. Dave’s take on networking revolves around attending local industry meetups, specifically creating his own. He found that there wasn’t any taking place in his area and wanted to meet more people from the WordPress community. Dave’s found that in his area there are two different types of meetups that grab the attention of local devs and designers: Ask Me Anything formatted and Specific Topic meetups. In this vein, he’s also found that his audience is less inclined to attend a meetup with a speaker or presentation. This most likely
So how does Dave justify devoting the time and energy it takes to set up these meetups? Between these meetups and the WordCamps he attends it helps to solidify him as the local go-to person to solve issues and problems people are having with their websites. How cool is that?!
As an example of this, he once gave a talk at a WordCamp on the topic of utilizing Facebook Live. What happened next? Well, companies who saw the talk (and others who heard about it through the grapevine) wound up flying him all over the country to give this talk to their employees!
In his words, about 15-20% of his work comes from these meetings.
Creating a meetup on meetup.com is fairly easy, and WordPress will typically sponsor or cover the cost meetup charges. Although it can be a fairly in-depth undertaking, once you start, it becomes much easier and kind of hits a “flow”, so much so that Dave usually hosts two meetups a month! Helping fellow developers (or business owners who are maintaining their own sites) who join these meetups can increase your personal brand awareness, elevate the trust that these people have in you, and in many cases, these people turn into clients or fellow resources!
The Keys to Content Marketing
Guest: Kim Doyal
If there’s one thing that I tell the vast majority of my clients it’s “write more”! Content is king, so they say, and it’s pretty evident when put into practice online.
Kim tells us that things really began to take off once she started her podcast. She lives by the rule “everything is content”. Although we often tell our clients that having a content strategy is important, we aren’t always practicing what we preach.
For both myself and Kyle, we sometimes find it difficult to come up with ideas as to what kind of content would be useful or worthwhile and then take that content and repurpose it.
Kim’s number one piece of advice is to really focus on improving your about page. Really work through it and take your time with it to ensure you’re speaking to your potential clients needs and giving them the information they really want to know. A great place to start, if you’re having a hard time, is Neville Medhora’s fantastic write-up here.
Another fantastic tip is to write case studies. Tell the story, from start to finish, about what you’ve done with their website. This is typically some of the easiest content to write as it’s fresh in your head right after the project is over and it’s not only great content for potential leads, but the more you write case studies, the easier they become.
Proactive Word of Mouth Marketing
Guest: Jason Resnick
Word of mouth is one of the two biggest factors to on-boarding new clients in my agency, second only to returning clients. It’s massively powerful as theirs a level of trust baked into this method. People tend to trust the opinions of the people they’re close with or respect. When one of your clients mentions to someone else the wonderful things you’ve done for them, that person is far more apt to come on board feeling a little less nervous about you if they just happened to find you by their own volition. Jason comes on the show to talk on this subject.
So if word of mouth marketing is so powerful, why is it that so many of us leave it up to our clients to do? This chat with Jason gives us some ideas for ways we can be more proactive about this process.
Firstly, just ask! It’s really that easy. A client is far more likely to recommend your services if you ask them to. Clients that you’ve worked with before are fantastic salespeople, they don’t need to know the ins and outs of web design and development to do this either. Instead, they can just tell their story of what working with you was like and what the results of your efforts did for them – they’re basically walking case studies!
So, yeah, just ask! When your project is wrapping up let them know that you really enjoyed working with them and if they know anyone who might be in need of similar help to let them know about you. Mind you, you don’t need to wait for the project to be wrapped up to ask…
Adding a line in your email signature that contains a similar call to action can make a big difference as well – currently my signature contains a call to action that brings people directly to my Google review page.
These are only a few of the tips Jason brought up, this whole episode is chalk full of great advice.
Finding Clients as a Small Town Agency
Guest: Jennifer Moss
Major Takeaway: Jennifer, Kyle and Myself all live in small towns. Working in a small town can sometimes feel like your pool of potential clients might be too small. That’s not necessarily the case though, Jennifer discusses her tactics when dealing with a limited market.
When Jennifer moved to a small town she noticed that many of the town’s business websites could use some TLC. But she was an outsider and people don’t always take kindly to a cold approach from people they’re not familiar with. She first began to become part of her community, building relationships and being friendly.
Get out there and be friendly and genuinely try to help people. Approaching non-profit organizations is a great foot in the door when you’re new (or unknown) within a community. Join your local chamber of commerce, this allows you to get to know many of the local players within the town and get to know them on a personal level. If you’re new to town, this is a great place to begin getting your name out there.
Jennifer also sought out anchor clients. In her case it was the chamber of commerce website and the local news site. These anchor clients work well as they tend to be websites that a ton of people within the community will see.
How about a major upside to working from a small town? That’s that it IS small. If you’re work is solid and your reputation begins to grow, your local search results will grow – there’s less direct competition in smaller areas to navigate so you can focus a strong amount of optimization to two or three major players and potentially see massive impacts for your business.
Maximize Your Recurring Revenue Model
Guest: John White
John White joins us to chat about his take on the ever popular subscription models and how he’s created his whole agency methodology around it. John saw that he was seeing quite a few inquiries from businesses that wanted more than what a DIY solution would offer but didn’t have the budget to drop $5 – $10k as a lump sum for a website with the capabilities they wanted.
The subscription model enables these clients to get the website they need with a payment budget that’s affordable AND allows your agency to continue to increase a reliable and steady flow of income month after month.
WaaS isn’t for everyone, but if it’s something that you feel you’d like to give a shot, this episode breaks down the methods John used to grow his business from the beginning to launch. Selling a website for $5,000 can be difficult, turned around on myself, if someone was to try and sell me (my business) a $5,000 service, I would be pretty wary of moving forward. It’s a lot of money, it’s not that a new website isn’t a solid value, but it’s sometimes still a hard pill to swallow. Spending $200 a month, for some customers, makes far more sense.
John found that with clients that are willing or able to spend that large lump sum were often nitpicking far more as they felt there was more skin in the game; they wanted the site to launch only when it was perfect. I get it, I’d be the same way if I were them. But there’s only a finite amount of clients in each area that are able/willing to drop that cash at once. John now charges $400 a month for a website and the vast majority of them stay for 3+ years. At the end of the day it was a numbers game that made John make this move. They’ve found the balance between time and cost to build these WaaS sites and what to do to keep his clients happy (read: staying on the model) and still make the same, and in some cases far more, revenue per website than had he charged one lump sum per site.
This is one of my personal favorite episodes of The Admin Bar. I was so incredibly jazzed up and excited to start testing the waters with this new model after having John on.
So There You Have It…
A collection of great interviews all covering that age old question “how do I find more clients”. I’d be willing to bet that if you watch or listen to the interviews on this list you’ll walk away with at least one actionable new practice you can put in place in your own agency and begin to see results. Honestly, I bet you come away with more than one.
I’d like to thank the folks who came on the show to talk with us about this subject and those in our community. If you’re new to The Admin Bar, hop on over to our group and say hi.