In the world of web development and design, is it really possible to be everything for everyone?
The answer is no. Even if you have the time and resources to accomplish any task for your clients, there are bound to be certain ones you do better, faster, and more efficiently than others.
As a business owner, you have a clear incentive to focus on the projects that make the best use of your unique skills and resources. This is how you develop a niche, gradually building new competencies on top of old ones until you can confidently you are an expert in the field.
But if you try to take every project that comes your way, you won’t be able to get there. You’ll be familiar with a broad range of subjects, but you won’t really be an expert in any one of them – not compared to someone who has dedicated their business exclusively to that subject, at least.
The truth is that in today’s expansive, highly-developed economy, there is no shortage of web developers and designers like yourself. If you want to thrive in these conditions, you have to find your niche and market to it successfully.
But in order to do that, you need to know who you are clients are. Perhaps more importantly, you need to know who your clients aren’t, and be able to tell them so.
This is where qualifying your clients come into play, and it’s an important step towards turning your web agency into a successful brand that clients trust.
Position Yourself to Qualify Web Agency Clients Successfully
If you’re new to the web development industry, there’s nothing wrong with taking all the work you can get. You may not have a competitive advantage over more established developers yet, and may not be sure what your area of expertise really is.
But after a while, you should start to notice small, important differences in your projects. Perhaps certain types of clients are consistently happier with your results than others. Maybe you work very quickly under certain conditions. Maybe you simply enjoy certain projects more than others.
Whatever these differences are, you want to gradually move towards clients whose needs coincide with the services you prefer to provide. To do so, you have to ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the Client Really Need What You Offer? It’s a bad idea to assume that your talents are so unique that everyone absolutely needs them. Ask yourself whether your skills and expertise really meet the client’s actual needs, and be prepared to suggest they look elsewhere if the answer is no.
- Do You Have Everything You Need to Deliver? If the client agrees to the project, can you start immediately? Or do you need to invest in training, purchase software, or buy other tools first? You should calculate these risks and be prepared to outsource some tasks to a white label web developer if they are not strictly in your niche.
- Can the Client Actually Pay? Nobody likes to admit they don’t have money. If your client doesn’t seem to have a realistic budget in place, there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter obstacles when it comes time to pay.
- How Likely is This Client to Become a Repeat Customer? One-off projects are a valuable part of the web agency experience, but you should place a priority on clients you expect will return to your agency. You earn more, spend less on marketing, and enjoy more stable cash flow from repeat customers.
- Is Your Point of Contact the Final Decision-Maker? Be especially wary of anyone who needs to “run your proposal by the boss/committee/board”. You won’t always be able to talk to the final decision-maker for a project, but you should wait until your project is greenlit before sinking serious time into it.
- What’s Your First Impression of the Client? Your intuition is a powerful tool, backed by an entire lifetime of experience. If your instincts tell you that a client is untrustworthy, unpredictable, or otherwise difficult to deal with, don’t risk it. You may never know if you were right, but you’ll always know you made the right choice.
How to Qualify Web Agency Clients Before Writing a Proposal
The key to successfully qualifying web agency clients is knowing that they’re going to accept your project proposal before you write it. Otherwise, you can spend countless hours writing proposals and not get a single client on-board.
We’ve covered the questions you should ask yourself while talking to a potential client on the phone or via email. Now, let’s cover the questions you should ask the client:
- What is the Problem You’re Trying to Solve? Some clients will assume that they need a website or web application “just like x” without really considering whether it actually solves their problems. If you don’t know why your clients need things a certain way, you can find yourself a victim of scope creep later on.
- Have You Tried to Solve this Problem in the Past? Here, you may learn some things that will help you predict how the project will go. Find out why previous solutions didn’t work, and what the cost to the client is if things go wrong this time – use this question to find out urgent the client’s current need is.
- What’s Your Budget? Good clients know how much they’re willing to spend, and will provide a reasonable budget for their project. If the client deflects and asks you to quote a price, your best bet is to go high. Start with a high price and gauge the client’s reaction.
- How Does Your Budget Sign-Off Process Work? This is one way you can determine whether your point of contact is empowered to make the final purchase decision. When it comes down to it, whoever controls the money is the one who controls the project.
- What Does Project Success Look Like for You? Get a specific long-term goal in mind, preferably involving some figures or statistics that you can agree on. This sets a level playing field for discussing deadlines and payment terms as functions of your work.
Always Talk About Pricing Before Sending a Proposal
Once you establish that your web agency is the right one for the job, price negotiations are the most common breaking point for client qualification. For some people, talking about price is like being in a standoff from an old western movie – each party waiting for the other to quote a figure before responding with their own.
As it turns out, whoever names a price first actually has a strategic negotiating advantage. This phenomenon is called price anchoring, and it works.
If you don’t talk discuss pricing and budgets during initial contact with your clients, you run the risk of giving them sticker shock – sending a proposal asking for a price way out of proportion with their expectations.
Establish a frame of reference for the value of your work compared to the problem they wish to solve and you will immediately see better results when qualifying web agency clients.