Okay, let’s see if anyone’s been reading this blog: Reader challenge

We’ve been interacting for about 2 years or more now. Some of you are newcomers to this blog and some of you have been here from the start.

So at this point, it is my expectation that if I ask you to answer a business challenge, you should be able to answer it for me. Here goes:

What advice would you give to a web developer/designer who is looking out at his business pipeline over the next six months and sees that business will likely dry up in about 3 months?

What are the top 1 to 5 marketing activities you think would help this person recharge his pipeline?

Looking forward to your answers….

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  • Jake

    Networking via a network group such as BNI or other.

  • http://www.eleytech.com beley

    Coming from someone in this situation, this is something I am constantly thinking about. My current project load will fizzle out in about 2-3 months and unless I get more referrals (which I always have, but it’s not guaranteed) I’ll be “out of work.”

    So what are the top marketing activities? Here are mine in order of importance (most important at top):

    • Touch base with existing and past clients often to see if they need additional work or have projects coming up soon
    • Work your referral network. Ask current and past clients for referrals, and start working them.
    • Attend business networking functions. Get your name out there at Chamber events, committee meetings, etc.
    • Start (or send out) an informative newsletter or write a white paper addressing a key issue faced by your target market. Give several solutions to the problem (that your firm is poised to solve).
    • Warm call prospects. Go through past potential prospect lists and touch base on those that didn’t lead to projects. Call up businesses in your area or market and offer to send a copy of your white paper. Then follow-up with a phone call or letter days later.

    That’s a good start… not that I do all that everytime I see the work ending soon, but I start thinking about all the different ways I can get my name out there.

  • Jonathan

    Working your referral network is definitely a must. It’d also be important to take a look at where past projects have come from, and look to maximize the conversion from that stream. If it’s search engine results, can it be tweaked to improve lead generation? If it’s from a company blog, would increasing the publication rate drive up readership? If it’s from previous clients, give them a call.

    You gotta know where you’ve been in order to know where you’re going.

  • pdxi

    “Get out there and work your network, and grow your network too” is the first answer that comes to mind.

  • Chandler.Bing

    There is only one solution. Quit designing sites for clients and take your knowledge of web development and build a web-driven software application that you can “build once and sell a million times”. End of story.

  • krdr

    Also, to rewise past projects and offer some improments.
    You can make a list of possible clients and targeting them. Or contact your past clients for some new pitch.

  • sjerguy

    Speaking engagements.

  • McBenny

    As you’ve been working without a breathe for some time, you should review your web site to update it with your last customers, last experiences, maybe you abandonned a service described on your site ? and have a look at the web sites of the customers you proposed a job (with detailled pricing) and said you ‘no, we’ll go with another webdesigner…’ and if nothing has changed, call them back to see if the further webdesigner is not lacking in someway…
    A bit of a vulture-style, but if it helps the customer ans gives you money, where’s the problem ?

  • Rick Cooper

    To add to what Beley said, following up with existing clients might be very helpful. You can take it a step further by being very targeted in requesting referrals. Ask for anyone they know in a specific industry. It’s a lot easier to think of someone in a specific industry rather than the cliche “give me three referrals”. Then, repeat the process for different industries. Think about who they would know.

    This approach should be attempted only with satisfied clients and where they have consented to opening their “rolodex” to you.

    Other than that, activity is key. Network, get on the phone, and/or initiate a marketing campaign. Do whatever it takes. Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    This is from my own personal experience: #1, start a blog. A good blog can do wonders even for someone who is otherwise unremarkable.

    When I started reading your blog I was working on building my web design & consulting business, but I ended up going down a different path instead. That would lead me to #2, be open about different approaches and revenue streams. If people asking for Y and you only do X, start thinking hard about how you can make Y happen.

  • Anonymous

    Adding to what Anonymous said – being open to different revenue streams:
    All of the above suggestions are great for generating new external work, however a lack of outside clients doesn’t necessarily mean “out of work.” When you find yourself with “extra” time, have a few web development ideas of your own to work on. If you can create a website to make money for someone else, obviously you can do the same for yourself.

    Just my two cents…

  • http://www.dunkirksystems.com zivo

    I will reiterate what people have mentioned about working your “network” – in whatever form it is. Maybe signup with LinkedIn.com to document it?

    Speaking of documenting… this is also a time to be a little reflective on what you have done, and look ahead on how to improve on it, in the form of defining and refining your internal processes and procedures, documentation, contracts, etc. These things can make you more efficient in the long term, so you can focus on selling and delivering solutions, rather than working over the grunt work of generating that contract.

  • dirkthedog

    One other way to capitalize on your network–take a look at all of the sites that you have created in the past and see if you would change anything if you did them today.

    Have you learned how to add some features you didn’t know in the past?
    Have you found some tools that you use for your own site that clients could find value in?
    Is their information out of date or at least “dated”?

    Websites need to be constantly updated and enhanced to keep people coming back again and again. Offer to make changes that you deem appropriate.

    Better yet, ask them if they would give you a retainer each month (like a service contract) to maintain their site on an ongoing basis!

    Don’t let all of your projects be one-time events. The site lives on and your work on it can too.

    Good Luck

  • allenh

    Go to your competitors websites and market your business to their clients. Prove to their clients how your business can do better. I would also suggest to go to your local chamber of commerce and network.

  • drakke

    1. Look at what you have done for your current/past clients and the effect it had. Document these and write an article of how others can improve their results.

    2. Ask your current clients what problems they are currently having and what you can do. Try and market these results to others in the same industry.

    3. Publish more general articles relating to your area.

    4. offer a mini-course by automated email on some topic that would interest and educate your market.

    5. Do a survey of your current clients. If you have targeted a specific niche, ask questions that would interest them based on what you learned in (2).

  • Kosh42|EFG

    Erm… Don’t you guys publish a whole kit about this, complete with marketing ideas?

  • malikyte

    @Kosh42|EFG: Yes, they do. To be honest, I don’t know why Andrew’s posting this except for perhaps to see US think for a minute, as any good teacher would do. They already know the answer(s), but ask anyway to garner feedback and see if we’re paying attention.

    Most of the ideas here are quite stagnant and statically based, in my opinion. I don’t normally read the “Selling Web Design Services” section of the blogs here, but other than the few who mentioned “look at different revenue streams” seem to just be extending their current timeline, but not necessarily improving on it — which very well may work, as networking and new channels of word-of-mouth are all very popular.

    However, if the location around you is currently overnetworked as far as tech-firms in the web consultancy business go, and you don’t have the monetary funds, time, or staff to extend yourself to do these things, alternatives to your current revenue stream is about the only “possible” way to go, other than becoming an outsourced consultant/programmer/designer to a different firm (building business relationships is extremely important).

    So then, what about re-thinking your current market? Let’s say you’ve been building websites for clients (design, programming, both, neither — just being a manager, whatever) and are looking to continue doing so but the long list is beginning to run dry. Existing clients are happy with what they have, and regardless of educating them on [...] paying for your business because of x,y,x…they’re happy as they are for the most part. Okay, what next?

    What niche(s) out there are almost virtually untapped resources? “Mom and Pops” stores are happy with their 13 year old daughter/son developing their site in Frontpage and publishing it on geocities… In-town stores and business have already been marketed and/or have a full-time staff. What about agricultural/institutional organizations? Institutions are 50/50. It’s either grotesque, or an amazing feat of technology (although, even then, usually improperly used). Why not develop for these markets? The underprivileged, overlooked, EAGARLY WAITING FOR YOU TO COME SAVE THEM, markets…?

    I specifically left out the market I’m thinking of because, well…it’s mine. :) But there are plenty of other lucrative ways to assist them, while helping out yourself. Develop a single application that you can either package up and ship out, providing maintenance and support fees, or a hosted application that just keeps shelling in the money as you make small, minor improvements and call them major changes (that’s just a joke, don’t do that).

    So… “Think outside the box,” is the best advice I can give…other than building business relationships with trusted “competitors” who could become an associate.

  • buziboy

    Marketing at regular & consistent intervals, starting now.

  • http://www.smashingred.com smashingjay

    Every activity that a business does is marketing whether it is selling or delivery. The way in which our clients and prospects perceive those activities has a tremendous impact on how they come to choose to use or buy our services. If you deliver consistently faster and with fewer problems than the client expects, that is marketing. If you offer your product in a way that the competition can’t, that is marketing. If you regularly follow-up with your previous clients to ask if they have any problems or would like your new app, that is marketing.

    A word on networking: In the small town in which I live there are two business networking meetings a month put on by two different organizations but the problem (and the reason I no longer go) is that people who attend these meetings are in send mode not receive mode. They have a message to deliver. They have an agenda and it has nothing to do with learning about anyone else’s product or service.

    Real networking requires actually having natural conversations in natural situations in which you can observe or listen to someone talk about their business, successes and failures. If, in that situation, you can offer some helpful, no-strings-attached advice, you will be much more likely to develop a business relationship–and at the very least a personal one.

    Go out and get active, meet people, play golf, darts, pick-up football (any version), coffee shops, and etcetera. The best networking is living life otherwise it is a sales call in sheep’s clothing.

    All the best,

    Jay