Hi. I have been a freelance designer/developer for a little while now. I have had some success doing new site designs & refreshing existing sites for mobile.
However, when I talk to the small businesses who make up my client base, I see most of them baffled by SEO & social media marketing. They all seem to know that having a content strategy is important, but don’t seem to know where to start.
I’d like to branch out into offering services of this type, but I am having trouble nailing down exactly what my “product” looks like. And how to sell it.
I’m thinking of starting by 1) helping my clients identify their primary objectives for their digital presence, 2) identifying their users, and 3) using this information to build a content strategy that encompasses both the website and social media (integrating the two).
I could use some advice from those that have had success in this area. I guess my questions is: Does the above approach seem sound?
I think that is definitely a service that many businesses might need. Often they have trouble figuring out what they need, and thus, are looking for those answers. You have to be able to give them decent backing for your claims, and you have to provide actionable items for them - here’s what you should do for x result, here’s what you do for y result. You should have a collection of resources for things you don’t offer - they want ad placement? You know a service well, or a company. Etc.
Also consider how much variety of services you want to offer as a freelancer. I know when I was freelancing, I began to see patterns fast as to what I enjoyed and what I wanted to do, as well as what made money, and what people wanted.
A tidbit that may not be useful: Many small business owners/managers will be far more suspicious of a consulting service that sells its own development solutions than they would be of a strategy consultant or a web developer. If that makes sense. It may seem convenient when your research indicates they need to buy your services. That said, there’s plenty of ways around that. You can package some services together - audit a site for SEO needs, gather requirements, and do them all as part of a package - or you can separate them, do that consulting, then offer them the action services and be willing to let them find another bidder if they desire.
Just my thoughts - take from it what you will. Good luck in your additional new endeavors!
Thanks. This is helpful information.
This has come about lately as I have needed to do elevator pitches while out networking or just talking to local business owners.
I say “redesign” and everyone immediately knows what I mean. Even if the actual work I do involves less design and more moving to a new platform and configuration. Even the old-timers know what a redesign is.
When I talk about helping folks with their content strategy, whether it is SEO or a focused social media marketing campaign, I can see eyes glaze over.
And a lot of that is me. I need to do a better job of explaining (very succinctly) what it is and why they need it.
But as I’m sure you know, there are often a lot of variables involved when dealing with a site and it’s content in relation to its business objectives.
Fairly certain I am going to steal a page from McDonalds and create some infographic “menus”. Would you like the #1 with fries? How about the #2 with a side order of organic search?
An infographic actually might be an excellent idea. It’d be a pretty, if designed well, and easy way to display relationships between the objects, too. Hosting, frameworks/cms, designs, SEO, other advertising work, etc. Maybe a web platform relationships guide - with then the parts that you consult on or offer somehow picked out. Maybe you could include bits that you don’t cover, and have on hand some resources to direct them to. People will respect a consultant who sells them services, and also is knowledgeable on good sites/resources/people/companies for other related services.
When I was freelancing, I had a couple of graphic designers and a couple of small marketing firms that I recommended when people needed non-website stuff… and they happened to be people I knew I could work with if the graphics were needed for web, or URLs or QRs or whatnot needed to be in marketing materials… etc.
Try this approach: instead of mentioning what is is that you really do (SEO, SCHmeo - that’s a technical term), talk in terms that your clients understand and actually want. What they want is their website to get them new leads and customers.
So, instead of saying:
I offer content strategy, SEO and social media campaigns.
I will bring you new customers and work every month on growing your business, executing a business growth strategy I will create, customized to your business’ individual needs. The business growth strategies I have created for my other clients always include everything those businesses needed to advance online, for example: getting customers from Google, getting customers from social media, getting customers using email, and so on. My monthly business growth plans start from $x:…
And then you create three packaged service plans, where the most valuable plan is called “custom”. Just like in McDonalds: Big Mac if you’re very hungry and a regular hamburger if you’re not (or cannot afford to pay for a Big Mac).
Notice how I repeat “getting customers” a lot, and how I bundle those two words with familiar words such as “search engine”, “social media”, “email”. You’re not even mentioning anything remotely as scary as “content strategy” but you and me both know it will be central to what you will actually be doing on a monthly basis. Your client just does not need to hear that scary word in your opening pitch, make it a part of your “business growth plan” or “internet marketing strategy” document you will create for them.
There can be so much win in this for you:
you’ll create an abundant stream of recurring revenue for your web development business (something I’ve written extensively about in my book “Recurring Revenue For Web Agencies”). With time your monthly contracts will grow and grow, without you having to sell very hard. If you choose to grow your business to a web agency, this recurring income will be your agency’s top financial foundation. That’s how I built my business, at the moment of this writing we don’t even accept new clients, we only work with regular clients who all pay monthly.
you’ll be able to automate the creation of strategy / plan documents (clients love those! Just by having one, you can charge 3x what you usually do). Once you create a beautifully designed strategy document, you’ll see that some parts of that document repeat. So you’ll work less, charge more, and your clients will get tremendous value from what you do for them - how awesome is that?
you don’t have to think about what types of services you need to offer to that client. Do everything that is required, and that is within the confines of your service plans you’ve created. Don’t be afraid that some clients would steal too much of your unpaid time: that’s a good thing! As soon as you see a client eating up more of your resources than she’s paying you for, you just call her and congratulate her on understanding how important internet is for business, and that you’d suggest moving her to a more valuable service plan, because in the past three months there was a number of opportunities for her business you had to skip.
Hope this helps you create a great service offering.