Last week, I talked about how the do-it-yourself nature of web design and marketing is making what we do for a living into a commodity. According to the folks at Imagine Business Development:
Commoditization, in its essence, is the reduction of what can go wrong when a solution is applied without your expertise. If the answer to, “what can go wrong?” is “nothing” then you are selling a commodity.
The onward march of technology guarantees that most companies will face the commoditization of their product or service sooner rather than later. I once worked for a company that developed million-dollar machines that computer-painted large-scale graphics on vinyl. At the time, it was revolutionary and made hand-painted billboards (and those who painted them) obsolete.
But a decade later, technological advances allowed other manufacturers to develop and sell large-format printers that could rival the quality of these million-dollar babies … and for a fraction of the cost. Suddenly, large-scale, computer-painted imagery was a commodity.
My former employer’s solution to their dilemma was more complex than you or I face, but that doesn’t make the road any less rough. Here are two ways to compete against “I Can Do It Myself.”
Up the Ante
One way to increase the value of your offering is to “up the ante.” In other words, provide a solution most business owners need, but can’t easily produce themselves.
For me, that meant adding SEO to my offering. At the time, SEO still had the voodoo-magic mystique that web design had a just few years earlier. But even that’s beginning to change. Self-fulfillment services like Yext and Localeze are making it easy for companies and organizations to build local search citations that aid their SEO.
To succeed in the ever-evolving world of web marketing, you must continue to offer services your clients cannot or will not do for themselves. What might some of those be?
In a recent study, 53 percent of small business owners said social media is the marketing channel they need the most help with. Automated solutions are already looming on the horizon, promising to provide “all you need to thrive in the world of social media” in just 30 minutes a month. The window of opportunity may be closing fast.
Besides SEO and social, local SEO, and content marketing are increasing in demand at a higher rate than web design/development. You may need to branch out from your specialty, or partner with someone else who can help.
Don’t assume the services you’ll be offering tomorrow will be the same ones you offer today.
The do-it-yourself nature of our industry means you’re not only competing against other web firms and freelancers, you’re also competing against your prospect’s ability to do it himself, as well as the decision to do nothing at all. While you can’t do anything about the former, you can decide not to compete against the last two. So rather than targeting “small to medium-sized businesses,” your best customer is one who:
- Is in enough pain over his problem that he’s motivated to find a solution
- Doesn’t have the desire or ability to solve it himself
You can find out if a particular prospect fits your criteria by asking a few simple questions:
- What problem are you solving by hiring me?
- Is solving this problem “mission critical” or a “back-burner” issue?
- Why aren’t you doing this yourself?
The answers will provide the information you need to decide if he or she is worth pursuing as a prospect. Targeting businesses and organizations who fit this criteria means you’ll waste less time marketing to those inclined to say, “Why should I hire you when I can do it myself?”
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.
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