By Andrew Neitlich

Some key questions to ask your clients when designing quality sites for them

By Andrew Neitlich

It is my experience that many web designers have a terrific opportunity to shift from being web designers to being marketing consulting for their clients.

Most web designers are in fact supposed to be marketing consultants, responsible for helping clients attract more customers to their sites and get more business. Coding languages, design principles and other skills are only the tools to achieve that result.

I know this to be true for two reasons:

1. Your clients perceive you to be part of a marketing solution, not a web design solution. If you don’t agree, ask them what they want their web presence to do for them.

2. I can’t code even a line of HTML or any other language, yet get paid lots of money to help clients improve their web sites. In fact, I make more money than most web designers, primarily because I take a marketing strategy focus.

So, please be sure you are asking these questions of your clients any time you get hired:

1. Who is your customer?

2. How do they make a buying decision?

3. What are their key criteria for buying your product/service?

4. How do they hear about you?

5. How do competitive products/service position themselves compared to yours? Is your positioning unique and meaningful to your customers?

6. What is unique and superior about your products/services?

7. What is the “experience” you want customers to have from start to finish when interacting with you?

8. What problem do you solve for your customers? What is that problem costing your customers?

9. What is your solution? Is it comprehensive?

10. What are the benefits of your solution? What are the advantages?

11. What proof do you have that your solution is unique and better?

There are plenty of sub-questions to ask underneath each of the above, but if you start at this level, your clients will perceive you to be much more sophisticated and useful to them.

  • I couldn’t agree with you more Andrew. I have transitioned my web development business to more of a marketiing consultant business and outsource the design and coding work to others.

    The main benefits are that you are seen in a totally different light and in a position to charge more for your services.

    Prospects don’t necessarily want a website, they want more customers. Help them achieve this and the sky is the limit your you.

  • I also agree… this is definitely the approach I take with clients. The technical side of web design and development is only a means to an end. The true goal is not to have a pretty website, but a functional website that serves a purpose (whether it is online sales, reduced customer service or qualifying leads).

    I think that’s why I’m running circles around my local competition, even though they are much better “deaigners” than we are. They all have designers on staff with graphic arts degrees, but they don’t know one thing about promotion or marketing.

    One client I landed actually had a great looking site for 5 years and was a “pioneer” (their words) for going online before all of their competition. However, after 5 years they still didn’t get any inquiries from their website. You couldn’t even find it by searching for it.

    Just by talking with my clients about their goals for the websites, what they want them to accomplish, they know I am more than just another “designer.”

  • I agree with you. Clients want money, not a web designer. But how do I shift from designer to marketer? They’re much different skill sets.

  • I “sell” myself as both. My aim is at aviation customers as I know the business and THEY know that I know the business, which gives me a leg up.

    I design quality sites and place the customer’s banner ads on sites that I own which, in turn, draws traffic. My customers love this and it keeps me working.

  • Darcy; start by asking yourself the questions Andrew posted in this blog. Then go back and read his other blog entries, articles and even his websites.

    With regards to the sub-questions Andrew, would you mind elaborating a little on question 8.

    What is that problem costing your customers?

    How can I further break this down for a client whose problem is having no website in the first place (eg startups)?

  • :)

  • websitepros


    Your observation and consequent advice may be helpful to some designers and applicable to certain situations, but it misses the mark in my humble opinion.

    You admittedly are not a designer or programmer. So you did not make a career “shift” yourself, and have not walked the same path your are suggesting others take. Your blog identifies you as a Marketer/Salesperson with just enough “web” knowledge to sell a web solution.

    Many web designers and programmers actually enjoy learning the new technologies and gain much satisfaction from their work despite whether or not they make more money than the next guy. Money can bring a sense of pride, but many times that pride is defined as over-inflated ego. Quality work brings a real sense of pride. And learning and developing one’s skillset also brings a real pride and confidence; a different kind of confidence than is obtained by just making money. A career based on making money alone can leave a man empty when the green the fades, but knowledge doesn’t fade as easily.

    But marketing and Sales is a skillset too. If you have and are developing those skills then you may have found a good career path. Many designers and programmers I know are not sales/marketing people, and they may not be interested, but absolutely enjoy and receive great satisfaction from the accomplishments of their work. But S/M is essential to the growth of a business. So what should those designers do that are not interested in posing your questions to their clients? I see three valid choices. 1) Work for a company that has a good S/M already in place that will allow you to do what you truly enjoy – though you may end up doing a lot of work that you don’t actually enjoy :). 2) If you have the budget, hire a good S/M front man to do what you don’t want to do, and bring you business that allows you to do what you want to do. 3) Become the “Jack of All Trades” and give up some of your creative training and development and splitting the time with S/M. If you choose this route you are probably an Entreprenuer or Free-Lancer, so be prepared to also split your time commitments with many more responsiblities required when running your own business. 4) Use your knowledge to become the S/M guy suggested in this blog and outsource the work would have been yours.

    Its often that designers and programmers won’t be able to do what they enjoy for long unless they connect with sales and marketing in some way. Some get lucky and are so good and word of mouth spreads to wide that the doorbell never stops ringing.

    This blog ignored too many variables and I thought I would bring some of those to the surface.

    Good article though. Thanks.

  • I think that’s what I’m mostly doing now. However, how many clients really do understand the quality behind good website design with usability is another issue. Most business people here are too fussy with the design rather than their users experience.

  • SG1

    In your blog, you said the following; “Most web designers are in fact supposed to be marketing consultants, responsible for helping clients attract more customers to their sites and get more business.”

    I’m not sure if I agree with this premise. I agree that websites should be made to sell. But from how I read the blog, I interpreted your blog that web designers should know about internet marketing as well? Such as PR, SEO, ecommerce, email marketing. I mean that’s alot for a web designer to understand and teach.

    However, if you are coming from the standpoint that web designers should design a site that serves both form and function, then I would agree with that. But even, after asking some of those questions, I just don’t see how a web designer can design a site that will sell. Internet marketing consultants are responsbible for that. Right? Wrong?

  • The way I see it, if you are not working as part of a team, i.e. your a one-person company, then you have to wear many hats anyway, and information such as this article provides is very useful.
    If, on the other hand, you are part of a team-oriented approach, you don’t need to know this stuff, just focus on your area of expertise and get really good at it.

    my 2 cents.


  • Old post but still very relevant. Reading a book on Online Marketing and PR and can’t but agree with you the more

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