I am not a web designer, and nor are you. Or a developer. Or a writer. Or whatever it is you think you are. You’re not – not in any meaningful way.
Full disclosure: I am actually a web designer, probably, but stick with me here.
I thought I was – for a long time. There I went, opening Fireworks, pushing pixels, and then getting my funky code on … breaking out text editors, CSS editors, learning jQuery, HTML5 – boy, you name it, if it moved, I’d web design it. Yup, I was a web designer. That’s what I was.
Except, that is, unless you asked my clients. Talk to them and I was the ‘internet guy’, ‘the marketing guy’, ‘our web support guy’. A whole bunch of things that didn’t once mention design. Vague descriptions of my role that I didn’t really recognise.
The crux of it was that to my clients I was a service provider … someone who provided a thing they needed. They needed a website, I’d help with that. They needed somewhere to host it, sure I’d sort that out. They needed some email marketing done, a little SEO work, or a Facebook page. No problem.
“Sure”, you’re thinking, “clients just want you to do everything for them – that’s okay, but I am a web designer. I am.”
No, you’re not. And the sooner you realise this, the quicker you’ll start offering better services and getting more clients.
So, Who Are You?
We need to get away from defining ourselves as the core service we provide. Yes, some of what we do may well be web design, but if we can define ourselves in the terms potential clients understand then they’re more likely to hire us.
We need to get away from defining ourselves as the core service we provide.
A company with an eCommerce website may be wondering why their online sales have plateaued. They need to do more business online.
We can look at the problem, identify some sticking points in the checkout process, implement some solid UI changes – make that ‘add to cart’ button more prominent, reduce some of the clutter around the product information page … all good web design stuff.
But what we’re doing is increasing online sales. The company needs someone to increase online sales. They’re not looking for a web designer.
And we need to be that person they’re looking for.
Okay, How Do We Do It?
I’m glad you asked. Let’s get back to basics and think about our elevator pitch. We need to get across the What, Who, Why, and You of our businesses.
What do we do? Before, we would have said ‘Oh, I do web design’ or ‘I make websites’. But now – let’s try and change that into something that speaks more to a business’s needs. Something like: ‘I help businesses become more successful online’. Okay – that’s something that most companies would like to achieve: more success online
Who do we serve? Before, we might have said ‘We help small businesses like yours!’ (thinking, ‘how handy is that?!’) How about … ‘Companies looking to improve their online performance – or to increase their online profile’. It talks directly to things the customer understands – improving performance.
Why do they need it? This should be the most straightforward of all … but we often either get it wrong or ignore it altogether. We assume that our relevance is self-explanatory … we believe that our existence is enough – our portfolios, our experience, our sheer ability dammit!, speaks for itself.
‘Of course you need our services’, we think, ‘It’s web design – it’s essential’. But that’s not true. We really need to identify the pain points for our clients and explain how we can ease that pain. Maybe they’re missing opportunities to connect with customers. Perhaps they’re unable to upsell products or services effectively. Wherever the pain is – we need to be there with our expertise.
Who are you? Who are we indeed … we’re people who can help. We solve problems, we improve performance, we generate success for business. We need to point to our track record of that success … not saying ‘look, this design was really good – checkout the CSS transforms on that baby!’.
Nor saying ‘man, you need to check out the database schema on this sweet rails site!’ Identifying projects where we improved business performance, where we increased sales, where we converted more inquiries … essentially, showing clients our track record of what we’ve achieved in business, not portfolio, terms.
Is That It?
Well, yes, it is. Only a 180° shift in our way of thinking – but we need to do it. We need to stop looking internally for our justifications of who we are and what we do, and switch it around to what the client wants.
If we can – if we can position ourselves as the people who solve a range of problems – who offer proper solutions to businesses – then we’ll do more business. We’ll understand businesses better and foster longer, more productive relationships as a result.
Over To You…
Can you identify with this? Take a few minutes to talk to some of your clients and figure out how they see you – the reasons they hired you, where you really add value. And how does that match up with how you position yourself?