How to Effectively Market your Web Design Services
The Ultimate Tactical Guide
Marketing is a common obstacle on the journey to building a successful web design business. It’s not enough to have great design skills, a robust portfolio, or a resilient attitude. I’ve met many phenomenal designers with creativity and a great eye for design who struggle to attract high-value clients.
Talent is only as good as your ability to communicate the value of your work. Marketing is the process of connecting with potential clients to discuss how your work could solve the problems they struggle with most. People must see your work as a possible solution to an issue before they will take an active interest in your services.
How do you know your marketing skills need an upgrade?
- Is your business fully booked 90% of the time?
- Do you charge enough for your services to be truly profitable?
- Were your last 3 clients ideal in terms of how you work best?
If you answered NO to even one of these questions, your marketing approach can use some work. You’re not attracting enough highly valuable and ideal clients to your business.
Ready to fix your marketing approach so you can attract more of the great clients you love to your web design business, increase your prices, and stay fully booked indefinitely? This is my Ultimate Tactical Marketing Guide for Web Designers. Inside, you’ll find what you need to market your web design services consistently and effectively.
Tactic One :: Review (or create) your strategy for marketing your web design business.
To be effective, your marketing strategy must change and evolve over time as you gain experience, serve more customers, and build a reputation as a web designer. Since your business began, you’ve learned things, solved problems, and pivoted in response to events and customer needs. These changes impacted your business — creating the need to tweak your marketing strategy in response.
Your business is like a river. It shifts and changes over time, in big and small ways. Most of these changes are gradual and minor when considered alone, but over time they compound into major bends and twists in your perspective. As a result, you need to adjust how you talk about your business.
Marketing strategy (at its most basic) is a simple conversation between you and your potential customer. This dialogue creates agreement about problems and solutions, and moves your audience closer and closer to your business.
While your business was shifting and changing, your audience and potential customers were doing the same. Are you up-to-date on the needs and values of your ideal clients? Do you understand what those clients need NOW in terms of web design? If not, there’s some work here for you to do.
The marketing conversation for your business probably needs to change a bit. Or, maybe you’ve never really thought about marketing in this way. That’s okay. You can start now by answering these questions to build a marketing strategy for your business.
- What is the biggest problem/issue your ideal clients feel right now?
- What is the actual problem that causes them to feel this way?
- What web design solution will solve this problem?
- How do you offer this solution and what is the next step to learn more?
Once you’ve mapped out your new marketing conversation, experiment with it. Shifting marketing strategy isn’t really an exact science. You’ll need to experiment and play with it to get the message dialed in.
More importantly, you’ll need to talk about your work in this way a few times to get comfortable with the conversation. You’ll want to speak confidently about the value of your work… and that takes practice. You’ll feel like an imposter for a bit, and that’s okay.
Tactic Two :: Market your web design services to a specific audience and market.
One of the best ways to simplify marketing and make attracting new clients easier and more effective is identifying a niche for your work. Niche marketing is a highly effective strategy for promoting any service business – and yet many of my web design clients resist this advice.
- They struggle with the idea of limiting their client base to a specific industry or type of work and wonder how niche marketing could possibly benefit them.
- They get confused by the process of selecting a niche and shifting their marketing to align with it – and let the confusion keep them frozen.
- They mistakenly think selecting a niche means limiting their creativity and the variety they love in the work they do with clients.
Creative people have lots of reasons for avoiding niche marketing, but I believe most of them are rooted in something quite simple → Fear. We believe that if we limit our source of potential clients to a single industry or niche, we won’t attract enough business. Nothing could be further from the truth!!
Niche marketing is a powerful tactic because by clarifying your message and narrowing your focus to a single niche, your business actually becomes much more attractive to people inside that niche. You become the EXPERT in that space – meaning more clients (and more profit) for your business.
Tactic Three :: Improve your website to attract high-value clients.
Your website creates a powerful first impression. In fact, it’s the most important website in your entire “portfolio” because it represents your best work done for your ideal client → yourself. At least that’s the perception, right?
In truth, most of us invest very little of our time and talent into our own websites. We work on them in the margins of our lives – adjusting core messaging and web copy on the weekend and tweaking images and color palette when we have a “spare minute” between work activities.
Potential clients form an idea of the quality of your services and the overall customer experience you provide based on their review of your website. Poorly executed design or a poor user experience indicates lower quality overall. Potential clients find it difficult to trust your marketing promises when your website is glitchy, poorly designed, or difficult to use.
Similarly, a well-executed design creates an impression of quality and professionalism. It demonstrates your attention to detail, your highly developed design eye, and your seriousness about the value you deliver to your clients.
I’m not talking about brand position or message tone here – although those are important, as well. I’m referring to the quality of the design work itself. Aesthetics are only part of the overall impression.
The key is creating a feeling of excellence that elevates your brand. You can display a sarcastic wit, an ultra-professional agency feel, or a warm and casual atmosphere on your site with equal effectiveness. You just have to execute on these design elements in a professional way.
And honestly, there’s no excuse for a lack of functionality or a broken process on your site. If your contact form doesn’t work, for example, a high-value client will probably move on to one of your competitors before contacting you directly. Your site simply MUST showcase your best work to be an effective part of your marketing approach.
Tactic Four :: Focus on mastering a single marketing channel that fits your brand.
Getting a consistent stream of potential clients to your professionally executed website means actively marketing your business. This is the point where many web designers fail. They either (a) dabble at marketing across multiple channels or (b) give up on marketing altogether out of overwhelm or burnout.
Effective marketing works when you select a single primary marketing channel and master it, using it strategically to connect with your ideal clients and bring them closer to your business.
Yes, you read that right. You only need ONE primary marketing channel – one way of driving online traffic to your website. One method for consistently generating leads for your web design business.
So, then why do so many web designers market on several social platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and network in groups or in person and create content and do all the things… without getting consistent results?
The missing link for most of us is MASTERY. We try lots of different approaches and tweak things constantly, but we never really lean in to learn all there is to know about using a channel. We never get really good at connecting with people and generating leads. We just waste time and get frustrated and move on before we get results.
Here’s my recommendation → Select one marketing channel for your web design business and invest 6 months or more mastering it before you begin marketing in multiple ways.
- Create great content (blog posts, videos, or podcasts) to attract people to your website. This is great when people are hungry for the information you provide and you enjoy the content creation process and style of content you choose.
- Network and build relationships with peers and colleagues online. This works well for professionals with industry experience and a desire to connect with others on LinkedIn or specialty sites designed for specific industries.
- Build a community on a truly social platform such as Facebook or Instagram. This is ideal for creating a buzz around your business while serving your community in a more personal way online.
The key here is that you don’t need to do everything. In fact, you shouldn’t even try… because dabbling in multiple approaches limits your ability to truly connect and build momentum.
Tactic Five :: Build goodwill with a creative approach to the free web design consultation.
Many web designers offer a free consultation as the first step to any project or working engagement. Typically the purpose of this call is gathering information about a client’s project and goals. We come to the call with a sales mindset and hope to position ourselves well so we can “land the deal” and move forward with the client.
This is a ME-focused approach, making the consultation a type of glorified sales call. But what if it were actually a bit more generous and creative?
In the past year, I’ve intentionally taken a creative approach to the initial consultations I offer. I come to the call with a generosity mindset, and look for ways to provide value during the call to move the other person forward whether we work together or not.
During a call like this, I might…
- Recommend a marketing tactic or action step.
- Help the client clarify an aspect of their marketing message.
- Suggest a shift in approach they can make immediately.
Of course, we might also discuss working together. I might gather information for a proposal or talk about next steps. But, I make sure the call provides value that is independent of our future working relationship. I often follow up by sending a free resource or sharing additional thoughts. More value, free of charge.
Does this take time? Yep. Generosity isn’t always the most efficient part of a business (or life), but it is often the most rewarding. I want to leave everyone a bit better off for having engaged with my business in some way, even if they never send us money.
Work should be meaningful, not just profitable. Generosity is a huge part of that equation.
The counterintuitive truth is this → generosity leads to increased revenue. Personally, I believe this is because it is easier to fill hands that are open rather than those that are grasping and trying to hold on desperately to what they have. That’s why I like to give away some of my best advice and value during a free consultation call.
Some of the people I meet with will use my resources, think about our conversation, and go on to become clients. Some know immediately that we are a fit and make a commitment during the call. But some of those who receive free value from our time together won’t ever take the next step of becoming a client. That’s okay with me.
I believe this tactic positions me as a leader, teacher, and guide in my industry. It creates a ton of goodwill for my brand which leads to increased marketing engagement. Besides, it just feels right to give some value generously and freely to others.
Tactic Six :: Use content marketing to connect with potential clients and bring them to your business.
Great content is the foundation of any effective online lead generation strategy – including within the web design industry. While your portfolio – and the visual stuff you enjoy most – is an important way to sell clients on your skills, it’s only part of the equation.
Content marketing – using content you create to promote your business – connects with people intellectually and emotionally, and brings them to your website. The posts, videos, and articles you share online give people the context they need to understand who you are and why what you do matters to them.
Content marketing (also known as inbound marketing) is similar to fishing in that you create a “lure” you use to attract your ideal client (fish) to your business.
What is content marketing? Here’s an official definition – -> Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand, but is intended to stimulate interest in the brand’s products and services.
Content marketing doesn’t have to be difficult. It actually starts by considering what your ideal client – your favorite web design clients or your niche – needs and wants. An easy way to find out is by talking to your best customers and clients. These are people who enjoy using your products and services. People who would happily buy from you again. You want more of them in your business… so you need to attract them.
Ask questions like these:
- What problems did you have before you bought our products or services?
- What questions did you have early in the process (and before we started)?
- How did you try to solve these problems before you worked with us?
You are looking for questions people ask before they work with a web designer like you. You’re also looking for the information they want when they struggle with a common problem your work solves. Why? Because these are the topics they search for online.
How many times per day do you type a query into a search engine like Google? Seems like I’m constantly grabbing my phone to get a question answered or using a browser window to search for a bit of information I need to make a decision or take some kind of action. It’s pretty safe to say that your design clients use search engines… making SEO an important part of your content marketing strategy.
There’s more to this than creating content for search engines like Google. You’ll need to think about your ideal clients and observe their behavior.
- Do your people get answers using video content on platforms like YouTube?
- Do they ask questions on social platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn?
- What about informational podcasts? Do they listen while commuting or working out?
Your audience might read articles in trade journals or online publications. They might look for inspiration on visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. In some industries, a downloadable white paper or special report has the biggest impact on a buyer. These are factors you need to consider as you think about your content strategy.
Be careful to pay attention to the behavior of people who actually buy from you and not just engagement in general. Designers often wonder why their Instagram activity doesn’t convert into new clients, for example, without realizing that the majority of their Instagram followers are actually other designers – not ideal clients.
Take a custom approach to marketing your web design services.
Your business is built on a custom approach to web design. You meet with clients, determine their needs, and craft a design that aligns with their needs and goals. Even if you use templates or several standard procedures as a part of your operational process, no two completed projects look the same, right? Apply this mindset to your marketing.
Effective marketing is aligned with your brand, your needs, and your goals. It is intentionally designed to attract the perfect potential clients to your business so you can simplify your sales process, get more clients, and build lasting revenue and profitability.
My services help web designers like you market effectively so they can get more clients, charge more for their work, and build a successful business they enjoy. Ready to get intentional about marketing your web design business? Let’s talk.
The challenges of our world need creative problem-solving and brave individuals who are willing to take the risks creativity demands and lead as an act of faith.