Rise Above The Crowd - How do you go from building $500 WordPress sites to $5,000+ projects while fortifying and stabilizing your business with recurring monthly revenue - and not just for WordPress maintenance? When your clients stop seeing you as a service provider and start seeing you as their path to financial growth you dramatically increase your value. This podcast is all about how you can build an awesome, sustainable, and highly profitable business as a WordPress consultant while serving your clients more deeply and effectively than ever before. Join host Lee Blue as he shares his insights into High-Value WordPress consulting based on over 16 years of experience running his online agency.
Two Ways To Find Clients
After coaching hundreds of web designers and agency owners I've discovered that there are basically only two ways – two methods – to find clients. It's a lot like Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken.”
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Let's take a look at both roads and see which one you'd like to travel.
The Common Road
The mainstream way – the road that's worn and trodden – is to put a banner up that lists all the stuff you can do. This is the “service-driven” approach to lead generation.
Sometimes the services are tech services like:
* Web design
* Graphic design
* Social media management
Other people – usually the people who have been around longer and have developed a small agency – shift away from technical lingo and towards consulting language saying things like:
* Grow your business
* Let's scale your business
* Let's make your website work for you
…or in some other creative (but generic) way they say, “We solve your problems.”
When they begin to describe how they solve problems they outline a 4 or 5 step process that starts with Discovery, moves through implementation, and ends with launching.
This is the heavily packed, well-trodden dirt road because almost everyone takes this path.
Today, this road has bottomed out. Web designers and web agencies don't have the budget to compete against the marketing of campaigns from Wix and Squarespace. They don't have the ability to compete on price against the international networks of web designers on Upwork and Fiverr. So, they end up relying very heavily on word-of-mouth referrals.
The five main problems you encounter along this common road are:
* Unqualified leads
* Low budget expectations
* Short-term clients
* Inconsistent lead flow heavily dependent on referrals
* Lost in the noise with no real marketing plan
So, most web designers end up feeling really stuck. They don't know what to say on their websites without sounding exactly like everyone else. They sometimes get totally stalled out with writer's block. They aren't confident in their pricing so they hesitate and stutter when the topic of money comes up. They lowball themselves because they need the work. It's a mess.
The Road Not Taken
The alternative is to pave a new road. Rather than trying to rise above the noise, go to a quiet room. Nobody is helping themselves by trying to shout louder than the next person. Most web designers have realized that everyone is saying all the same stuff. So, to try to attract new clients they underscore their value by lowering the price.
But price is not the only way to measure the value of web design. In fact, price is usually the worst measurement of the value of web design.
Price, Speed, and Results
Rather than lowering your price to attract new clients leverage one or both of the other two measurements of value; speed and results.
Speed is a perfectly good reason to pay more. If you don't believe it, just look at FedEx. Their entire business model is based on the concept that faster is better. The price difference between 5 day ground shipping and overnight shipping is often outrageous!
Results are even more powerful than speed. Focus your marketing around results and you'll attract a completely different clientele than if you market around technical services.
Combine speed with results and you've really got something.
To be clear, I'm not really talking about speed in terms of how long it takes to spin up a website.
How To Make Web Design 5x More Valuable
Web design is getting cheaper every day. In my opinion, we've pretty much hit the bottom. You can hire a “fully vetted” WordPress developer for about $20/hour from RipplePop. I'm imagining no more than $15/hour is actually going to the developer; probably less.
Not surprisingly, businesses aren't getting results from these low-budget service providers. Herein lies an extraordinary opportunity. Here's how you can make 5x more revenue without working more hours, without learning anything new, and without losing your integrity.
How To Sell $5.00 of Apples For $25.00
Anybody can go to the store and buy an apple for about $0.62. It's a commodity. You can get about 8 apples for $5.00. What happens if you increase the price?
Well, you might be able to increase the price a little bit by providing better packaging (gift baskets) or a more premium experience like home delivery. But there's a limit because at the end of the day you're still selling apples. There's only so much people will pay for an apple.
Today, the same is true with websites. You can charge a little more by offering better packaging (better design) or a more premium experience (awesome customer support). You might be able to get your price up from $1,500 to $2,000 this way. But you can't charge $10,000 for a $2,000 website. There's a limit to what people think a website should cost.
Nobody is going to pay $3.00 for a $0.62 apple. Nobody is going to pay $10,000 for a $2,000 website.
Make An Apple Pie
If you want to sell $5.00 worth of apples for $25.00 (5x the cost of the apples) make an apple pie.
Why is an apple pie worth 5x the cost of the apples?
Buying an apple pie saves you several hours shopping, preparing, baking, and cleaning up. It's ready to go right now.
Plus, it's probably a lot better than what yours would taste (and look) like anyway.
What Just Happened Here?
We took $5.00 worth of apples. Added a few extra quick ingredients. Then we applied your professional skills/experience and the price went up 500%.
Where Web Designers Go Wrong
The temptation for a lot of web designers is to keep the price low by changing the outcome and removing the convenience.
For example, teaching the client how to manage (or build) their own website. That removes both the convenience and the outcome in one fell swoop, right? It won't look as good as if you did it. They won't get the leads (business results) that you could get them. But, hey, the price is still “affordable.”
This would be like selling the recipe instead of the apple pie. How much does an apple pie recipe cost? It's free.
By removing the convenience and the result you've made your skills virtually worthless.
500% Price Increase vs. Becoming Worthless
Take your skillset (web design, graphic design, SEO, social media management, email marketing, funnels, etc.) and package them together into a solution that provides your client with convenience and results and you'll be able to charge 5x more for the skills you've already got without learning anything new.
Of course, it's always great to be learning new things so you stay at the top of your game. But the point is, you can take what you've already got and charge 5x more and it's worth it because you're offering convenience and results while everyone else is degrading their skills to the point of being worthless.
This all comes back to Solution First Marketing. The apple pie is the solution and you have that first – before you market to clients. You don't sell apple pies by marketing apples. If I just want a quick apple for a snack, I'm not buying an apple pie no matter the price, right?
How To Pick A Bad Niche For Web Design
Everyone says the riches are in the niches but not all niches are winners. Here are the top three ways to pick a bad niche for web design.
What We're Looking For
When identifying a good target market for high-ticket web design there are three criteria we want to look for.
B2C or B2(small)B
It's best if your client is in either the Business To Consumer or Business to Small Business space. Large businesses have too long of a sales cycle for or tools (email lists, webinars, paid ads, funnels, etc.) to be effective. Non-profits often times don't need a $10k+ marketing plan. I don't even touch government contracts.
$100,000+ In Gross Revenue
The client's business needs to be able to sustain at least $100k in gross revenue. They don't have to be there yet. But, if they can't sustain that level of revenue then they don't need a $10k+ marketing package.
We want the annual value of the client's customers to be at least $1,000. That doesn't mean the transaction value is $1,000. We want the customer to spend at least $1,000 over the course of the year. For example, a chiropractor may only charge $100 for an adjustment but the patient comes in every month. So, that patient is worth $1,200 per year.
This leaves a lot of room for good target markets like, real estate, HVAC, roofing, lawn care, auto detailing, residential painting, pest control, personal trainers, local gyms, etc.
Bad Niches For Web Design
Now let's look at a three different categories of niches that tend not to fit this model.
Hobbyists and Side Hustlers
There are some industries that tend to be considered “fun” businesses and they attract a lot of daydreamers who fantasize about how cool it would be to have a business doing something that was exciting all the time. In other words, there are some industries that tend to attract people who aren't all that business savvy and they are very hard to work with. They tend to have a very hard time making decisions and they also have extremely low budgets.
Work Now, Get Paid Later
People in this category tend to want you to share their enthusiasm and “invest” your work into their business in exchange for some future payout. If the client isn't fully committed to their own business, it's unfair for them to ask you to be fully committed. This shows up when people ask you to work on commission, on payment installments, or in some way where you have to lay out a bunch of unpaid work upfront in the hopes that you'll get paid later.
Notorious Hobby Businesses
I'm about to make a bunch of sweeping generalizations which obviously aren't always true. But, in my experience, these are the niches that I've found that tend to attract daydreamers with low budgets who have a very difficult time committing to a marketing plan.
* Artists and musicians
* Dropshipping businesses
* Most apparel/clothing businesses
* Health/diet coaching
* Yoga studios
* Event/Concert promotion
Micro-Businesses Trying To Compete With Giant Businesses
This category is not as rare as I originally thought. I regularly get contacted for marketing advice from people who believe they are going to take down PayPal with a new online payment system. Literally, yesterday, I spoke to someone who wanted to take down Amazon in favor of a local online marketplace.
The problem is not that these people have bad ideas. The problem is they have absolutely no idea what they're getting themselves into from a financing, staffing, and marketing perspective. It's easy to get excited about really good ideas, but those ideas also need the structure and funding to support them. Most of them don't.
The Selfish Niche
This is the most common problem – by far – that I see when working with people on defining their target market and picking a niche.
Are Websites Still Relevant?
With so much functionality getting added to social media channels is a website even necessary anymore?
There are a bunch of things you can do on social media now that used to be possible only if you had your own website.
For example, you can:
* Sell products on Facebook and Instagram
* Deliver live webinars and workshops in a Facebook group (or Page)
* Add a contact form to a Facebook page
All of these enhancements to social media are very helpful but they don't replace websites.
Here are 5 overlooked reasons why businesses still need websites even in 2021.
The Boring Reasons
I personally don't think it's helpful to echo the obvious. So, let's get a few of those out of the way real quick.
Getting Found Online
Of course, having a website can help you get found online but so can having a lot of Instagram followers. There are all kinds of ways to get found online. What people actually mean is that without a website you're going to miss out on the potential for organic traffic from Google searches. This is true. It's obvious. But who cares if you're already getting a ton of visibility through other channels?
More visibility is always better. But this isn't a very interesting reason to me for why websites are still relevant in 2021.
Telling Your Story
Websites give you a nice platform to give people your backstory. But, is it a lot better than your bio on Instagram? Maybe. Again, this reason doesn't really grab me as all that compelling.
Show Your Work / Portfolio
Again, yes. Websites give you the most flexibility to show your work. But you can post images to Instagram just as easily (if not more easily) than you can post a new project to your website. Of course, you can also post examples of your work to Facebook and Twitter too. You have more control over the layout on your own website. But, if nobody goes to your website and everybody sees your Instagram feed, then you can make the argument that Instagram is doing a better job getting your work out there.
I believe a strong case can be made for why websites are better than social media for all of the above-listed reasons. But, all of those examples are rather ho-hum reasons for why websites are still relevant today.
I'm much more motivated by the factors below.
Ownership and Accessibility
How easy is it to reach your audience and who owns that relationship?
The importance of owning your own audience can't be overstated. Suppose you want to announce something like a new property listing, a new product offering, a new tour date, etc. and you want to make sure everybody sees the news.
If you just post the news to your Facebook page only about 2-3% of your page followers are going to see your post in their feed unless you decide to pay money to “boost” the post.
That means in order for the remaining 97% to see your announcement they have to go to your page. They have to come to you without any prompting. You can't go to them. That's a very big deal.
This wasn't always the case. It used to be that if someone followed your Facebook Page all of your posts would show up in their news feed. Then Facebook changed the rules. That's a scary thing.
You should not be forced to rely on 3rd parties to control your access to your own customers.
Authority and Positioning
Who are you and how can you help people?
I'm talking about more than just what you'd say in your bio on Instagram. A website provides the best platform – by far – to give people the information they need to know about what you're able to offer, who it's for, and why you are uniquely positioned to be able to deliver that outcome better than anyone else.
You can get a lot of this information out there on social media and podcasts but it won't be as powerful because the information on social media is too sca...
How To Write Hot and Sticky Headlines
Whether you're creating a lead magnet for an email opt-in, developing a headline for a landing page, or writing the subject for an email it's hard to know what to write.
Developing a hook that will rise above the noise and stick in someone's mind is really hard. To make the problem even more challenging your headline might feel really strong to you but it doesn't produce the results you want – low click-through rates, low open rates, very few leads, etc.
I really common problem is a misalignment between what the headline offers and what your audience is looking for.
Here's an example.
Suppose you're an SEO and link building expert. You've spent a lot of time researching, learning, and getting really good. Now you're looking for leads. You're thinking your ideal clients are going to be small businesses. For example, most of my clients have been in health and wellness like functional medicine doctors, naturopathic doctors, and nutritionists. You believe you can drive fresh, organic traffic their way and you want businesses like that to hire you.
So, the target audience is small businesses in the health and wellness space.
Developing A Lead Magnet
With this in mind, you develop a really nicely designed PDF/eBook with your top 10 strategies for ramping up your clients' traffic through inbound linking and search engine optimization.
You're feeling awesome because these strategies are fresh and hot. You feel 100% confident you can crush it and you're clients are going to love you.
You decide to offer this PDF for free as an email opt-in to start building up a list of warm leads.
So… what's your headline going to be?
The Superhero Headline
Since you are giving away your top 10 SEO strategies it seems natural and reasonable to slap a juicy headline on your email opt-in form that says:
Top 10 SEO Strategies That Are Working Now
The headline seems strong because:
* It's short and to the point
* Everyone loves top 10 lists
* You're giving away strategies that people can implement right now – not just shallow tips.
* You're saving people tons of time and offering loads of value by giving them dozens of hours of your research for free
* It's all stuff that's new, fresh, and working now – not all the old-school stuff everybody already knows
I've been here countless times. It feels like Superman and Captain Marvel joined forces and created this incredibly powerful headline that will surely disrupt the world and bring in leads.
Why Does It Fail?
It fails because of a misaligned target audience.
A headline like this is going to attract web designers who want to learn more about SEO and possibly other SEO experts who want to make sure they're staying on top of their game.
Generally speaking, doctors will never search for stuff like this. Occasionally, there may be a resourceful wellness spa owner who might be curious about how to get traffic to her website but she's really not looking to become an SEO expert.
The end result? You don't get any leads.
If you spent money on ads to drive traffic you probably lost a lot of money.
What Would Be Better?
Write a headline that taps into thoughts and questions your target audience is thinking. Say the words that are already in someone's head and you'll get exponentially more engagement.
Think about the end goal of your top 10 list. The point is to get leads organically so you don't have to spend (as much) money on paid ads.
OK, that's strong. So, say something like:
10 Ways Med Spas Get Leads Without Buying Ads
Should You Subcontract With Agencies?
Lately, I've been in a lot of conversations about the best way for web designers to make the move to go out on their own.
The biggest problem is that the mainstream advice stinks to implement. For example…
Subcontracting With Agencies
One way to get work is to make a handful of relationships with other agencies that either lack your current skillset or that can send overflow work your way.
Your Prices Will Decrease Over Time
On a regular basis, people will tell me that they've been working with an agency for years – doing great work – then they get a call saying that they either need to lower their rates or they won't be able to keep the relationship.
I specifically remember talking to Andrea about this because she was in literal tears and it was wrenching my heart. She'd been working with this one agency for about three years, doing great work, improving her skills over time, and everybody loved her. She had no idea this was coming, but she got a call from her main point of contact at the agency and was told that the agency was having a hard time selling websites at their current prices and they were going to be lowering the price of web design. Therefore, Andrea was being asked to lower her rates too. Otherwise, she'd lose the relationship as the agency wouldn't be able to make a profit at their new, lower rates.
So, Andrea's justifiably freaking out on the phone with me because she had taken classes, learned new skills, and actually thought she should get a raise. But, rather than a raise, she has to either lower her rates or lose the work altogether.
What stinks the most is that there's not a single thing she can do about it.
You're Not In Control of Your Lead Flow
I believe that if you're not in control of your leads you don't actually have a business. In my mind, there is a difference between randomly freelancing out your skills and building a business. Sub-contracting with agencies is not actually putting you in control of your leads, it just moves the problem.
Invariably what happens is you get a few agencies that all need you right now. So, you're stressed and swamped. You don't want to say no because then they'll replace you. What if they like the replacement better than you? Will they send all the work to the new person now?
You can't say no, but you can't say yes either. It stinks.
You're Not Able To Leverage The Value of Your Knowledge
Almost all web designers I talk to severely undervalue their knowledge. Most of the time they give away all of their strategy and consulting for free just trying to onboard the client.
Ironically, the majority of the value is in the strategy and consulting. The implementation is the easy part.
When I say “the majority of the value” what I mean is the difference between a $1,500 website build as a “web designer” versus a $15,000 engagement as a “marketing consultant” who can also build websites.
If you're not leveraging your knowledge, you're leaving at least $10,000 on the table with every project.
You're Not Building Value In Your Business
If you ever hope to sell your business there is almost no value in your business if you're just freelancing for agencies.
All of the metrics that people look at when acquiring a business are missing. For example:
* You have little to no recurring revenue.
* There's nothing that makes you different or irreplaceable.
* Virtually all of the value is in your personal relationship with the agency. (That means if you remove yourself from the business the agencies have no reason to work with the new business owner.)
* There is no projected growth over time. In fact, oftentimes you have to lower your rates. (Remember Andrea?)
By working as a subcontractor you've positioned yourself as an easily replaced commodity.
Each time I listen to an episode I think ‘how’d you know that about me??’ Definitely my favorite WP podcast.