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Jack Dawson is a web developer and UI/UX specialist at BigDropInc.com

Being a freelancer or small firm in the competitive web design and development market is hard enough; add the dynamic of a target market located within a small town, with no sense of the significance of the internet, and you have another major problem to deal with. 

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Ask anyone who has been providing web design services to small-town clients and you’ll hear that they’ve had their fair share of negative outcomes and unpleasant experiences. But for every success story, it all starts and ends with one thing: knowing how to sell to a client the value the web gives.

You need to convince a client that it’s good for them to have a website, because many bricks-and-mortar businesses in small towns are actually oblivious to the impact the web can have on their business – well, through professional website design and a well-planned online strategy of course.

For purposes of this article, imagine yourself setting up your own small design shop in some rural town with say 5,000 people at the most. Your web design and development skills are far above average, and so you set out driven by this optimism and urge to nab your first client and change the world.

You’ve managed to get a meeting with Harry’s Painters. Harry knows you because of mutual acquaintances who referred you when they heard that he was trying to put up a website for his family painting business. In the first meeting, you gathered information from Harry and naturally got to talking about the numbers.

Harry almost had a heart attack and told you to forget it. He has this nerdy nephew who can try to do the same for no pay. There, now you have your prime ground to market the value of the web to Harry, where do you start?

 Having a website is an investment

Small businesses tend to have tight cash-flow, so you won’t enjoy the convenience of dealing with a department head who has no idea where the money he’s spending came from. For a small business owner, every cheque they write is very significant to them. Harry’s reaction to the amount that it takes to put up and properly design and develop the site on the Internet is to be expected.

It’s not that he doesn’t value your work. It’s his bank account he’s looking at. However, there’s only one thing that’s more important to him than that: his future growth prospects as a business and that’s what you should leverage as you speak to him – the return on investment.

Forget that whole “you’ll have an open business 24/7/365” theory. There are many other ways to sell your professionally designed and strategically marketed website. The list below offers just a few, which you can customize according to the nature of the business and client you’re dealing with, as well as their understanding of the Internet.

It’s all trackable

Using free account on Google Analytics, there are very many metrics which you can track to determine performance of your website, compared to print advertising and any other conventional marketing channels. This is an ideal selling point, because you’re telling Harry that he can keep an eye on the metrics right from the start to find out whether his investment is paying the way it should. If it isn’t, those same metrics will let you know what’s working and what’s not, so that the latter can be changed or tweaked.

Get your corporate image the way you want

In a nutshell, a website is a central location on the Internet where the business brand exists. Harry should be told that having a poorly designed website with substandard content will put his online image in bad light – there’s Better Business Bureau and Google reviews. Without sufficient information about the business, or a bad image from poorly designed sites, potential clients will be unlikely to go for his business. This is especially true where there’s another painting company that’s dominant in the search engines and presents an appealing and reputable image.

More effective advertising

It’s far easier to track the amounts of money dedicated to online marketing efforts compared to traditional advertising channels like taking out newspaper ads, flyers, banners and phonebook listings, among others. SEO, SEM, web content, online ads and online listings are unique because you can actually redirect efforts if you’re not seeing the returns you’d like. Optimize if your organic ranking for some particular keyword isn’t high enough, experiment with new content – there’s so much you can do.

Advise Harry to devote the money he’d have otherwise spent for other advertising to get his website before the eyes of his target audience in high traffic online locations. It makes sense to dedicate those amounts to online advertising because in return, you get numerous insights and metrics to let you know how your online marketing campaign is behaving. He won’t get that kind of accuracy and control without a website, which makes this another great selling point.

Enhancement of productivity

Small businesses hardly expect increase in productivity, but if a website is properly thought out and set up, it can improve the overall productivity by freeing up some of the time spent on manual tasks. For instance, just having a contact form will expose the business to more potential clients, because most people prefer submitting an online form rather than making a phone call – it gives a lower barrier to communication, and it’s simpler.

With the higher number of leads and no pressure from a waiting customer, Harry or his employee has time to carry out his research and give out better suited and well-thought out answers to customer queries, which increases his chances of closing a sale. He can devote some time every day to address online queries instead of wasting time having to attend to phone calls when he’s in the middle of important tasks requiring absolute concentration.

At the end of the day, you need to let your client know why they should have a website, and why you’re the one they should hire to do it. That’s all that’s in the way of you getting a ‘yes’ from your small-town clients.

Jack Dawson