How to Sell Website Design to Small Businesses

Posted on Apr 20, 2020
Last updated on Jun 9, 2020
5 minute read

Selling website design services to clients, particularly if you’re a freelancer, can be challenging. If you’re new to the game, the task is even harder as there are lots of web developers selling their service now.

But the good news is there are lots and lots of clients too!

I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and during that time have learned how to sell websites to businesses by honing my web design sales pitch to just the right audience. In this article I’m going to run through my best, most proven methods, to teach you how to sell a website to a client, enjoy the process and grow your business.

Decide on your sales approach

There are, broadly speaking, two methods for getting web design clients:

In an ideal world your business will operate on a healthy mix of the two, but for many freelancers outbound marketing is the most common approach. In practice, outbound sales involves cold calling, social media posting and going to networking events. The heavy stuff that can sometimes feel like you’re not making much headway. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, can require a lot more up-front effort and working behind the scenes, but pays off by sending clients directly to you. In practice, inbound marketing techniques for web design include guest blogging, landing page design, PPC and SEO.

If you don’t have much time or money, I strongly urge you to pick one method for generating leads to sell website design. However, for the sake of completeness I’m going to give you detailed advice on both approaches, forged by my own hard-earned experience. It’s your lucky day!

How to sell web design using outbound marketing techniques

You’ll find plenty of opinion pieces on selling web design and, well, this is one too. And my key piece of (perhaps controversial) advice is:

Don’t bother with cold prospecting.

Seriously. Cold calling, cold emailing, direct mail – none of this has worked for me. In the early days of my business I prepared my own mailshot using postcards I lovingly designed myself. The content included a tracked link and can you guess how many times it was visited? ZERO. This, along with cold emails that went ignored and some really uncomfortable cold calls to prospects made me even begin to question the validity of my business 🤷‍♂️

I’m not saying this stuff doesn’t work, I’m just saying that it wasn’t for me. It would be disingenuous of me to claim that it has, so instead I’ll talk about the outbound marketing methods that have helped me to sell web design.

#1 Attending networking events

The number one rule when networking is: you shouldn’t be giving a sales pitch to sell websites. That’s not what it’s about. In fact, the best piece of advice I was ever given about business networking is that you don’t even talk about business.

It sounds counter-intuitive but the underlying idea behind this tip is that people are so much more than their work. Most people have hobbies and interests and stories to tell that have nothing to do with work. And as social creatures, we humans build relationships on the basis of common interests, and not on some forced transactional sales pitch over an awkward coffee.

Steve Jobs once said that “marketing is about values”. In the context of business networking, the ultimately “conversion” in my opinion is when you meet somebody with whom you click. Somebody who shares your values. For me, I do a lot of digital consultancy for non-profits, and therefore when I meet people with a similar value system as my own, doing business becomes much simpler.

Takeaway: to ultimately sell web design services, attend networking events and seek to meet likeminded people. Build your relationship on social media or IRL, whatever works, and over time their business will come to you (along with referrals to other likeminded people). It works.

#2 Social media

A lot of people jump onto Twitter and start shouting about their product or service. This is mostly inefficient and a poor use of your time, but I believe there is still room for the personal approach.

I have generated leads through Twitter and LinkedIn by seeking out those who are in my target demographic and getting on their radar. As I have said, I work with non-profits, and if a #NewCharity appears on Twitter I will give them a follow. Usually, they’ll follow back. I’ll often reach out and welcome them, sometimes even offer to help in some way.

Outbound marketing is often called interruption marketing, and you can imagine that this approach could be disastrous if done clumsily.

Takeaway: adopt a real-life approach to social media: be courteous and dignified – don’t sell too much. Cultivate mutual followings and approach when the time feels right. Be helpful. This is how to sell web design to clients the right way.

Selling web design using inbound marketing

Inbound marketing techniques are my favourite way of doing marketing 🤓

They don’t involve the hard-sell and prospects come to you. The trade-off is that inbound marketing is f***ing hard work. Long hours must be spent working on content, and you’ll most likely have to spend money in some areas. Inbound marketing is about building an engine, and for making web design sales that engine needs a lot of fuel. Here are some inbound marketing tips that have worked for me…

#1 Google Ads + targeted landing pages

This is a true story: I got my first web design client (for my current business) through a PPC Google Ad that linked to a tailored landing page on my website. And this happened within a couple of weeks of launching the business. I was over the moon.

I had researched the best keywords to target, configured the ads and setup a conversion-focused landing page. I had built a sales funnel and it worked.

BUT I stopped the ad campaign shortly after. My web design prices weren’t (and still aren’t) the highest on the market, and consistently paying for PPC ads in web design just creates a massive hole in bucket. My key takeaway from this is: use PPC to test your keywords and content. If you can produce traffic with your chosen keywords, and your content generates leads, that gives you some proof that your funnel works. Which leads me onto the best marketing technique there is…

#2 SEO + targeted landing page

Yes SEO takes a lot of time and skills, and I’m not going to even try to cover it in any depth here. It’s been written about millions of times. But the benefits that SEO brought (and still brings) to my business has been transformational.

If you really want to up your web design sales game, you’re going to want to have prospects find you. You’re going to want to get in front of them, entice them with your content and convert them into an actual lead by answering their questions. This takes a number of personal qualities such as empathy, as well as more practical skills such as copywriting. The general process looks like this:

  1. Research and list out every conceivable problem faced by your key audience
  2. Think about how your service can solve those problems
  3. Research the exact keywords and phrases your audience uses to seek answers to their problem
  4. Create a landing page that includes those words, offers a solutions and includes a call to action
  5. Rinse and repeat for every problem you can solve.

Over time, these pages will send trickles of traffic your way from Google, which will turn into leads for your business.

The truth about selling websites to businesses 🙈

All of the marketing ideas and techniques outlined here don’t mean anything unless your primary focus is on building a relationship with your prospects and solving their problems. Social media fails because people only shout about their services. PPC fails because landing pages opt for the hard-sell, rather than resonate with an audience.

Whichever combination of sales techniques you use to grow your business, always put yourself into the mindset of your ideal customer. What would you want out of this? That is how to sell website design successfully.