If you work in WordPress development, it’s your business to know good site design – how to identify it as well as how to create it. And because you’re the expert, it’s also your job to sell the idea of a site redesign to a potential client.
Many business owners these days don’t understand the true value of a website for branding and marketing purposes. For those who already have a website, it may be even harder to convince them that anything more is needed. People tell them, “You need a website if you’re going to do business!” And their response is, “I have one!”
But upon closer inspection, the site hasn’t been updated since 2006, Flash is still running on some pages, and the site lives on Blogger. You realize it’s a mess and want to call them up screaming, “This is awful! I can save you!” Deep down though you realize that would only make matters worse.
So what do you do? How do you explain to someone who doesn’t want to hear it, who doesn’t understand it, or who doesn’t want to pay for it that their website is probably the reason their business is flailing? Unfortunately, there isn’t one magic phrase you can utter to make it all okay for them. This will require a real investment of your time and energy.
Whether you’re new to the website redesign pitch or you’re a seasoned veteran, the following step-by-step guide will provide you with helpful tips and tricks related to everything around the initial research, pitch, deal brokering, and website development involved in the process. If you want to learn how to be more tactful in your approach and to seal more deals, read on.
Phase #1: Identifying a Site That Needs Help
As a web designer/developer, you understand how quickly design trends change. What was in style two years ago has already gone out of fashion. So the best place to start with identifying potential clients is to go through your portfolio of previously completed work.
These are clients you’ve worked with before so they’ll probably be more receptive to hearing from you and would trust your input more than a completely cold lead who might require more hand-holding and selling.
If you’re new to this and need to start from-scratch, try to hone in on a niche. If you have a specialty that can help you get in the door and develop that trust more easily, go with it.
Tip: You’re a developer, not a salesperson, so work to your strengths.
If you want to successfully pitch and land a website redesign job, you need to do your research first.
Take one of those potential clients’ websites and walk through each page as a regular web visitor and then repeat the process as a developer. Identify and note all the issues you’ve found:
- Do you know what this company does by looking at their home page?
- Are there any delays in loading?
- Does the navigation make sense?
- Do you know where to find the information that matters most to you?
- Are there broken links or images?
- Are you compelled to follow any of their calls to action (if they have any)?
- Do you know how to contact them?
- Is the look and style of the website modern?
- Do the functionality and movement of the pages make sense?
- Are they using outdated themes, web design trends, or web development tools that you can detect?
- How is the responsiveness of the site’s design?
There are many more questions you can ask yourself and issues you can tackle. Take some time to go through and note them all. The identification of the website’s issues is something you’ll need to review with the potential client down the road.
Tip: Take screenshots or record video clips of the issues you’re experiencing, so you won’t have to re-review the entire website again when it comes time to pitch them.
Before you can start digging into any website issues you’ve spotted, you first need to get the potential client to listen.
While you may think the best way to handle this is to be completely honest, that probably won’t work well with most business owners or managers you approach. They need to know you’re not just some designer who wants to make money off of slapping a new skin on their website. In their eyes, they could just switch WordPress themes for that.
What they want to know is that you understand them – them and everything about their business and their customer base. So if you can’t readily identify any of this information, brush up on it before even approaching them. Think about it: If you went in to meet with Mr. Restaurant Owner and you could explain to him that his company’s website needed a menu PDF link clearly displayed at the top of the website (because that’s the first thing customers want to see besides their hours of operation or address), he would immediately perk up and listen to your every word.
These business owners and managers aren’t designers or even marketers. Their main focus is on their business. Anything that detracts from that is considered a “pain.” Figure out who they are and speak directly to their pain (i.e. they don’t know design, they don’t have time, they’re losing business) and you’ll be one step closer to landing that deal.
Tip: Become an “expert” on their business and the trust will follow.
The last piece of the identification phase is to reach out to the prospective client to discuss the opportunity. Remember that this is their website that you’re going to be critiquing, so you’ll need to be extremely tactful in your approach.
First, email them with a simple yet intriguing introduction, like: “I know you’re very busy. But I have something very important to discuss with you regarding your website.”
If you worked with them in the past, you can mention something that will help to reestablish that connection again. If you’re reaching out to them for the first time, this is where that niche specialization will come in handy as you can mention a specific pain related to their industry and get them interested that way.
Either way, you need to get them interested enough to call or email you for more information. At that point, establish an in-person meeting (preferably) or a video conference where you can review your findings and make your proposal.
Tip: Try not to give it all away. There needs to be some mystery around what you’re offering.
Phase #2: The Pitch
As you know, visuals and short bursts of text get more attention than a bunch of words vomited onto a plain white page. If you have a template presentation created already, fill in the information you gathered from steps 1 through 3. If you don’t have a template yet, get to work on one. It’ll only help to establish your credibility as a professional designer and developer if you come prepared.
- Focus first on discussing them.
- Then highlight some points around the importance and benefits of a well-designed business website.
- Finally, you can conclude by briefly mentioning yourself and your services.
The purpose of the in-person meetup or video conference is to review the issues you’ve noticed, so include a blank slide that allows you to take time to step out of the presentation and conduct the walk-through in real time.
Tip: Make sure your presentation matches all of your other branding. There’s no better way to establish yourself as an expert in design and branding than by demonstrating it through your own.
You’ve done your research. You’ve prepared your presentation. Now it’s time to talk.
Remember to focus on the client: who they are, what they do, and what their pain is. If you start by jumping into how terrible their website is or about how awesome you are, you’re going to lose them. Establish the connection as you walk them through the first part of your presentation.
The website walk-through is going to be the most important part of this initial meetup. You need to walk through the site with them as if you were a random website visitor in search of services like theirs.
As you enter their home page, click through the links, fill out forms, and check out other pages for more information, explaining to them your (and their visitors’) thought process.
Once you’ve given them the real-time experience of viewing their website as a visitor, you can then have a serious discussion about the issues you see as a developer. Cover the following when possible: responsive design, social tie-ins, video usage, CTAs, form integration, and SEO.
If you have time, it would be beneficial to walk them quickly through a competitor’s website to show them the drastic difference in the user experience.
You can conclude your presentation and meeting with a brief discussion on who you are, what you do, and what you want to offer them—but make it very brief. You need to leave them with the idea that their website is in bad shape (but not a total loss). You can follow up with more about you later.
Tip: Use statistics where you can. By showing them what everyone else is doing or how everyone else is thinking, they can better relate it to their own situation.
Follow up with your potential client within the next couple of business days, while the information is still fresh.
Start with a positive intro so they know it’s not all doom-and-gloom. Remind them about what you reviewed with them and provide your honest critique: Is their website hurting their business? Could the ROI on a website redesign be worth it? Does their current website need that much work? And then quickly recap some of the drawbacks to having an outdated website:
- Customers will view them as equally outdated, difficult to work with, and unprofessional as their website.
- Search rankings will suffer due to the slow, non-responsive, non-optimized, and irrelevant nature of their website.
- Time, money, and effort will be wasted on their part if they continue to run their website on the wrong platform and without the proper tools.
- The bottom line: Without a site redesign, they are basically just handing their business over to the competition.
In closing, make sure to show them the silver lining. “While you may need to make this investment now, it will be worth it in the long run.” Stay positive and leave your message open. This isn’t the time to start throwing costs or redesign specifics at them.
Tip: Focus on repeating steps 1 through 7 for someone else and give this one a couple weeks to marinate.
This prospective client that you’ve spent countless hours researching and putting together a well-laid-out review for knows they need a new website. As a business owner, the frugal side of them is saying, “Your website’s fine. You can wait another six months and close a few more deals before you do anything about this.”
On the other hand, the business savvy side of them is saying, “Reach out to Mr. or Ms. Developer. See what sort of numbers we’re looking at and then we’ll figure out what to do.”
Regardless of which side wins out, you’ve got them thinking. If you don’t hear from them within a couple weeks of your presentation, reach out to them with specifics. And if you do hear from them within that time, reach out to them with specifics, too. They’ll want to see:
- A cost proposal (make sure this is within a reasonable budget for their company)
- An estimate on turnaround
- A high-level overview of everything the website redesign will include
- Some samples of website redesigns you’ve recently completed
Also, don’t forget to call out any “bonuses” you’re offering. For instance, you can tell them you’ll build their website in WordPress and provide them with a free blog. These might be the sorts of things you’d include anyway, but it’ll go a long way to show them the added value you bring to the table.
Make sure to reinforce the idea that this is all about saving them time, money, and energy. They don’t need to try and figure out how to build their own website nor do they need to spend time making extra sales calls to compensate for the website that doesn’t help in that matter. By allowing you to build their new website, they would have more time to just focus on the business—and that, in your opinion, is an investment well made.
Send them your official proposal and then wait.
Tip: If you don’t have one already, templatize your proposal in a matching file design as your presentation. This’ll not only contribute to that consistent professional look you’re developing, but it’ll also help save you time in compiling future project proposals.
Phase #3: The Website Redesign
Congratulations! If you’ve made it here, then your prospective client is now your current client. Once you’ve sorted out the details related to the contract and payment schedule, you’re ready to get started.
Before you begin any work on the website, you need to set the right expectations for the project.
- Explain the website redesign process very clearly. The client should have a complete understanding of what is and is not included in the project scope.
- Establish the project timeline. If you’re willing to put all that thought and effort into researching this client’s website and business, then you need to assume all responsibility for this project as well—making sure everything is completed exactly to spec and within the pre-established timelines.
- If you have any special rules or requests you need in order to complete the website redesign, speak now or forever hold your peace. There should be no surprises along the way.
It’ll also be important to cover your client’s expectations as well. You’re the expert, website designer, and project manager all in one on this job, so guide your client through their expectations with a series of questions.
- What is their ultimate goal for site visitors? In other words, what action do they want them to take?
- What services do they want highlighted?
- If you set up a blog on their website, will they use it?
- Are they active on any social media that can be highlighted here?
- Do they have samples of any websites they really like the look or functionality of?
Once both of you are clear about the scope of this project, reaffirm that their website is in good hands. Let your client know that you want them to feel free to openly and honestly communicate with you along the way so you’ll know what is or is not working.
Without their input, you may end up having to do a lot of easily avoidable rework in the end… or, even worse, not get paid!
Once both sides are clear, get started!
Tip: Consider investing in a project or design management platform like Basecamp, Marqueed, or Trello to deliver files and have discussions with your client regarding the project.
Once you’re at this step, the website design is yours to run with.
Regardless of how you approach the website design, just remember to keep a running list on each of the moving pieces that require rework and have your plan of attack ready to go for the:
- Calls to Action
- Responsive design
- And anything else you included in the contract
Whenever you can, and without overdoing it to the point of information overload, keep your client attuned to the project status. It’ll help keep your focus on hitting those deadlines and keep your client from worrying about where their website is.
Tip: Project and design management platforms (like those previously mentioned) are also helpful in keeping your tasks better organized as well as keeping a centralized record of who said what, which file was delivered, when a task was completed, etc.
Since you’re working in WordPress, it’s important to remember to use shortcuts, widgets, and plugins when you can. Plugins are going to be especially important as they’ll not only help you optimize the website, but they’ll also help your client in the upkeep of their website going forward (at least until another site revamp is needed).
Here are some plugins to consider including in each of your redesign projects. They should cover a good amount of everything a modern and well-functioning site needs:
For site speed optimization, you’ll want to use a plugin like Hummingbird. It doesn’t matter which device a website is being viewed from—people expect near instantaneous load speeds. This plugin will help detect anything on the website that may slow down the user experience and give you (or your client) a heads up on what needs to be fixed—caching issues, oversized images, etc
Hummingbird is free with a WPMU DEV membership.
While the easiest way to approach a redesign is to give every page a consistent look, sidebars are a different story. Each page tells a different story and the calls to action should change based on what that story is. For greater flexibility in sidebar customization, use a plugin like Custom Sidebars that widgetizes each of the elements for easier updating.
Custom Sidebars Pro is free with a WPMU DEV membership.
SEO integration may not be in your wheelhouse, but it is something that all websites need. Without it, all your efforts in creating a really great looking website will have been for naught. Set yourself and your client up for easier management and setup of all things SEO—including site maps, Moz integration, and metadata—with the SmartCrawl plugin.
This plugin is also free with a WPMU DEV membership.
As part of your redesign efforts, Google Analytics setup is a must (if your client doesn’t already have this). Much like a website without SEO, a website that has no way of tracking visitor traffic and performance is one missing out on a huge opportunity. Once it’s set up, you can provide your client with access to their account, but it would also be greatly beneficial to have this plugin so they can find everything about their website performance in one place: their WordPress dashboard.
Google Analytics+ is free with a WPMU DEV membership.
Calls to action are crucial for any website. Restaurants need to point visitors to where they can make online reservations. Insurance agents need to point visitors to their quote request form. And marketers need to point visitors to their free download offer. You can create big, colorful buttons all over the website, but introducing some movement can take your client’s CTA to the next level.
Slide In also comes free with a WPMU DEV membership.
For clients that do have a presence on social media, it’ll be important to integrate that piece into their web design as well—especially if they have interesting content and messaging worth sharing. The Floating Social plugin helps with this social piece for websites. As users scroll through and visit other pages on the website, the icons follow them, keeping the social element top-of-mind.
Floating Social is a part of a WPMU DEV membership.
Security. There really shouldn’t be any more to say about this, but many businesses don’t think about the security of their website. It’s just a website, right? What’s the worst that could happen? Well, if a website is insecure, it opens up their site’s visitors to potential threats. So while you’re setting up their optimally designed website, give them a tool that can warn them against potential security risks, too.
Defender is another component of a full WPMU DEV membership.
If you’re looking for free tools to aid you in your site redesign projects, check this out the following articles:
You’ve worked through all the kinks on the site and implemented all of your client’s change requests. So now the website is done. You push it live, hand over the WordPress login credentials to your client, and start thinking about your next project…
Hold up! Your job isn’t done yet. Remember that whole part about you being their guide in all this? Well, it would probably be helpful if you took some time to walk your client through their website in real-time once more and provided them with some simple WordPress training. You can’t assume that they will be able to teach themselves how to do it or that they won’t want to make any further updates. Take the time to conduct one more walk-through and make sure your client is left feeling completely at ease—and proud—of the website you have created for them.
Tip: This is also a great time to get a testimonial. Don’t force it. Just wait for an opening and then casually mention that you’ve enjoyed working with them and would appreciate if they’d provide you with one. It might make your next pitch a whole lot easier.
Having now made it through this guide, what are your thoughts? Do you feel more confident in your ability to tackle the ol’ pitch-and-design?
The key thing to take away from here is that you are the expert. You know modern design trends. You know what makes for an effective user experience. And you understand the importance of a website in a company’s marketing and sales toolbox.
As long as you have taken the time to research and prepare, there is nothing to fear. The worst that can happen is the prospect says “no” and then you have to start all over again. But with a little tact and a lot of undeniable truth, you should be on your way to landing more and more of these pitches as you perfect your process.
Have you ever pitched a site redesign? How did it go? Did you use any of the tactics mentioned here? We’d love to hear about your experiences below.
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