“We do web design and development” doesn’t work. “We do low cost PHP/MySQL” doesn’t work either. There are too many who do that and your head isn’t going to stick up in the mob. Low cost is a bitch anyway.
“I am the best programmer” or “We have a great team” is just as flawed. “Best” is subjective and I bet you aren’t, sorry (I doubt exactly “the best” is reading). Even if you were, your customers don’t care. They want a job done well for a good price and most won’t pay crazy fees to have a great work done. What could be so great in a simple PHP site anyway? It either works correctly or it doesn’t.
If you want to build a successful business in web design and/or development, you need an USP.
I can think of at least two relatively easy ways to differentiate your service by all the “we do it all” crowd.
Specialize in technology
If you are a freelance developer or small development studio, taking this approach can really help you find your market position. For example you can specialize in doing Facebook apps, WordPress plugins, Joomla modules or Twitter apps. Going this route exposes you to a smaller but a lot more targeted and less competitive market. If you build your site or blog around building Facebook apps for example you will have much better chance to rank in search engines for such searches, they are a lot more likely to convert into real customers and you can quickly become recognized as an authority in building Facebook apps. Such a targeted approach will also justify some advertising (PPC for example) because an ad “Get a Facebook app developed” is having a much bigger chance to convert someone who is looking for a Facebook app, rather than an add “Outsource PHP Programming” which leads to a site offering all kind of PHP programming services.
Specialization in technology will also help you become really good in the area and will easily justify higher rates.
You shouldn’t worry about the market being too small. If you can’t find enough customers for building Facebook apps, you can add a site or subdomain (“department”) offering programming Twitter apps. It’s enough to tell that you are doing some specialized service to convert better the customers who are looking for it. (assuming you really can do it of course)
If you are a designer or design studio, there are plenty of options for specialization as well. You can offer explicitly WordPress templates, Joomla themes, logo design, design of sites for mobile devices, Flash design etc. The key again is not to have a site saying “we offer web design”, but to have a point of difference.
Specialize in niches
If you a dentist and want a website you will prefer “Dentist’s Web Design” or even “Medical Web Design” (ridiculous company names of course, don’t use them) instead of “Web Design Gurus”. This is not only a marketing trick. Building a good web site (even if you do only the design or the development) requires a knowledge about the business logic your client operates in. Of course you can always just follow the requirements document (if you are lucky enough to get detailed one) but your service will be so much more valuable if you can provide advice and input that will genuinely help the client in their business.
By specializing in a niche you will quickly become knowledgeable about it and about the online strategies the businesses in that niche use. This will not cost you losing good shape in the general web field – you’ll have to do good design/development in the niche anyway. Even if several years you do exclusively websites or software for forex brokers nothing stops you do a completely different site after that. On the contrary, you may even transfer good ideas from one niche to another which is often incredibly valuable.
Specialization also means reuse. For example a while ago in Axaya we were doing a lot of social network sites so we got not only good in them, but also had a lot of ready code to reuse. This allowed us to give good quotes and show impressive portfolio to customers who look for social network sites.
Whatever business you are in, think how to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Being the best is not the answer even if you are. Being the cheapest is the worst possible answer even if you are only a pretender. Being different is what you need – it requires some effort, thoughts and time, but pays better long term.
Filed under: Business 2.0