Why You Need to Have More than Your Clients

A client of mine came to me mentioning that he wanted to develop a website for his offline business, but there was a lot of hesitation involved:

“Look, James, here’s the thing. It’d be nice to have a website, but I don’t really need one. I do okay, I guess. I have my offline business and that does well. I’ve been operating on referrals and word of mouth and it’s worked so far. I’d like a website, but I’m having a hard time justifying the expense.”

Okay, no problem. I’m not here to push people into doing something they don’t want to do or don’t need to do. In fact, I’ve been known to tell clients not to hire us on certain occasions – they don’t have a good business plan yet, they don’t know what they want, they don’t have enough interest, or they simply don’t have enough money right now and should focus on more important priorities.

That wasn’t the case here. My client had money to spend, he had interest, he had a kickass business idea, and he had a good plan. He knew what he wanted, too: more of the kind of clients he loved to work with, more passive income, more security in being THE man for his target audience’s needs. He also had time to invest and was willing to put in some work to get there.

But he didn’t have the right motivation to make the decision to get online. He needed to know more about why he should spend money on a website he didn’t really need. He was doing just fine offline… was this online thing worth the money?

Oh yeah. Even if he never made one sale through his website, he still needed to have one up there. Here’s why:

If you want to play with the big boys, you need to act like the big boys.

My client deals with people who are extremely rich and successful. The people who hire him have large companies that bring in millions of dollars and a lifestyle that makes most of us drool. They spend thousands of dollars to work with my client. There’s no shortage of money at all.

Now, let’s say my client is in a business meeting pitching a new company. Let’s say that business meeting includes the CEO of Gucci. And let’s say that the CEO looks at my client, thinking it might be a good idea to sign a contract. He hasn’t signed it yet, mind you.

Then he asks my client for his website address. You know. Just out of curiosity. Because it’s the thing to ask. Almost every large company dealing with millions has a website these days, and these companies have it as an established fact in their minds that having a website is part of business. It’s the way professionals operate. It’s simply how it’s done.

So the CEO toys with his pen, glances up from the contract and says, “What’s your website again?”

And my client says, “Well… I don’t have one.”

When you have less than your clients, you don’t have what they want.

If you don’t look successful, you can’t convince people that you can create success for them.

Having a website? That’s a sign of success. It shows that my client had the means to walk out into the virtual world and stake a claim – a pretty snazzy one, too. A website like that conveys confidence, pride and prowess. It shows there’s been money invested, that someone was hired to do work, that someone was rich enough, powerful enough – successful enough – to have that site built.

It’s as simple as this: Ownership is a sign of success. We measure other people’s success by what they have – and what we don’t.

My client sells success – as we all do, when you really think about it. That new shirt is supposed to make you more successful at the job interview. That new car is supposed to convey success to passers-by. Anytime we pay money for any product or service, we’re buying success. My client says to the world, “I know a secret to success that you don’t have, and if you pay me some money, I’ll teach it to you.”

If my client can’t convince that CEO that he really is successful, how difficult do you think it will be to sell that CEO on the concept that my client has something he doesn’t already have?

So yeah, my client can continue on in business as he is, maintaining the status quo and taking care of the clients that want to work with him.

Or he could have more. He could put up a darned snazzy website that reflects just how successful he is. Impress them in a glance. Convey clearly – in an instant – that he has what they want, and that if they hire him, he can bring them what they want.

More success.

If you’re looking for a site full of success to show them you have what they want, contact us. We’ll set you up with a web design that impresses the socks right off them.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Spot on. Thanks for sharing. I know whenever I’m looking to hire somebody for contract work or to share in projects I’m taking on I always check their website to learn more about them. If they don’t have a website, it naturally makes me question their credibility–stupid, I know. But you’re right when you say, “If you don’t look successful, you can’t convince people that you can create success for them.”

    Thanks again for sharing.
    .-= Chris Mower´s last blog ..Entrepreneur Interview: Chris McClain of Chris McClain Productions =-.

  2. It’s Monday, and perhaps that’s why I feel like playing devil’s advocate here :). I have a Web site, a blog, a few social media profiles and clearly recognize the value of all these tools.

    “Having a Web site? That’s a sign of success.” Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on your niche, your one-of-a-kind expertise, and your notoriety. For most of us, a Web site is as essential as a business card or that first cup of Java in the morning.

    Web sites, though, have become ubiquitous. It’s gotten so I almost expect my plumber to have one so I can check it before I allow him to fix my leaky faucet. Ubiquitous and exclusive don’t always mesh.

    Some of the most brilliant and successful professionals I know are nowhere to be found on the Net: no Web site, no social media profile, no Skype account, nothing. Rather than feel uncomfortable, as in your example, in responding “(uh, well, oh..) I don’t have a Web site”, my hunch is that these power pros would reply with a knowing smile “I *don’t* have a Web site.” That’s *their* sign of success.

    Thankfully, there aren’t too many of those, or else many of us in the communications sector would be out of business 🙂

  3. You hit the nail on the head. Having a website is just a part of being in business, just like company letterhead and professionally printed business cards.

    I was just reading Tim Harford last night about how we signal our reliability by investing in visible corporate structures. The more money it costs the more stable you look.
    .-= Siddhartha´s last blog ..Do You Have a Phone? I Need to Take a Picture =-.

  4. I think this is right on. When I launched my business, I did so without cards and without a website (even thought I knew better). Why? Because I had big-time clients and a word-of-mouth business. I quickly learned that I was, to paraphrase your client, doing OK, I guess.

    The first thing anyone asked me when I told them about my business was, do you have a card and what’s your website. In fact, I’d say that the two are synonymous for many people.

  5. The Aleksandar says:

    Good point. I had several clients that realized having website is a must in todays business.
    .-= The Aleksandar´s last blog ..Put everything on stake for bigger success =-.

  6. I enjoyed Patricia’s comment. When everyone has a web site then to “stand out” a business owner will need something else. That would be most rebellious.

    At the moment, I still prefer to see someone’s web site. I want to see what it looks like and learn more about them. If it’s cheesy or hokey, I wonder if the services I get will be cheesy or hokey!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post …

    .-= Giulietta Nardone´s last blog ..Do you dare to get out of lock-step? =-.

  7. I like to call that curb appeal, which is normally a real estate term, but it applies to every single piece of your small business.

    James you are right on 100% If the customer doesn’t believe that you can create success for him/her then you don’t have a chance in getting their business.

    The idea is NOT to lie and pretend that you are something you are not, but that you need to show that you are something that you ARE.

    If that means a web site or a new suit or sweet sports car from Italy, then you need to do what you have to do to show your customers that you know what you are talking about.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..How to Cover Your Backside and Get a Pile of New Customers =-.

  8. @Joshua – That’s the thing. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a website or a car or a haircut or whatever. In this case, it was a website (and the defence thereof!), but the point is that the *impression* of success can take you a long, long way.

    @Guiliette – Agreed on your point that when everyone has a website, NOT having one might make you stand out more. However, the world isn’t at that point yet, and there are still too many people getting turfed out for lack of a site. When it’s been a while (a year?) that this isn’t the case, THEN would be a good time to change tactics.

    @Jake – Yeah, there was one particular meeting where I felt stupid because I’d left my cards at home. And sure enough… “You got a card for me, James?”


    You look damned stupid asking someone if you can borrow a pen and paper to scribble down your site address 😉

    @Siddartha – I think what’s most important is the perception of that established feeling. Something doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, but I believe it has to *look* like it was done to quality standards for that perception of “expensive” – which many people equate to grounded, established business.

    @Patricia – I like a devil’s advocate. But I also think that we’re not at a point yet (as I mentioned above) where websites for all businesses have become so common that it’s a sign of coolness *not* to have one. When Joe Jimmy at the garage has a website, and so do all his cousins, then yes. Changing the game to making NOT having a website being awesome would be smart.

    But in most locations, Joe Jimmy doesn’t have a site yet. It’s starting to happen, but I think that our own level of online participation is skewing the reality of how many businesses out there actually DO have websites.

    And again, back to the “how much more successful could you be WITH a website?” Don’t forget that one 🙂

    @Chris – I always try to google businesses as well, and every single time… no website? Well, okay, but that gives me an impression that the business is *small*. Not only that, but not up to date and not savvy in marketing.

    But then again, I’m biased, eh?

  9. Totally agree with you. What REALLY maddens me are my 20-something fellow karate dojo colleagues – they’re looking for jobs but tell them to put up a personal resume website to highlight their skills, and they react like a deer in the headlights.

    Sad, really.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..2 Breathtakingly Easy Ways To Demonstrate Social Media Expertise in Facebook =-.

  10. James,

    Thanks for responding to my comment.

    However, I have to disagree. At least according to Tim Harford, and he makes a good case.

    The more money you spend, the more you have invested in the reputation of that business. It doesn’t say you’re good, but it does say I’m here to stay and I care about my client’s opinion.

    In the days of brick and mortar a nice building projected the I’m here to stay message. You had a lot to lose if clients weren’t happy with your work and you couldn’t easily jump ship and leave town.

    Today we use websites, which by their nature are more temporary structures, but we can still project an investment in our online identity by spending a lot (or a sufficient amount) on a nice looking site.

    It says to our potential clients, I’m not going to leave town in the middle of the night with your money/secrets/projects because I’ve got too much to lose if I do.
    .-= Siddhartha´s last blog ..Do You Have a Phone? I Need to Take a Picture =-.

  11. That’s exactly what I try to explain to my clients. You simply can’t get away without having a websites these day.s You may be doing “ok” without one…but who only aspires to be “ok” in business?
    .-= Amber Weinberg´s last blog ..Dia Living: XHTML, CSS & CoreCommerce Implementation =-.

  12. @Barbara – I have a friend who has been saying for a year he’d like more business… and he’s done nothing about it yet. Oh well.

    @Siddartha – Ah, I think we actually agree but are just using different words or semantics. I agree with you that an expensive-looking appeal and impression are key. But at the same time, my point was that high cost does not always equal high quality. We’ve run into a few cases of businesses that basically provide some pretty poor crap but charge a pretty darned penny!

    @Amber – EXACTLY!

  13. It’s definitely important to have a web presence even as you say, you are driving the core of your business through other means. A website can increase your online revenue or win you more business. One thing I have noticed is that some businesses are creating Facebook pages in lieu of a website to promote events and I don’t think that should be encouraged. It’s much easier to navigate a website and quickly find the information you need.

  14. It sounds like he needs a website and branding that isn’t just like everyone else, that’s not a typical splash page with a formulated copy deck of info. I’d love to see what someone with such a successful offline business would end up with. Something dynamic and cutting edge? Unique content? A kick-ass bio?

    I really dislike seeing a business’ website that tells me nothing about them, except that they work 110%. One of the best copywriters I’ve seen lately is Copylicious, clean, quirky copy with something interesting to say.
    .-= susan´s last blog ..Is the Idea of Success Getting in Your Way =-.

  15. James,
    You are right in the point that any business needs a website. Now, having a website is not a sign of success.
    Even showing “signs of success” doesn’t motivate people to hire you:
    Would I hire a business because its owner has a new and expensive car? No, I would hire a business because it is able to provide the value that I require. So, don’t impress your potential customers with your signs of success. Show the value that you can provide, and your customers will make the obvous decision.
    All the best,
    .-= Boris´s last blog ..Put Magic in your Life =-.

  16. I just hired a contractor who doesn’t have a website. I did so only because people I trust vouched for her – but whe I tried to look her up and couldn’t, I did assume she was more of an amateur and not the experienced professional I needed. If a different kind of business didn’t realize the competitive advantage of a web presence, I’d assume they probably weren’t on top of their game period and would look elsewhere.

    I’ve had a few clients (micro businesses) who recoiled from the Internet back in the 90’s and have been obstinate about it ever since. I find a lot of them have outdated ideas about the expense and complexity of a website; once they realize how simple and inexpensive one can be, they usually come on board.
    .-= Valerie Alexander´s last blog ..Mom, Dad, Stop Fighting =-.

  17. This is the key to negotiation, you need to walk the walk.
    .-= Business Logos´s last blog ..Archer Archery =-.

  18. I’m always surprised by companies that don’t have a website. I’m also extremely surprised by technical companies (website design, Internet marketing, and computer hardware setup) that don’t have websites or have extremely simple websites. It’s ridiculous.
    .-= Jared Detroit´s last blog ..Easy & Effective Content Creation =-.

  19. Following up from my comment, I guess a website is now is as essential as a business card. It acts as an electronic calling card.

  20. Totally agree that having a good (nay, great) online presence is a BIG deal. The truth is, first impressions matter, and if you take the time to polish yourself up a bit, to make a great first impression, that goes along way in generating trust and building that relationship from the start.


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