Do Your Homework

Do Your Homework


I was recently looking for a web design agency. I needed a new design for one of my websites and of course I was looking for a company to help me through a web search. Where else?

What would you expect from a web design agency’s website? I guess you would expect a decent or even mind-blowing website. That’s what I expected. What I found instead shocked me.

I searched for a Cape Town-based agency and got a long list. Naturally, I was curious as to how these companies (and self-professed professionals) present themselves on the Internet. And I was blown away for two reasons.

Surprise, surprise

I clicked on the first ad for an agency. The website I saw was way beyond my expectations. It was so bad I’m not even sure how to put it into words. It was worse than even the simplest design templates you can download for free!

I saw the first page and closed it immediately. I couldn’t even read the first page! The whole experience was alienating – and of course the company lost a potential customer.

So I went to the second agency, promoting their service with a paid ad. Once again, a big surprise. They weren’t as bad as the first site I had visited, but still worse than what you get for free. Off I went.

Third ad and it got a little bit better. At least this website had some kind of design and style. I clicked on the ‘clients’ link – and saw an empty page. Oh no…

The whole experienced saddened me, particularly because I know that many web designers struggle to find new clients. But I’m sorry: If you present yourself in such a bad way, you will never find enough clients.

And here’s the million dollar question: have you ever looked at your website from a client’s point of view?

Think about your clients’ expectations

Some might say: “We’re too busy to build our own website.” Hmm, good for you, but I doubt that this will last for long. If you are so busy because your work for clients is that great, do me a favour: upload a nice website with only one page, write some words about some clients, add some links to their websites and mention that you’re too busy to take on new clients. You can offer a registration form for people who want to stay in touch with you and work with you when you have the capacity for them. That should be easy to do for you and you wouldn’t scarce away potential clients because of your unprofessional website.

If you’re not so busy, do your homework and create something attractive to win new clients!

As a potential client, I need to see how great your design and coding capabilities are. If you can’t prove that on your own site, you’re not even on my list for the future.

Invest your money wisely

What really struck me was not the bad design. Well, it did hit me hard, but what’s been even worse: These guys paid money for ads to make me go to their website. They paid for letting clients know about them. And then they chased them away. That’s an interesting way of burning money.

The web designers I had a look at were also amongst the first ads, which means that they paid a lot of money for my visit.

My suggestion to them: Stop the ad-campaign for two months, hire another web designer to let them create a nice website. You can fund it using the advertisement-money you’re just saving. Then you can go back online. This makes much more sense than paying for ads and chasing away potential clients.

Do your homework

Now I ask you: Have you done your homework or are you discouraging potential clients when they get in touch with you for the first time?

  • If you are a web designer, you need to have an outstanding website.
  • If you are a car dealer, you have to have a clean shop, clean cars and polite staff.
  • If you are selling insurance, you have to have call centre employees who are pleasant, polite and know what kind of insurances you are selling – so they can forward every caller to the right agent.

The quarterly first impression check

As we all know, ‘there’s no second chance to make a first impression’. I recommend that you make a ‘First Impression Check’ every quarter. “That often?” you might ask. Yes. For a good reason – because the first impression often gets worse, not because of a dramatic change you have made. It perishes slowly but steadily. If you check quarterly, you can identify a decline in quality and service soon enough – if you pay attention to it!

Your check could look like this:

  • Do what potential clients do when they get in touch with you for the first time. It might be a call, a visit to your website, a look inside your window, whatever it is. Do what they are doing.
  • Now notice: Do you feel drawn towards your company or chased away?
  • Next step: Do what your existing clients are doing. It might be different to a new customer’s behaviour.
  • Now notice: Do you feel a) well treated as a customer, b) is your experience okay or c) do you think you need to find a new business partner immediately?

It won’t hurt you to figure out what’s wrong. But only when you know it can you can change it!

If you don’t do it by yourself, your clients will do it. They will show you their (bad) experience as your customer by not showing up any more. And by then it might be too late for you to react.

Do your ‘First Impression Check’ on a regular basis and you will have more loyal customers!

Axel Rittershaus
Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel supports C-Level leaders globally in achieving goals. Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. Axel is also the president of the International Coach Federation South Africa and a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher. You can follow him on twitter.