Building a Client Base

Make sure prospects know they can trust your company by describing exactly what they're getting from you.

By Kathy J. Kobliski

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: Istarted a Web site design company last year, and I am now havingtrouble building my clientele. How would you suggest that I buildmy customer base?

A: Oneof the problems you are facing is the uneasiness that people feelabout hiring a company to provide a service about which they knowvery little. In your case, computer-challenged people may beintimidated because they don't understand the jargon, andthey're not sure of how many hours or how much money it takesto put a Web site into place with design, content, links, hosting,registering, etc. So when you tell them it will take a certainamount of time to complete a task, they have no way of knowingwhether they're getting ripped off.

Often Web site design companies do not reveal that they listthemselves as the registrants of the client's domain, and aretherefore in complete control of the site and often its content aswell. For the client, getting the domain and site contact back fromsuch a company can be worse than getting out of a bad marriage.

Next Step
Get more help building asolid clientele with these books:
Clients for Life: How Great ProfessionalsDevelop Breakthrough Relationships by Jagdish Sheth andAndrew C. Sobel
Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program forProfessionals and Consultants by C.J. Hayden

Since you're asking a company to trust you and the servicesyou provide, it would be appropriate to present your policies inwriting, including the fact that the client is always listed asregistrant and retains all rights to the domain and site contents(if that's what you do). Show your client how to access the"WHOIS" section of Network Solutions and other sites toverify that your other clients are indeed the registrants of theirdomains. Design a brochure and include definitions of such terms asregistrant, domain, content, updating the site, search enginesubmissions, hosting, etc. and show all costs. Explain these thingsto your clients in understandable terms, and give it all to him orher in writing.

Appeal to different budgets by putting together some basic toelaborate "packages" for clients to choose from, suchas:

  • A one- to two-page basic Web site, including a specific numberof updates per month and a specific number of submissions made tomajor search engines per year
  • A three- to five-page site with a more designer look, perhapswith animation, fancy wallpaper, more updates, more frequentsubmissions, etc.
  • A large site with elaborate design, secure pages, orderingcapabilities, sound, video, virtual tours, unlimited updates andsearch engine submissions six to eight times per year, etc.

List the consistent costs separately, such as registering andre-registering domains and hosting charges.

If you're trying to bring potential clients to your site,make sure you let them know how to get there-in other words,advertise your URL everywhere and run traditional ads (print andelectronic) to get your Web address out. I used to see outdoorbillboards that read something like "Two-page basic Web site:$500" and included the company's URL. Once you get aclient to call, you can go over the other options you have tooffer.

As clients come on board, don't take them for granted. Workas hard for each client as you did when you were courting them. Thekey word in your question is "build." That means you haveto keep current clients from bolting while you prospect for newones.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder and president of Silent PartnerAdvertising, where she oversees multimedia advertising budgets forretail and service clients. Her book, Advertising Without an Agency, was written forbusinesses owners who are working with small advertising budgetsand can't afford professional help. You can reach Kathy at(315) 487-6706 (weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST), or visit herWeb site at

The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

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