Web Design in Ann Arbor – You vs your competition

I often frequent digg and read the latest blogs – and while I can’t claim that I am 100% original, I am tired of reading the same thing being restated by 100 different blogs. So I would like to talk about tactic’s I use to obtain sales in a competitive market.

My business is located in Ann Arbor Michigan, home of the University of Michigan. For reasons I am not completely sure about, Ann Arbor has always been a great location for local business and entrepreneurs. Whether it is fed by smart UofM graduates, professors, or it is simply the atmosphere itself that facilities it, I don’t know.

Due to the high amount of entrepreneurs and small business’ in Ann Arbor, there is an extremely high demand for web design services. Coupled with the amount of technology smart people coming out of the U of M, literally hundred’s of small web design companies have been started in Ann Arbor all fighting for the same top page rankings and small business clients.

Because of this, I have come up with strategies to point out to potential clients why they would be better off picking my company vs company XYZ. These strategies can be used for any web design or development agency, and honestly you should know these things before you go into any sales situation, faced with competition or not.

1 – Analyze your competition

This is a very important phase, you have to know exactly what your competition can do better than you, and vice versa. Some things to consider.

  • Do they use tables, or CSS?
  • Can they do any server side programming?
  • Do they know DOM/Javascript?
  • Do they care about accessibility?
  • Do they care about usability?
  • How are their design skills?
  • Do they stay up to date on web technologies?
  • Do they offer SEO?

Just by looking at these points, I have been able to sell clients simply on the fact that I spend a lot of time learning the latest web design technologies. Even showing clients scripts such as lightbox or ajax effects has greatly swayed their decisions. Clients tend to only think about visual design itself when they are looking for a “designer.” Even if you are going up against companies with better artistic abilities than you – it is easy to win them over by showing them the other aspects of web design.

Analyze yourself

It is important to know your weakness so you can pitch around it. Don’t know server side coding? be prepared to talk about freelancers and independent contractors. Not as great in terms of artistic quality? Quote Krug and tell them about how visual “flash” rarely adds to the value of a site, while good content and usability always do.

Break the niche’s

As a company it is great when you start doing a lot of work for a particular market. Hopefully we have all experienced it, when we do a site for a type of company, and they refer you to someone else in the field, and the process repeats. However – this is bad if your competitors are riding that niche and you are stuck with out work.

There are two ways I see to combat this tactic. Find a website that was created a few years ago in the niche, by your competition, and contact them about “refreshing it” with the latest design styles and technologies. It probably will be hard to convince them if they are loyal, so be prepared to show them cool features that will really spark their interest. Hopefully from their, they will start referring you instead of the other company.

The other method is to do a preemptive move. Find the latest website done by your competition, and try and find other companies/business/people they work with and contact them before they are referred your competition. Again, they may have already herd about your competition, or maybe they don’t think they need a website. You will really have to fight for it, but the result can be taking over that segment of the market.

The sales meeting

Before going into every meeting, I have a list of possible services that I offer that I don’t think my competition will and would be of use to the potential client. This could be something along the lines of “usability testing, CSS coding, and AJAX.” While your competition is talking about how they make pretty designs, you can be talking about how you study usability and relate to them about frustrating websites. If your portfolio show’s pretty designs, you don’t need to talk about it.

Everything you say should be telling them what value you can provide, that your competition hasn’t talked about. Even if they do intend to provide it (for example CSS over tables) if they don’t mention it and the benefits, chances are the client will assume they don’t.


Doing business in Ann Arbor – I learned that you need to be different than your competition. If you can’t find a good list of attributes that you have over your competition – start thinking and learning about some. Go to the local bookstore and read up about web marketing, seo, ajax, php, etc. You could even join/start one of the cites from the Refreshing Cities Movement. Being able to say that you are part of an organization that focuses on better web design carries a lot of weight. The more you can offer, the more likely you will be chosen.