[thelist] Advice on Getting That First Client

Ben Henick persist1 at io.com
Sat May 11 06:34:00 CDT 2002

On Fri, 10 May 2002, Joshua Olson wrote:

> I asked her a few questions, and it quickly became apparent that she wanted
> an online brochure.  To be honest, an online brochure was not going to make
> her small company get more revenue each month, and I explained that to her.
> I told her the money would be better spent on yellow page advertisement,
> printed flyers, and anything else that can actually drive local traffic to
> her shop.
> I have strong feelings against acting like a used car salesman, I guess.  :)

Before I launch into being the Devil's Advocate, let me thank you for your
willingness to take the high road.  It's a bloody shame that the high road
isn't very popular these days.

In any situation like this, the bottom line is the business case.

For a professional services provider (to which class hairstylists
literally belong), what are the objectives that might be achieved by a

1.  Appointment requests
2.  Display of examples
3.  Client education
4.  Referrals for related services
5.  Enhancement of goodwill

Of these, #5 is likely the most valuable - but also the most difficult to

For the other four:  do prospective customers (which, as a struggling
shop, this client would want as the primary audience for their site) get
value from these if they are achieved?

1.  No - these are needed more by existing clients
2.  Emphatically YES
3.  Maybe
4.  Yes
5.  Yes (because if trust is formed, that's a plus for everybody)

There is also the fact that log analysis allows far a better understanding
of who's getting to the site, and why they've gone there.  You don't get
that with a Yellow Pages ad or a tri-fold alone.

So, the four positives on the list deliver results that similarly
affordable dead-tree media cannot.  And the ability to request an
appointment is a huge step toward ensuring repeat business, which a
low margin business such as that needs without a doubt.

This leaves three questions:

1.  How do I bring traffic to the site?

...With small ads in dead-tree media, word of mouth, sponsorship of a
minor event (community- or fashion-based, in this case), and of course
search engines.  In the latter case, you'll need keyword rich copy.

2.  Can the client afford the service?

This is entirely dependent upon the circumstances... but if you manage the
project well, and the client's smart enough to let you do your job,
there's no reason a site can't be built for less than $1000 in a top ten
U.S. market and still make a profit for the developer.  (Even if an
appointments calendar app is built for the site.)

3.  Does the site justify enough ROI to be viable?

This is the toughest question by far.  Assuming $40 per client visit, the
hairstylist needs 25 new clients to break even in the most simple of
terms.  Depending on how the studio keeps their books, that number might
need to be doubled or even tripled.

I postulate that it is possible to build a site that will result in 15% of
its (interested) viewers placing a telephone call, with one-third to
one-half of those placing an appointment.  Call the conversion 6%.

So, after arithmetic that site has to get 1100 hits from prospective
clients in order to be assured of paying for itself - that is to say,
we're not taking recurring revenue into account.

Can a site be built for a hair salon that will get 1100 solid visits
before it needs to be redesigned?  In a large enough market, I'd say that
is possible.

After you take second-order effects (non-web referrals, repeat business)
and improved goodwill into account, a site such as the one described would
make sense - but would still be a big leap for a client who might need
faster turnaround on their marketing dollar.

Ben Henick
Web Author At-Large              Managing Editor
http://www.io.com/persist1/      http://www.digital-web.com/
persist1 at io.com                  bmh at digital-web.com
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?"
"I think so, Brain, but... (snort) no, no, it's too stupid."
"We will disguise ourselves as a cow."
"Oh!" (giggles) "That was it exactly!"

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