Gravitate is a 16 year-old, 30+ person web design agency based in Vancouver, Washington. We spoke with Flynt Johnson, a business consultant at Gravitate who helps bring in new clients.
Over the past two years, Gravitate doubled their average project size. In other words, if they charged $20,000 for a website year one, in year two they would have charged $40,000 and the year after that they would have charged $80,000. (Note: Gravitate didn't confirm what their average budget is)
Everybody wants to earn a healthier profit margin from their clients, but in practice it takes a lot of confidence to charge a higher price tag when bidding on a project.
How was Gravitate able to do it? There isn't a single "silver bullet", but Flynt shared some of his thoughts on the way he and the principals of Gravitate approach sales at their agency.
How to qualify leads
"I know the ideal client right when I meet them. We tell them the story of what we do and how and either they get it or they don't. If they say 'we hear what you're saying but we want you design it this way' we're going to be butting heads with them the whole way through. The best clients are the ones who trust us and sometimes they are the clients with smaller budgets, but they are still better to work for than the clients with big budgets who don't trust our expertise."
Flynt isn't against responding to RFPs — in fact sometimes he think they are great if done right — however he has a few rules that guide him in whether or not to respond. In his opinion, you shouldn't respond to an RFP if:
- It's clear that the goal isn't to get the best work possible
- If the client already has design solutions in mind
- If there's a long list of agencies that were invited
- If the client won't get on the phone with him before submitting a proposal
Make work look better than it costs
"You always need to be a step above your pay grade. In other words, if a client is paying you $5,000 for a website, make it look like a $10,000 website. Challenge yourself by saying 'I know I could just do X, but I'm going to put in an extra couple of hours to do something more interesting'. Make something that's really effective and generates results so clients expectations are exceeded. It goes without saying that referrals are vital to getting new clients."
Flynt makes a great point. It's so easy to get caught up with staying on budget that we sometimes cut corners when it comes to getting the project out the door.
If your work always looks a step above your pay grade, your client will be more impressed and likely to refer you, but also you'll be more happy with your work and be able to confidently sell similar quality work to new clients — for what it's actually worth.
This has a compounding effect. If you allow yourself to go over-budget on select projects in the name of making the end-product that much more polished, it allows you to sell the next project at a higher price and use that past project as a benchmark for what the project is worth.
Why big name brands aren't all they're cracked up to be
It's natural to want prestigious brands on your client list, but it's not for Flynt. He explains:
"I don't know if I'd care to talk to someone like Coca Cola about their marketing. For a mid-sized or up-and-coming business I feel like we can make a difference. With a client like Coca Cola we would just be another vendor and they would eventually switch from us to another vendor. We have big names brands headquartered locally and because everyone wants to work with them they play agencies against each other and whittle them down to rock bottom pricing. We probably can't move the needle for Nike or Adidas but with a smaller company we can really transform their business"
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