I ran into an old colleague (old as in we worked together on Guts in 1990, so don't tell me you've been online a long time, okay?). Susan is a very talented web designer, and like most web designers, she's sort of in between the "oh boy, we need a website, let's hire someone!" stage and the "oh no, the economy is in the tank, let's cut costs!" stage.
I promised to drop her a note about the burgeoning niche I see for web designers, and here it is:
Within two years, companies are going to spend about $5 billion a year on search engine advertising, adwords, keywords and other smart ways to get strangers to click on over to their sites.
Further proof that the web is now officially a direct marketing business.
YET, at the same time that all these companies are aggressively spending to build the right kind of traffic (not the, "hey, I tricked you with a popunder or seduced you with a bikini" ads) they're dropping the ball.
Less than 10% of these advertisers regularly measure results.
Far fewer than that are changing their offer pages hourly.
What a waste.
People like Andrew Goodman (his site is Traffick | Minding the Internet Search Engines' Business) understand this. They realize that test and measure and evolve is the secret to direct marketing. There are no once-and-for-all secrets. It's a process, not an event.
So who's going to do this work?
I think it's going to be the next generation of web designer.
I think it goes like this:
You say to the prospect: I will work with you to build a four-page engine of revenue. The idea: the client loads it up with targeted traffic that he buys by regularly trying and testing adwords and other relevant, measurable media. Then, I will regularly, constantly tweak (or redesign) the four page site to turn those strangers into friends (and maybe, if your product is great and your followup is appropriate, you can turn those friends into customers).
The thing is, it's probably cheaper to constantly measure and evolve and redesign a four page offer site than it is to build the annual 400 page website overhaul. And there's no question it's more effective.
It takes patience. It takes a lack of ego. It takes a willingness to be creative and to try new stuff, to measure what works and to do it more.
The great news about direct marketing is that when it works, you know it worked. That makes it easy to get new clients.
The future belongs to disciplined designers, talented copywriters and patient, honest and respectful clients/marketers.
Have fun with it!