Sunday, July 10, 2005

Not The Competition

I have just received a bit of spam from a 'reputed' web design company, offering to design pages for as little as Dhs 75 each. This probably means nothing to you, but to me it means they will not last ten minutes in the business. In fact, given the quality of their 'copywriting', I think maybe three minutes would be a better guess. This is the headline of the email: Outdated Websites Creates Bad Impression For Your Reputed Organization. It's ungrammatical and they misused the 'r' word - reputed instead of reputable - why does it seem that nobody from the subContinent gets the difference?.

I had a look at their 'website'. They claim to have branches in Dubai and Sharjah, and a 'web division'. The link to the Sharjah branch is a '404 nope, never seen that page, doesn't exist' error. The link to the web division shows a pretty boring bit of Flash, and nothing else. No links, no information, no nuffink.

What I object to in spam like this is that thousands of potential clients will also get it and will think 'aha, a web page costs Dhs 75. So I can get a 30-page site for 2250 dirhams.' Then they contact a bunch of real web design companies, and we might well be one of them, and they fall off their chair when our price is 10 times what they thought it might be. So it wastes everybody's time.

This market is intensely price-conscious, and we have a hard time winning jobs at a decent price. We never compromise on price, though, because we never compromise on quality: we are not remotely interested in chucking out any old rubbish. Over the last year I have had two long-established clients (both Arab, haha) berating me for what they perceive as being high fees (heck, they should hire a local legal advocate sometime). I have suggested to both of these guys that while I love them to bits, I cannot afford to work for them anymore, please go elsewhere. They both did, and honestly, I was relieved, I really cannot spend all of my time arguing about money. But they both came back with their tails between their wossnames, having had bad experiences with other folks, and realised the truth of the thing about peanuts, monkeys, typewriters and the Compleat Workes of Shakspear.

A few months ago I got a similar bit of spam from an outfit in Jebel Ali, promising miraculous results for almost no money. I decided to string them along a bit, and responded to the email. I had a few calls from their sales guy and was really hoping to squeeze in a meeting. In the end I just couldn't do it because of pressure of real work. But I asked the guy if he'd ever read the signature block on my emails to find out what we do. No, he hadn't. I asked him to do so now. 'Oh', he says, 'web designers and developers!' 'Yes' I said, 'and I want you to know that your marketing drags the business down and reduces it to the level of a low-level thing. So kindly desist'.

Now I'm going to get comments from a bunch of folks telling me that pricing of professional services should obey the same rules as pricing of commodities like tea or copper. C'mon then, I have my gloves on...