As a service-based business owner, selling may not be something that comes naturally to you. If you're nodding your head right now, you probably understand the challenges of communicating the value in what you have to offer. After all, unlike physical products, it's difficult to explain something your potential clients can't see, right?
What's more, you know that nobody likes a hard sell. So you end up feeling like you have to convince people to work with you. And you feel nervous and unprepared when you talk to potential clients. So what do you do when you have to promote yourself, but don't want to sound "salesy"?
Fortunately, there are ways you can communicate your value without any hard-selling at all.
What is "communicating value"?
Communicating your value is basically expressing your authority and ability to help your audience. It allows you to build trust, and to draw their attention to the solutions to their problems. They may even become aware of problems they didn't know they had--problems which you have solutions for. It helps to break down the barriers that prevent a potential customer from engaging and working with you.
Think of communicating your value as gently leading your audience along on an enjoyable and respectful journey, one where they get to trust you and value your knowledge and expertise.
How to communicate your value
(1) Avoid talking about features and processes
Let's begin with the number one rule - stop talking about your features and processes.
Unless you're selling a service to help businesses streamline their processes, your customers don't really care about the finer details of your programs and services. They just want to know what's in it for them.
Details of your features and processes are boring. And talking about them is a quick way to turn your potential clients away. Instead, think about how those features and processes translate to benefits for your clients.
Example: When Apple launched the first iPod, Steve Jobs didn't describe it as a device boasting a 5GB hard drive, but as being capable of "storing 1,000 songs in your pocket", which was a huge game-changer at the time. A 5GB hard drive is boring. 1000 songs in your pocket? Magic!
(2) Focus on how you can help your audience
A great rule of thumb is to remember that you should make all of your communication about your prospects and customers - not you or your business.
Everything you communicate to your audience should be a demonstration of how you can help them.
You can create case studies to show how your services solve problems for your clients. You can also build content around topics that you know are problems for your audience and include solutions (similar to this article you're reading right now).
Other ways to help your audience include:
- Sharing book recommendations
- Sharing reviews, testimonials, reports, interviews, tools and resources that will smooth your audience's pathway
- Sharing your own experience in overcoming similar problems
(3) Create stories everywhere in your business
Stories are gold. They show your audience what you can do intimately because the details remain in your audience's imagination. Case studies, interviews and all of the ideas I've already suggested are forms of stories, especially if they're linked together into a sequence your audience can follow.
You can also create stories to invoke the senses and emotions, whether it's joy, laughter, motivation, focus, courage or camaraderie over avoiding fear, loss, and stagnancy. Stories are also great ways to demonstrate how you implement your services, and you don't have to be a great writer to create stories either. In fact, everyday stories that everyone can relate to often work best.
(4) Reach your audience where they are now
Don't attempt to reach your audience where you think they are, or where you want them to be. Reach them where they are. This requires a solid understanding of who your audience is, what their problems are and what prevents them from accomplishing their goals. When you have all that information, you can bridge the gaps for them through your content so that they can recognise how you can help them go from where they are to where they want to be.
Don't forget to create content for different audience types, both in terms of what your customer avatar is and their level of problem or brand awareness.
(5) Solve problems for your audience that prevent them from hiring you
This is a slightly more advanced, but highly effective, strategy. Some potential clients may be close to being able to hire you, but they need to accomplish something else first before doing so. This is where you can step in and solve that initial problem for them. It gives you an opportunity to help your audience and encourages them to take the next steps with your services.
Example 1: You're an accountant who works with small business owners. Your target audience may be considering hiring an accountant, but right now they're drowning in a sea of overflowing receipts and invoices that they can't think straight. So you create a free ebook that teaches them how to organise their receipts and sort through their invoices. And you talk about the value of working with an accountant to prevent future overwhelm.
Example 2: You're a branding specialist for entrepreneurs. Your target audience wants to start their own businesses but are confused by how to get started. So you create a video series to teach them everything they need to know to start their own business. In one of your videos you discuss the importance of branding and how to find a great branding specialist.
(6) Delight your customers at every turn
If you constantly surprise and delight your audience in everything you do, they'll expect you to delight and surprise them through your paid content too. The anticipation of the unexpected will keep people returning and buying from you - curiosity is a great motivator.
These little delights don't need to be grand gestures in order to have a huge impact, but they should go the extra mile. In Chip and Dan Heath's book, The Power Of Moments, they discuss a hotel in America who offers free 'popsicles' for their clientele. It's a small gesture that goes such a long way that it's not really a surprise anymore. Many people choose to stay at the hotel purely for the 'popsicle' experience. That's the power of delighting your customers.
Communicating value is one of the most important elements when it comes to promoting your service-based business. Like everything else in business, it takes time, perseverance and patience. But the rewards are well worth the effort.
How do you communicate value to your potential clients?