What's the single most important factor determining whether or not your service-based business is successful?
The answer to this question can completely change your online business forever. It can change the perception of your business. It can change your focus in your business. It can change how you operate and market your business.
Most business owners answer this question with a broad array of responses: quality service, number of clients, pricing, branding, website, advertising copy, etc.
Whilst all these issues are critical, it's your marketing methodology that ultimately determines the success or otherwise of your business.
Most online business owners use a sales-based marketing methodology, which can be summarised as , "This is what I have to sell. Come and buy it from me."
This is understandable as most traditional marketing teaches sales-based methods. We're all impacted by sales-based marketing at every turn - on TV, newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio - everywhere.
And when service professionals research marketing methods, they are most likely to learn about traditional sales-based marketing methodologies - advertisements (in newspapers, yellow pages, journals, magazines, social media etc), direct telephone calls, radio, flyers, direct mail letters, etc.
The downsides of sales-based marketing
As a service provider or a coach, you likely have better skills in your area of expertise than marketing skills. You're therefore likely to feel uncomfortable delivering a 'sales pitch', talking about yourself and promoting the quality of your services. This will come across to your prospects as a general lack of confidence in yourself, your products and services.
Sales marketing is extremely expensive - reducing your net margin on your services. The more you spend to get a client, the less net profit you'll retain at the end.
Moreover, generally people are very sceptical and defensive against sales approaches. This exponentially increases the barrier of making a sale. When you employ a sales-based marketing method, most prospects have already closed themselves off to learning about your services due to their natural tendency to put up a defence.
For a prospect to buy from you, there needs to be an element of trust. Your prospect needs to trust that you can deliver on your promises and that they'll gain a positive return on their investment. This level of trust is extremely difficult to build through a sales-based marketing approach.
It's a natural human tendency to reciprocate in kind what's been given to you. With sales-based marketing, there is no reciprocal obligation on the prospect to find out more about your offer or purchase from you. You run the risk of attracting price-sensitive buyers and 'tyre kickers' who take up a lot of your time and result in extremely low conversion.
It's difficult to maintain contact with prospects for long enough to build rapport and trust - it generally takes 4 to 6 contacts before a prospect will buy from you. So, we can hear you shouting "If sales-based marketing is not going to be effective, what's the alternative to get clients?"
The answer is education-based marketing.
Education-based marketing is simply the sharing of knowledge and advice with the purpose of building trust and rapport. It establishes credibility and trust with your potential customers via educational information.
Education-based marketing can include public speaking, information based classes, publications, networking, free educational giveaways (such as reports, assessments, tools, ecourses), etc.
Below are some of the benefits of education-based marketing:
- You give your prospect what they really want - highly valuable information. And you take away what they don't want - a sales pitch.
- You maintain your dignity and feel good about yourself as you never make an effort to sell.
- By positioning yourself as the 'expert' or 'specialist' and solving the most pressing problems your target audience faces, you become their logical natural next step.
- You can establish yourself as a credible authority as prospects depend on you as a reliable source of valuable advice.
- You don't have to seek out new prospects - prospects come to you (to have their problems solved).
- You can maintain (mutually beneficial) contact with your prospects through the sales process because they value your information and advice, and don't feel pressured by a sales pitch.
- You reach prospects early during the first stages of their decision making process.
- You attract interested prospects that may otherwise be afraid to call you but are not afraid to request your information.
- Due to the high level of trust and rapport built early on you'll be perceived as an adviser, not a salesperson, making added-value sales dramatically easier.
- You increase your referrals from prospects as they feel loyal to you - due to a relationship built on trust and your efforts to help them - even if they don't hire you! And your referrals will come much earlier in your relationship.
- You gain compounded advantage as your information is passed freely between prospects within your niche.
- You achieve a highly leveraged advantage as you can put forward your marketing even when you are not present.
Give value at every opportunity
Instead of giving a sales pitch, offer your potential customers to download a free resource, view a video, download a free ebook, take an informational webinar, a no-obligation free consultation, or a quick phone call with one of your top experts, etc.
If you offer free, no-strings-attached information and advice to a prospective customer, you will establish yourself as a trusted authority in your field, and they will think of you when they need help.
As you can see, education-based marketing can make an extraordinary difference to your business, and your enjoyment of doing business. So, ask yourself, "How much education-based marketing am I currently doing?" and "How can I develop a education-based marketing plan?"