While many of my clients are authors, they also tend to be what I call ‘service providers’ – coaches, counsellors, mentors, consultants, therapists, and various kinds of practitioners. The services they offer enhance their clients’ and customers’ business, health, personal and professional life, and even spiritual life. While all of these services have great value to those who use them, it is my experience that many business owners who offer such services find it difficult to market themselves and ‘flog’ their wares to the public. I touch upon this subject towards the beginning of the book, The 7 Graces of Marketing. In the book, I talk about how business owners in such ‘holistic’ industries tend to start their business for altruistic purposes, rather than monetary ones. As such, they find it difficult to put on a marketer’s hat and think about ‘selling’ what they have, as it feels disingenuous (if not dishonest) to them. The rest of the book goes on to explain how traditional, ‘old school’ marketing methods are often antithetical to the values of any business owner who is driven by such a desire to serve, and offers a new paradigm to replace them (the ‘7 Graces’).
Shifting from YOU to the PRODUCT
While this conflict of values is probably the biggest reason why holistic industry professionals find it difficult to promote themselves and make sales, I think there are other factors that contribute to this difficulty.
One of these factors is the whole idea of offering a ‘service’ in the first place. So many service providers ARE their service. In other words, when they meet with a prospective customer, patient or client, what they tend to try to ‘sell’ to them is THEMSELVES. They falsely assume that the primary thing clients want to know before hiring them is how qualified they are, what other customers have said about them, etc. Hence they spend a lot of time in their marketing and/or during the consultation process talking about WHO they are, rather than specifically WHAT they can offer to the new client. I find this especially to be the case with new service providers who may feel insecure about their professional credibility.
When our marketing is more focused on who we are than on what we provide, it can be a confusing experience for new clients, even if they can’t actually explain why they feel confused. While, of course, it is essential that there be a ‘good match’ between client and service provider, clients want (and need) to know what they can gain from us.
Here’s the blunt truth of it: clients don’t want to invest their money in you; they want to buy something they need. So, if you’re a service provider, stop thinking that you need to ‘sell yourself’ to anyone. You don’t. It’s not only unnecessary, but counterproductive. Furthermore, it’s ego-centric instead of customer-focussed.
True success in service industries happens when you make one crucial change to your attitude, business structure and marketing:
Stop thinking of your services as things you do,
and starting thinking of them as products you offer.
PRODUCTS Are Easier for Your Customers to Understand
When I was a new coach, I found it almost impossible to ‘sell’ my services to people. Of course, back then people were less familiar with coaching than they are today, but even now the concept of ‘coaching’, or something similar, is too ephemeral for most people to grasp. And trying to explain what you do is pointless and frustrating (for both you and others). I ended up giving away countless free sessions just to ‘prove’ the value of my services to prospective clients. In fact, this was common practice amongst coaches 7-10 years ago, and was even recommended by our training organisation (I’m not sure if this is still industry practice). Of course, once clients actually started working with me, they could see the value of what I offered, but I always found it exhausting to ‘convert’ prospects to clients, precisely because I was focusing too much on trying to sell my own worth rather than selling what actually was of worth to the client.
When we create products from our services, however, they become easier for our potential customers to understand. And when they are easier for customers to understand, they also become far easier for us to ‘sell’.
PRODUCTS Are Easier to ‘Sell’
Ok, so right now you might be asking what I actually mean by ‘turning your service into a product’. How do you do it? What are some examples? And how and why are they easier to ‘sell’ than services?
Here’s an example:
When I was first shifting into being a marketing consultant, I was still following my old ‘coaching’ model with regards to how I presented my services. I worked by the hour, delivering 1:1 consultations. Later, I started packing my services 6- or 10-session blocks, which meant that I was no longer working by the hour, and could finally get a grip on my cash flow. However, looking back on it now, I can see that I was under the false impression that my multi-session bundles were now ‘products’, when in reality the only difference was how I billed my clients. My services were ill-defined in that I came to the calls addressing whatever needs my clients had in the moment. As such, both of us found it difficult to know where we were going – or whether or not we got there!
But then, I started creating products. The first product I created was book launches (as I was working mainly with authors at the time). The product had a beginning, middle and an END. It had a goal. It had ‘moving parts’. It also had a team to support its delivery (I assembled an out-sourced team from people I had already been working with). Suddenly, I had more clients than I knew what do with, because people could ‘see’ what it was they were buying.
But I still had author clients coming to me for marketing support, who were obviously not ready for a book launch. They needed more formative help with their marketing platform and self-publishing process. For a long time, I kept slipping back into my ‘default’ mode, giving ad hoc 1:1 advice about whatever the client happened to need. But over time, I once again found the whole process to be exhausting, and feeling aimless.
At that point, I sat down and analysed what it was that I was actually providing to my clients. I realised I was giving them a definable set of marketing tools, and that these tools could be systematised into a ‘product’ – our Platform Building Package – which we have now been offering for the past year. The package has clear activities and goals, as well as clearly defined timing/delivery. It took a few months to iron out all the ‘bugs’ (including getting the costing right), but this one product radically transformed our business, as it filled a crucial, nebulous gap that had existed for the past 5 years or more.
What’s more, is that this ‘product’ is replicable and can be ‘sold’ and delivered to anyone whose needs are similar. This has nothing to do with me or my ‘worth’ as a consultant. Its design is 100% client-focused. Furthermore, when I present this ‘product’ to a prospective client, then can see precisely what they will be getting – even though it is all in the form of services. This concreteness makes it far easier for prospective clients to decide for themselves whether or not they want to invest in it. All I have to do is give them the information. I don’t really have to try to sell anything.
Products Make it Easier to Demonstrate VALUE
Here’s an analogy for you:
SCENARIO 1: Imagine you want to drink a cup of tea. So, you pour some of your favourite tea into a lovely china cup. You pick up the cup and take a sip. You might put the cup down, and then pick it back up for another sip. Eventually, you’ve drunk up all the tea in the cup. You know you’ve consumed exactly one cup of tea.
SCENARIO 2: Now imagine you want to drink a cup of tea. However, you don’t have a cup. So, you ask someone to pour it directly into your hands (let’s say it’s room-temperature, so you don’t burn yourself!). You drink out of your cupped hands. You have to drink it all done in one gulp because, if you don’t, it will all spill through your fingers. As you’re still thirsty, you ask the other person to pour more tea into your hands, and you gulp it down again. After several gulps, you’re not really sure how much tea you’ve actually consumed, and much of it has dripped and spilled on the floor.
A product – both for your customers and yourself – renders an experience like drinking tea from the cup. It is contained and measurable. You know what you’ve received (or delivered) and you can evaluate whether or not it gave you what you had hoped it would.
An ad hoc service – both for your customers and yourself – renders an experience like drinking tea from your hands. It is uncontained and unmeasurable. You’re not sure what you’ve received (or delivered) and it is very difficult to evaluate whether or not it gave you what you had hoped it would.
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a service provider and you’ve sometimes found yourself in doubt about whether you are giving value to your clients/customers, the problem may not be so much in what you’re doing, but in your ‘container’, i.e. how you’re packaging, presenting and delivering it.
Quantitative and Qualitative Value
Whenever you measure the value of your service-product, you have to look at it from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective.
QUANTITATIVE VALUE tends to be easier to measure, as it’s more objective and not subject to as much interpretation. For example, in our 7 Graces Platform Building Package, clients can assess the value they have received via a number of tangible indicators, such as an increase in written content, an increase in social media followers, an increase in web traffic, etc. To ‘measure’ quantitative value, we always mark down the stats for all these areas at the beginning, middle and end of their contract with us. This way, clients can SEE the value they are getting from our products.
QUALITATIVE VALUE is more challenging to ‘measure’, as it is more subjective and the evidence is not always so tangible. If someone comes to you seeking help for a health issue, emotional problem or lifestyle change, the ‘value’ they might receive from you is rarely black and white, but more often many shades of grey. To ‘product-ise’ your services, and bring some concreteness to them, it would be a good idea to create some sort of assessment system that clients take upon entry and completion of your work together. One way to ‘quantify’ qualitative assessment is to ask clients to rate their symptoms, feelings, problems, challenges, goals, etc. on a scale of 1 to 10 (or whatever range), as well as asking them to describe them. We often lose sight of where we have come from when we are on a transformative journey, and these kinds of ‘statistics’ can help clients see clearly where they started, and where they’ve ended up as a result of working with you.
BOTTOM LINE: Don’t leave it to your customers/clients to figure out how to ‘measure’ the value they’ve received from you. It’s your responsibility to provide these systems of measurement for your clients.
Products Are Easier for YOU to KNOW Your Own VALUE
While it is crucial for clients to be able to see clearly the value they have gained from working with you, it is equally important for YOU to be able to see the value you provide to your clients. If you cannot see your own value, you will lose confidence and motivation. You will also waste a lot of time ‘fire-fighting’ on things (often without pay) your clients might ask for, which are not really part of your ‘product’. Having definable products with measurable value systems are as good for you as they are for your clients.
Recognising Clues for Potential New ‘Products’
Some of you reading this might still be wondering how to turn your current services into products. Here’s one tip: If you find yourself repeatedly doing something for your clients and you’re not getting paid for it, maybe there’s a new product trying to get out.
For example, I noticed many of my author clients needed ‘book blurbs’ (i.e. the marketing copy that you send to wholesalers, back cover copy, media copy, etc.). In the past, I would often do this for my ‘ad hoc’ clients in lieu of a 1:1 session together. But this got messy, and it blurred the lines of what each of us expected from the other. Eventually I created a product from this service. I systematised it, streamlined the way I delivered it, and offered it for a flat fee, the same way as you would buy any other product. These days, I mention this product to clients if they are getting ready for self-publication. Because I now have a clearly defined product, clients know they are paying for something specific they need, and I don’t end up working on tasks I’m not being hired to do.
The actual process of turning your services into products is really not all that difficult. What is more challenging for many service providers is to change their perspective on what they offer professionally. Overcoming personal insecurities about your worth, or transcending mental barriers to seeing your service as a ‘business’, can be the biggest hurdles to overcome. But once you step away from those kinds of attachments, turning your services into products can become an exciting creative and LUCRATIVE activity that enables you to SERVE more customers in a more productive and efficient way.
If you’re curious about how you can turn your own great services into PRODUCTS, I invite you to check out our 13-Week SIGNATURE Product Development & Copywriting Package on our ‘Work With Us’ page on the site. If it piques your interest, feel free to contact us to request a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your needs.
25 April 2014
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)