How to Turn Intangible Concepts Into Tangible Services

What are you actually selling? Some say a concept, an idea, a benefit, or value. But one thing is for certain, if it’s not tangible, it can’t be sold.

Imagine this scenario: You walk into a car dealership and a salesperson approaches you and asks, “How can I help you today?”

And you answer, “I’d like to buy some transportation.”

Well, yes, you want transportation, but the salesperson can’t actually sell you that, it’s only a concept. But they can sell you a tangible thing: a certain model of car, say a Chevy Volt.

I know, this sounds stupid, nobody would try to buy ‘transportation.’

But every day, independent professionals are trying to sell concepts that are just as abstract as transportation. They are trying to sell intangible benefits such as:

– Increased productivity

– Decreased employee turnover

– Better cash flow

– Enhanced teamwork

– Reduced conflict

But these intangible benefits need to be translated into tangible services and programs, just as transportation becomes real in the form of a Chevy Volt.

Something is tangible if it’s real, physical, solid. It must have a form and structure and perform in a certain way. It must be usable and practical.

The challenge is simple: Turn your conceptual benefits into actual services and program.

You accomplish this is by “writing a service or program into existence.” This pure act of creation transforms the intangible into the tangible. And now you really have something to sell.

You do this asking these nine questions:

1. What is the Name of the service or program?

2. What is the Purpose of the service or program?

3. What Problems does it solve?

4. What Outcomes does it produce?

5. How does it Work?

6. What is its Form and Structure?

7. How has it worked for Others?

8. Who are You and how are you qualified?

9. What should I do next?

And then you turn the answers to those questions into a marketing piece, often called an “executive summary” that’s two or three pages long.

The purpose of this executive summary is to clearly communicate the value of your service or program.

This won’t convert most prospects into paying clients just by reading it, but it will give them enough to know if it’s worth engaging in a selling conversation.

This is very much how we buy cars, isn’t it? We do a lot of research online to find the right car for our needs. We look at all the reviews, the features, the add-ons, the mileage and the price. And we pretty much decide on the car we want before we walk through the showroom door.

When someone is “shopping” for professional services you may

get a call from someone who was referred to you. They hear you’re great at helping companies like theirs speed up their supply chain. And they want to talk.

What do you do next? You send them your executive summary and tell them, “Please take a look at this executive summary about my program. It will give you a better idea of how I help my clients, and when we meet it will save us time.”

What goes into a marketing piece like this?

Well, the content can vary widely, depending on what you’re offering, and you also want it to be flexible enough so you can customize your offerings. But all executive summaries have the same essential components that answer those nine questions.

They are:

1. Name of the service or program.

I.e., “The Supply Chain Speed-Up System”

2. The Primary Purpose of the service or program.

The purpose of this program is to help our client companies measurably speed up their supply chains and to reduce or eliminate bottlenecks in the supply chain, which results in products going to market faster with fewer delays.

3. The Problems this service or program addresses.

Here you’d have a paragraph or two about your insights into the problems of supply chains, what stalls them, where the breakdowns occur, what most companies miss, etc. This isn’t anything your client companies don’t know, it just proves you know your clients’ industry and the challenges they face. And it reminds them that they have problems that are causing them some degree of pain.

4. The actual Outcomes they want to accomplish.

Again, you’d have a few paragraphs outlining what a smoothly working supply chain looks like. What systems would be in place? What automated processes would be in operation? You want to give a picture of what it would be like after you’ve come in and put your program into place. These are the actual results the client is buying from you. Paint a picture of a more favorable future – one that is believable.

5. How the service/program works.

You don’t want to give away the store here, explaining all your proprietary approaches and technology. But you do want to assure the reader that you do have the methods and technology that have been proven over a period of time. This is where you talk about how your approach is unique, effective, and proven. This instills confidence that you know your stuff.

6. The structure and format of the program.

Is this a one-day training or a six-month initiative? Who will be involved? Will it include coaching or consulting, or a combination of both? What is the sequence in which things happen? How will results be tracked? Paint a picture that’s as clear as day.

7. Prove that your service/program delivers the Goods.

What results have your other clients gotten? What was their situation before your solution and the changes after it was implemented? The closer these examples are to your prospective clients, the better. Testimonial quotes are good as well.

8. Tell a little bit about who You are

This is not a long biography, but a short sketch of who you are, your major accomplishments and credentials.

9. Tell them what to Do next

Invite them to contact you for an informal conversation to explore the possibilities of you helping them. Include contact information. Of course, never wait for a prospect to follow up. That’s your job!

This is the second of five articles about the 5 Pillars of Marketing, my marketing model that helps get your marketing on track. The original 5 Pillars article

Voila, you’ve done it. The intangible is now tangible.

I believe in straightforward, concise, conversational writing that is hype-free. This format builds a strong case that your service or program addresses your clients’ problems, is an approach that is proven to work, and has a track record with satisfied clients.

Of course, everyone’s service is different, but if you follow this basic executive summary outline, you will have transformed your conceptual benefits into services and programs that are real, tangible, and attractive to your prospective clients.

I promise that if you use this executive summary as a marketing tool, you’ll have better selling conversations and ultimately close more deals with clients who are confident you can help them.

How to Select the Right Marketing Strategy for Your Business

How to Select the Right Marketing Strategy for Your Business

Marketing concept with person using a laptop on a white table

I’ve probably had more conversations about this topic with clients than any other: What marketing strategies should I use to market my professional services?

These days, there are more options to market yourself than ever before. And you may have a tendency to look for something quick and easy that will generate a never-ending stream of new prospective clients.

I wish that solution existed. Some of the newer methods of marketing, such as YouTube videos, are very powerful, but extremely difficult for the average person to pull off successfully.

Over the years, I’ve had tremendous success with three primary marketing activities. And I’ve also helped a whole lot of clients implement these strategies successfully as well. Nevertheless, for all of them it can take a tremendous amount of time and energy to get consistent results.

Here are the pros and cons of each strategy and my overall recommendations about how to integrate each one into your overall marketing plan.

Networking and Direct Outreach

This strategy about building relationships with others in your field who can connect you to prospective clients. This means having conversations, attending meetings (individually or in groups), and doing follow-up. Sometimes it means reaching out directly to those in your network (including LinkedIn), being proactive, and exploring possibilities for projects.

Pros: Networking is the most concentrated, focused, personal kind of marketing. And if you do it well and consistently it can be extremely effective in building strong relationships and trust with your business associates and prospects.

Cons: The downside of networking is that it can drain your energy. This is a particular issue for introverts like me. And networking only enables you to reach a limited number of people.

Recommendation: Start marketing your professional services by meeting as many people as you possibly can – face to face. Join organizations and associations and then learn how to use LinkedIn to connect with new prospects.

Speaking (Live and Webinars)

If you want to gain a reputation as an expert, nothing is better than speaking. And it combines the best of networking and writing, in that you are connecting with people directly and also sharing your valuable expertise.

Pros: Speaking can quickly establish you as an expert. And you can immediately follow up with those in your audience.

Cons: The downside of speaking is that, for many people, it comes with a high fear factor, therefore a lot of people avoid it.

Recommendation: As your network expands, start to find audiences to present your ideas through professional associations, chambers of commerce, and other groups both offline and online. Learn the skills of giving a great presentation and of following up with your audience members.

Writing

Publishing articles and books have always been a good way to market professional services. It establishes your credibility. And with the expansion of various platforms on the Internet, such as Medium, and tools such as WordPress, it’s easier than ever to put your ideas out there.

Pros: There is no better way to get your ideas out into the world and in front of a large number of people quickly and at virtually no cost.

Cons: The downside of writing is the sheer volume of online material. There are so many articles published online these days and sent out by email that it can be hard to break through. And yes, writing is a lot of work and takes lots of time.

Recommendations: You should publish an online newsletter and blog as soon as possible. Work at growing your list and you’ll expand both your reach and credibility. Note that this can take years, so you need to be patient.

This is the fifth of five articles about the 5 Pillars of Marketing, my marketing model that helps get your marketing on track. 5 Pillars article here.

Social Media (supplemental strategy)

For independent professionals, social media is a fast and easy way to communicate about what you’re up to in your business. It’s worth the time to set up LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Pros: It’s easy to set up social media accounts and start posting and linking almost immediately.

Cons: It can take a long time to gain traction that results in any new business. And it can also eat up a huge amount of time.

Recommendation: Think of social media as a supplement to networking, speaking, and writing. It can increase your visibility and credibility among those you already know.

All of these marketing strategies take time to master and don’t yield immediate results, but in my experience, the time and effort you put into them will reward your investment many times over.

Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make in marketing your professional services is implementing these activities randomly and superficially. For success, you need to do all of them regularly and frequently. And for that you need a solid, step-by-step plan.

How to Successfully Meet the Three Biggest Marketing Challenges

How to Successfully Meet the Three Biggest Marketing Challenges

I like to think I’m a pretty good marketer of my professional services.

After all, I’ve been at it for 34 years, read hundreds of marketing books, thousands of articles and studied with the very best marketing gurus.

But marketing is still challenging for me and the majority of independent professionals. If it weren’t, we’d all have more clients than we could serve, they’d be paying us high fees, and we’d never having to worry where our next clients would come from.

And we wouldn’t need the thousands of marketing coaches and consultants like me offering services of all kinds to help you attract more clients.

So, why is marketing so challenging?

There are many marketing challenges, however, if you look at marketing closely, there are actually only three big challenges that give us the most trouble.

Learn how to meet those challenges and your marketing will become more successful, easier, and fun.

Here are those three marketing challenges:

Challenge #1. Clearly communicating the value of what you are offering. Someone will not buy your services if they don’t see the real value to them. Your message can’t be vague or confusing; it must be clear and beneficial.

One way to zero in on the value of your service is to define the top three attributes your service possesses. One or two is not enough; five or six tends to dilute your message.

So, for instance, a sales training company might want to emphasize that their training is guaranteed to increase sales, improve sales confidence quickly, and can be delivered virtually in 45-minute online modules.

That’s easy to understand and obviously beneficial. That kind of clear and valuable message is likely to generate attention, interest, and response.

Seems simple, but not so easy to do. In my experience with thousands of independent professionals, their messages tend to be vague, not specific, and weak in terms of value.

And if that value is not clear, prospects won’t respond.

Taking the time to work on your message, fine-tune it, and test it until it gets a favorable response is one of the most important things you can possibly do in your business.

To succeed at this task you must get inside the heads of your ideal clients and ask what they want the most, what problems they struggle with frequently, what isn’t working for them, and what could make their jobs easier and more productive.

Jaynie L. Smith of Smart Advantage consulting says that 90% of companies don’t really know what their clients value the most. No wonder marketing messages are so bad.

You can improve your marketing messages by reading and research (ask Google), sending questionnaires to your clients (Survey Monkey), or conducting a virtual focus group (via Zoom Video). Ultimately, you want to find out their biggest challenges and what they value the most.

When you have that marketing intelligence, it will be a lot easier to come up with powerful marketing messages.

This is challenging because it takes time and deep thinking. But if you realize its importance, you’ll invest your energies to come up with a powerful message that makes your service attractive, interesting, and compelling to your ideal clients.

Challenge # 2. Making your business visible with repeated impressions of your message over time. It can take several impressions before someone responds to your marketing message.

Just today, I noticed a message that one of my first level connections had sent to me on LinkedIn. When I checked the message, I noticed that he had sent me a total of 13 messages over a one-year period.

The messages were actually very good. They had the right tone and great calls-to-action. It’s just that I don’t pay a lot of attention to my LinkedIn messages and had completely missed the first 12!

He understood the value of repeat impressions over time and had developed a system within LinkedIn that had enabled him to send a unique, personalized message every month for a year. Pretty impressive.

If he had only sent one or two messages, the chances are good that I wouldn’t have seen them.

Again, my experience with the majority of self-employed professionals is that their marketing visibility is, at best, random and inconsistent, and at worst, non-existent.

As you may know, I’ve sent out an email newsletter to my list pretty much every week for 21 years. That’s visibility. It’s really quite simple, but not so easy.

If you want to be effective at your marketing, you must identify marketing strategies that enable you to get your message in front of your prospective clients consistently.

And again, this is challenging. What is the best marketing activity for you, your personality and talents? How can you fit something into your schedule and do it consistently, not for a few weeks but for years?

The question is not just what marketing strategies to use. Networking, speaking, blogging, email newsletters, webinars, social media, and direct outreach can all work.

The more important question is what strategies will work the best for you and how exactly you can implement those strategies without spinning your wheels.

You’re looking for proven, step-by-step instructions so you can evaluate if a strategy is right for you and something you can fit into your schedule on a regular basis. Remember, sporadic implementation is a waste of time.

Implementing visibility strategies takes commitment and persistence. Is growing and succeeding in your business important enough for you to make that kind of effort? If it is, you’ll succeed at finding the best strategy for you.

The final challenge may be the most important of all to overcome.

Challenge #3. Maintaining the right marketing attitude and mindset over time, despite setbacks. If you can’t maintain The 3 R’s of success – responsibility, resourcefulness, and resilience, your marketing will never achieve the results you want.

These 3Rs are absolutely essential.

Responsibility is the stance that the buck stops with you. You are the only one who will find a way to attract clients and you won’t give up until you find that way. You won’t make excuses or blame circumstances, but instead will be accountable for making results happen.

Resourcefulness is the skill to utilize your talents, and abilities to quickly find smart ways to overcome difficulties and find solutions. And to be resourceful, you can’t be full of doubts and fears of failure or rejection. A responsible person commits to finding a way; a resourceful person tries every way possible until they discover the best way.

Resilience may be the most powerful trait of all. It’s what enables you to bounce back from adversity, setbacks, and even failures. And if you’re working to attract great clients, you’ll inevitably experience all of those many times. People who are not resilient don’t even try, let alone succeed.

All of these essential qualities are in short supply. But if you work to grow those qualities persistently, over time, they will help you succeed with the first two challenging things in marketing – messaging and visibility.

Despite these three marketing challenges – messaging, visibility, and mindset – there is good news.

Improving your skills or abilities – even a little – in any of these three challenge areas will increase your marketing effectiveness.

There is no perfect way of tackling all three challenges and you can’t do it in big leaps that get you there overnight. But you can work on all three slowly, with persistence, making small gains every week.

When you improve your messages, you’ll start to see a better response in communicating to your prospects. Marketing then becomes like a game that starts with the question, “How can I communicate my value more clearly and powerfully?”

When you increase your visibility, you’ll also notice a better response because to some degree, marketing is a numbers game. Your question might be, “How can I get my message in front of more of the right people this month?”

And when you enhance your responsibility, resourcefulness, and resilience, you’ll find that playing the game becomes easier and more fun. The 3Rs are the fuel that enables you to persist with the first two challenges.

Where do you start?

You start by admitting where you are now and then committing to a purpose (your WHY for being in business in the first place), a goal (a specific thing you want to achieve), and to taking action (the actual steps you’ll implement to get there).

Yes, marketing is challenging. But meeting those challenges is absolutely worth it.

How to Get More Email Response

How to Get More Email Response

Is it possible to use personalized email that gets a response, and ultimately, new clients, from those in your network?

I’m not talking about mass direct emails, but sending individual emails to people in one’s network, LinkedIn connections, past clients, etc. for the purpose of generating enough interest to get a conversation with that person.

For a full year I conducted a Marketing Action Group program to teach and support participants to use direct, personalized emails to get new business.

In this article I want to share the results with you and also best practices for emails that get the most response.

Many of the participants got very good results and ultimately attracted enough clients to fill their practices. Of course, some were less successful.

What are the things that made the biggest difference between those who got great results and those who didn’t?

Quality of the contacts and relationships

This may have been the most significant factor of all. If you are contacting people you have more of a relationship with you are much more likely to get a positive response.

One of the most successful participants was a career coach who worked with doctors and had also been a practicing doctor herself. She contacted past colleagues by email and phone and was successful in doubling her practice in about three months.

The fact that she was highly intelligent and had excellent writing and conversational skills obviously also made a difference.

Another participant, a leadership consultant, also had great success despite a fair amount of reluctance and resistance to the process. But her very authentic and personal writing style got a very favorable response from her recipients. By the end of the course, her practice was full.

So, a good network with quality contacts, plus being a good communicator was the biggest predictor of success. Interestingly, these often go hand-in-hand.

The style of the emails sent

Based on a lot of research and my own personal experience, I developed a number of email templates that were proven to get a relatively high response from recipients.

When people used those templates and customized them for their recipients, they generally got excellent response.

Upon starting this program, I thought this would be the easy part. It wasn’t. Many people insisted on using their own templates purely based on guesswork. And most of them were completely ineffective.

These emails didn’t communicate effectively and failed to break through. After all, we all get dozens of emails every day and it’s harder and harder to get attention. Simple is better.

I’ll outline the most effective email template in the second part of this article, but next, the final element that increased the chances of email success:

Persistence and consistency in sending emails

I asked participants to make a simple promise: Send out a minimum of one email each weekday to prospective clients.

Many stuck to that plan, and because they were composing, fine-tuning, and testing emails consistently, their results improved over time.

But many struggled to send out emails consistently or would avoid it altogether. After all, it can be discouraging to send emails day after day that don’t get much response.

Those who persisted and studied what others were doing, gradually started getting better results, and buoyed by that success went on to get more responses, meetings and new clients.

The first of these success factors depends on your current network and depth or relationship. If you don’t know a lot of people, this process will be much more challenging.

The second success factor is the one you have the most control over – sending emails based on a proven template and style.

The third success factor depends greatly on the first two. You’re more likely to persist if you have a good network and are sending good emails. But I also noticed improved response from anyone who stuck with the process, determined to get results.

The email template that works the best

The most effective emails are personal, relevant, simple, and short, with a clear call to action.

Subject line

Subject lines that were not hypey or salesey, but articulated a clear benefit, worked the best:

“David, some management ideas that may interest you”

“John, a question about your current compensation plan”

“Sarah, a new productivity process I’ve been testing”

Nothing over-the-top. No best, greatest, or amazing. All of those alert the recipient that they are about to be slimed.

Opening paragraph

Find a way to authentically acknowledge or praise your recipient. Remember, these emails are sent individually, not as a mass mailing, so personalization makes all the difference. Of course, the closer the relationship, the better. Always start with “Dear Name” or Hi Name.”

“I remember in college how you were always the one to ace the science exams! It’s no surprise to me that you’re now the manager of research at Breakthrough Life Sciences. Congratulations for making your dream real.”

How could someone resist an opening like that? Sincere praise works wonders. But fake praise is a complete turnoff.

Reason for email and mention of outcomes

The second paragraph (or section) talks about what you are up to and mentions outcomes. This should correspond to the first paragraph in the email. Then, suggest a reason for getting together or having a conversation.

“These days I’m up to some exciting things. Recently worked with a client who is getting more productivity from his high-level teams than ever before.

“I thought about you and would love to share some ideas related to team productivity that you might find useful.”

There’s no direct sales pitch here, just the request to have a conversation about how to increase team productivity. I always like the offer of “sharing some ideas.” It’s beneficial but not pushy.

Suggest a Time for a Meeting or next step

I don’t know about you, but it irritates me when someone connects and then puts the ball in my court to set up a time to meet. You can save an email and some aggravation if you suggest some appointment times yourself.

“I have time open all next week after 12 noon, except on Thursday. Let me know what might work for a short conversation.”

But you don’t want to be too assumptive, which I see in some emails: “I’ve put a time on my calendar for 4:00pm on Tuesday, the 12th to meet regarding my proposal.”

That’s it. This simple template was the most effective in getting response from prospective clients. Longer, more complex emails were always less effective. And ones that were vague, manipulative or not relevant to the recipient usually got no response at all.

Conclusion

This email approach can be very effective if you have a good network and professional services that may be of real value to those you contact.

I recommend that you start by compiling a list of everyone you know in your business network (including past clients), then using this template, customize you own emails and start sending them out. Remember, one at a time, not massively to your list.

The worst that can happen is nothing, but that’s what’s happening already if you’re not currently connecting with these prospects.

Why Most Online Marketing Is a Waste of Time – What Works Instead

Why Most Online Marketing Is a Waste of Time – What Works Instead

These days, when it comes to growing your business, all you hear about is online marketing. And it’s what everyone would like to use to attract more of their ideal clients.

After all, if more prospective clients simply found your website online, you’d get more business, right?

Well, it’s not so simple. After engaging in online marketing for more than 20 years, I’ve learned a lot of things. And one of those things is that online marketing can be a complete waste of your time and resources.

If your clients are individuals or solo business owners, online marketing can be very effective; it certainly has been for me.

But if your clients are business managers in larger companies and C-Level business executives, online marketing has severe limitations. And putting a lot of time and energy into that kind of marketing will only lead to frustration and disappointment.

It really starts with who your ideal clients are and how they find professional service businesses such as management consultants, business coaches and corporate trainers.

Let’s say a CEO needs help with their business strategy. Do they jump on Google first and look up “Strategy Consultants”?

Never. No, they ask those they already know – their trusted advisors. Or they contact someone who’s written a book or who gave a talk at their national conference. They look for credibility.

And once they’ve found someone, then they’ll take a look at the consultant’s website. So some degree of online marketing kicks in at the back end of the marketing process, but not so much on the front end.

That’s why it’s important to have a nicely designed and well-written website. Prospects will definitely check you out there and if it hits all the right notes, it increases the chances they’ll work with you.

One of my clients, Mark T., is the kind of strategy consultant I’m talking about. He works only with corporations, and only at the C-Level. His engagements are worth $100K or more.

Today Mark told me that he has never had a CEO call him out of the blue because they saw his website online. All his business comes from referrals and from high-end speaking engagements at conferences.

Another client of mine, Keith H. is a high-level business coach. And although he has a great website, he doesn’t depend on it for new clients. Most of his clients come through networking with the Young Presidents Organization (YPO).

If you’re the kind of professional who provides services to larger businesses, is there any kind of online marketing you should be doing?

Yes, and there’s kinds that you shouldn’t be doing either. I’ll discuss them all in this article.

First, what online marketing is a waste of time?

1. Any activities to make your website visible. Why? Because you don’t care if your clients find you online as you know they’re not looking for you there until they know about you first through other channels. SEO strategies and endlessly tweaking your keywords won’t get you much, if anything.

2. Facebook. This platform isn’t going to give you anything if your clients are from larger companies. Facebook ads? Forget about it. Your ideal clients are not hanging out there.

3. Instagram. Seriously? A complete waste of time.

OK, so what does work?

1. A well-designed and well-written website. As mentioned before, this is essential for credibility once you already have the attention of your ideal clients.

2. Personalized emails. Email is the single most powerful online marketing tool for independent professionals. I talked about this at great length in my ezine last week.

3. Content marketing. Essentially, writing articles and posting them on your blog or other online sites and sending to your list. This is useful at no matter what level you do it, even if you have a small list. You want everyone in your network to know what you’re thinking about and what you’re working on. It keeps you visible and relevant. And once you have the attention of your ideal clients you can use your articles to demonstrate your expertise.

Writing makes you a smarter, more effective professional. And it can dramatically increase your credibility. At minimum, write one good, substantial article every month. Posting it on LinkedIn and Medium can sometimes attract extra attention and sign-ups to your list.

If you want to learn what business topics are most popular these days you might want to check out BuzzSumo.

4. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the one social media platform that makes sense for independent professionals. Having a good LinkedIn profile is as important as your website as people who learn about you will check you out there and see who you’re connected to.

But where LinkedIn really excels is as a prospecting tool. In an instant, you can zero in on your ideal clients, their position in the company and who can connect you with them. I’ll explore this further in future articles, as LinkedIn is a powerful tool that very few know how to take full advantage of.

5. Twitter. Publishing tweets about what you’re working on and articles you’ve published keeps your network informed – but not for directly promoting your business.

These days, it’s really easy to get sucked into online marketing activities that go nowhere. It’s not a good use of your time and your energy. And it tends to be passive instead of proactive.

If you sell your professional services directly to larger businesses, your ideal clients are simply not looking for you online. So don’t waste a lot of your time there.

Benefits of Relevant and Targeted Digital Advertising and Digital Signage