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“A Pile” Positioning (Plus 8 Ways to Stand Out)

If you read this article to the end, you’ll get at least 8 ways to immediately improve your marketing so you win more bids, get quality clients, and ultimately love your job a bit more than you do now. Sound good? Read on!

Have you ever heard of the “A Pile, B Pile” Theory? 

The A Pile/B Pile Theory was coined by Gary Halbert, a groundbreaking copywriter who used it to describe how the average buyer consumes direct mail. (This was back in the days of excessive junk mail.)

He says,

“Everybody in the world divides his mail into two piles which I call the A-Pile and the B-Pile. The A-Pile contains letters that are, (or appear to be), personal. The B-Pile contains everything else: Bills, catalogs, brochures, printed announcements, envelopes that obviously contain a sales message, and so on.

Now listen up: The most important thing you can ever do when creating a direct mail promotion is to make sure your letter gets in the A-Pile!


Here’s why. Everybody always opens all of their A-Pile mail and only some of their B-Pile mail.


     It’s as simple as that. And when you are spending thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars to mail a sales message, you want to make damn sure everybody who receives your letter will at least open the envelope. You know, this simple truth seems to me to be so self-evident that I am always amazed when someone wants to argue with me about it. And, usually, as you might expect, the most vigorous arguments come from the most “experienced” advertising people. These people just love to tell me how they always found that B-Pile direct mail is more cost effective.

– http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/nerd/

Now here’s the deal. This applies to direct mail, ads, brochures, and emails. No one has time to examine every junk email message that comes through your inbox. Instead, you sort quickly. “Who’s it from? What’s the headline? Delete.”

I believe it also applies to your marketing.

Let me explain.

When you create marketing, what do you say to your buyers? If you’re the average consultant, you might say things like, “I’m a full stack software developer” or “We’re a technology firm who solves tech problems so you can solve business problems”.

Or something equally action-based. That is, “I am a doer of X.”

When someone hears this, do you know what happens to everything else you have to say?

It goes in the trash can of their brain.

Why?

It’s simple. Humans are rationalizing animals. We make quick decisions in our lizard brain before our mammalian, rational side has a chance to catch up and come up with a logical answer. And our brains want to sort out “friend” or “foe” very quickly. Add to that an element of laziness and you have A-Pile, B-Pile thinking. We don’t want to have to analyze all the data, every time. It’s debilitating and humans simply don’t do it.

Which means when you use “me too” marketing and positioning, you are essentially sorting yourself into the B Pile.

Think about if. If someone came across as selling something (e.g., “Consultant”)… don’t you immediately sort them into the category of “trying to sell me something” ? If you’re like most people, that’s what happens…. and it happens waaaaaay before you ever find out who they are and what they’re selling. You’ve seen it, don’t need it, and don’t want to hear more.

Which is why your listing of features… and your discounts… and your “we’re quality!” falls on deaf ears. You’ve already been relegated to the B-Pile and as someone to be kept at arm’s length. As foe.

It follows then what what you need to do is get into the A Pile of your buyer’s brains. 

To do this, you have to AVOID coming across as anything like what they’ve seen before. If you come across as something they’ve seen before, your buyers will associate you in the same bucket as them. Which you don’t want.

People connect the dots when they can…. because it’s easier to immediately label something than it is to examine it for its merits.

Remember, no one is unique in this regard.

I don’t care how “sophisticated” your buyers are. Humans are humans and humans will immediately judge you based on their first glance.

What to do instead: Come across as so unique and curiosity-inducing that they have to take time to examine the idea of you more closely. 

You do this by….

Creating a Unique Selling Position / positioning that is not like anyone else. Dan Kennedy used to call himself a “Marketing Strategist” before the idea was cool. Some consultants go by a title or create a “unique” method for what they do. (In the SQL Server world the former is common, where everyone has a cool Twitter handle like “SQL Rockstar” or something neat like that.)

Creating a unique selling story (based on real facts, of course) which creates intrique, induces curiosity, and helps you build rapport with your buyer.

Remember: Sameness = pre-sorting = commoditization.

Commoditization occurs when you are seen as one member of a group of members. You are “just a writer” or “just a developer” or “just a marketing agency”. There is no real differentiation of value, so buyers look for differentiation…. usually in the form of price and social proof. That is, who provides the most value?

They’ll look for the provider who offers the highest quality service for the lowest price.

Symptoms of commoditization:

  • Price pushback
  • Bargain seeking or buyers asking for “discounts”
  • Clients who don’t value you or your service
  • Constant complaints
  • Losing bids to price cutting firms of lower quality

The solution is to position so you aren’t a commodity. Here are eight ways to do it… none of which requires you to invest in any new software, pay a consultant, or write a book. (Unless you want to, of course.)

8 Ways to Get “A Pile” Positioning

  1. Raise your prices so you are associated with value. Humans make snap judgments about value based on price.
  2. Raise your prices so you weed out discount seekers. There is usually a line where the budget seekers will drop off. Your pricing should exclude the budget seekers.
  3. Create a “Unique Selling Title” which captures your essence. I like to call myself the “Sherlock Holmes of Marketing”, because it describes my problem-solving and eccentric nature.
  4. Create curiosity in your offer. Use unique titles for what you do. For example, John McIntyre uses “The McMethod” to describe how he writes emails.
  5. Use scarcity marketing where appropriate. Aim for fewer clients. Blair Enns of “Win Without Pitching” says to aim for 8 max. I tend to agree with him. Fewer but higher quality. If this means having a waiting list, do it. Constant availability signals that you have nothing better to do with your time.
  6. Increase trust indicators. Humans buy based on trust. Trust can trump almost everything else in the sales process, which is why referrals often turn into leads. Examples include testimonials, client logos, certifications, story-based marketing, showing humanity, increased authority, and increasing referrals from existing clients.
  7. Do the unconventional. Is everyone else zigging? Then start zagging. Remember, you want to avoid being seen as “another one of those”…whatever or whoever that is. In order to maintain A-Pile Positioning, you have to stick out from the pack.
  8. Entertain.  Entertainment bypasses the usual triggers which say “Yuck! Sales!” You want to avoid the “oh yuck” side of their brain. So use stories when you can. James Altucher is an example of a great blogger who uses stories in every piece of content he writes… to brilliant effect.

 

It should go without saying that I would happy to help you figure this out for your business. We could probably do it in a simple one-hour call. Contact me to schedule it today.

 

Price to Win: Why Price Objections Are Never About the Price….

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Have you ever heard the following from a customer…?

I can’t afford this.

Your [product/service] is out of budget.

You are too expensive.

I’m going to go with a cheaper option.

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If you’ve seen or heard any of these, then this post is for you.

Here are the sobering, heart-stopping truths about price psychology…

Truth #1: Price issues are never about price.

When I first started freelancing, I had a hard time selling myself. I kept getting caught up in the usual things that tripped me up… namely, I kept focusing on me and my skillsmy experiencemy background.

Thing is… no one cares about that. No one cares about me personally. They don’t care how I do my copywriting, or what I used to train for it, or any of that stuff.

They don’t care about the technology.

They don’t care about the tools you or I use.

They don’t even care about the superiority of a method.

Your customers only care about how wonderful their life will be once their problem is solved.

The only thing your customer wants to be sold on is how great their life will be post-solution. They don’t want to know how you did it, really. Even if they’re buying a how-to guide, they don’t want to hear you talk about how you produced that lead magnet using a voice-to-speech software and then published it via a premier publishing company and then shipped it via Samcart. They don’t even care if it’s 30 pages or 150. They want to know how well whatever it is you’re offering will tie into their results.

There are three things you must prove:

  1. You are trustworthy
  2. You understand their problem exactly
  3. Your service / your product can solve their problem better (read: faster, more ROI, less work) than doing nothing, buying from a competitor, or doing it themselves

So if your entire pitch was about you… 

…how you would technically execute the solution

…your years of experience or certifications

…how much passion you have about the job

Instead of about your prospect’s end result…

…the kind of life he will live using your product or service

…how easy he would solve his problem using your service (as shown through testimonials)

Then you are likely losing sales.

 

Truth #2: There are three reasons people use price as an excuse

There are only three reasons that people have when they use price as an excuse.

Reason 1: They cannot actually afford your service.

Sometimes, people will look into your service because they do have a problem, but they’re still in research mode.

They don’t know anything about you or your price or what you do.

Sometimes they’re just looking.

They may not be ready to buy. So if they say they can’t afford it…maybe they literally cannot afford it.

Or maybe, they’re not your ideal buyer.

If you’ve built out a buyer persona and you’re targeting a specific customer, then your price will fit that buyer persona. By definition, a person who cannot afford your service is not your ideal buyer. Period.

Stay top of mind with this person (through retargeting, lower-price hands off products, and regular email marketing) but DO NOT lower your price because then you’re lowering your value.

They will not value you more because you gave them a discount.

Therefore, do not lower your price to win a sale.

If you really think this project or customer is a good fit, the best thing you can do is to continue to offer proof.

Offer hope that will get them thinking about their life after hiring you. Plant that seed.

Let them see your product as a sure investment in their future.

So let’s say someone cannot afford a product, but you know that they will make the money back quickly. If you can absolutely guarantee that they’ll make money, make sure that you’re reducing their risk so it’s a no-brainer that they will no matter what make that money back very, very quickly. Make sure you’ve highlighted your guarantee. Offer them payment plans.

But don’t ever, ever reduce your value by discounting.

Reason 2:  They do not value your service or the end result.

Some prospects want results without investing anything. They expect the moon but don’t respect anyone else’s time or energy. They’re soul-sucking vampires.

These prospects haven’t done their research about what you do or how you help.

They don’t know how much work it takes to become an expert in X like you have.

They don’t know (or care) how long it takes you to do what you do.

And they certainly don’t want to invest in their own end result.

So they want to 10X their income but don’t want to put in the 10% it’d take up front?

In my mind I’m thinking…sorry, they must not want it that bad.

Let’s take a look at my own story, shall we?

So far I’ve invested $12,000 in my copywriting training, in website building, books, etc. I want to be a full-time copywriter that makes millions for my clients more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my whole freakin’ life. Is $12K worth the seven figures I’ll make? Hell freakin’ yes.

Your prospects should be the same way. If they want the moon, they better be willing to pay for a rocket ship.

If you see these prospects…RUN.

These types of clients and customers are terrible.

They…

  • Will question you constantly
  • Will redo what you’ve done or disrespect your time and effort
  • Don’t actually know what they’re talking about but will talk down to you anyway
  • Will ask for refunds unnecessarily
  • Will complain constantly about the very things others gush about
  • Won’t recommend you to others or provide a referral

The best thing to do here is not sign them up.

And if you can, figure out what attracted them in the first place and disqualify them faster and earlier in the sales process.

Reason 3: You have not proven how what you do ties into their results and how it’s worth what you charge.

The good thing about reason number three is that it’s in your control. Unlike the other ones which rely on your prospect, this one you can fix.

So if you’ve built a buyer persona and know your prospect well…. You shouldn’t have this problem.

If prospects who have the budget and value the outcome are not choosing you it’s because you haven’t sold yourself well.

What do you do?

 Go back through all of your sales materials, your website, and your proposal and pull out every selfish, I-focused bit. Pull out all the feature-only content and rewrite it so that every “feature” has a so what attached to it.

Because remember, people buy for emotional reasons and justify with logic.

 Honestly, this is why copywriting is so freaking hard and is so expensive. Copywriting which pulls the emotional strings and sells without turning someone off is very, very difficult.

Truth #3: Price is a marketing strategy, so use it like one

Your pricing tells the world more than you think. It tells the world what you think of yourself. And it tells the world who you help.

First, pricing tells the world what you think of yourself

If you believe actual core that what you do is valuable and will benefit your customer then it is your obligation to sell it and if you believe that what you do is valuable and you will charge a price that is commiserate with that value when you charge to low you’re saying that you don’t believe that it’s any good.

Second, your price tells the world what you think of money.

If you’ve never made more than $1000 a month in your entire life, you’re going to feel shame selling a product or service for $1500 or $3000 or $10,000. Have you only made $250,000 as an entrepreneur? You’d likely choke at pitching a $350K project.

Your price reflects your own inner barriers if you let it.

This is why most of the top names in the industry raised prices incrementally….

…and also why each of them will recommend mindset books such as “Think and Grow Rich” and what-not to new followers.

Your mindset is everything.

Pricing fails happen when you get stuck on yourself.

Most people price to please themselves instead of the prospect.

Let’s say you sell to enterprise customers:

Do you think a company like Microsoft or Dell is going to take you seriously when you charge $150 per white paper…. Instead of the $1500-$7000 the industry charges?

Or $15 per hour to consult on business marketing?

The answer, of course, is no.

Your client knows that if you really understood the market….

and really understood the amount of work it took to produce a white paper….

And you really knew what a good white paper could do for a company’s lead generation efforts…

That you’d charge a good rate for it.

While you personally might not be able to afford to hire someone at $3000 to write a lead magnet, it doesn’t mean that your prospect can’t.

By focusing on you and your limitations instead of who your prospect is, what their budget is, and what their expectations are, you are missing out.

Your pricing must reflect the your ideal buyer’s expections.

Note, that you won’t meet everyone’s expectations. You shouldn’t!

Your goal is to sell someone very, very specific buyer a very specific outcome. That outcome… that happiness… has a price tag.

Find it, prove it, and then own it.

Remember, your price is not about you.

Third, your price tells the world who you help.

Let’s go back to the example of Microsoft. If you are a white paper writer, your market is pretty wide. Companies of all sizes need white papers written:

  • Small startups just barely launched
  • Enterprise IT companies who make millions in revenue
  • Software Development firms who’ve been in business for 25 years
  • Etc…

Now, if you price at $10,000 white paper you are essentially saying that you only work with clients who have a big budget and who get big revenue out of the lead magnet that you generate. You’re also saying that you’ll only work with clients who deeply value and need what you produce.

See how that works? It’s not about how hard or easy it is for you to write it. It’s about the results and how your customers perceive you.

Your price should be one way that you disqualify bad leads so you can qualify good ones.

Your price is a marketing strategy. Use it as such.

 

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The Surprisingly Easy Way to Come up with Content Ideas for Your Site

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Have you ever wondered how big sites come up with so much SEO-rich content for their site? How they seem to have articles for about any keyword you pop into Google? Or have you wondered how to come up with more content for your site?

Wonder no more!

I’m going to unveil the secret that big websites (think Ask.com, etc) use for generating SEO-rich content. You can use this same process for any niche site you have or even for your consulting site. Remember that the topics that you want to talk about aren’t necessarily the ones that your buyer (a non technical person, for example) want to read about.

Prefer video? Here you go! (Coupon code revealed in the video)

 

Determine your niche and pick keywords

Lynn Swayze content step 1

What is your site about? If you’re a technology consultant, this might be your particular technology  niche. The caveat here is that you need to focus on what your buyer is interested in. So if you’re a database professional, you should blog about how databases intersect with businesses. Off the top of my head, this might be how to determine which database software is right for them, how to hire a database professional, why they need to perform regular database restore “fire drills”, etc. So you’re not talking about the technology…you’re talking about how the technology affects the business.

Pull Down Some Keywords

step2_keywords

These keywords are what you’ll use in step 3. This is also what you’ll use inside your article (for SEO), meta tags, and article keywords. These keywords are ones that you’ll also use for AdWord campaigns and all that jazz. What you’ll do is go to a keyword tool. I used Spyfu for this, but you could also use something like SEMRush or Wordtracker or any number of free tools.

So what I did was go to SpyFu and type in a focus keyword. I need to populate my White Paper site WhitePaperSwipeFile.com, so I used “white paper” as the keyword.

Here’s what came up that seem most relevant to my niche site:

  • white paper
  • white papers
  • what is a white paper
  • white paper format
  • white paper examples
  • how to write a white paper

keywordgroups

I went ahead and exported the full list, which I’ll use for advertising, WordPress keywords, and step 3. This is much faster than sitting and brainstorming for an hour.

Find Questions

step3_questions

The next step is to find questions based on the keywords. I use a tool called “Storybase” to do it. What storybase does is generate phrases, questions, and related phrases around your chosen keyword. It’ll also show you that keyword’s audience profile, such as if the audience is mostly male and where they live. It’s useful information that you can sort through and export. I don’t waste time sorting and deleting the list for my own purposes, but I would for a client.

Write Content

The final step is to write content based on the questions and keywords you’ve discovered. The best titles simply use that question. For example, “What is the definition of a White Paper”? The next best option is to make the question a headline in the article or blog post itself. For example, you’d write “White Paper 101” as the title and have “what is the definition of a white paper?” as one of the headlines. Hello, search engine traffic! I would also make sure to add relevant keywords in the article where it makes sense. (Stuffing doesn’t work anymore, by the way. So don’t do it!)

Now, let’s say that you don’t want to write content yourself. Maybe the thought of writing content is worse than going to the dentist. Maybe you take a long time and you’d rather make $100+ per hour consulting than writing crap articles. Or maybe you quite literally do not have time for article writing.

What are your options when you don’t have time to write blog posts?

  1. Go to a content mill or budget site.
  2. Hire a content writer who knows what she’s doing.

The first option is one I see most often. “Go to Fiverr!” they say. Or use Textbroker or Freelancr and find a cheap writer who’ll do it for $5 a pop. But let’s back up a second – what is that article worth to you? If you get one new client from it, isn’t it worth more than $5? Or conversely, what’s the loss if you lose a potential client because the article is inaccurate or poorly written? I bet that lost value is much, much higher than $5. For some of you, it might mean tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. There’s also the chance that they’re simply using rewritten content that isn’t original. That’s bad too and can get you in hot water.

The second option is more expensive up-front but worth it long-term. And that’s to hire someone like me to write content. What I do is I’ll come up with 50 to 100 blog post ideas. Then we’ll collaborate on priority – which ones we’ll tackle first. We’ll also determine which ones we’ll post on your site, which we’ll curate to LinkedIn, Medium, or Quora, and which ones we’ll try to get published on other people’s sites. (Free traffic is a good thing!) I also write 100% original content every time, ensuring that your articles are unique pieces of thought leadership that accurately reflect you, your brand, and your offer.

To learn more, click below.

ArticleWriting

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Before You Quit: 5 Steps to Take to Secure Your Consulting Future

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Before You Quit

The goal of this website, and my consulting and books, is to enable you to quit your day job and pursue an independent career doing what you love. For technology consultants that I cater to, it’s transforming their years of enterprise experience into a lucrative career. Goodbye clueless bosses, failing contracts, and long on-call hours. Hello to working on interesting projects and a manageable work-life balance.

Before you quit, though, you have to get your “ducks in a row”, so to speak. Here are five things you must do before you hand in your resignation notice.

Step 1: Gather Social Proof

The first thing you should do is start to gather your social proof. This comes by way of recommendations on LinkedIn, testimonials on your blog or Information Packet, or case studies once you launch. These are essentially other people coming forward and vouching for you, your expertise, your personality, and your work. The more people and variety of projects you  have, the better you’ll fare when you finally go solo. So if you can, give and request for testimonials. And when you do, be sure to guide the people you’re asking. It’s perfectly acceptable to say that you want to highlight a certain skill (e.g., project management or how well you work with clients). Get as many of these as far back as you can.

And if you’re doing side jobs, be sure to get testimonials from them, too.  I’ll write a post on how to structure those shortly. Essentially, these testimonials MUST fast track the trust-building process and act as proof that you’re not some fly-by-night weirdo who put up a blog. You are an expert who gets results, and your testimonials and case studies help prove it.

Step 2: Build an Online Presence

The next step is to establish an online presence that aligns with your future role as a consultant. If possible, do this while you’re still employed. Beef up your LinkedIn profile. Build a Twitter profile that is technical and value-added. Clean up Facebook and build a professional Facebook page. Start guest posting or blogging on your own site. If you can, be a guest on a podcast. If you’re a Microsoft person, try SQL Data Partners. If you’re not a Microsoft person but want exposure, I may have an opportunity for you on my upcoming technical podcast. (Contact me for details.)

If you’re not sure what you look like online, you may want to employ some help. I fully recommend tools like Brand Yourself, which help you sort through and fix your search results. I’ve used their free service with good results. If nothing else, it will help you organize and make sense of optimizing your social media profiles for search engines.

At the least, you want an account on:

Guru Internet marketers recommend SnapChat, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Blab, and others, but they’re not the best for new B2B marketers. Most tech consultants I’ve talked to don’t have time for excessive social media activity. Picking the accounts where you’ll see the most wins is the best bet. Start sharing industry articles, connecting with other professionals, and adding value. Whatever you do, don’t spam everyone with “buy my services!”-type posts. That’ll get you muted pretty quickly. Instead, work to build relationships before you need them. And give back liberally.

You’ll also want to build a basic website. I like self-hosted WordPress sites because I have full control and autonomy. WordPress.com has limitations on affiliate sales and plugins that I don’t like. There are other options, too. One of my clients had a plain HTML+CSS+JS site for a long time. Another used a less common CMS. One consultant friend I know uses Squarespace. I recently wrote a blog post about what to include in your consultant website.

Step 3: Write an Information Packet

If you’re like most technology consultants, a passive online presence is not enough. Even Adwords isn’t enough! You’ll have to do some outbound marketing (e.g., direct mail) in order to get results. One item you can send to prospects is an information packet. I’ll post about that soon. In short, it should have an introductory page, a page with testimonials, a page about your process, a pricing page, and examples/descriptions of past projects or work. I’ll write about a post about it soon, I promise.

Step 4: Nail Down Your Market

One mistake I see new technology consultants make is to try to sell to everyone. They want to offer the kitchen sink when it comes to services. They don’t want to turn anyone down. The problem is that marketing to everyone is really, really hard. You can’t meet everyone at the price point and timeline they need, nor do you have the experience (or personality!) for every job. So why try? Instead, you need to evaluate your experience, personality, and market and figure out what makes you happy. Would you prefer working for big corporations or small shops? Would you rather spend time teaching and speaking, or working in the trenches? Do you want to do work that requires travel or work that can be done in your pyjamas? Figure this out beforehand and structure your services accordingly.

And repeat after me: “I am a specialist who does… ” and then fill in the blank.  You are an expert in X, not a generalist. Got it? 🙂

Step 5: Get Comfortable with Your Value

What value do you bring as a consultant? If you’ve been an employed technology professional for a long time, you probably think in terms of features and technological additions. STOP RIGHT NOW. You’ll have a heck of a hard time pricing and marketing effectively if you stay in this mindset.

Remember that the value you bring is more than just the technical expertise. Think about it: what does your technical expertise do for companies? If you’re a programmer, you’re building software that increases revenue or saves money (via time, lost sales, automation, etc). If you’re a security expert, you’re preventing expensive data breaches or fixing past security flaws. If you’re a database administrator, you’re making applications run faster (saving money) and improving security. You’re likely also organizing the data better which could mean increased revenue if you’re talking sales trend data.

As an independent consultant, you’ll have to market and price based on the benefits of your service, not on the market value. No one cares about your technical expertise per se. They care about how your certifications reduce the risk that you’ll eff up their entire operation. They care about how your decades of experience will mean that you can get the job done faster. It’s a mental shift you need to make NOW before you end up client-less and penny-less.

Conclusion

The prep work required to move into consulting isn’t hard and can be fast tracked if necessary. But starting before you quit will give you a leg up and help you avoid costly slow times that’ll eat up your hard-earned savings.

Summary:

  1. Gather Social Proof
  2. Build an Online Presence
  3. Write an Information Packet
  4. Nail Down Your Market
  5. Get Comfortable with Your Value

Now go thee forth and make more money!

via GIPHY

If you found this post helpful, you should get on my mailing list. And please… share this with someone who needs kick in their pricing booty.

 

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Five Surprisingly Common Consultant Website Problems

TL;DR: Over the course of this article I’m going to describe the most common website flaws for consultants. There are many (including some that yours truly engages in), but these are the most likely to harm your long-term profitability. These are: a lack of an about page, no email list, no lead magnet, blogging for the wrong audience, and no selling. Read on to get the full scoop.


Table of Contents:
I. Why do I need a website?
II. Common mistake 1: No About Page
III. Common Mistake 2: No Email List
IV. Common Mistake 3: No Lead Magnet
V. Common Mistake 4: Blogging for the wrong audience
VI. Common Mistake 5: Not Selling
VII. Conclusion & Resources


Why do I need a website?

What’s the purpose of a website for consultants?

  • Is it to help with Google search results?
  • Is it to generate leads?
  • Is it to sell your products/services?
  • Is it to showcase your expertise in your field via media (articles, video, audio)?
  • Is it to link to your social media?

If you answered all of the above, you’re right!

And if you struggle with your website, you’re not alone. And also, I want to tell you right now that it’s not your fault. Website creation is purposely made complicated by designers, web devs, and people who make their living selling websites. If they made it sound easy, they’d be out of a job. So if you have in your head that you need to spend $10,000 in order to put up a blog, then you can blame them.

Should you spend some money in quality graphics? Absolutely. Is it necessary when you as a consultant aren’t profitable yet? No. it’s not. Spend money on other things like ads, direct mail, etc., but not on your website. Not at first.

Think of your website as your marketing real estate. It’s the one corner on the internet that you own. It’ll be yours no matter what social media platform is popular or how big you get. It will grow in usefulness the longer it remains in effect. And all of the information on the site is under your control. The layout, the content, the pages, the design. All of it.

Over the course of this article I’m going to describe the most common website flaws for consultants. There are many (including some that yours truly engages in), but these are the most likely to harm your long-term profitability.

Common mistake 1: No About Page

The most common mistake that I see is a lack of an about page or an ineffective about page. Your about page is the one part of your site where you can really talk about yourself. You want to tell your story and through the narrative answer the following questions:

Who are you?
I mean the real you, not your “business persona” version of you. As a tech consultant, do you have a degree in networking, or did you come from a liberal arts background? As a copywriter – did you start off in a different field altogether? What makes you uniquely qualified to do your job?

What do you do/sell?

What do you sell? Do you sell products, like books and courses? Do you sell services, like monthly retainer consulting about something specific? Why do you sell what you do, and not something else?

How do you help your customers?

Here’s an example I came up with on the fly just now for this blog post based on the “60 Second Sales Hook”, a template created by  copywriting mentor Kevin Rogers:

“Hi, I’m Lynn Swayze. I’m an independent copywriter based out of Charleston, Illinois.

For years I watched businesses I worked for struggle to make sales and generate leads. It seemed like everyone had the same problem: they spent entirely too much in advertising, got too few results, and ended up with clients that weren’t a good fit for their services. I knew that their had to be a better way for B2B companies to sell more of their products and services.

In my searching I discovered direct response copywriting. It was the piece that companies were missing! After spending thousands in training from the industry’s top copywriters and internet marketers, reading dozens of books, and hundreds of hours spent reading and hand copying time-tested ads, I learned what worked and what didn’t for B2B companies. 

Now I spend my time helping others apply time-tested marketing and copywriting techniques in their business. I write landing pages and website content, develop marketing funnels, and create lead magnets for companies of all sizes.

If you’re interested to see how I can help you, opt in to my waiting list and then HIT REPLY to the email you’re sent. Or, send me an email at lynn (at) lynnswayze.com and let’s get started.”

See… it’s not so hard! The hard part is opening up in the first place. Note that my about page example as a call to action that isn’t some version of “contact me”. It offers a low-threshold way for people to get more information without directly contacting me.

(P.S. – I’ll write an about page for you if you really want some help.)

Common Mistake 2: No Email List

Okay my tech consultants out there… this is probably your #1 problem. You hate spam and so instead of using email to foster conversations and build relationships with your prospects, you avoid it altogether. And you don’t sell. No one uses your “contact me” form. And there is no direct link between website visitors and sales because you didn’t build one.

Mantra: Your website = lead generation tool
Let me ask you really quick…. how many leads does your website generate? If you’re like many consultants, it’s well under 500 total. For one of my best clients, the answer was ZERO. So, let’s say that your website receives 200 views a month. How many of those views translate into prospects, let alone customers? You need to get this number to at least 3%, if not 10%. Ten would be awesome for most consultants. How do you do this? Well, you get a list.

Think of your email list as your future customer database. 
If you do it right, your email list is comprised of people who are your prospects. So, let’s say that you build a proper lead magnet (ebook, worksheet, white paper, etc) and it attracts your ideal client. Your ideal client wants the information and signs up. Now you have a list of individuals who have enough of a problem that they’re willing to exchange their email address for it. That’s a big deal!

Email doesn’t have to be spammy.
Now you can start to build a relationship with those clients. Show them your personality. Offer them value. And more importantly… you stay TOP OF MIND by emailing them at least weekly, if not daily. They won’t forget your name. When they think of a consultant who does what you do, who do you think they’ll think of? If they’re reading your emails every day, then they’ll think of you. They’ll forward your emails to friends. And they’ll refer you to others if they don’t hire you directly themselves. And when it is time to sell (a book you’ve launched, an opening on your waitlist, etc), it won’t come across as spammy because you’re now the friend who’s reaching out with something that’ll help them and not another cold emailing salesman.

FREE course -> “Charge What You’re Worth” by Brennan Dunn

I recommend Aweber for email management, but there are others that’ll do the job too, like Drip or ConvertKit or even Mailchimp. Note that you’ll need an @yourdomain.com email address instead of a public one like Google or Hotmail or Yahoo.

Common Mistake 3: No Lead Magnet

In order to get emails, you have to have a lead magnet. A good lead magnet can be used for PPC ads and for email signups on your page. A good lead magnet will provide value (just enough!) without giving away the whole farm. And it will help establish you as an authority in whatever it is you do/teach/sell.

TL;DR: You are offering something of value you have (information) in exchange for something of value they have (an email address/their information, their time). You are looking for those website visitors who raise their hand and are essentially saying, “Yes, I have this problem!” You are starting a conversation with potential prospects.

Common Mistake 4: Blogging for the wrong audience

Okay guys…. you know who you are. Those of you writing about the latest technical tool instead of about your customer’s needs. When you do the former, you are blogging to the wrong audience. So, let’s say that you lead magnet provides value to your ideal customer. Great. But if your blog posts (SEO magnets!) talk to your peers instead of to your prospects, do you think you’ll get opt-ins to your email list? No… no you won’t.

Talk to your prospects. Talk about how you’ve solved a client problem. Address a common question you get. But don’t talk about technical stuff no one but your peers care about. Save that content for where it matters – tech blogs and magazines where you can guest post. Your site should sell you.

Exception: if you want to sell books or training to your peers, then by all means blog about the technical, profession-related stuff. But in this case you’re still following the rule to blog to your customer, because your customer has changed. See where I’m going with this? 🙂

Here’s Jon Morrow’s secret for blogging success (from : https://smartblogger.com/stephen-king/):

“You want the formula for writing popular blog posts? Here it is: Jot down a list of blog topics you could write about. Circle the ones at least 80% of your readers would find irresistible. Write about those topics and nothing else.”

Common Mistake 5: Not Selling

This really goes back to mistake #1 and #2… many people hate selling. For some reason, it’s a big taboo to like selling. I don’t know why it is, but we all think of the sleazy car salesman when we talk about selling. It’s such a wrong mindset to have, though.

If your product or service actaully helps people, it is your OBLIGATION to sell them on it if they’re a good fit. (e.g., they can afford it and they’re ready for it). Why would you deny prospects the ability to grow their busines, improve their IT infrastructure, make more money, or whatever it is that your product does for them?

I think people get caught up in themselves and forget that they’re bringing value. They think, “No one would pay me $150 an hour to do this. I don’t know as much as [insert expert]!” Thing is, you know more than your prospects and clients and you will get them results. That’s what they’re paying for. Not for YOU, but for the RESULTS.

On your website, therefore, you have to sell. Make it easy for people to opt in to your list. If you sell a low-priced product (a book, for example), make it easy for them to buy it. Advertise it like you would someone else’s product. Talk about it at the end of your emails. Make sure that everyone who comes to your site is VERY CLEAR on what you do and how they can buy from you. Because people buy when they’re ready, not when you’re ready.

Conclusion

You’re probably making at least one of these website mistakes, and that’s okay! It’s never too late to fix a website that isn’t working. And if you get stuck, please reach out by commenting below. I love hearing from my readers.

Now go thee forth and make more money!
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If you found this post helpful, you should get on my mailing list. And please… share this with someone who needs kick in their website booty.

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Hourly Billing is the Tool of Satan


Table of Contents:
I. Why do we engage in hourly billing?
II. Why don’t big names engage in hourly billing?
III. What’s the risk of hourly billing?
IV. Price Anchoring
V. How to Sell Using Price Anchoring (Quick 3 Steps)
VI. Conclusion & Resources


Why do we engage in hourly billing?

Tell me: What do all the “gurus” say you should focus on when you go about pricing your services? They talk about pricing per hour.

It’s not your fault. You believe it because when you started working, you were paid per hour.

A “job” = exchange of hours for money.

So then when we go out and start software consulting companies, marketing consulting companies, freelance businesses, etc.,…. we think about hours. Even when many bill “projects”, they still compute the price based on the # of hours it’d take and charge that.

Example: 3 x $100 an hour = $300 for a logo

Nooooooo…….. 

Why don’t the big names engage in hourly billing?

Look… there are consultants charging $50-100 an hour and there are consultants charging tens of thousands per day. Don’t believe me? According to my copy of Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing*, Dan charges something like $19,000+ per day to fix their marketing and build a direct mail funnel.

Why don’t they engage in hourly billing? They don’t because they would never get as affluent as they are charging hourly rates. I mean, some of these guys charge tens of thousands just to speak at an event. How do you think it would sound if they actually talked to people about what they made per hour?

What’s the Risk of Hourly Billing?

There are three risks associated with hourly billing: Commoditization, Profit Loss, and Inefficiency

Commoditization

The thing is, when you charge by the hour, you’ve essentially made yourself a commodity. A commodity is something that’s just like everything else. So when you say, “I’m a consultant who does X and charges Y!” Well, your client is only thinking about the rate. They’re not thinking about why you’re different or the results you’re going to bring compared to what anyone else can bring them. They’re only thinking about the rate. So they’re going to compare you to the next person who does X but charges Z, and they’re going to pick the cheapest one. Or, they’ll go with you until they decide they don’t want to pay your fee anymore.

Profit Loss

And then there’s the profitability ceiling…

Here’s an example where hourly billing goes wrong as applied to profitability:

Let’s say that you are one of the tens of thousands of IT consulting firms who charges between $100-$150 an hour to do IT stuff. (Software development, network infrastructure, whatever.) Now, when it was just you there was a lot of money to be made. You were bringing in 200K a year and had negligible business overhead (let’s say $12K a year for office space and training and such.) Great.

But you wanted to make more money. How did you do that? Well, you got more contracts at $100-$150 an hour, but you outsourced some of the work for $50 an hour. So now you have people underneath you making $100K a year and you pocketed the remainder.

The problem? As you hire people, you expenses go up and your profits go down. Now you have to hire people to do all of the business stuff, like accounting and sales and HR.

And the only way to make more money? Take on more contracts and hire more people. You can’t charge more, because that $100-$150K is the market rate for what you do. Your clients know that what you do is a commodity and can and will go elsewhere if your rate is too unjustifiable. So you just keep taking on more clients, hoping that eventually your costs will stabilize. Or maybe you pay people less, taking on more junior employees. Or maybe you make your employees work more while pocketing the rest.

Either way, it’s a quick train to burnout land.

In short: your profitability has reached its ceiling. Congratulations.

via GIPHY

Instead, what this company (and I swear there are tens of thousands out there like that fictional one I described) should do is focus on the end result they’re creating and point pricing to that. Instead of making only $200K for a year’s worth of work, they could anchor at $250K… $350K… $450K… and actually make a profit that doesn’t revolve around billing employees at 4x what they’re actually getting paid.

Efficiency

When you know that you have 10 hours to do a job and you’ll only get paid if you sit there for 10 hours to do it, do you think there’s any incentive to work faster or get better at what you do? No. It puts you at a moral dilemma. If you weren’t paid by the hour, you could buy tools or do things in such a way that you get your client’s work done faster and better. Instead, you are tied to hours because otherwise you can’t pay the bills. So will you buy a tool that will do the job better, or get the job done quickly so the client can reap the rewards quickly?

The answer is no, you don’t. Instead use up the hours you’re allotted because that’s the only way you make money.

There are only three ways to make money at that point:

  1. Charge only what time you spent, but over time be forced to take on more and more clients once you’ve reached the per-hour ceiling. (You become more efficient so your per-hour becomes less profitable.)
  2. Charge what was quoted, whether you actually used all that time or not. (Cheating and lying to your client – that’s bad mojo.)
  3. Take all the time allotted to do the job, and never break away from the working-all-the-time wheelhouse you wanted to get away from in the first place. (At this point, you might as well go back to your j-o-b.)

Instead of all of that drama, you could just price according to the project’s value, do the job in the time it takes, and deliver value quickly so your client can reap the rewards. No killing yourself, cheating yourself or your client, or being inefficient. Just work you want to do at a rate that pays your bills.

Sounds good, right? Then let’s look at price anchoring and how it affects your billing.

FREE course -> “Charge What You’re Worth” by Brennan Dunn

Price Anchoring

Price anchoring is the idea that the first piece of information you receive about something will create a bias that colors the rest of your experience. This is why it’s so hard to change your prices with existing clients, and why you have to anchor it to something else (e.g., your posted rates are now significantly higher than they’re paying, and you don’t want them to feel like they’re getting second-rate work from you because they’re paying less. Etc). 

How to Sell Using Price Anchoring:

Look at my previous post on pricing for more details, but here’s the shortcut version:

  1. Find out what their most painful problem is
  2. Discover and discuss what that most painful problem costs them or is worth
  3. Talk about your pricing in relation to solving that problem

The best way to achieve this is to price per project. What value are you giving in exchange for your fees?

Conclusion

Summary:

  1. Hourly billing reduces your total income and makes you a commodity
  2. Price according to value, not to yourself or market rates
  3. Use Price Anchoring to your advantage

I want to add something here: Something magical happens in your head when you stop thinking about hours. The first is that you become more efficient. The second is that you stop working so darn  much and you stop sweating it. If you’re bringing the value and end result you promised your consultants, then you’re doing your job. Who cares if it only takes you 20 hours? That’s your business. And if it takes you a ridiculous amount of time to do a job? Well, that’s your business (/problem) also.

The results are what you’re promising and what your clients pay for. Anything else is just a golden handcuff and a focus on the wrong thing (e.g., labor instead of the end result).

You want both you and the client to be on the same page and focused on getting a very specific end result. 

Got it?

Now go thee forth and make more money!

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How to Figure Out What You Should Charge


Table of Contents:
I. Why is Pricing So Hard?
II. Pricing is all Mindset
III. It’s Not Your Fault
IV. Price Anchoring
V. How to Sell Using Price Anchoring (Quick 3 Steps)
VI. Conclusion & Resources


Why is Pricing so Hard?

One of the most burning questions I had when I first got started in consulting was, “How much do I charge?!” I would go into cold sweats every time I thought about raising my rates to even close to what I knew I could charge.

Maybe you’re like I was. If you keep asking the same thing, you’re not alone. So many copywriters, consultants, and even service providers I meet ask the same thing. It’s a difficult thing to price correctly, and the reason is because you’re thinking about it all wrong.

Pricing is All Mindset

Pricing really is more art than science. There really aren’t any magic numbers that work for every person, market, or problem. Let’s look at the consulting realm:

There are consultants charging $50-100 an hour and there are consultants charging tens of thousands per day. Don’t believe me? According to my copy of Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing*, Dan charges something like $19,000+ per day to fix their marketing and build a direct mail funnel. Why such variability in what is essentially the same service?

The truth is, making more money as a consultant is entirely a combination of mindset + price anchoring + confidence. And the confidence in your rates is probably the most important of all of them.

It’s Not Your Fault

Look, it’s not your fault. What do all the “gurus” say when they talk about pricing your services? They say something like this:

“Price what you’re worth!”

But “Price What You’re Worth” leads to a line of thinking that goes like this:

  1. Last time I worked for a client/had a job, I made $X per Hour
  2. In order to pay my bills, I need $Y per Hour.
  3. The other guys I’m competing with charge $Z per hour, therefore I have to charge Z.
  4. I can’t get work quickly despite advertising my rates, so I must be too high. I’m going to charge closer to $X.

Yiiiiiiiikes people. This is bad. This is why we get that race to the bottom that every freelancer warns about. It’s bad mojo and it’s killing your business. (That and hourly billing, which is an evil handcuff.)

The truth is, there’s a better mantra you have to use when you price. Are you ready?

It’s simple: “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.” 

Seriously, stop thinking about youyour worth, your skills, your experience. Your prospects don’t actually care about that beyond the value of a story, which is what it takes to get them interested in you in the first place. Otherwise, it’s meaningless to most prospects, who by the way don’t know you from Scott down the street.

Instead, focus on themTheir problems, their goals, their pain pointstheir awareness level. Heck, even their budget, which is likely a h-e-double hockeysticks level above your own  meager need-per-month.

Have you ever read the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People?”* It’s a great book, by the way, and one you should grab immediately. The gist of it is pretty simple, and it goes like this: In order to be interesting, you have to be interested.

That is, people enjoy talking about themselves. They enjoy it so much that they’ll think you’re the greatest person since sliced bread if you’ll let them ramble. People are craving to be heard and understood. You taking a few minutes out of your day to do it will mean the world to someone else. And that’s how you create relationships.

So when you’re marketing, you had better be talking about them. Don’t talk about yourself. Talk about the problem that you solve. Which brings me to the next point: price anchoring.

Price Anchoring

Price anchoring is the idea that the first piece of information you receive about something will create a bias that colors the rest of your experience. This is why it’s so hard to change your prices with existing clients, and why you have to anchor it to something else (e.g., your posted rates are now significantly higher than they’re paying, and you don’t want them to feel like they’re getting second-rate work from you because they’re paying less. Etc). 

P.S. Eric Yu talks about the three benefits of price anchoring. I highly recommend you hop on over there when you finish with this post.

How to Sell Using Price Anchoring:

  1. Find out what their most painful problem is
  2. Discover and discuss what that most painful problem costs them or is worth
  3. Talk about your pricing in relation to solving that problem

For example: as of July 2016, I charge $5000 per month for my consulting and copywriting. It’s a terribly low number for the results I bring, but we all have to start somewhere, right? When I sell my services, I always anchor it on the goal revenue I’m going to bring them as a result of working with me. I point to what I’ve done for other clients (usually 3-4X my retainer) as proof of the ROI.

Then I point to what else they could spend their money on, which wouldn’t get them the same ROI. E.g., hiring an expensive “graphic-designer-slash-marketer” at $60K, who doesn’t know direct response like I do. Or a six figure CMO who doesn’t guarantee her work like I do. When I’m telling a customer (and looking them square in the eye) and guaranteeing that I’ll bring them from $100,000 annually to $250,000+ annually or I’ll work for free until I do

well… that $60K in exchange for “guaranteed” $150K+ they didn’t know how to get starts looking pretty cheap, doesn’t it?

This is why your landing pages, sales letters, etc have to have benefits. This is why any copywriter you hire will rip out your “features” and “years of experience” wording right away. This is why the big time consultants barely talk about themselves.

Here’s a free Freelance Rate Calculator from Brennan Dunn

Example: Look at Ramit Sethi’s about page – everything he talks about  relates back to solving your financial problems. He only shares enough to prove that he’s just like you and that he understands what you’re going through.

Conclusion

Summary:

  1. Pricing is hard because you’ve been misled by everyone
  2. Price according to value, not to yourself or market rates
  3. Use Price Anchoring to your advantage

Now go thee forth and make more money!

via GIPHY

If you found this post helpful, you should get on my mailing list. And please… share this with someone who needs kick in their pricing booty.

Useful Resources:


* this is an affiliate link. Just do some Google searching for the title if you’d rather those pennies stay in Amazon’s/whoever’s pockets instead.