Archive for May 3rd, 2011

Commanding Professional Fees

Finally getting around to reading Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Fascinating read.

Interesting anecdote:

“The economist Richard Thaler, in his 1985 Beer on the Beach study, showed that a thirsty sunbather would pay $2.65 for a beer delivered from a resort hotel, but only $1.50 for the same beer if it came from a shabby grocery store.”

How does this relate to your professional services business? They might be talking about beer, but it harkens to a fundamental truth in business: Image is everything.

What that means is that clients and customers are influenced by your professional image. They’re led to believe or make assumptions about how good (or bad) the service/skill/product is based on nothing more than the professional image that is presented. They directly correlate the quality of your skills, services and products with how things look. Very often, it’s the only thing they have on which to base their decisions, and it’s not entirely conscious.

This is especially true with professional services.

Clients can’t pick up and hold in their hand a “service” like they could with an actual product. A service is intangible. It’s invisible. Because of this, it can be argued that your professional image is even more important in a service-based business.

The look and feel of your website, your writing and communications, the experience of dealing with you–literally everything that prospective clients have any contact with–all make up your professional image. It’s going to be one of the most important ingredients in shaping clients’ perception of you and the value, quality and skill you help them believe and see demonstrated.

So, if you are trying to command the higher professional level fees you want and need, you have to “look the part.”

If you say you are worth $X a month, but your website and other marketing collateral look like the “shabby grocery store,” you’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone you’re worth it. Because you haven’t showed up dressing the part of the successful, competent, qualified expert. The incongruency between your words and the “environment” of all those things that make up your professional image will stop them.

Often, prospective clients don’t have any other way of judging how you might be better than the next professional who says the same thing. But when they see an image that backs up what you say you are about, you are giving them visual proof to believe you. The “environment” of that top-notch professional image sends a message of congruency and instills trust, credibility and confidence.

Your copy, too, is part of your professional image. If you write about yourself and your services in lowly terms, as if you are merely a peon or gopher and that the work is only “grunt” work, people will accordingly only view–and pay–you as such. If you don’t respect the work and understand its value and importance, clients won’t respect or value it either.

Your words also shape how clients treat you. So if you are wanting to command professional fees and be treated as an equal partner, a skilled professional with an expertise to share, you’ve got to also re-image your words. You aren’t some lowly peon. You are not a “generalist.” You are an expert and specialist in the art of administrative support and you have an expertise to share that truly does change the lives of your clients.