Archive for the ‘Value Is Not About Money’ Category

Um, Hello?! Do You LIKE Being Devalued?

Telling people you cost less and that they’ll save money by hiring you is basically TELLING them to devalue you.

It’s a cattle-call to all the worst kinds of clients out there (you know, the cheapskates who want everything for nothing and think nothing you do is good enough).

You might think this is the sexy message it takes to attract attention, but what it gets you is the wrong attention from the wrong kind of clients.

All this talk about saving and lower costs and being affordable and cheaper than an employee, etc., puts people in poverty/scarcity mindset.

But you need for clients to stop clutching the purse strings in order to invest in you and themselves.

So, you’re defeating your purpose by making your marketing message all about the money.

Stop doing that.

Something worth having is worth paying well for. (And clients who pay well are worth having, believe you me. You want that for yourself, don’t you?)

Stop talking about the money, and start talking about all that clients gain from working with you.

My Challenge to You

Start a list of all the ways your clients’ circumstances are improved by working with you, all that they gain, how they benefit.

DO NOT list anything having to do with money or saving it in any way.

The resulting list (which you can keep adding to throughout the life of your business) is what your marketing message should be all about.

(Keep this list in a tool like Workflowy so you can add to it on the fly quickly and easily.)

Why Should I Pay that When I Can Get a Temp or Offshore VA for $5 Bucks an Hour?

Ever hear a client utter these words?

It’s probably the most grating sentence in our industry today.

But what if you knew exactly how to respond?

What if you offered your services in a way that didn’t focus whatsoever on hourly rates?

Wouldn’t that be a total game changer?

It’s not so annoying when you actually begin to love responding to that question (or when you no longer get it in the first place). ;)

…If you frequently encounter price resistance with clients and want to know what to do about it;

…If you have trouble getting clients to commit;

…If you struggle with articulating your value to clients, talking about your fees, and feeling confident about them;

…If you find the whole topic of pricing difficult, I have the solution!

It’s my value-priced packaging and pricing guide, How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Hours & Expertise — NOT Selling Hours

Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Guide: How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Value and Expertise—NOT Selling Hours (GDE39)

This guide will show you how to:

  • Attract more clients, more easily;
  • Make more money;
  • Create an easier business to run;
  • And toss out those time sheets forever!

…all without discounting, bargaining, or justifying your fees whatsoever!

Dear Danielle: What Is the Best Approach to Physically Obtain Quality Clients?

Dear Danielle: What Is the Best Approach to Physically Obtain Quality Clients?

Dear Danielle:

I am very new to the Administrative Consulting business although I have almost 20 years of experience supporting senior-level executives. I agree with you that we are so much more than “virtual assistants” and I would like to attract customers who understand that and value what we bring to the table, if you will. Therefore, my question to you is now that I’ve created a website and all other social media accounts, what is the best approach to physically obtain quality clients? Eventually, I may narrow my target but for now, my target is Small Business Owners. Thank you. —ND

Hi, ND. Welcome and thanks for reaching out. 🙂

Sounds like you’ve got the perfect background and a solid body of experience to offer clients. Wonderful!

Of course, there’s much more to business than simply knowing how to support clients and do the work, as you realize.

Learning how to run, manage and market a business and get actual clients (much less good ones) is a whole other skillset and area of education in and of itself.

This is why your question is more of a training one, rather than something that can be answered in a simple blog post.

It requires a more in-depth, systematic process of learning to understand the components, dynamics, and psychology involved.

To get that kind of knowledge and learning, I will refer you to my step-by-step self-paced training guide I created specifically for that purpose: How to Build a Website that WORKS!

This guide is centered around your website because your website IS the critical link in connecting your marketing and networking to actually getting clients, and not just any clients, but the kind of clients you want to reach: quality clients who understand your value.

This involves pre-educating your site visitors so they are in the right mindset, setting the right expectations, and prequalifying clients to help ensure you are productively spending your time in consultation with your most ideal and likely client candidates.

In the process of going through the steps and exercises, my guide also gives you a crash-course in inbound marketing because the two go hand-in-hand. You can’t set up an effective website and conversion system that gets results unless you understand all the components and mechanics involved.

Another thing I show you how to do in my guide is how to articulate your value and write your marketing message (and I have a clever system that helps you do that, no writing talent required; couldn’t be easier).

This is where having a target market is absolutely vital.

If there are any “secrets” in business and getting clients (and there aren’t), this is it.

And that’s because it’s not so much a “secret” as it is an area of misunderstanding and resistance for so many people.

You mention that right now your target is “small business owners.” But that isn’t a target at all, you see.

“Small business owners” is merely a demographic, and a very vague, general one at that which isn’t going to be helpful to you in any meaningful way whatsoever in creating a compelling marketing message and getting those ideal clients who value what you do.

It’s like saying “people” are your target market. That’s literally anyone and everyone in the world — which is the opposite of a target market (which by definition is a specific market).

A target market is simply an industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support to. That’s it. However, it’s a vitally important component in getting those quality, ideal clients who understand your value that you wish for.

And this is where people struggle because they resist the idea that they actually expand their attractiveness and opportunities if they narrow their focus to one specific group.

Because here’s the thing: you can’t articulate your value in any truly meaningful, compelling way until you know who it is you are providing that value to. And that requires you to decide what industry/field/profession that will be.

Because it’s all relative.

Your value — what you provide, the solutions you offer, how you deliver those solutions and the results you create — all depends on who your audience (i.e., target market) is: who they are, what their commons interests, needs, challenges and goals are, what work they do in their profession, how their businesses are run, who their clients are, how they get those clients, and so much more.

You have to decide who it is you specifically intend to help in order to identify, understand and articulate your value in a way that speaks to these things as it relates to them. Otherwise, all you’ll ever accomplish (by trying to create a message for anyone and everyone) is being generic and forgettable.

To stand out, to create real meaning, to get focus and direction for your message and your marketing, you need specificity.

That specificity (i.e., deciding on a target market to cater your administrative support to) is what is not only going to get you more ideal clients who value what you do, it’s also going to make your business and marketing easier, you’ll have an easier time charging higher fees and making more money, and you’ll be able to get more clients more quickly and easily.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to download my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market.

Start there, decide on a target market and then get my marketing/website guide, and you’ll be well on your way to getting those ideal, quality clients who absolutely understand how valuable you can be to them.

Dear Danielle: How Can I Turn this Employer into a Client?

Dear Danielle: How Can I Turn this Employer into a Client

Dear Danielle:

I work for a small business and the majority of my job is done offsite and remotely. When I came into the business there were no systems in place, no manuals or training tools available and patients accounts were all out of balance. I have worked to restore these areas in addition to the accounts receivables. I am no longer able to ignore the nagging pull to launch out and begin my own administrative support business. However, I feel that I can retain my current employer as a client. I am costing them more I believe. I have been paid by the hour as an employee and it has been a tremendous cost to get things up and running more smoothly. Now that I understand all the inner workings of the business, offered my advice as well as support, I feel my inside job has come to an end. There are many more factors to list but I don’t want to take advantage of your time. Please tell me your thoughts on this. How I should move forward? —Anonymous by request

Hi Anonymous 🙂

Thanks for your question.

If you feel you can turn this employer into a client, go for it.

Since you asked me, though, I’m going to let you know why former employers don’t make for the best of clients.

  1. Employers tend to want to keep working with you in the same old ways. That’s a problem because when you are running a business, there is necessarily going to be a difference in when and how you work together. You can’t be at their instant beck and call the way you were when you worked for them as an employee. They had your undivided time and attention because you were their employee, being paid to be dedicated solely to them 9-5. But as a business owner, you have other clients to serve, other important duties to attend to (or you will have, and you have to operate and plan your business around that eventuality). You simply are not going to be able to work with them in the same way as you did when you were an employee, not if you are going to grow your business and have time and room to work with other clients. And that’s not a transition that many employers are able or willing to make.
  2. Not all, of course, but generally employers are employers for a reason. Many very specifically want employees who are dedicated solely to their interests and to whom they can dictate hours, roles and duties. Likewise, some workloads simply require in-house dedicated staff. Contrary to popular belief, not every business/client is a good fit for what we do. Trying to fit square pegs into round holes is an effort in futility. Why bang your head against that wall when there are others far more suited to (and interested in) being clients rather than employers?
  3. Past employers tend to resist changes. They only know you and the relationship they had with you in one context — employee. This can be problematic and make it incredibly difficult for them to see you in a new and different light, which is necessary if the business relationship is going to be successful. It is absolutely vital that clients understand the relationship in a business-to-business context and that there is going to be an entirely different dynamic at play. But past employers tend to be stuck in employer/worker bee mindset and want to keep you in that box and treat the relationship like that. What that means is, instead of extending you professional courtesy and respect and viewing you as their administrative expert and trusted advisor, many can be stuck in a pattern of barking orders at you and thinking it’s their place to dictate everything. A client who doesn’t understand he is a client, not an employer, has a whole different demeanor in his communication and behavior, and not for the better. And that just does not work in a business-to-business relationship.
  4. Their preconceived notions or relationship with you can limit their thinking and keep you boxed in. When you start a business and consult with fresh potential clients, it so much easier to educate them and manage their expectations in the way you need them to be because you’re working with a clean slate, so to speak.

That said, if you think this employer has good client potential despite the above, there are things you can do to help facilitate a successful new business-to-business relationship:

  1. Have a consultation process. If you don’t have one, you can get that with my Client Consultation Guide.
  2. Never take shortcuts with your consultation process. What I mean by that is, many people think because they already know and have a previous relationship with a potential client (such as the case with a former/current employer) they don’t have to conduct a full and thorough consultation. And that’s a really bad idea. Because part of what the consultation process does (at least if you are following my client consultation process) is it helps give proper context for your new business-to-business relationship with each other. This helps employers-turned-clients understand the new relationship so they can treat it and conduct themselves accordingly. It helps these past employers view you not as their employee/worker bee, but respect you as a business owner, someone who is going to now be their administrative partner/expert and trusted advisor. It also helps them understand that there are going to be necessary and significant differences in how and when you work together.
  3. Have a Client Guide ready to give to new or prospective clients. A client guide is a map, or decoder ring, if you will, written in friendly, positive, client-centric language that informs clients about how things work in your business, what your policies, procedures and protocols are, what your standards and expectations are for working together, and what rights and expectations they may have with regard to the work and results. This is another tool that helps facilitate a successful relationship moving forward and gives former employers/new clients proper context. It helps them see you as a business and no longer their employee. If you don’t already have one, you will get a free Client Guide Template included as a bonus when you purchase Set-01 (the Administrative Support Business Set-Up Success Kit) from the ACA Success Store.
  4. Have a proper business website and direct your past employer/potential client to it. And by “proper” I mean it is set up and populated with content that will inform and educate prospective clients about what you do, how you do it and how it helps them. This is another way you pre-educate clients in the way you need them to be and set and manage proper business expectations and understandings in them, which in turn helps them view and interact with you as a business owner (and not their employee). If you don’t have a website yet or your current website isn’t getting good results, be sure to check out my Build a Website that WORKS guide. This guide tells you exactly how to create a business website that gets results — i.e., more consult requests and ideal clients.
  5. Always use a contract. This is another area where people do themselves a huge disservice by taking shortcuts. They think just because they already know the person, they don’t have to go through those motions. But here again, a contract is another tool the use of which extends far beyond its mere practical application. Besides making sure the terms of the relationship are clear and in writing, just having a contract and going through the contract signing process helps former-employers-turned-clients understand the new business-to-business context, which helps ensure a successful working relationship moving forward.

There was something else I wanted to address that is a common misstep for new business owners: thinking your value is all about being cheaper than an employee.

Let me say this loud and clear: your job is not to be cheap.

Your job as a business is to deliver a service that improves the life and business of the client. And that costs whatever it costs.

Value, in the context of a professional service business, is not about discounts and savings and two-for-one specials.

Value is about how the results of your work improves their circumstances and makes business and life better and easier for the client, how it helps them achieve their overall goals and objectives.

This is a frequent topic on my blog so I have a little bit of homework for you. I want you to read these blog posts to help you overcome the scarcity/poverty/employee mindset that new business owners are so commonly susceptible to:

In fact, I have a whole category on my blog on this topic that is extremely eye-opening and empowering for everyone: Value Is Not About the Money

And remember that you are not your ideal client. You can’t base your business decisions and fees on what you would pay or could afford to pay.

Because that’s not how your ideal client thinks or operates, and you’ll never build a financially solvent, sustainable or successful business if you stay stuck in that mindset.

Your ideal client is one who is quality-minded and can well afford professional services. This client values administrative support because he understands this is the work that will help achieve his big picture goals and objectives. This client therefore wants a highly-skilled administrative expert and partner (not an order-taker) who will lead, guide and advise him in the administrative process with a view toward results.

As Seth Godin so elegantly put it recently: “You are not a task rabbit. You’re a professional doing unique work that matters.”

You Are Not in Business to Be “Money-Saving”

You’re not in business to be “money-saving.”

You’re in business to make a positive difference in the lives and businesses of your clients.

And that costs money.

If you make your message all about being “money-saving,” if that’s the very first and foremost thing you’re talking about, that’s code for “cheap.”

And guess who that attracts? Cheap clients who don’t want to pay for anything.

If you make those people your clients, you will always be broke.

So, ask yourself. Are you in business to be cheap or are you in business to make a difference in the lives of your clients?

If it’s the latter, then focus on that message, NOT on discounts and savings and free this and that.

When you do that, you’ll get clients ready and willing to pay well because they aren’t there for the free or cheap buffet, they are there to have a difference made in their business.

You Are Not an Expense

You are not an expense.

You are an investment.

An expense is money down the drain.

An investment is something that yields returns greater than the money spent.

And that’s exactly what administrative support yields for clients. It yields greater returns in the form of more time, more bandwidth and creative space, more energy, greater focus, less stress, faster progress, better business, smoother operations… the list goes on.

Stop talking about savings and discounts and free this and that, and start talking about what your clients GAIN from working with you!

Dear Danielle: Is Telling Clients How They Can Save a Good Thing?

Dear DanielleHello Danielle!

I have a question for you. I am working on starting my own bookkeeping business, and while I know you are focused on Admin Consulting, I trust and value your opinion. On a business website and other marketing materials, you say to not compare yourself to replacing an employee or saving clients money because that will attract the cheapos, but would you say the some thing for an independent bookkeeper? I can see it working both ways, but I don’t want to attract the wrong type of client. Business owners are concerned about the cost of a bookkeeper and many can’t afford one in house, so telling them how they can save by using an independent bookkeeper would be a good thing, right? Anywho, I wanted to run this by you and get you thoughts if you have a moment! Appreciate all your posts (blog/Facebook/etc). —Candace Moore

Hi Candace 🙂

I don’t normally spend time answering questions that don’t have to do with Administrative Consulting. I can’t, you know? I have my own business to run and other priorities, etc., so I have to keep my time and energy focused. And my interest, obviously, is the Administrative Consultanting profession.

But what appealed to me about your question was that you recognized that, and weren’t taking me or my time for granted. And I really appreciate that about you. So thank you.

In answer to your first question, yes, it’s still definitely true for ANY business. You are not a staffing agency or a temp agency and all those comparisons do is set wrong expectations and understandings. It actually MAKES clients think you are some kind of substitute employee.

And that’s not how you need clients to think of you when you are in business to provide a service, not staff their business.

My answer to your second question is NO, that’s not a good thing. You’re focusing on the wrong clients with the wrong message. People who can’t afford in-house support is their problem. You can’t make their poverty issues yours or work with broke, cheap-minded clients or you’ll keep your business impoverished as well.

Plus, it’s just the wrong angle to take that keeps them thinking in terms of expenses and costs, instead of properly investing in their growth and success. Which is what you are: an investment, not an expense.

You never want to use money as the bribe. That’s not the value, and if you focus them on costs/savings/discounts/freebies, that’s what they will ALWAYS be focused on. You can’t afford to be in business to be their cheaper substitute.

Be thinking of these things instead:

WHY do clients need bookkeeping services? What are all the reasons/pains/challenges that cause them to seek a competent bookkeeping service? How will their life and business be improved by working with you, a competent bookkeeping service? How does having that service positively impact their life, their business, their financial circumstances? How do you imagine that might make them feel?

The answers to these questions are what your value is, not the money or the savings. Speak to those things.

How Billing by the Hour Is Killing Your Business (and What You Can Do About It)

Here’s a video I made a few years ago to help people understand how billing by hour (selling hours) is keeping them broke and killing their business.

This can be a difficult concept to understand at first. For many folks, it’s not until they’ve been in business for a bit that they realize the dilemma. It’s usually then that things finally “click” and they get it.

Then, there are people who understand the problem immediately and want to avoid it altogether in their practice.

Whatever camp you’re in, my Value-Based Pricing and Packaging Toolkit will show you how to stop selling hours (and selling yourself short) and learn how to price and package your value and expertise instead.

I’ve been practicing and studying this methodology since the 90s and been teaching it to our industry since 2004. I introduced the concept and adapted the methodology for our industry and I’m really the only person in our industry uniquely qualified to show you how to implement in your practice.

Your Value Is Not About Dollars and Cents

A few weeks ago, I was eating at a crowded place and two nice little ladies asked if they could share my table with me.

“Of course!” I said.

We started chatting and one of the ladies gave me her biz card. Her name sounded really familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew her from.

She asked what I did and after learning that I worked with attorneys began telling me about a legal problem she was having.

I told her I had a client who helped with things of that nature and slid over his name and email address.

She laughed and said, “Oh, I know him! He helped me before!!”

THAT’S where I knew her name from! And we chuckled over what a small world it really is.

I asked her if the attorney was able to help her with her previous issue, and she said, “Oh, yes! He sent one letter and they never bothered me again.”

As she continued to talk, I could tell she still had a little bit of bad feeling about what she had to pay.

She must have realized she sounded like she was complaining and said, “Don’t get me wrong, I know they spend a lot of money on their education and they have to make that back…”

This is what I said to her:

Oh, there’s nothing to feel bad about. I get it. Attorneys cost a lot. It hurts to part with that much money. And you’re not responsible for paying their education. That’s their choice to decide to become a lawyer. What you’re paying for, rather, is the legal knowledge and expertise to find a solution for you and keep your legal problem from becoming a much more costly one. So that one letter that cost $500 actually ended up saving you thousands of dollars as well as the time and energy and anxiety of a much bigger, more expensive legal issue.

She stared at me for a minute, processing what I’d said.

I could see the light bulb going off and she said, “Wow! You’re right! I never thought of it like that!”

Never think things are so obvious to everyone else, even if they are to you.

Your value isn’t in being “affordable” (code for CHEAP).

Your value is in the bigger issues you save your clients from, in the ease and convenience you provide, and the time you both save and give back to them.

It’s in the challenges, obstacles and roadblocks you help them overcome.

It’s in how you help them move forward, much faster than they could going it alone.

Focus your message on THOSE things, not on the dollars and pennies they don’t have to pay.

Dear Danielle: How Do I Market to a Target Audience I Have No Experience With Yet?

Dear Danielle:

I’ve been using your products to help me figure out my target market. In your materials, you encourage us to not be deterred by a niche just because we haven’t yet gained experience with it. So, the question I keep asking myself is how to confidently market my services that I know I’m adept at, but don’t yet have the concrete evidence to support such statements when meeting with potential clients. —Jayleen Hayden, Administrative Consultant

Hi, Jayleen 🙂

This is where the research phase of defining your target market comes in.

Your job, once you’ve determined (or are looking into serving) a particular target market is to STUDY UP and learn everything you can about that particular profession/field/industry. There are all kinds of ways you can do that (and you should do all of them!):

  • Use the Internet to learn more about that particular profession/field/industry.
  • Read books (buy some and/or check some out at the library)
  • Check out their industry journals and publications
  • Contact their industry professional associations and avail yourself of their information and resources (including TALKING to people there and asking for their thoughts and guidance on how you can learn more about their industry)
  • Create a free online survey and then shop it around in their industry networking forums, listservs, etc.
  • Call a few people in your chosen target market and conduct some telephone surveys/interviews.
  • Take someone in your desired target market out to lunch and pick their brain.
  • Join your target market’s forums and listservs and start asking questions.

Use your imagination and creativity! Any way you can think of to learn more about your target market is perfectly valid.

And what exactly do you want to know about your target market? Anything and everything; it’s all useful! But here’s a simple list to get you started:

  • You want a firm understanding of the work they do and how their businesses are commonly run.
  • What kind of overarching goals, dreams and desires do they have for their businesses (and their life)?
  • What are their common needs, goals and challenges in their businesses?
  • What kind of administrative work is involved in running their business?
  • How do they make their money?
  • Where are their stuck points? What kind of roadblocks keep them from moving forward (e.g., work they hate or don’t know how or don’t have time to do)?
  • Who are their clients? What kind of needs, goals and challenges do they have in supporting their clients or customers?

Value is always relative to the subject. Value is never something you can articulate in any general kind of way. This is why you always have to know who you’re talking to specifically in order to be able to articulate your value in a way that is going to be the most meaningful, relevant and compelling to that group.

When you don’t know who you’re talking to, this is when people default to talking about themselves and their businesses from their own limited and self-indulgent perspective—things that prospective clients are the least interested in, and which is the least client-centric.

Therefore, this background work in knowing and understanding your target market is vital in getting a grasp for and determining how and where your support will be most useful and meaningful to them. As you get the answers to these question, you begin to see where your support can fit in and help them in all kinds of ways:  running smoothly, keeping organized, moving forward, helping them become more streamlined, systemized and automated. It’s this thorough research and subsequent understanding that will help you show potential clients in your target market how you can truly help them.

When you’ve done your homework like this, it shows. It will show up in your marketing message because you’ll be able to relate your work specifically to your target market’s particular industry and their specific needs, goals and challenges. They will recognize that you understand their businesses and their challenges, and this will make your value more readily apparent to them.

When that’s the case, experience with a particular target market (or lack thereof) is never a roadblock. You’ll get that soon enough!