Archive for the ‘Value Is Not About Money’ Category

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!

How Do You Know What a Client Wants?

There’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve observed in businesses frequently over the years that I was reminded of over the past weekend.

It was beautiful weather in my part of the world, and I felt like taking a drive to this little waterfront seafood place located in a more secluded part of town. It’s a lovely area near a public park with a view of the bridge where you can sit outside and watch the boats go by.

Checking out the menu and not remembering if it was the cod or the halibut that was the bit more tender and flaky fish, I asked the server for her advice.

And instead of answering my question, she immediately pointed me to the halibut as being cheaper.

You see the problem, right? She answered a question I didn’t ask.

I didn’t ask what cost less. I wanted what I was looking for regarding flavor, texture and eating experience.

So her answer was irrelevant and didn’t help me in the least. It certainly didn’t help her employer.

It makes me wonder how many people are jumping to conclusions like this server (based on her own life circumstances most likely) without any indication whatsoever that a client is looking for cheap. I certainly see it a lot in our own industry.

If you are doing this, not only are you not really listening and paying attention to clients and instead presupposing what’s most important to them, you are shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to earning well.

Don’t assume that cheap is the first and only thing that clients care about. Write your marketing message to attract those who are more interested in the experience of working with you, how you can help them grow and move forward and how much better and easier you can make their business and their life (and weed out those who are only looking for cheap).

That’s where your value is.

Dear Danielle: How Do I Get Clients?

Dear Danielle:

Brief question–how do you get clients? I know this is on every Administrative Consultant’s mind in America whom is starting out. I know that this kind of business is referral-based, but my God! I know that you can’t just jump up and think you are going to get rich from this (not my intentions). However, it’s one person I did some donated hours for, I have tried working with another client and lowered my prices to accommodate her. Still a no-go on this one. If I would have said it was free for the service, she would have been all over it. I think if I had at least two clients, I would feel like my business is progressing forward. But not having anyone gets discouraging at times and you wonder if it’s worth it if your business is solely based off referrals, you know? –ST

(FYI: This “Ask Danielle” question was originally posted on my old blog back in March 2010.)

Well, first, I had to chuckle because there’s nothing brief about the question, “How do you get clients?” LOL. Not laughing at you, but it’s sort of like asking, “How do we achieve world peace?” It’s a BIG, complicated question with no quick, simple, pat answer.  It’s difficult to start a business, as you recognize. For a large number of people, they are not going to get clients right away. While they’re waiting, there’s a lot of learning and studying they can be doing to better understand marketing and client psychology. Here are a few thoughts to help you get started in the right direction…

1. Stop donating hours. When you give away your value (the very product you are in business to earn your living from), you devalue it in the eyes of clients. Worse, all giving stuff away for free does is attract freebie-seekers. These are not your clients. They will be gone as soon as you take the free buffet away. If they can’t afford professional services, they either shouldn’t be in business, or they should at least not expect you to subsidize their business (to your own detriment) until they can. These are very selfish, self-centered thinking people. You have your own bills to pay and people to take care of. You can’t put your time and energy into those folks. You’ve got to market to people who can already afford you and who don’t expect you to be footing the bill for their business. If you keep giving it away for free, you’re just going to keep getting more of the same. “Why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free?” applies here. If you’re dishing it out, they’re gonna take it. You are attracting what you are giving. So stop the gravy train and get serious about serious clients.

2. I’m not sure why you think this, but this is not strictly a referral-based business. A business can become mostly referral-based once they’ve established their business, had a chance to get their foot in the networking door, and have clients and others who happily recommend them. If you’re new, you don’t have that right off the bat. But there are things you can do and ways you can network that will better draw/attract prospective clients to you. What will help here is having a target market to focus your message on and give you direction on where to find those folks you wish to be talking with and expend your efforts and energy there (which are limited and need to be conserved for the highest and best possible use). Two of the most important criteria in deciding on a target market are that 1) it must be one where the people in it generally are earning enough money that they can afford professional services, and 2) there are enough of them that it’s easy enough to figure out where they are (offline and off) and then find ways to interact with them, come up in their search terms and be found by them.

3. Never, ever bargain with or negotiate your fee. All you are doing is teaching clients to devalue you and your support. You start doing that and they forever after expect freebies and discounts and that everything is up for negotiation. You don’t even have to tell me what you’re charging. I can pretty much guarantee that you are undercharging–all these issues you describe are always symptomatic of rates that are way too low. They cater to and attract the wrong crowd. On top of that, I’m willing to bet the conversation on your site is all about cost and discounts and freebies and savings and how much cheaper and more affordable than an employee you are, yada yada yada… am I right? That’s exactly the problem. I would tell you to raise your fee. You likely will be ALL kinds of uncomfortable doing that. And while you’re doing that, you also will need to learn how to market differently and change your message. But when you do those things, you will begin to attract a clientele with an entirely different mindset and more professional business sense. Those folks are looking for skill and quality and competence, not handouts. You simply can’t waste your time and energy–and money, because that’s what it boils down to–on folks who can’t afford you and would have you harm yourself financially in order to help them.

4. Adding onto the idea of changing your message, you’ve got to frame what you have to offer in respectful ways. You’ve got to hold what you do in high esteem and talk about it in respectful terms. If you use words like “generalist” and “mundane” and “affordable” and the like, you are lowering the perceived value of what you have to offer. You are teaching prospects to look down upon your work and view it as lowly, and thus, not worthy of professional fees. And the industry as a whole has GOT to get off the cost conversation and all the employee comparisons. If you have any of that stuff on your site, take it off immediately. You are creating and attracting the very mindsets you are complaining about now. If everything you put on your website is about how cheap you are, how much they can save, how much more affordable you are than employees, save this, get a discount on that, guess what you are focusing people on? MONEY. You can’t make your marketing message about that–unless you want to continue to attract nothing but people who are looking for savings and discounts and bargains and cheap and affordable. Stop talking about costs whatsoever. That’s the last thing you should be talking about. And if you don’t have anything else to talk about with regard to what you do for your clients and your value to them (the results you help them achieve), then you’ve got a lot more work to do about understanding what you are and what you do.

Marketing and attracting clients is an area of ongoing learning and study. It’s not anything that can be answered quickly or simply in a mere blogpost, but I hope this at least gets your wheels turning. The very best way I can help you is to recommend that you get my e-book, “Articulating Your Value: How to Craft Your Own Unique Marketing Message to Get More Clients, Make More Money and Stand Apart from the Crowd.” This is a self-study guide that will help you determine your target market, define an ideal client profile, differentiate yourself with your own unique marketing message and value proposition and package up that info in much more attractive, marketable ways.

Expensive is a Relative Term

I have no illusions that people will stop thinking like this any time soon, but I still want to throw this out there… “expensive” is a relative/subjective term.

Folks say something is “expensive” when what they really mean is “I can’t afford it.”

Just because they can’t pay for something at the moment doesn’t necessarily mean something is expensive or overpriced. It just means they don’t have the money. Not the same thing.

Because something that is “expensive” can actually be a bargain if that something has the potential to improve your life and business or increase your knowledge, growth, income and circumstances beyond its mere cost.

If you are interested in building a well-earning business (and by “well-earning” I mean whatever your financial goals are, whether that is to create wealth or simply to be able to earn enough to live well and support your family comfortably and without struggle), I want to challenge you to rethink your approach when it comes to spending in your business–whether it’s on a product, service, training, supplies, whatever.

If something is worth its salt, it needs to be priced according to its value. You have to honor that. Would you want clients who want you price your service at less than what you’re worth? How smart are those clients who hire someone merely because they were cheap?

The laws of the universe are in play here as well. When you operate out of cheap/poverty/lack mindset, you attract those very same kind of clients to you.

I’m not saying everything has to be “expensive” to be of quality, but it’s the wrong word and thinking to even be focused from.

When it comes to investing in a business product, tool, service, provider, training, etc., find the right quality for you and then do what it takes to get it or make it happen (which may even mean you simply have to save up for it).

Don’t expect that service, provider, training, product, etc., to be “cheap” so that you can get something for nothing. You devalue others when you do that, and you know what they say:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you want to be valued in the marketplace, you need to treat, honor and respect others likewise.

I’m Cheap and Desperate

“I save you money.”

“I’m cheaper than an employee.”

Get free this, discounted that.

These are not value positions. These are bribes.

And it’s why you’re attracting cheap-minded, money-focused clients.

Bribery does not attract those who value the solutions you offer.

Bribery does not engender loyalty. The minute someone cheaper comes along, those clients are out the door in a hot second.

Because they didn’t hire you based on expertise, they hired you based on how cheap you were.

Bribery signals desperation. It portrays you as someone who is desperate instead of someone who is an expert who can truly help and is worth working with.

You can only frame yourself that way once you stop focusing your entire conversation on how little you cost and what they can get for free.

Is It Any Wonder Clients Balk at Your Fees?

I hear from people all the time complaining about the fact that they seem to ever hear from prospects who balk at their fees and only want to pay $10-15 an hour.

If you identify with that, I gotta be honest with you. Almost every bit of this difficulty stems from what YOU are talking about with them on your website and in your marketing message.

There will always be cheapskates in the world who want to devalue other people and get work for free.

But that leaves the rest of the prospective client market and they are absolutely influenced by how you “sell” yourself.

YOU control what they are focused on.

And let me tell ya, what many of you are focusing them on right now is creating the very mindsets you are frustrated with and seek to discourage.

Go to just about any Virtual Assistant website and all you see people talking is how affordable they are, how they are cheaper than an employee, how much clients can save, discounts on this, free hours on that… etc., etc.

The only thing you are talking about is money and saving. It’s no wonder this is all they see and hear then:

If you want to attract well-paying clients—clients who expect to pay professional level fees and value the work—you have got to stop talking about money in your marketing message. Period.

You are attracting all the wrong prospects and training them to devalue you. You are telling them that the only thing that is important to them and you is how much you cost.

Let me say that another way… if you all you are talking about is money, all you will attract is money-conscious clients.

Do you get that?

If your marketing conversation is all about how how cheap, affordable and “competitively-priced” you are, how much they will save and giving discounts left and right, you are going to keep getting clients who are only looking for cheap. They won’t see or hear anything else.

Surely, you actually have something of value to offer… don’t you?

So talk about THAT!

How does your work improve their business and life? How does it help them move forward? What problems does it solve? How might their outlook and clarity and stress and mood be improved with your help?

Think of all the ways your work and skill and knowledge contributes to making your clients’ businesses better, and focus on those things. The clients you attract with that message will be like night and day. Promise.

And if you want to learn how to stop selling hours and price and package your support based on value and expertise instead, be sure to check out my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit.

Value Is Not a Two-for-One Sale

You Are Not on Sale

When we talk about and use the term “value,” we aren’t talking about bargains and two-for-one sales.

Value is about providing your expertise in a way and at a level that supports the big picture goals, objectives and needs of your client and his/her business.

Client’s don’t hire us for the fun of it or because they have money burning a hole in their pockets or simply for the tasks. They hire us because they have an end-goal in mind, a purpose and somewhere they are trying to get to.

Our work is our expertise, and we should quite rightly have great pride and respect for it—those who do are MUCH better service providers.

But our value is never about our work. Clients hire us because our work and expertise helps them accomplish something or get somewhere they are striving for.

Always get to the “why.” Why do they need the work or support? What goal, objective, ideal or aspiration is it in support of? What challenge are they trying to solve? What problem or pain are they trying to get relief from?

THAT’S where your value is and what your work and expertise is all about.

How You Can Afford an Administrative Consultant

You may have heard about Administrative Consultants, and think they’re great.

An Administrative Consultant is someone who is in the business of providing ongoing administrative support to clients they work with in one-on-one, collaborative business relationships.

You totally get it and would love to work with your own Administrative Consultant.

As with anything of value, however, it’s going to cost something.

So you hold off and keep slogging along by yourself wondering how you can afford to work with an Administrative Consultant.

Well, let me show you…

How You Can Afford to Work with an Administrative Consultant

When you work with an Administrative Consultant on an ongoing monthly basis as your right-hand administrative partner, you can get so much more done than you ever could by yourself.

You free yourself up to focus on more important things.

You also get all that extra stuff done in less time.

Which means your business moves forward much more quickly than it would all on your own.

And when you have time and room to take on more clients, and you are accomplishing all those revenue-generating projects and goals you couldn’t get to before, you end up making more money than it costs you to work with an Administrative Consultant.

Let’s recap…

By working with an Administrative Consultant, you:

  • Free yourself to focus on revenue-generation
  • Reduce your own workload
  • Get more done
  • Make faster progress

That extra time you create by working together is time you can use to:

  • Take on more clients
  • Write that book
  • Develop that training program
  • Create those passive income products

All of which increases your revenue. So the question really becomes, how you can you afford not to work with an Administrative Consultant?

It’s Not About the Price!

As someone in the administrative support business, if your only selling point is how little you cost or how much cheaper you are than an employee, you’ve already failed in business.

I get it… many people are new to business. They don’t have the faintest clue how to market themselves properly.

They see what everyone else in the industry (who also don’t know any better) is talking about on their websites and think that’s what they should be talking about, too.

Little do they know that most of those people they are mimicking are themselves struggling, making very little money and attracting all the worst kinds of clients (think cheapskates and nitpickers, the kind that do not make for a happy or profitable business).

Let me ask you:

  • Is it your rate that improves the businesses of your clients?
  • Is it your rate that does the skilled work that allows clients to move forward?
  • Is it your rate that streamlines their businesses and helps them run more effectively?
  • Is it your rate that creates more precious time in their lives?

No?

Why then do you continue to focus clients on nothing but your price?!

Surely there is more reason to work with you than the fact that you charge so little or that you are “affordable” or “cheaper than an employee.”

Isn’t there?

For that matter, why on God’s green earth do you think that that value (i.e., skills, expertise, knowledge and all the host of solutions and benefits that clients reap from those traits) should cost nary a thing?

Sure, you might have clients beating down your door (client’s are no fools; they know when there’s a schmuck to be taken advantage of), but are they the right clients?

Are they the kind of clients you will enjoy working with?

Can you build a real, sustainable business and make an actual living from the amount of money the cheap-seekers want to pay?

How long do you think it will take before you resent not making enough money or burn out before barely breaking even?

If you don’t work to understand this dynamic and the economics of business, you are going to forever be stuck on a hamster wheel chasing down clients, attracting the worst kind, and still never making any money.

You won’t be in business long if clients are the only ones who benefit. It has to benefit you as well. Otherwise, you don’t have a business.

I encourage you to keep thinking about the real value you bring to the table.

How exactly does your support put your clients in a better place in their business than they were before? What do they gain from working with you? How are their circumstances improved? What do they benefit from?

(Hint: It has nothing to do with how much you charge.)

Write these things down and use them in your marketing message. Take out every mention of how cheap and affordable you are on your website.

Go do this. Now.