Have you ever had the experience of spending a couple of days consulting with a potential client, gave him everything he wanted, only to lose him to another provider simply because of price?
Yet you know competing on price is a losing strategy. For one, you only have 24 hours in a day – how much lower can you charge before you go below the poverty line? And how can you even compete with the thousands of other providers from Asia, who are willing to work for a tenth of what you are asking for?
Well, that’s where marketing comes in. The answer is simple, really: build your brand, position yourself right and ask for the money.
Simple, however, does not equal easy – don’t worry though, that’s what this article is here for.
How To Get Anyone To Do Anything
According to Professor BJ Fogg from Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, three things need to occur simultaneously for an action to happen.
- You must have the motivation to act. In other words, you must want it first.
- But the fact that you want it doesn’t mean you can do it. The second factor is, therefore, ability. Can you afford what you want to buy, for example?
- Even if you want to do something and you have the ability to do it, sometimes life gets in the way. We all want to live a healthy life and we all have the ability to do it, so why not? Answer: triggers – a factor I’ll discuss more in depth later in this article.
The goal, if it isn’t already abundantly clear, is to raise motivation, lower ability (make it as easy as possible) and to constantly remind them of your presence.
Do you want to raise your price and not scare away a client? Do these 3 things.
Let’s start with…
1. Making Yourself Desirable
Back in 2009, psychologists Timothy Judge and Charlice Hurst published a study. The goal of the research, which took 20 years to complete and involved some 12,000 people, was to find out what factors make some people professionally successful and why others fail.
They found pretty much what you’d expect. Demographics, for example, matter: teens who came from well-to-do families are more likely to attend top universities than blue collar families and therefore more likely to do well.
But there’s a small subset of their participants that defies the odds: people came from normal (sometimes poor) families, who didn’t do well in school, yet went on to run/found multi-million dollar companies.
So they searched far and wide for a common factor among these people and here’s what they found: quitting. Or more specifically, decisiveness and focus.
Once these people decide to do something, they are decisive to quit doing any other activity and completely dedicate their focus to a singular task.
So what does this have to do with building your brand and making yourself desirable?
As David Packard (co-founder of Hewlett-Packard) once said, “more companies die from overeating than starvation.” What he really meant is for you to focus on one customer segment and start turning down clients who are not your target.
Specialization and a Word of Warning
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re a big anime fan and you’re getting married. Would you go for…
- A photographer who does everything?
- A photographer who specializes in weddings?
- Or a photographer who specializes in anime weddings?
The answer is clear. If there’s only one thing you can do to increase your desirability to potential clients, therefore, it’s specialization.
Because not only will the third photographer have a lot anime weddings in his portfolio, he’ll also know what are best poses for anime-themed wedding dress, the best locations for an anime fan, and align his whole marketing strategy to focus on that segment.
But what if a regular wedding client knocked on my door? Shouldn’t I take it?
That’s the difference between successful and struggling entrepreneurs, the study found. Sure you’ll make some money if you take that client on, but you could have spent that time marketing your services to the RIGHT customers and building your brand instead of diluting it.
In other words, the wrong customer is like a candy bar. Sure it tastes good now, but think about what would happen if you eat it.
Does that mean you should find the most obscure niche out there and specialize in it? Of course not. Look before you jump: is the niche sustainable? Will it pay to specialize? There are a number of ways you can do this:
- Do a Google keyword research. Are there people looking for your services?
- Look for blogs dedicate to your intended specialization. Are there even any?
- Go to the popular forums and see if anyone is talking about the niche you want to dive into.
- And this is most important: beware if you found a niche that has no competition. That probably means the market is too small.
- If you’re really unsure, run a PPC ad to test the market. You could save years of specialization if you just tested your idea for a mere $50 on Adwords.
2. Make It as Easy as Possible
Now that you’ve put yourself on top of the potential client’s desire list, it’s time to remove the roadblocks for them to take action.
Making it as easy as possible for clients to give you money sounds ludicrous – do clients really base their decisions to spend thousands of dollars on how simple the payment process is? Answer: to a large degree, yes.
IN 2003, Eric Johnson and Daniel Goldstein published a study on how they significantly increased how many people choose to donate their organs when they pass away. Guess how they did it?
Did they offer incentives for the organs? Did they punish those who refuse to donate? Nope, none of that.
They simply made the default choice to “Yes, I will donate my organs when I die”. You’d think that organ donation is such a major life decision, people would check a box to keep theirs when filling out the forms.
But they didn’t.
Making It Easy To Do Business
In business, that can mean a few things:
- Keep your web forms as short as possible. If you can get someone into a sales funnel, you can always ask for more information later. For example, I remember wanting to hire a graphic designer but I left because of his form: it was too damn long!
Why would he need my last name, my phone number, address, scope of the project, estimated budget and a dozen more information at this point in time? I just wanted to know if he’s available and if so, for how many hours a week.
Instead he could have a “register your interest” form with two fields: first name and email address. Then he could follow up with one question at a time – making it far less intimidating for me to answer.
- Consider your payment options. Believe it or not, just last week I was asked to print out a form, fill it out, sign it and fax it back to the merchant. If I have no fax machine (who does, these days?), I’ll have to scan it and email it back to him.
Guess what I did? I abandoned the process (even though I had my credit card ready).
So why didn’t he accept paypal or credit card online? Because of the “processing fee”, and fraud he said. It’s a common mistake many business owners make.
If you’re concerned about fees, raise your price to cover them and make it as convenient as possible for your clients to give you money. It’s rare that that modest increase would decrease your conversion.
- Revise your contact options. I hate talking on the phone because I would have no records about anything that was said, yet a number of providers insist on doing so. Why? I was given a number of reasons: it’s faster, makes sure I’m a real person, etc – but all of those reasons have one thing in common:
They are all for the benefit of the business owner, not the client!
On the other hand, some industries insist that clients use email instead of call. Others are only available through a Skype chat. If you insist on a particular contact option, make sure you’re making things easier, not harder.
- “Uncomplicate” the process of hiring you. For example, I used to require potential clients go through an 18-page contract before I would start any formal work. It was the prudent thing to do – after all, I’ve heard of horror stories of clients refusing to pay up when the work is done.
Then a colleague of mine suggested I should get rid of that document and use a one-page agreement instead – conversion rate for that last step, doubled. Meaning I doubled my client base.
Did anyone scam me because of the lack of a contract? To be honest, yes. But out of the 8 additional clients I got, only 1 was a scammer. I treat that experience as a marketing cost and my income doubled – even after I took the scam into account.
Most people are the stark opposite: they would rather lose 7 legitimate clients than fall victim to one scam.
Why do you eat what you eat, and why do you eat the amount you do?
That was the question that was plaguing psychologist, Brian Wansink. So he set out to do a number of experiments to test this crazy theory he had: it’s the environment people are in that affects what and how much they eat. Not hungry they are.
And it turns out to be true.
For example, the amount of chocolate bars you’d eat increases if the candy jar is within your immediate reach. Similarly, the bigger the plates you use, the more food you put on your plate and the more you end up eating.
These are great examples of “triggers” – subconscious factors that influence your behaviour.
In the case above, you have the motivation to eat the chocolate bar and you certainly have the ability to do so. The trigger is the very presence of the chocolate bars. That’s called the “signal” trigger (When Wansink switched the transparent candy jar for an opaque one, consumption dropped).
The reason triggers have such a huge amount of influence on our behaviour is because we are cognitive misers. We use mental shortcuts to determine our behaviour rather than fully and rationally analysing each situation.
For example, study after study found that we tend to view beautiful people as more competent, honest and kind – beauty in this case is a trigger. We view people who are like us as friendlier. And we view those with an Ivy League degree as more of a genius.
All these are not necessarily true, but that’s how most of us perceive them.
Manipulating Triggers Online
There are several ways you can do this in the online space. Smart marketers, for example, don’t insist that people buy their products on the first visit. Instead, they get their clients to fill out a form so they can follow up from there.
Those constant follow ups are triggers. The emails say something to the tune of, “Hey, you expressed interest in my service a couple of days ago. Just thought you might like this resource I wrote on my blog.” Completely non-intrusive, helpful even.
Triggers also come in a few other forms:
- A prominent call to action button. Facebook, for example, uses a green sign up even though blue works better with their design. Why? Because if it doesn’t match with the theme of the site, that button will grab more attention and trigger people into signing up.
- Always have functional, usable and pleasing marketing materials. Maintain and update your website at least once a month and make sure your business card, flyers, banners and any other client facing materials reflect your professionalism. A website and/or advertising materials that wows your prospective client is a trigger of competency. You don’t have to brag about your skills – that awesome site of your does it for you.
- Be transparent about who you are and your design processes. Display a nice portrait of you, use your real name and write a brief background about you. Maintaining anonymity will only raise suspicion – how do they know you really are who you say are? This is a trigger of honesty.
- Social proof is another great trigger. If you have a significant amount of Facebook fans or Twitter followers, show them off. If you have raving testimonials, feature them. If you’ve worked with large clients or interviewed/contributed to national magazines, boast about it. These are triggers of popularity.
- Last but not least, is your trigger of authority. Being an authority in your marketplace is not the same as being popular. Many university professors and entrepreneurs, for example are never popular, yet the former has contributed to humanity’s knowledge and the latter made millions of dollars.
Being an authority is not easy, but there are couple of things you can do to create that perception. For example, create a great case study (note: Case studies are not portfolios). Or start a side project to benefit your community – license your images under the creative commons, help a local charity with design work, make it a point to help other designers in popular online communities.
When specialization, accessibility and triggers converge, price becomes almost an afterthought. It’s like if Da Vinci offers to paint you a picture – you just know it will be the money. You’d do it if you can afford his fee.
And here’s the truth: most clients never wanted to pay as little money as possible. Some do, but most don’t. What they do look for are two things:
- Whether you can do the job well
- And if they can trust you
If too many clients start comparing your rates, it’s a symptom that you’re missing on these factors.