All I need are more customers

So, is that a marketing issue or a business issue?

Let me start by saying that marketing is a big business practice and is best left to the pros. We know that a small business isn’t a little big business, it is a whole other animal. Marketing, and for that matter, finance, HR and operations are functional areas for big business. Businesses big enough to have groups of people with those specific responsibilities.

Your job, as a small business owner is to make your customer ecstatically happy. That’s it.

How you do that is:

Work from your Sweet Spot

When you can give the best of yourself (and your team), you can’t help but put out the best service. When you work from your strengths and your passion, you live and breath what you do. You gain mastery.

Be who you are. If you are trendy and cutting edge – own it! Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to ‘tone it down’ or your customers can’t keep up. You will attract the customers that appreciate you being out there on the edge and sharing it all with them. If you are comforting and helpful – own it! Make tea a part of your service, make your space cozy, explain what to expect so your customers are comfortable. If you are utilitarian and to the point – own it! Make transactions seamless. Stay out of the way and let your customers do it.

Help your customers get what they really want

Your customer doesn’t want to just buy a sweater. She wants to know it is the latest trend, show her pictures of that sweater on the catwalk or worn by trendsetters. It is important for her to feel on top of what is new, help her do that. Or she wants help buying it, choose several that will look great on her and help her see why they are great for her. It is important for her to feel less stress about the choosing and buying process. Or she knows exactly what she wants and you need to make the transaction as seamless and quick as possible. It is important for her to be done with this task.

This applies to restaurants, accounting and car repair, too.

Tell that story in everything you do

AKA Marketing. From the moment someone comes across your business, you want them clear on what they can expect from you. Your advertising tells that story, your place exudes that story and the experience is exactly what your customer would expect.

Your environment, from your premises, to the phone experience to your packaging all tell that same story.

Your team is clear on that story, they buy into it and they share it, too.

The experience is set on autopilot. Of course each person is treated as an individual, but the routine is set up to be, well, routine and automated.

The value exchanged on both sides is sufficient that your customer is happy and you are able to build capacity to continue to add to that experience.

Your customers become your raving fans

Who needs marketing when you have a team of raving fans telling everyone how awesome you are?

 

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The $250 hour

When a $250/ hour does not equal $250/hour

I get paid between $125 and $250/hour for workshops when I do them for other people. It takes me 2 x as much time to prepare for them as for presenting them. For every 2 hour workshop I spend 4 hours preparing. That doesn’t count the time to get there set up, and stay to answer questions and follow up.

When I do workshops myself, I make anywhere from 0 to much more. Along with prep time, there is logistics, and marketing.

I charge $500 for  business strategy sessions that last around 2 hours. I spend time before we get together researching the business and their industry. I send a follow up report and other materials. I know it’s a good investment because I can find ways to save and to make more than $500. These sessions are not about the face time, they are all about the value I provide.

I will do a one hour $250 session, but quite frankly, it’s a loss leader for me. Realistically for me, I can only do a few of these a week, otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pre and post work. Dollar for dollar, there is more superficial value here, but it’s too short a time to dig to find the priorities, not just the low hanging fruit.

In the same way that a good such as clothes or car parts is marked up to cover the costs to get it into your hands, information reflects so much more than just the time to hand it over. A $250 hour is not just an hour.

 

Your lesson

When you come up with pricing, you need to think about all the time it takes. It helps to think about it in terms of how many can you do in a week. That includes your Sunday afternoons doing the bookkeeping and your evenings returning calls and your early morning preparation for the day.

Don’t forget about sales time, professional development and follow up. They are all very important in providing really good value.

Not every hour is worth $250

Different work is priced differently. I do other work that is much lower value and I charge much less for it. I don’t mind doing that sometimes because it’s work that I don’t have to prep for it, it’s mostly ongoing, and the time is pretty much just the time spent and billed. It also tends to be the easy work for me.

Your lesson

It’s okay to have different rates for different work. It means you can charge more for work that provides more value because of your distinct skills, talents and strengths. It costs you money to get a new client, so once you have a client, your best pricing should be for them.

Do you charge the same rate for changing oil as you do for diagnostic work? Do you charge the same rate for a 1 hour repair as you do for a 9 hour job?

Knowing where to hit

Once a large ship’s engine failed. The ship’s owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure how to fix the engine. Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was a youngster. He carried a large bag of tools with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.

Two of the ship’s owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was fixed! A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for one thousand rupees.

“What?!” the owners exclaimed. “He hardly did anything!”

So they wrote the old man a note saying, “Please send us an itemized bill.”

The man sent a bill that read:

Tapping with a hammer …………………… $ 10.00

Knowing where to tap …………………….. $ 990.00

 

This story is told many times. Sometimes it’s a car, sometimes it’s machinery in a factory. The ultimate price goes up based on the cost of the cost of the machine sitting idle.

Your Lesson

You know more than your client and that knowledge took you a long time to get. That invested time has value.

People aren’t interested in information, they need answers to their problems. They aren’t looking for a how-to manual, they want their problem solved.

The bigger the problem, the more value you bring. Focus on solving bigger problems if you want to increase your value and your rates.

Who pays $250/hour?

Not everyone will pay for all you bring. Sometimes it seems like the people who need us most have the least ability to pay.

I had a client who needed some help with making his business more profitable. He wasn’t able to pay the full fee, but could I help him anyway. I did. We did a short session. He was a current client so I was already pretty familiar with his situation.

I followed up a few weeks later. No, he hadn’t had the time to implement most of my suggestions, he was too busy buying and setting up his new big screen tv (back when they were much more expensive than today.

Six months later he asked to get together again, because he was in trouble again and he wanted to go over some of the solutions we had talked about. No, he couldn’t pay my full fee, but this was only a follow up, right?

I learned that people will value your help at what they pay for it; that ability to pay is very relative; and once you give your time, people believe that’s how you value it, too.

Your Lesson

Who will pay $250 ?

  • People who believe in their business and want to invest in making it better
  • People who are open and willing to make changes
  • People who have experienced how a small change can equal big returns over a period of time
  • People who value their own time

How about you?

Are you worth $250/hour

Could investing $250/hour save or make your business more than that?

What would it take for you to make $250/hour – and how many of those hours can you do in a week?

What do you think?

A Product Shipped and a Book in the Works

Your Effortless Business is being built as an Information Business.  At its most stripped down version this means a business where the main product is information.  In this case the what and how of crafting Your Effortless Business.

Three announcements:

  1. I have created my first product and put it up under Resources.  It’s a tool to help you welcome a new hire on their first day.  It’s pretty comprehensive and is designed to make them feel welcome and to help them hit the ground running.
  2. I have written a book and it is launching on February 29th!
  3. I will be presenting a live and in person, 2-day, Crafting Your Effortless Business workshop in early March.

As I build this business I will pull back the curtain from time to time to let you see the workings of an online Information Business.  It’s not about Crafting Your Effortless Business, but about how I make this business; although, of course, I will be using Effortless Business principles.  Consider this the meta-view.

I want to break down what an Information Business is.  First you develop an idea or concept.  It should be at that wonderful confluence of your Passion, your Expertise, and something people Need enough to pay for it.  This is the information part.

The business part means that there should be an economic engine there.  Usually that means consulting, coaching, workshops, memberships or speaking.  There will be products, too.  These are usually books, workbooks, home-study courses or tools.

How the book came about

I decided to write out Your Effortless Business as a way to clarify it in my mind and to have it.  Some friends of mine were starting a publishing project and were looking for manuscripts to use as a guinea pig.  I sent them mine and they liked it, but asked that I expand it into book size – small book size, but book size.  I spent the last month writing every morning.

They have a full team and a strategy and support and professional feedback.  I’ve done this before, written a document and then I get to a place where everything I want to say is down, but it doesn’t flow, doesn’t make sense and isn’t making my thoughts persuasively clear.  Enter Joel Canfield.  We met virtually and talked through what I had and what I was trying to convey.  He helped me see a structure and a flow that makes the ideas come alive.

The book is now in the hands of our first reader, my good  friend Connie.  She will give us feedback from a gross level that will help me fill in gaps and clarify specific ideas.  Next, Tom will edit.  He will be looking at the writing itself, making it clean.  Finally, Leigh Anne will take Asia’s cover design, my writing (if I can still call such a team effort ‘my writing’) and make it into the book form.

This book could be called the Effortless Book all because of working with a team of professionals.  They’ve made the process Predictable – I know what to expect each step of the way.  We are using the appropriate tools, I’m making the time I need and Joel is great at keeping my head in the right place.  We have a great team.   The remuneration to me will come from several sources – book sales, yes, but others, too.  Books tend to be a springboard for other projects such as consulting, coaching, workshops, and speaking.

If you are interested in creating an Information Business, then follow along by signing up for the updates.   I am posting about Crafting Your Effortless Business and I am pulling back the curtain to show you this Effortless Business as I build it.

Jason Fried about Getting Good at Making Money

Jason Fried of 37Signals knows a thing or 2 about making money. He’s been doing it most of his life – quite successfully. I must admit to not being totally enthralled with his book Rework, but I didn’t actually finish it so maybe it got better. I do love this article of his in Inc Magazine.

Here is a very abbreviated outline of this article. Go read the article, it won’t take long and you will have the outline here to refer to later.

  •  People buy for many reasons almost none of them have to do with the features of your product. The facts are used to justify the decision that is already made.
  •  Find out what the most important factors are.  Make them an integral part of your offering and your marketing.
  •  Practice, practice and listen to your customers.
  •  People will pay if they like it. Even if it’s free elsewhere.
  •  There are lots of different models for pricing. Predictability for you and the customer works for both of you. Take away the risk as much as possible
  •  Bootstrapping means a focus on getting a product out fast that starts pulling in money. That means focusing on what customers want.
  • Practice, test, try again.

What one thing did you take from this that you will change from your business?