All businesses have some kind of value proposition. Sadly, many are not unique, visible or properly leveraged. As a consultant or coach, I’m sure you offer immense value in the knowledge, skills, experience you can use to help your clients. But how do you promote it in the marketplace and get noticed?
In this article and next week, we’re diving into how to position your business and offer so your ideal clients see the visible value proposition in what you do.
Now you have probably heard terms like unique selling points and possibly unique value proposition. And for many consultants or expert practitioners, the challenge is to distinguish what you do from what others in your profession or industry do. You want to stand out.
According to marketing titan HubSpot, 64% of businesses have “established value propositions”. Sadly, few have a truly unique and visible value proposition in the marketplace such that prospective clients find you and differentiate you from the crowd. And very few are really segmenting their market or buyers in order to properly promote it and leverage it.
When you’re clearly and distinctively positioned in the marketplace, in today’s online space, it’s way easier to put your offer out there and get takers.
If you often ask yourself why you can’t get more clients and get paid what you’re worth, this two-part series will help you to clarify and leverage your value proposition.
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Let’s start by unpacking the term.
What is a Visible Value Proposition?
A visible value proposition is what helps you (a) get found, and (b) make clear to your clients how you can help them. And it’s a critical dimension of the leverage you can achieve in your business.
In a crowded marketplace, service providers can be invisible, intangible or viewed as a commodity in the eyes of your customers. Your marketing therefore needs to tackle head on the doubt in any potential client’s mind about your expertise, service quality and ability to deliver.
Based on what they see, read or hear, potential clients will ultimately decide whether they think or feel you’ll be a good return on investment.
A properly articulated and visible value proposition that your potential customers or clients really care about can make a significant impact on your revenue, because it’s the vehicle that helps convert prospects into buyers.
You can’t guess your way to a good value proposition, because it’s created by a combination of market research, the actual value you create for a client, and good messaging that aligns what you do to your ideal client’s most pressing problems.
When your ideal customers truly see the value in the offer – not in your eyes, but in their eyes, as beneficiaries – well then it becomes irresistible. That’s the goal, anyhow.
In today’s episode, I’ll help you explore the different pieces of the puzzle for understanding how to create a unique and visible value proposition for communicating what you do in the marketplace.
And then next week, we’ll talk more about packaging an offer that captures your value proposition and makes a compelling case to your ideal customers so they buy it.
So in this first part, we’ll look at what value means to customers these days, and introduce you to what I call a “visible value proposition” – which is how you can position yourself in the marketplace and promote what you do.
And we’ll talk through the difference between perceived value and real or actual value, because that can really trip people up. We want to get better at communicating value so your offers resonate with your intended target market.
Communicating Your Value in the Marketplace
No matter what business you are in, no matter how intrinsically motivated you are or how good you are at what you do, you need to acknowledge and accept that you also must be in the business of marketing and making offers. And, in some shape or form, that means making yourself visible in the marketplace. If you hide your light under a bushel, you can’t attract clients.
It’s less daunting than you think. Start by aligning the purpose of your business with your target market, understanding their needs and wants and building relationships as a trusted adviser, an educator and change agent as well as a provider of valuable services or products.
Everyone’s looking to find a good new angle or “hook”. With so much information and so many marketing messages and sales ads, it’s increasingly hard for any business or personal brand to stand out in the crowd as unique and special.
Perhaps because of the growing confusion and demand for simple solutions, there’s now correspondingly also an abundance of tactical “if you do this one thing” advice out there. In many ways, this serves only to further perplex and confuse us – and your prospective clients too.
As the market keeps evolving, successful businesses think ahead to hot new topics, work on how they can stand out and get noticed – i.e. lead the herd, rather than follow the herd.
Every good idea will still need positioning and promoting to rise above the general noise, since identifying the next new trend or hot topic is a very tough game to play in any industry. What you can do is maintain your finger on the pulse, find out what your market is asking for, synthesise current ideas and put your own spin on it.
Now as you know, I’m all about education as a tool for business growth. And the cool thing about an education-led strategy is that it helps you demonstrate your value to your target market across a customer’s entire experience with you.
This is also called the end-to-end value chain.
When someone comes across your website or your LinkedIn profile, or blog, or some content you shared, you want there to be a meeting of minds so they feel you really get them and can help them, at least enough to get on a call with you. All along the journey, they’re finding out if what you do is of value to them.
Despite a significant collection of value, expertise and experience you have to offer, do you often ask yourself why you can’t get more clients or better clients, or wonder why you’re not getting paid what you’re worth?
Well, in today’s episode, I’ll hopefully help you explore the different pieces of the puzzle for communicating “visible value” in the marketplace.
Because it’s not that you don’t deserve to get clients or earn more, it’s that there’s sometimes a disconnect in how you communicate your worth to a customer, as well as how you stand out from the crowd.
The marketplace today, being online and everywhere, people have a lot of choice to shop around, and they’re learning some of the marketing and sales tactics and becoming quite sceptical.
So whether you’re currently failing to engage your ideal audience, win clients or gain a more consistent income, this episode/article is for you. If you’re feeling stuck in a low-end “trading time for money” business model, undercharging on your value and working all hours, this episode may hold some of the answers, or at least the seeds of those answers growing into solutions for you.
Obviously, being the Leveraged Business podcast, on the show I talk a lot about where, when and how to use leverage. And you’ve probably heard me use the phrase leveraged roadmap a few times, for example last week when I told you about my Leveraged Business Accelerator programme, that’s the very first thing we do in our 90-day plan – we strategize and create a roadmap that’s very customised to your business vision, your set up, your skills that’s sets out the trajectory for your business growth journey.
Well, the first leg of that journey is about your message-market match – or offer-market fit.
In order to create visible value, we can draw on the opportunities that digital platforms offer to position and promote yourself, and in the next leg, we’ll go through how you deliver that offer in a way that is systematised and scalable.
Let’s talk about the marketplace, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, right?
Creating a Visible Value Proposition in Your Buyer’s Mind
While consulting remains an expanding industry, organisations today are either reviewing the way they use consultants or questioning the value and return on investment (ROI) they get from using them.
Isn’t it frustrating that you have all this knowledge, expertise and experience yet you can’t seem to connect it with people who want what you have to offer?
Part of this, is the often intangibility of what consulting and coaching services deliver.
Even in renowned firms, it’s clear that their consulting is presented in a fairly generalist manner and their only offer is trading their knowledge and “done-for-you” services. This presents a constant struggle to win business, because such consultancy is simply a common commodity.
Three of the most common frustrations I hear my clients talking about when they come to me, and some colleagues too, are:You’re unsure how to set out your stall – what platform you need, what content to share, how much to give away, how to attract your ideal audience to you.
You’re not getting enough enquiries, but don’t really know how to do effective lead generation (e.g. making your website work for you).
When you do get enquiries, people don’t seem to see the value in what you do or feel inspired to take action (so you hear “let me think about it” or “I can’t afford it”).
For starters, you’re going to need to work on being differentiated, distinctive and get good at articulating the benefits of your program or service. Because without that, the only value propositions a prospective client can judge you on is cost or locality.
You want to develop clear, tangible services, packaged programs or products that are straightforward to understand what you deliver.
In other words, clients can immediately see you as a solution to exactly what they need, without overwhelming them with needless complexity.
A confused mind never buys!
I’m still learning that one, for sure – but I have a great copywriting friend and I interviewed her a few weeks ago, Laura McDouall is so good at this stuff. We did talk a lot about content strategies, but her free Facebook group, The Copywriting Project, is simply amazing and she does a live copywriting session every Friday. Now that’s just an incredible example of visible value right there!
When you learn how to match your message with the needs of your target market, that’s when the magic happens. You can start to create value-driven offers that clearly set out your value proposition in the eyes of the customer.
Understanding how to do this and doing it well gives you a method for client attraction and business growth that only a few in the professional services industry are currently exploiting.
When I was writing my book, Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age, and indeed I say this in the preface of the book, I realised I was going against the grain of how consulting firms conventionally market and deliver services; and indeed how “success” is measured in the corporate world.
Many firms have yet to understand the subtle yet profound benefits of moving from a cost-based, sales-focused business development strategy, where it’s all about positioning in the sense of features and glossy brochures, to an approach that is value-driven and focused on perceived as well as actual benefits to the client.
In an industry where consulting and coaching are increasingly seen as indistinguishable commodities, you need to stand out to gain competitive advantage. You need to demonstrate your credibility and the outcomes a client gets working with you.
Credibility and Distinctiveness as Price Differentiators
Consulting and coaching type services – professional services – are a growth industry, which is great for you if that‘s the industry you’re in. But it also means it’s getting increasing crowded and competitive.
A big thing that influences your positioning in the marketplace is credibility and distinctiveness. Visible value is all about communicating both effectively so you become the more attractive option.
Credibility can be communicated through a trial, a demonstration, a free course, testimonials or affiliation with particular partners.
A customer’s perceived value is based on the difference between the perceived benefits and the perceived costs. The actual cost is something we as the provider put a figure on, we try to justify what we charge with the tangibles. But tangibles are only one part of how a customer perceives benefits and value.
There’s the physical benefit – the thing they get, a book, a course, a review, a report – a deliverable of some kind.
There’s the logical benefit – that that deliverable will enable them to do something better or faster.
And there’s an emotional benefit – that the part where your offer will make them feel better, that it will reduce the pain points and increase the pleasure points, reduce the pain, increase the gain.
The fact that perceived cost – money, time and labour – is not all about pricing your hours or days of your time or pricing the deliverables, that’s actually quite hard for some people to grasp.
It’s about pricing what the value, the benefit, the outcome MEANS to your client or customer.
Hopefully that’s an aha lightbulb moment for you, if you haven’t appreciated that until now.
And in fact the cost side to putting prices on your offer can be manipulated. There are so many psychological tactics that trick the brain. I’m not a fan of that way of that kind of manipulation, but it’s very common in the marketplace in most industries because … well it works!
For instance, comparative pricing – comparing the price of your program or service to alternatives, the cost of inaction and so on. I’m sure you’ve seen how most of the time nowadays, prices are never rounded up. You mostly see 9.99 – when people got wise to it, it became 997.
The ‘left digit effect’ can substantially increase sales. Because the number 9 or 7 is perceived as a discount or deal in the eyes of a buyer. In fact, studies have shown more people buy a $39 product than when it’s offered at £34.
Mad, isn’t it?!!
Even removing signs of monetary value bumps up purchasing – that is, leaving off the dollar or pound sign and showing only the number itself.
So, it’s your choice: do you play the game and benefit from this human nature, or not?
One way to think about this is to look at the difference between perceived and actual value.
Understanding Perceived Versus Actual Value
In layman’s terms, the real (or actual) value is what a product or service is actually worth, without any outside influences or expectations from either the consumer or seller. It’s the tangible deliverables if you like.
Perceived value is what consumers think the product is actually worth, the more intangible or qualitative benefits that as consultants and coaches we often struggle to communicate well.
Perceived value is a customer’s personal view or perception of a product or service’s worth or desirability to them, especially in comparison to what seems like a comparative offer from a competitor.
Creating visible value means having a clear and compelling message. But it’s also all mixed up in the difference between perceived value and actual value.
At the end of the day, perceived value is measured by the price your target customer is actually willing to pay for a particular product or service.
And that’s all to play for.
In the consulting world, we talk a lot about value-based pricing. This is distinct to time-based pricing, or billing that many firms use.
With value-based pricing, your compensation and fee are based on the value you create for the client, not on the amount of time you spend on a project or the deliverable outputs.
Of course, you want to consider how much time a project will actually take you to deliver so you ensure the work will be profitable for you.
To get to the value-based pricing, you can do a little digging both in terms of market research, and by taking a consultative sales approach to your calls. When you call a prospective client, you’re often having a value conversation, wittingly or unwittingly.
You ask the organisation some deep, probing questions – you “ladder” the conversation to get to the bottom of what the major pain points or bottlenecks or problems and challenges are.
You paint a picture of what things would look like if these issues were resolved. And you discuss the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.
And you talk about how what you do – be it a review, a service, a program or a product – helps them get from A to B.
The key here is that you’re not telling the buyer what your price or fee is — you’re asking them questions so THEY are telling you what the value is so when you make your offer it’s aligned with their perceived value.
When you identify and are able to clearly communicate a specific and unique value proposition, this wraps five important benefits around what you do:
It fuels both your ego and your mojo, which let’s face it, just feels good
It differentiates you from others in the same space
It gives you confidence when you’re talking about what you do
It naturally segments those who resonate best with you, personally
It leads to positive enrolment conversations that convert to clients.
For me, although I’ve reinvented myself a few times, having an online brand presence has always been a very significant vehicle for building my business.
Before deciding to work with me or join my team, many people say they looked me up on social media, read something I wrote or heard me speak and saw me as the “go-to” expert for helping consulting professionals.
Not so much nowadays, but I recall a few people saying: “Jay, I did a search on you and you’re everywhere!” I’m actually not everywhere in terms of the content I share, but I have a presence on most platforms to link it all together and reach different audiences.
That’s positioning and branding for you.
While some have the opinion that social media is a waste of time for securing consulting work (or for anything!), I’d argue the opposite.
Although the direct benefit of a particular online platform really depends on your target market and where they hang out, writing good content and interacting in networks definitely does get your name out there.
Your digital presence and visibility in turn attracts guest posting, speaking engagements, collaborations and other opportunities, online and offline, to grow your audience. From there, a lot of work can flow in.
Visible Value in the Leveraged Business Flywheel
In my book, I outline five pillars of leverage in business – it’s the leveraged strategy as a flywheel, leveraging you (your expertise), leveraged marketing, leveraged sales and leveraged delivery.
Your expertise lies at the heart of everything of course, but what kicks off the flywheel is leveraged marketing, when you’re able to package offers that are irresistible to your ideal customer.
That’s where the aligning, targeting and positioning come together. And from there, you’re in a much stronger position to work on branding and pricing as the next drivers in the flywheel. But the positioning piece is also a lot about networking and relationship building to establish trust, which I’ll say a little about here next.
In his book Effortless, Danny Iny talks about three pieces to this– resonant identity, an obvious offer and the intuitive path. When you have all three working well, your value is more visible to the ideal client and leads fairly effortlessly to a “sale”.
And in fact, even after the sale, it should be seamless to onboard them as you continue to add value in how you help and serve them as a client.
Your goal is to lead your prospective customers from finding you to seeing the value in what you do and through your messaging or great copy, being compelled to buy.
In order to “sell” people on you and your expertise, what your marketing and promotions need to achieve is to cultivate an engaged and responsive audience.
And we talked about this in the interview I did a couple of weeks ago, with Tonya Kubo, who gave us some fantastic insights into how to connect with people and create thriving online communities.
A digital marketing strategy driven by high-quality educational content can achieve visible value because it helps increase your reach and helps build the all-important trusted relationship with a future client.
And for that, you’re going to need to specialise and create a unique brand message that speaks to the exact segment of the market you want to attract. The more specific you can be, and the more you demonstration the value you can provide, the more you’ll stand out and get noticed by the right people.
Being visible or well differentiated in the marketplace and/or having a compelling message and irresistible content helps you drive your lead generation and build a targeted list.
That’s the job of offer positioning and messaging.
Offer Positioning and Differentiation
Positioning is a key part of the leveraged business strategy – how you get yourself and your message out there in the marketplace – being visible, getting noticed and becoming slightly famous for that thing you do – and having your target audience attracted to you for doing one thing well.
Will there be others who do that one thing, yes. So there’s always the challenge to do things differently, or better or to have some kind of distinct edge on the competition. But essentially, let’s start by leaning into the one thing you want to be known for the most.
This means adopting one or more platforms that you’re comfortable (or could become comfortable) communicating through, such as writing, speaking, teaching. To do this effectively in the digital age, you have to do your chosen thing consistently.
And trust me, the more you do it, the better and more polished you’ll do it.
In truth, it doesn’t matter too much if you speak from a stage or create online podcasts or videos; equally, it’s as effective to write editorials in print publications as it is to post articles on a blog or via social media.
The big difference between offline and online though is online has far more leverage in reaching a bigger audience, and sometimes in being more targeted.
As long as you’re promoting your unique expert system, and the result you deliver for your specific target audience, you can position yourself with confidence, standing by the value of that result for the price you charge.
So you do really need to give attention to the perceived value of what you contribute and the ‘value for money’ in your offer.
If you’re getting a lot of objections like “I’ll think about it” or “we don’t have the budget”, that is likely evidence that you’re not communicating the value well enough or you’re not conveying the cost to your prospect of not getting the result you deliver (and continuing to have the problem they have) as more expensive than the cost to get it.
We’ll talk more about the irresistible offer next week. But just to finish up today by saying, that providing guidance and consulting on your expert system helps your potential customer see what you do as a fit to what they need.
Moreover, your prospect is able to visualise a step-by-step process to getting their problem addressed. In so doing, you’re also positioning yourself as the expert to help them implement it. This is all about moving them towards a belief that you’re the person to help them reach the solution they want.
Becoming Distinctly Valuable and Slightly Famous
In hindsight, it’s easy to see that my reputation, value and visibility are what attracted clients and kept me financially afloat rather than any direct selling per se.
It finally hit me that standing out, as an expert authority on a specific subject and being seen as a service provider to offer something clearly defined and of value, is the one of the most critical aspects of a leveraged consulting strategy.
Showcasing your qualifications does little to persuade prospective clients to buy your services – they expect you to have credentials. The question in a potential client’s mind is whether you can help them achieve the specific result they want.
When you help someone do something better, the value you deliver takes you from anonymous seller that people ignore to trustworthy teacher your ideal audience wants to hear from.
Taking this approach to building a brand is what Rich Schefren terms “mavenship”. It requires a fundamental shift in mindset, one that embraces generosity to put your ideas out there, rather than secrecy to protect your intellectual property. It builds your brand equity.
It’s equally important to specialise and become the go-to person for that one thing. Many consultants and coaches just market themselves as generalists, that gives you a huge hurdle to convince someone why you and not someone else.
When you rise above the parapet, and specialise, magic starts to happen.
This is the expert value pyramid.
With the digital channels at our disposal today, especially video, audio and other social media, you can quickly start to attract a following and gain meaningful celebrity status in your field. This heightens your perceived value and desirability in your prospect’s eyes.
“If you’re willing to expend the effort to create well-crafted content, you’ll distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace where many people are serving up tasty morsels, and you’re taking the time to create something of substance.” – Dorie Clark
However, even when you specialise, you may find you’re not yet truly unique. Maybe you’re a fitness coach who specialises in nutrition; that’s pretty broad.
What makes you unique might be who you work with and what their particular desires are: for example, menopausal women who struggle with tiredness and weight loss.
When you add in some thought leadership and promote yourself through education rich content, you claim expert status in that specific niche area – X, Y or Z not X, Y and Z.
When people desire a very specific thing and can clearly see what you offer is “just the thing they need”, they want it – now! And, they’re willing to pay more than the going rate to get it.
Once you start to earn the “maven” expert status, and have standardised channels to engage with your audience that you become known for, this also means you don’t get too distracted by other ideas and shiny new marketing tools.
You’ll have much more time and freedom to focus on research, strategy, content and client support, so creating increasingly greater influence and impact, as well as higher levels of income.
Persist in asking yourself this: how can I leverage my content and reach more people? If you’re wondering what integrating your authority brand with content marketing can do for your business, here’s the argument for why this is a game changer.
Your best prospects are essentially in the market for a solution to a problem they have and actively searching for answers and researching their options.
Next week, we’ll shift gears and look at what it takes to package offers that are irresistible to your ideal customer.
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