And if you're in consulting or a similar advisor profession, the particular type of impossible they want is that paradoxical combination of “new and different” with “tried and tested”.
New and different = something their competitors aren't doing, so will give them a competitive edge.
Tried and tested = proven, so they won't be taking a risk by implementing it.
Of course, a moment's thought will tell you something can't really be both new and different AND tried and tested. But “wants” are driven by emotion and gut feel. Cold hard logic doesn't often get a look in.
Sometimes the impossible isn't so impossible.
Back when I started consulting in the early 90s it was actually relatively easy to give clients new and different and tried and tested.
Back then there was very little information sharing across businesses and sectors. So a proven and effective strategy for one business or sector would be completely new in a different one. The first business to implement it would have a significant advantage for some time because of the slow flow of information and ideas.
As a consultant, you would take your experience and ideas that you knew worked in one area and implement them for a client in a new one. You were the oil that lubricated the wheels of progress and you got paid handsomely for it. Your clients, in return, would get something new and different that gave them a competitive edge without the normal risks associated with innovation.
Today, however, it's not quite so easy.
Today, information about new strategies and tactics spreads almost instantly across the web. “Best practices” are a commodity: they're no longer the best-kept secrets of the few, they're open to the many.
If your only offer to your clients is to help them implement best practices and proven techniques then it's almost impossible to charge a premium. Clients will either find someone else to implement those ideas cheaper, or they'll try it themselves. It doesn't matter how great you are at implementing, clients will struggle to justify paying big money for something that – in theory – is public domain.
How can you charge a premium in these conditions?
Take those best practices, roll them together with your own experiences and ideas and create something unique that's proprietary to you.
It doesn't have to be completely “from the ground up” new. Just new enough. Those marginal differences can be worth a fortune to clients.
Look at something like Todd Herman's hugely successful “90 Day Year” program.
Are the tactics and concepts in it massively different from every other planning, productivity and midset system that's gone before?
But it's different enough for people to be willing to pay for that extra edge.
It's different enough that Todd can rightly claim you can't get it from anyone else.
It's different enough for people to believe it might work for them when other systems have failed.
Different enough makes a big difference.
And if you find you're struggling to charge a premium despite your expert knowledge and years of experience, then creating your own concept or big idea or distinctive point of view could be what makes the difference for you.
Of all the problems I hear from people struggling to win enough clients, probably the most frequent is “I just can't find the time for marketing”.
It's an insidious problem. No matter how smart you are, no matter how brilliant the marketing strategies you're trying to implement: if you can't find the time for them then you won't get results.
And it's such an easy trap to fall into. If we're not naturals at marketing we probably don't know how to do it efficiently. And we probably don't enjoy it, so we kid ourselves that we're doing OK, we have enough clients for now, something will turn up anyway…and so we avoid doing the marketing we really need.
But it absolutely is possible to fit effective marketing into a busy schedule. What it takes is a combination of mindset, ruthless prioritisation, scheduling and techniques for doing your marketing efficiently. And that's exactly what you'll learn in this guide.
A little while ago, after being named by OpenView Labs as one of their Top 25 Sales Influencers – their list of “25 of the most powerful thought leaders in the world of sales management, lead generation, and more” – I wrote an article on 3 relentless trends that are disrupting marketing.
I‘m sure you've noticed that becoming seen as an authority or “go to expert” has become rather fashionable as a marketing strategy. It seems that no matter what new tactic, tool or technique is being promoted, one of the main selling points is always that it will help you become seen as an authority in your field.
Write a book and become seen as an authority in your field. Do guest blog posts and become seen as an authority in your field. Do a podcast and become seen as an authority in your field. Be everywhere on social media and become seen as an authority in your field. Do live video…you get the idea.
Every guru and marketing trainer seems to want to teach you how to become seen as an authority.
Maybe you're a little bit skeptical?
I don't blame you.
The truth is that hundreds of thousands of people write books, yet only a tiny fraction of them are seen as authorities.
Millions of hours are spent on guest blog posts, podcasts and live video and again, very few people who do it are known as authorities.
And “being everywhere” on social media? Even if you had the time, there are countless thousands of other people doing it too – and again, very few of them ever get close to authority status.
Back in the late 1990s I had one of those “duh” moments.
I was attending a workshop on selling consulting services run by my employer, Gemini Consulting. One of the core lessons from the workshop was the observation that your sales processes should be based on how your buyers buy, not on how you want to sell.
Simple. Obvious. Yet I hadn't thought of it like that at all.
Fast forward to today and that simple observation still applies to sales processes both offline and online.
But does your website really match how your buyers buy? In particular:
What phases do they go through in their decision-making process?
What do they look for at each stage?
Have you made it incredibly easy for them to find what they're looking for on your website at each stage?
From a hard-nosed commercial perspective, you want the visitors to your website to do what you want them to do. But in the real world, they're only going to do what you want them to do if it matches what they want and need to do.
Or to use Zig Ziglar's more positive version, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”
In the current frenzy of excitement about designing complex “marketing funnels” to maximise our sales we seem to have lost sight of the fact that your clients have their own objectives. And if your website doesn't help them achieve those objectives then they won't stick around, no matter how clever your funnels are.
So what is it that our clients want when they visit our site?
That's a bold statement, isn't it? An exaggeration for effect, sure.
But I bet, like me, you've sometimes wondered whether clients really are all that loyal.
Well, now there's hard data to back up our gut feeling. The results don't make for pleasant reading. But they do tell us what really works if you want to grow sales (especially in business-to-business).
But more of that in a second. Let's back up to set the context so this all makes sense.
Last week I headed over to Washington to attend the CEB‘s 2017 Sales & Marketing Thought Leader Roundtable. A rather eclectic bunch of sales and marketing experts sat round as the team from the CEB (I should technically say the CEB, now Gartner) presented the findings from their latest sales and marketing research and we discussed, debated and gave them feedback.
They've done two big studies so far this year. One in sales which I'm going to discuss in this article, and one in marketing (digital marketing through the business-to-business buying cycle) which I'll discuss in an upcoming article.
Now it's worth noting before we jump in that this research is focused on business-to-business – ie marketing and selling your products or services to other businesses. And the research was primarily done with large organisations, both from a buyer and seller perspective.
But what you'll find is that the results are equally applicable whether you work for a big company or run your own little solo business like me.
The CEB research covered many areas. but the findings that jumped out for me, in many ways because they go against so much of what is being preached today, were about the best ways to grow business with your best and biggest clients.
If you've worked in a service business for any length of time you'll know the power that customer testimonials can have in shaping buyer decisions. Especially when the service is expensive, intangible and new to the buyer.
As eConsultancy showed recently, 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision and that results in an average sales uplift of 18% if you use reviews on your site.
Today's podcast is a great follow-on from my recent article on the first steps to becoming an Authority where I highlighted that the first step is to understand your ideal clients and what they care about.
In the podcast, I talk to copywriter Chris Laub about the steps he follows when he's researching a market. And in particular how he does 1-1 interviews to build deep insight into potential clients.
In the podcast Chris shows you when research works well and when it doesn't, what sort of questions to ask to get beneath the surface and find real insights, and what pitfalls to avoid when doing research.
There's no doubt in my mind (and my experience) that being seen as an authority in your field is the best way for people in expert businesses like consultants, coaches, trainers and other professionals to win more high-paying clients without having to become marketing geniuses or spend all their time on sales.
But of course, becoming seen as an authority is easier said than done.
Late last year I ran a survey asking what your biggest challenge in the area of building authority was. There were a huge number of answers which I then used to help me shape my Authority Breakthrough Program. But overall, three big challenges came out well ahead of the others:
And, of course, there's no one right answer for everyone. What suits a full-time online marketer with a team behind them isn't the same as what suits a small solo business with limited time to do their marketing in. And personal preferences play a role too.
But what I can tell you about are the tools I personally use. These are the ones that I've tested and I feel are the best to help me run my online business. They might well be a good fit for you too.