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.
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.
If you've read Email Persuasion you'll know that I recommend writing your emails in an informal style: as if you were chatting to a good business friend over coffee.
Every now and then I get asked “why?” Especially given that the dominant style of writing business emails is much more “professional” (ie stiff and formal).
My recommendation comes mostly from personal experience. I started getting better results (more interactions and more sales) the more I wrote informally. And partly because writing informally is a generally accepted best practice for sales letters.
But honestly, I wasn't quite sure that was enough. I wanted some real, solid evidence that writing informally worked.
Strangely enough, there seems to have been very little testing done on informal vs formal writing in the marketing world. It's just kind of accepted wisdom that informal works best.
But there has been quite a bit of testing done in other fields, notably in online learning.
The studies they looked at covered four primary aspects of informal vs formal communication:
The use of first/second person vs third person language – ie talking about I/we and you.
Adding sentences which directly address the reader – for example “Let me tell you what happens when lightning forms…”.
The use of polite requests rather than direct commands (e.g. “Why don't we save the factory now?” vs “Save the factory now”) – just like we would do if we were speaking to a friend face to face.
Making the author's view and personality more visible.
Students who studied from more conversational instructions rated them as more friendly and less difficult. And when there was a more personal and conversational style in the writing, students remembered the material better and were able to transfer that knowledge to new problems.
In other words, when it comes to online learning: informal wins.
Got this in my Linkedin Inbox yesterday. It's the first message from someone I connected with a couple of days ago and it's a perfect example of how NOT to build relationships.
First off, it begins with a lie. Or at least an inaccuracy. I didn't reach out to her, she reached out to me to connect.
So immediately I'm on my guard. Either this is a canned message or she's hitting up so many people she can't remember whether she reached out or I did. Or she's trying to fool me into misremembering and thinking I reached out.
Then there's a beautiful line. The sort that annoys the heck out of me.
A couple of years ago a load of emails dropped in my inbox proclaiming “Social Media Doesn't Work”.
It was one of those big product launches. You know the ones where a bunch of gurus cross-promote each other's products in turn to create the sense that everyone is talking about the product and that this is the one you must buy (until the next one comes along).
This one was being promoted with the line that “social media doesn't work” and a link to a video that would explain why.
So, of course, I clicked. Who could resist a controversial subject line and topic like that?
What was the great revelation about social media not working?
Google “free or low cost marketing” and you'll find a zillion websites, books and coaches offering to teach you how to market your business without spending much money.
And while some of the techniques they preach can certainly be useful, I've found that rushing down the “free or low cost” approach can be a huge mistake for most businesses.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that you splurge a ton of cash on marketing just hoping it'll work for you. A lot of paid advertising is a huge waste of money for consultants and coaches. But “free or low cost” can be equally as damaging in a more insidious way. Here's why…
If you use blogging, article writing or email marketing as one of your main marketing strategies you'll know that one of the biggest roadblocks you face is being able to consistently produce interesting, valuable material that your audience is going to lap up.
Online you're competing against every other source of information your potential clients use. And that means that articles on “working smarter not harder” or revealing that you should be “working on the business, not in the business” aren't going to get you much attention (other than your audience thinking you're rather short of ideas).
Coming up with stunning new insights from nowhere in everything you write is a close to impossible task. But it is possible to feed the content beast by “borrowing” ideas (completely ethically). Here are some of the ways you can do it.