But how do we get them to actually buy? To become paying clients?
Well, to a certain degree, our nurturing activities will have built our relationship to the point where we're the first person they think of when they have a need and they're ready to buy.
But we can do more than that.
One of the barriers to clients hiring consultants, coaches and other professionals is that we often don't have an easy, low cost, low risk, entry level service for them.
This applies both offline and on. but it's particularly important online.
The truth is that despite all our efforts to build trust and demonstrate our capabilities, clients will always perceive an initial piece of work with us to be risky.
Yes, we've showcased our expertise in our articles, blog posts and newsletters. And they've perhaps got a sense of who we are from our emails and maybe even some videos.
But it's still a big risk.
And the more costly and complex an initial engagement with us is, the more risky it seems.
And unfortunately, we often exacerbate this perceived risk by not having an easy, low cost way of doing business with us.
Often the only way to engage with us is to take our $1,000 per month coaching services. Or to hire us for a £20,000 consulting project.
Having such a high initial entry point turns a perceived risk into a huge one. Online especially so as the potential client will have had less direct contact with you.
But what if your potential client had a low cost way of hiring you or using your services? I'm not talking about heavy discounting to get an entry point. I'm talking about crafting a small, but highly valuable service that can be delivered at little cost to yourself but which will give the client more first hand experience of working with you.
This could range from short benchmarking exercises and assessment projects to creating online training courses, private membership sites or even the traditional online ebooks.
Look at it this way: who's most likely to buy your high end coaching or consulting services: someone who you've never worked with before but you've put a lot of effort into selling to, or someone who joined your online training site, then upgraded to a group coaching programme and who then came to one of your weekend retreats?
Creating a “product ladder” – a series of ascending value products and services – like this does three wonderful things for you:
Firstly, it allows a broader range of people to experience working with you and hence qualify themselves for buying your more expensive services.
Secondly, it essentially turns your marketing into a paid activity. You're marketing your higher level services primarily through your lower level services. All you have to focus on is getting people to make the easier step of getting on the first rung of the ladder and from then on they're paying you as you entice them up to the next step. Contrast this with the difficulty of trying to persuade them to jump to the top step right from the bottom.
Finally, because you now have a steady flow of qualified prospects for your higher level services flowing through your “system”, you can create more costly (and more value-added) higher end programmes. You might struggle to sell (say) a $20,000 programme cold, but to clients who've already got tremendous value from your $10,000 coaching group it's not such a big leap.
Now creating this ladder of products and services is not necessarily easy. There are some professions where the range of services you can offer is restricted (law springs to mind). But with a little creative thought you can construct a series of escalating value products in most professions.
It's also worth thinking about how you can introduce services which overcome the traditional geographic and time restrictions which most professionals face.
Offering telephone coaching, for example, frees you up from having to be physically near to your clients. And electronic products – books, videos, private membership sites – free you up from a direct exchange of your time for money. With these services, you can begin to deliver 1 to many and get a much higher return on your time.
Once you've defined the steps in your product ladder, you then focus your online efforts on selling the service at the bottom rung. Since it's low cost it rarely needs a huge sell. Then focus on delighting the customers of that service and market your higher level services to them.
It's a whole lot easier and more effective than trying to sell that huge consulting project cold.