Give away what you know for free? Kind of counter intuitive isn't it. Well I'm going to show you why it's probably the most effective growth strategy you'll find.
Selling Services is a hard station because they are invisible, intangible for the most part. And I'll bet like most small service business owners you sell by virtue of your personal relationships with customers.
Am I right?
Sure I am, and because you are the focal point in the business through which most if not all sales come, the scope to which you can expand your business can be limited.
You get to a given stage of development then hit a plateau, or it's get so crazy that you can't handle the volume of work and you break.
It's ok though, growing beyond your own personal reach is really difficult and most small service businesses don't go beyond that.
I won't pretend to have a hard and fast solution to this but I do have one that you can use to great effect if you dedicate the time to learning the craft.
It's marketing at it's best in my opinion, can set you up as an authority in your market, and can demonstrate your expertise to hundreds if not thousands of people all in one hit (once done correctly).
Want to know what it is?
I'll tell you in a minute….. 😉
Here's what got me thinking about this…
I asked myself “what's the number one thing all businesses need no matter what size they are…?”
“Sales!” I said
(Yeah, I talk to myself all the time)
It is sales though right? I mean, I could be wrong but without the sales there's no business done, in fact there's no business at all. If it's something else, if it's not sales for you please let me know.
It's not just any old sales you're looking for either, its sales from sources that match your ideal customer type. You know the ones… they give you 80% of the business you do, pay well and never are a problem.
Wouldn't it be great to never have to go chasing after these guys?
Wouldn't it be great to have these top drawer customers come to you?
You might suggest that's a pie in the sky notion, and if you've spent your business career chasing after customers of all sorts then you'd be right.
Remember Billy Ray Valentine?
When I was a kid Trading Places was a big movie. I desperately wanted to see it but I wasn't allowed because it wasn't fit for my sensitive eyes and ears.
Needless to say like most kids in my class I found a way!
In the movie there's a scene at the end where Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III were doing a spot of short-selling and are standing in the trading room surrounded by traders begging to trade with them.
Billy Ray & Louise did their homework, they knew the territory, they paved the way in advance and they reaped the rewards.
Yeah ok, it's only a movie but you want to be like Billy Ray Valentine and have all those customers come to you! Right?
Selling Your Work Online…A Different Ball Game
Selling your work, especially online, is a tough ask.
Hardly anyone is going to part with cash for a service to someone they don't know online, and even if you are known it's still highly unlikely unless you directed them to your website to place a transaction.
You can build a brochure website to showcase your work but is there even a point shelling out a couple of grand for a quality website in the first place if it just sits there doing shag all?
Ok, here's my answer to that one;
If you're serious about your business then you need a website that presents your business in the best light. But if you don't work and develop it constantly then you're wasting your money.
If you're selling hands-on skills and knowledge out in the field, then you need a good website to market your services. It should be there to promote what you do to the world.
Just building a site and expecting business to come as a result is more than a little misguided.
Why Giving Away Your Knowledge For Free Works
You'll sell your service and close the deal offline, but you'll market those services online and you'll do that by giving away what you know for free.
Ok so here's how you'll do that;
Write Articles That Solve Problems.
Nothing new there right?
Article writing (Blogging) is a sophisticated and extremely effective means of promoting what you do, but it's not what most business people think it is.
The term “blogging” isn't very business trendy. It brings up all kinds of ideas of idle mothers tip-tapping at home while baking cakes and changing nappies. But that couldn't be further from the truth.
It's more amorous in certain quarters and with marketing professionals to call it “content marketing”, which it is to be fair. It's content marketing at it's best
Whatever you want to call it, it works.
Allow me to clarify what article writing is not.
Writing articles about you or your business, the services you provide, the job you just won, the bloke you just hired or some other in-house news is useless and quite frankly a waste of your time.
Believe me, I've learned this personally. People don't care about that shit and they don't read it either.
I see it all the time on business websites and especially on LinkedIn updates. CEOs, Managing Directors, blokes with hard hats posting photos with captions like;
“Such and such company is pleased to announce our recent award of such and such project…”
Now I don't begrudge anyone a win, absolutely not. Go ahead and celebrate your wins if they excite you. But this kind of stuff is just not effective marketing and people couldn't care less about it.
All it serves is a little Wednesday morning ego fulfillment and nothing more.
If you really want to market your services effectively then read on. If I've hurt your feelings already then maybe you won't get as far as this sentence.
Bad buzz 🙁
Learn To Write Articles That Solve Problems
You still here? Deadly!
So now you know people don't want to read about you, your company and all that kind of self glorifying crap.
So what do they want?
They want their pain taken away, they want to achieve their goals, they want to feel relief or hope. People want to feel they are on their way to better things.
Your job as a marketer (and you are a marketer whether you believe so or not) is to satisfy that need.
When we create content that solves problems, we connect at a deeper level and we develop trust. We sell without selling.
Let me give you an example;
I've been reading a book recently called 80/20 Sales & Marketing by Perry Marshall. In it he tells the story of a time when he was a technical sales guy with a technology company and couldn't make a sale.
Bad buzz again. 🙁
He struggled for two years until he realised his primary competitor had a secret weapon that ensured them market dominance.
On one of his failed sales visits he noticed a branded user guide on the prospect's desk. He later discovered that his competition had created that user guide and distributed it for free to prospects.
That marketing strategy meant buyers had reference material that they turned to when they needed parts and other materials. It ensured them poll position.
The majority of engineering department heads saw his competitor as the industry leader and no matter what he did he could not make an impact.
Eventually he moved company and he took this new knowledge with him. He realised that he could do the same and soon after he began writing articles in industry publications for free.
Before long he became an authority and people began coming to him.
Now it's obviously not as simple as all that. They had to deliver the goods, but his time spent writing allowed him the permission he needed to get in the door.
In his own words he says – “suddenly selling was easy”.
When you do the same, when you start writing content that solves readers problems and addresses their concerns you position yourself way above the crowd.
The truth is that writing on a regular basis is difficult especially if you're new to it. In the beginning your writing might even suck.
But the good news is hardly anyone in small and medium service businesses are doing this. Those who are, really are not doing a good job of it.
So there lies an opportunity for you if you take up the challenge.
Sebastian Hetman says
Great read, Larry. I’m still struggling with getting a hang of this way of thinking, but it seems the right thing to do in today’s world.
Sebastian, thanks for reading. I think it’s the only way.