Karen Renzi

Beyondus, Inc. - Owner
Youngstown, NY

    Selling Ideas

    February 25, 2009

    Wow, I've missed STS. The last couple of weeks flew by and seem to have been filled with family calamities. My husband went to Italy to be there when his grandfather passed away, renewing my utter awe for single mothers. And he brought back some travel germs along with the parmeggiano cheese and Italian candy in his bag - he and my littlest one have just finished up their antibiotics. Fun.

    So anyway, I've been percolating this blog post for the more than a week and decided it's high time I get this out.

    My conundrum lately is this: how to better MARKET and SELL IDEAS.

    I think all service providers/consultants can relate to this. What we sell is often not as tangible as a manufactured product. And in many ways it's more difficult to price. How to convince someone that OUR ideas, our intellect, our willingness to learn are worth XX dollars? I know that when we produce a tactical marketing plan, if clients commit to executing on our recommendations, they will see results.

    But when we sell services like marketing planning or campaign planning, it's SO custom to the client, it's sometimes difficult to demonstrate what exactly they will get from it. 20-30 pages of "Great Ideas"? When it comes to planning, it's not even as though they will see direct leads from it, because those will only come out of actually EXECUTING on the plan. I can't show them another client's full plan because I don't want to share something so valuable and proprietary.

    And even when selling more standard services like website design - we have to place some kind of premium on our knowledge and ideas for how OUR site can perform better than just any site.

    I believe our ability to think about "the big picture" and beyond just the task at hand is one of our differentiators. But I'm finding it difficult sometimes to get clients and potential clients to understand that. Determining how to do that better is a major goal of my business plan. Some ideas I'm trying:

    • Pursue broader client relationships. Much of our work has been project-based. We need to move in a direction where we establish better ongoing relationships with clients so we can monitor the eventual success rates of the projects we produce. The marketing industry is abuzz with a focus on measurement and ROI, but our current client agreements do not include any way for US to be involved in closing the loop on their initiatives. We're looking at ways we can "rent" our expertise out so clients have a continual marketing resource looking out for their best opportunities and monitoring results.
    • Price marketing planning as a loss leader, for now. We're getting more of these under our belt and it is so refreshing to have the opportunity to help clients see all the potential marketing initiatives that would work for them in an organized plan. I know we're charging significantly less than other firms to do this, but we need to build our portfolio in this area and doing the planning opens the door for us to continue working with clients on execution. Once we've been able to establish some quantifiable results as case studies, we'll be positioned to demonstrate a higher value and charge what it's actually worth.
    • Be willing to turn down clients who refuse to understand the importance of the big picture. We often come across clients who want us to "Do this, and do it now!" when "it" might not be the right thing for them to get results. We always try to educate and offer alternatives, but it sometimes falls on deaf ears. I think it's important for us to become more selective about who we take on as clients and how we define our role with them. In some cases it might mean explicitly saying "We do not consider ourselves just a production house, but you want us just to produce what you say. We'll do it, but understand that you, Client, are responsible for outcomes and must tell us EXACTLY what you want." For others, it might mean simply saying we're not the right fit.
    • Use different venues to sell the ideas. A lot of our clients and potential clients are small businesses who simply do not have the budget to pay for custom work. I'm evaluating whether it makes sense to package our expertise as teaching rather than doing and offer workshops - whether in person or online, so that people can pay less but by multiple people "sharing" time we still can make the same revenue. I'm also considering banding local businesses together (like retailers in the same town) to market as a consortium - sharing the cost and exposure but still benefitting from new ideas.

    Consultants and service providers out there: How have you gotten over the "idea-pricing" hump I feel like we are facing? What are your best tips for selling your ideas and expertise for what it's worth?

    Read Karen's other blog entries >

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