I constantly hear from clients who say that their clients can’t afford to pay them, or that they’re constantly besieged by requests for “pro bono services.” Don’t get me wrong — helping those in need is an admirable part of any business plan and business philosophy. However, if your entire client base is filled with people who can’t afford to pay you what you need to charge to stay in business, then you’ve got a major problem. You are working with the wrong segment of your target market.
Most of my clients are in the helping professions and feel a great sense of guilt and remorse that they cannot help the many people who truly need what they offer but are unable to pay for the service. The only way that you can stay in business long enough to offer pro bono services on a selective basis is by finding that segment of your target market who can easily afford to pay what you charge.
Many of my business-to-business (B2B) service provider clients get a different kind of request from other business owners who claim any number of excuses about why they can’t pay the full fee or request free help — they’re a non-profit, they’re just starting out, they just went through a divorce, etc. Here’s one thing to remember if you’re a B2B service provider: It is not your responsibility to subsidize another business that has not made adequate financial preparations to be in business. Period.
Here’s how you can uplevel your client base to get in front of more affluent clients:
1. Raise your prices. There is an inherent value associated with price. Are your prices putting you at the bottom, middle, or top of other service providers in your category? You can offer the best service for a premium price, or you can give your services away very cheaply. I usually urge moving toward the middle of the pack, but not always. Regardless of the reality, low prices often connote poor service or tell your clients you’re not worth it. And, by increasing your prices, you get yourself out of the segment of the market who could just barely afford to pay you into a more affluent segment who can more easily afford your rates.
2. Create a packaged value or system. Rather than offering time for dollars, try to find better ways to serve your clients through a variety of package options or through creating a system. By doing so, you give the customers options so that they focus on the value of what you offer rather than on the amount of time your spend offering the service. When your rates reflect this value, you increase the likelihood that the customer will stay with you for a longer period, or will return to you repeatedly. And, people love to invest in a step-by-step system that makes it easy for them to get their needs met and their problems solved.
3. Offer a variety of price points. As your business grows and develops, you’ll have more latitude to be able to develop ways to serve clients at all price points, from the very low to the very high. Many times you can help others by offering information products at lower price points and reserving your higher prices for packages and systems that incorporate some 1:1 time with you. Develop your upsell funnel so that you have a clear vision of how someone comes into your marketing funnel (typically by signing up for something you offer free of charge) and how the upsell process works to get customers to flow into higher and higher price points as they continue to work with you.
4. Make sure your marketing materials are top-notch. Does your web site, blog, or social networking profiles have a customized, quality look to them, or does it look as though you threw these things together with a minimum of money and effort? When you have an online business, your online reputation depends upon creating a “wow” factor when someone visits your storefront, i.e. your web site, your blog, your video channel, etc. Andrew Lock of the “Help! My Business Sucks!” web television show says, “Everything is marketing and marketing is everything.” Don’t let a sloppy online presence cost your business.
5. Clearly articulate the benefits and results of working with you. People rarely buy a service just to buy a service. What they’re buying are the results of the service. Do your clients understand the benefits and results gained when they work with you? Even if you offer a service where the results aren’t often quantifiable, you can still look at the impact your service has on every part of your client’s life, from health to money to satisfaction to relationships.
If you’re not attracting the clients you want to attract, try at least one of these strategies and watch how your client base is transformed!
Best-selling author Donna Gunter works with successful business owners who are experts in their fields and established in their industry and are seeking a way to stand out from their competitors. Using her Ideal Clients on Autopilot System©, she helps them determine the exact strategies to generate more qualified leads and better-paying clients with automated systems. This proven system makes all their marketing easier and more effective and they find themselves positioned as the only choice for their clients.