Why not defining your service process is costing you money

One of the biggest challenges most of my clients deal with day to day is the sense of not having enough time.

Between networking, writing proposals, providing value to their existing clients, administration and invoicing, they’re already into overtime. So when it comes to marketing and business development, it’s hard for them to see where they could possibly carve out the time.

When I bring up standardizing some of their processes to streamline operations, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard any one of the following responses:

“That simply isn’t possible in my business.”

“This is just the way it is in my industry.”

“Every client is different. Every project is unique. There is no way I could shoehorn them into one process.”

I’m not here to tell you that all of your clients are a homogenous mass. I completely agree that every single client you work with will have a unique set of needs, a unique problem for you to solve.

But here’s the thing. As long as you treat every client, every proposal and every project as unique, you will never truly be able to shift away from trading time for money.

You risk being a me-too freelancer forever at the whim of whatever project comes along - changing your process with the wind. To compound your problems, you will eventually be overtaken by those who have a defined offering and are able to get really good at that one thing by doing it over and over again.

So what’s the alternative? I’m so glad you asked!

First, let me say that I don’t recommend refining your service offering until you have taken the time to understand your audiences and their pain points.

For more on this, check out my post: What is an audience persona and why do I need one?

Since you are now starting to get a true sense of what your audience segments are looking for, where the gaps are in the market and what’s stopping them from buying, you can create streamlined service packages that speak to them, address the unmet needs created by other options on the market and eliminate the sense of risk in trying something new.

Creating a set and repeatable service process will also help you realize the benefits of repeating the same process over and over until you can truly say you’re an expert.

What is an audience persona and why do I need one?

If you’re struggling to focus, if you’re struggling with overwhelm, if you have hit a slow patch and you’re struggling to generate new clients, you are showing symptoms that lead back to a single root cause.

You are not being specific enough about who you are trying to reach.

I’m sure I’m not the first person who has told you how important it is to understand your target audience. And you might already be able to list off their general attributes. But do these attributes help you picture in your mind a real person with real problems and real feelings? If not, it’s time to write an audience persona.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Lucy, I already know who I’m targeting. I don’t have time to write an audience persona!”

If the very thought of having to decide on exactly how old your ideal client is, exactly where they live or how much money they make, how they think, and what they believe in, it’s a sign that these are the very things you need to do.

There is a reason any marketer worth their salt (this includes strategists, copywriters, content marketers and so on) will ask you for an audience persona before they start work.

Audience personas are used to create laser-sharp focus around who you’re targeting and why. They form the very foundation for how to develop your service offering, how to set your price, how to write sales copy and your elevator pitch.

So what should an audience persona look like?

Let’s start with what it’s not.

  • It’s not a Frankenstein-ed amalgam of any client you can ever imagine wanting to hire you.

  • It’s not a unicorn - so imaginary, they couldn’t possibly exist in real life.

  • It’s not someone aged between 30-50, or some who earns $60,000 - $90,000 per year or someone who lives in any one of three suburbs.

How many personas do you need?

That all depends on how many different types of people you serve. If you believe you need to be pursuing multiple verticals simultaneously to build your business, you will need to generate multiple laser-sharp audience personas.

How to do it

Below is a basic template for an audience persona. Feel free to add categories until you have a well-rounded sense of your ideal client.

  1. Demographics

    • Age

    • Gender

    • Relationship status

    • Where they live

    • Their occupation

    • Their income

  2. Psychographics

    • Political leanings

    • How they think

    • What they care about

    • What they enjoy doing in their spare time

    • Their buying behaviour

    • Their needs

Do this for as many audience personas as you need to adequately encompass the different clients you reasonably want to serve.

What next? What’s it all for?

At this point, you might be wondering how to use your audience personas. The list is endless really, but here’s a start:

  • Unique value proposition

    • Pains

    • Gains

    • Pain relievers

    • Gain creators

  • Service development

  • Messaging

    • Testing

    • How do you best connect with each audience.

Good marketing is...

  1. Good marketing solves problems.

    Start with creating a service people actually need. To do this, you will need to look at what problem people have, how they currently solve this problem and what new problems they create by attempting to solve their original problem.

  2. Good marketing is sustainable.

    It’s not all about flashy campaigns. At the core of your marketing plan should be the activities you plan to repeat over and over again. If it’s not repeatable, it’s not worth it. Small and slow solutions are easier to maintain than large, complex systems.

  3. Good marketing is holistic.

    You must be able to demonstrate a direct link between any marketing activity and your biggest, most important goals. Before you act, ask yourself how will this help me get from point A to point B - not just in my business but in my life?

  4. Good marketing begins with people.

    Ask who will this help? What benefits does this create? Does this create any new problems for my clients? How else can I help?

  5. Good marketing is honest.

    Click baiting, keyword stuffing, opt-out emailing and other bait-and-switch tactics will only ever get you so far and damage your reputation in the process. If by eliminating these tactics, you are left with no plan at all, see point 2.

  6. Good marketing is as little marketing as possible.

    Keep it clear. Keep it concise. Keep it targeted.

What’s your problem?

You’ve probably been advised on more that one occasion that the way to communicate your message is to put it in terms of your audiences’ problems.

But what does that really mean and why is it so important?

Often, when we come up with a business, product or service idea we are thinking about in terms of our own needs. What special talents do we have? How can we monetize that idea? What is our passion, our purpose?

At some point, you need to think about who will pay for your service and what will make them choose you.

But before you respond with: “Well, I do this…”, let’s consider the point of the question.

When we talk about problems in marketing strategy, the exercise is really about putting yourself in your target audience’s shoes. It challenges you to think in terms of how they might describe their problems, how they might talk about what they need.

Being able to express what your audience needs in a way they would describe them is at the heart of making work that matters.

The best way to do that is to imagine your business doesn’t exist.

What problems does your audience have now? And do they know they have a problem? Why is it important to them to solve the problem? What pain points might trigger them to act on that problem?