Use Your Brand to Overcome Clients’ Fears and Make the Sale
Does your company sell a service? Are you an entrepreneur selling your expertise to your clients? Is it hard to get clients to trust that you will deliver on your promise? Then building your brand needs to be a top priority. In fact, I would argue that it is more important to build a brand around a service than a product. Why? A service is intangible. You can’t open it, taste it, smell it, or kick the tires. Delivering an experience or selling your expertise isn’t like a product because they can’t see what they are getting before the commit to buying. The client has to trust that you will deliver what you promise and if you can’t get them to trust you, they won’t buy.
Taking a Leap of Faith
A service is experienced at the time it is delivered. There is no returning it, if it didn’t meet your expectations. The work has already been done. Have you ever gone to a new hair dresser or barber? A number of years ago, my hair stylist of 10 years moved to another city. I was devastated! I have curly hair and not a lot of stylists know how to cut curly hair. I dreaded having to try out new stylists until I found a good one. Why? If someone cuts your hair and you don’t like it, you have to live with it until it grows out. You still need to pay them. Unless they totally butchered your hair, they cut your hair and performed the service you asked for. But you have to trust that they know what they are doing and that you will like their delivery.
Now, think about your service business. Where is the risk? What might be holding the client back from committing to the purchase? In the face of uncertainty, a client may have a hard time evaluating the best choice available. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and ask yourself what you would want to “see” before hiring you.
A client needs to feel comfortable that they are making the right choice. To eliminate this uncertainty, your clients rely on recommendations from trusted sources and, if that isn’t available, they look for other trust-inducing cues, like your brand.
So, how do you get them to trust in you?
Communicate your brand
Tell them what you will do for them and why you’ll do it better. Having a clear brand promise that differentiates you from your competition will help a client tremendously to decide who to hire. If you don’t know what makes your service unique, ask. Call your last couple of clients and ask what you said that made them take a chance and hire your company. Then highlight that in your next sales pitch or marketing material. Here are some other ideas on how to identify your brand.
Don’t forget to keep branding yourself with existing clients. You need them for client testimonials and word-of-mouth advertising, so make sure they are saying what you want them to say about your brand and service. Send them e-newsletters reinforcing your brand message, take them out for coffee and remind them of the value you gave them, share case stories of your new work, or invite them to conference where you are speaking. Encourage referrals and shape the message they deliver.
Make the intangible tangible
Take your service and divide it up into tangible steps or outcomes. When I was co-founder of the brand consulting firm, Identity 3.0, we had to make what we were selling tangible for our clients. The best marketing piece we ever created was what we called a Process Brochure. We outlined every stage of brand consulting process – the steps involved, what the client needed to provide, timing, and our deliverables. Clients like this because it was something they could wrap their heads around. They could see the “work” they were buying even if they couldn’t quite see the final output. To most people a process means a proven formula to follow that works consistently.
Serve up referrals
To validate your brand promise, offer up client testimonials. But be creative. Anyone can have a quote or a letter on their website. But are they impactful? A quote on a website attributed to a person no one knows is better than nothing, but not very powerful. You can always give the prospect a referral list with phone numbers and encourage them to call. But that usually comes later in the sales process and it makes them have to do the work. Make it easier for them and overcome their objections right away, by creating a video of your customer raving about your service, show photos of your industry awards, or have a client co-present with you at a conference. Putting a face to client testimonials adds a huge amount of credibility and differentiates you from your competitors.
Make them an offer they can’t refuse
You can also offer guarantees to overcome fear. For example, give a 100% money back guarantee if goals or milestones aren’t met by certain dates. If you are confident in your service offering and brand promise, put your money where your mouth is. I know this is scary. A lot of your service offering depends on the client meeting their promises. So, make sure you outline the process and what needs to be done by whom and when for the project to proceed. Put the guarantee on your process, not the outcome, if needed. Or, the guarantee should be based on your performance after the client has given you what you need to work on the project. Guarantees are bold and effective. Figure out how you can make an offer.
Offer a taste
As in product marketing, samples work. Can you offer your client a little taste of your service before they commit to a larger project? If you are selling a research project, do one or two customer interviews for free. Provide the first chapter of a research report you’ve done for someone else that they would find interesting. Analyze a financial report.
However, don’t feel like you have to give your service away for free. There are other ways to offer a sample. If you conduct workshops, have someone take video of you in action and let people see snippets of it on your web site. Blogging is another form of offering a sample. They can see your approach, philosophy, case stories and more in your blog posts. It helps them get an idea of what or who they are buying.
Start implementing some of these ideas today to build a stronger brand that inspires trust. With a strong brand promise that overcomes their fear, your clients find it much easier to sign the contract or hit the buy button.
How does your company overcome fear and build trust?
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