You’ve put a lot of energy into honing your expertise and refining your niche. You’re done with clients who don’t get the value of what you do. And you’re over having to justify why your work is worth more than it used to be.
Perhaps you’ve even managed to upgrade some of your existing clients so your work can reflect the way you serve best (yasss!).
But now you want to bring new people into the pipeline—and that’s where you keep hitting dead ends.
Though you’ve made significant shifts in your business and your mindset as an expert, it’s likely that the way you’re positioning yourself still isn’t aligned with the results you’re after.
Here’s how you may be selling yourself short—and what you can do about it:
1. You still don’t qualify the people you accept as clients
Because you’ve already taken the steps to hyper-focus your expertise, you’re much further along than most. But what you haven’t done yet is go a step further to define the standards that not only ensure your offer is a good fit for your clients’ needs, but that they’re a good fit to work with you.
Consider this example of Necole, a marketing strategist who helps emerging experts plan, develop and launch signature offers (think courses, books, workshops, and so on). Her ideal clients are people who want to create a positive impact in other people’s lives by sharing their knowledge and experiences; their goal in working with her is to develop content that will establish their thought-leadership and help them build a platform for reaching a broader audience. But when new clients sign up for her strategy and planning service, they all seem to have the same problem in common: they don’t yet have an audience and they haven’t validated their ideas.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Necole. She can help them with the necessary groundwork and then transition them into the higher-level stuff that she jams on. But it’s a blow to her ability to prove success with what she really wants to be known for, because she’s spending more time doing the foundational work. Not to mention, the people who’ve paid for the service are expecting one thing and getting another. That means she’s either losing money as she offers the added support, or she has to charge more for her service and risk losing some of those clients.
How to fix it: If you want clients who are truly ideal, you need to qualify them by a set of criteria that prove their level of experience, readiness and ability to do the work they’re engaging you for. How this looks for your business can vary. But it’s always good to start with including specifics in your sales copy, proposals and other material about what makes your offer a good fit for potential buyers. You can also require them to confirm they meet these standards in whatever intake process you use (e.g., a request for consult).
2. You’re still promoting your skills, rather than selling your results
It’s impressive that you can [insert unique, trade-related skill here], and I’m sure your clients appreciate that there’s a lifetime of experience behind what you do. But try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment. What they really need from you, as their expert, is to help them accomplish a desired outcome by any means necessary. So by only promoting your skills, you’re essentially leaving it to them to fill the gaps for how to apply them.
How to fix it: Unless you want clients to hand you a list of tasks and “other duties as assigned,” essentially treating you like the commodity service-provider you swore you would never again be, you need to be definitive about the kinds of results your people get by working with you. You can highlight the litany of skills you have for when you talk about yourself. But when you talk or write about your work, focus on the awesome things you make possible. Sharing a case study, for example, even a brief one, would be a great way to convey the value of what you know and how you work (aka, yo’ skills) while also illustrating the most important part: how you help people get what they want.
3. You still refer to your work as something you don’t want to be known for
I get it. It’s easier to just tell people you’re a copywriter (or graphic designer, or photographer, or scuba instructor). It’s clear cut, and most people will actually know what the hell you’re talking about. But this is where you need to put your business developer hat on--and quite frankly, as long as you’re a solopreneur that sucker should never come off. Giving people the generic version of what you do means they’ll lump you into the same category as all the other generalists out there. That would be the people who’ll do whatever is asked of them, for whomever requests it, just to meet their bottom line (and we ain’t about that life).
How to fix it: If you want to establish opportunities through the conversations you have, and simultaneously weed out the wrong folks, you need to start giving people the full version of what you do. Skip the title altogether, and lead with what you help your clients accomplish. So instead of replying, “I’m a scuba instructor,” when asked what you do, respond with something like:
“I teach advanced swimming to adults who struggle with control issues and want to learn how to let go and enjoy life more.”
See if that doesn’t spark a conversation, a request for a consult and several referrals ;)
Over to you
Do you find yourself committing any of these faux pas? How have they affected the way clients and prospects value your expertise? Tell me all about it in the comments.
And if you’re worried about whether the way you’re positioning your work is resonating with the right people, or you’re unsure about where to even start, we should talk.
I’d love to help you get clear on who your ideal client really is and how to connect your expertise to what they really want. Grab a consult with me to learn more.
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