Thinking about raising your prices?

As a service provider who leans toward the “I just want to help” category, setting a price for any project can be a perplexing and occasionally frustrating experience. I remember when I started my business in 1998, particularly as I was coming from a manufactured product background, I struggled with what to charge for my services. I researched and researched, and ultimately “threw a dart” to come up with an hourly rate. And I did ok.

Then, during my annual review and planning when setting my revenue goals for the upcoming year (usually in my head, but that’s a topic for another time), I knew I had to increase clients, increase rates – or both – to achieve my goals. As I was working a full schedule already with the clients I had, I knew it had to be the rates. Yet, every year for several years, I would have an internal battle over this issue, especially when I was repeatedly reminded by business gurus that I needed to increase my hourly rate by at least 25% – or even double it.  When I heard this, I balked.  “Double my rates?! What world are these people living in?”  My fearful self would follow that question up with, “How on earth could I tell my clients that I’m hiking my rates?!”

To say I’d be uncomfortable just thinking about the conversation would be a huge understatement.

Well, I’ve certainly learned a lot since 1998 about pricing and negotiation. Moreso about the importance of customer experience and expectations, and the impact of adding value to someone’s life – business or personal – has on pricing. That’s the space I play in now… but it took me time to get here.

If you’re where I was: feeling like you’re giving too much away yet struggling with increasing your rates, or perhaps you just aren’t confident in how to move forward with your clients with a new pricing structure, you may want to read this article by Jenna Glatzer on negotiating like a pro. Wish I’d read this all those years ago… it might have reduced my learning curve substantially!

I hope the article helps you shorten your learning curve as well. Thanks, Jenna!

To your success,

Lara

p.s. Did you have a growth experience (an “aha” moment) around pricing? Tell us about it – and the results – below!

Sales Tip: Understand What Your Customers Hope to Buy – by Jeff Sexton

You’ve heard it from me before: if you want your marketing to be successful, you need to get clear on your messaging. And that starts with a strong understanding who your ideal customer is, as well as what motivates and influences them not only to buy the product (or service) you offer, but to buy from you specifically.

If the first step is getting clear about who your ideal client is (the person you most want to work with and what it is about them that makes this the case), the second is in identifying the pain/problem(s) they have for which you or your product/service is a solution. These two steps are a critical. Ignore at your peril.  :)

Jeff Sexton has written a good article that sums up the problem identification well, which will help you with your messaging anywhere you choose to promote.

Btw, should you be exhibiting in an upcoming Home Show (or even if you’re not), Jeff  uses a highly relevant example of a landscaping services company.

Here’s the article published via WilsonWeb.com:  Sales Tip: Understand What Your Customers Hope to Buy – by Jeff Sexton.

To your success!

Lara

Socially Speaking

It seems that the number one question we get as marketers involves social media in one facet or another. It is this limitless, intimidating medium that seems to trip up even the most established entrepreneur simply because the “rules” seem to constantly be changing.

If you are thinking of entering the world of social media – whether through a blog, a Twitter account or Facebook fan page (to name but a few) – a word of caution is in order as well as a few helpful tips.

First of all, before entering this social media world you need to be committed to the process. This means that you have to allot a reasonable amount of time to developing your presence –  including the tone of the communications, the look of your page/blog, and content creation. Like anything of value, this is worth doing well. Make sure that your social media presence is consistent and enhances the brand you have so carefully and meticulously already created.  Realize that getting followers or “likes” on your page isn’t necessarily going to happen quickly – but it can happen consistently if you are committed to seeing this through and you have realistic expectations.

Secondly, create a content strategy that includes a fairly detailed editorial calendar. Two of the fatal flaws of new social media users can be solved through this one step. What are these flaws?

  1. Too much/Too little Updating: Tweeting 50 times a day is simply annoying, but creating a twitter account or Blog and never updating it next is also a sure-fire way to annoy your audience and squander a great opportunity to develop a relationship with your target market.
  2. Irrelevant/Annoying Content: No one, other than close friends and family, is terribly interested in whether you are sipping on a latte at the moment or you are off to your kid’s hockey game. Neither do your followers want to be hounded with sales material constantly. It is vital to remember that social media is meant for connection and conversation – it is a 2-way relationship with your clients/prospects so instead of talking at them,converse with them about the things that are important to them.

By mapping out the kind of content that you will be creating  prior to publication you mitigate the risk of sending out irrelevant or uninspiring messages or ceasing to use the medium at all. Depending on your time and resources you should decide how many times per week (or day) you can reasonably update your social media presence and be sure that 30% or less of your messaging is sales related. What I suggest is to make approximately a third of your communication value-add (links to interesting articles, tips, etc.), a third of your communication sales related (promoting specials, your unique value, etc.), and a third of your communication entertainment. This mix will help to keep your followers engaged and will help your social media team`s creativity.

Thirdly, you need to relieve yourself of the pressure to do everything yourself. Some simple research (ie. Google Alert or Social Mention) will uncover a variety of existing conversations that apply to your business.  You can join to gain exposure and engage with your target market on things that are important to them and gain credibility. As you practice the art of following and contributing to these online forums you will learn how to best articulate your value to the marketplace, and then easily to then transfer to your own social media presence.

Have You Considered Green Hosting?

A social media savvy colleague of mine, Joanne Burgess of Virtually Yours (a Virtual Social Media Specialist), wrote an article that had me thinking about green hosting options for our client websites. If you’re interested in increasing your awareness about carbon footprints, it’s worth a quick read, imho.

Have a browse: Have You Considered Green Hosting?.

To your success!

Lara

 

Happy New Year!

I love New Years Day. New Years Eve is fun too, but I really love New Years Day. I love a day that opens to a year that is fresh and holds so much promise. Everything seems possible – I really am going to workout everyday, learn to speak German, stop chewing my nails, etc. etc. etc.

The next closest thing to New Years Day is the Tuesday after Labour Day. Engrained in me from years, and years, and years of attending school on the first day, the Tuesday after Labour Day marks a new beginning – a new year – for me still. Again I make resolutions, determine to be more organized, get fresh new notebooks to take notes in.
I resolve to take control of my circumstances that have seemingly gotten out of hand in the hot haze of a beautiful summer, and dedicate myself to improving myself and my circumstances.

Am I the only one who does this?
Do you feel like you would like to use September as a fresh start in your business? 
I know a way.

Beginning Thursday, September 15th Watershed Marketing is holding a 3 day event: “Engaged Marketing Live”. With riveting speakers, unique insights and actionable advice applicable to small businesses everywhere,  this event promises to start your “New Year” on the right foot.

In a beautiful setting just North of Toronto, “Engaged Marketing Live” promises to be a thought-provoking, idea fostering, business changing kick-off that is a worthwhile investment for any small business owner. Check out the event at www.engagedmarketinglive.com … hope to see you there!

All The Stars Aligned?

Well, it’s Friday. I’m supposedly on vacation, yet typing this from a hotel lobby in beautiful North Bay, Ontario, an hours’ drive from where my family is revelling in the beautiful outdoors of Algonquin Park. You’re probably wondering a) why this is relevant to you; or b) why is this crazy woman blogging while on vacation (or both)?

Well, as entrepreneurs, we need to rekindle our creativity, recommune with our environment, and reconnect with our family. That’s usually what we call “refilling our well”… for if we are tapped out from all the craziness that is small business ownership and life, we have nothing to give anyone at any time. Including ourselves. And that’s why I’m on vacation. Supposedly.

At the same time, as small business owners, we know that it ultimately is our responsibility to make certain everything in our business runs smoothly, and our goals are met… whether we have a large team or a small team (or a non-existent team) supporting us.

As many of you may know, we just began the launch of our Engaged Marketing video series on Wednesday this week. We opted to use a new platform to communicate and market ourselves, and so were diligent in researching options, and are very happy with the on-line technology.

The off-line technology (i.e. video recording) was my own responsibility, and – though I am always eager to learn new things – well… for this project, let’s just say I should have stuck with what I know well. And video recording and editing isn’t it… at least not yet (though I’m getting plenty of “learnings”)!

Actually, that’s the reason I find myself an hour’s drive from where I should be, and in a fluorescently lit room instead of a naturally lit forest. I have been reminded that sometimes (ok, most of the time), it’s better to hire someone who knows what they’re doing, than spending your holiday figuring out what you didn’t know in order to save your project. I would have saved myself time, stress and frustration… and the added expense to correct my mistakes (not to mention a small fortune in fuel).

I know what my next choice will be when faced with doing something I know little about: find an expert and save time learning by watching, or by getting educated from them. It’s sure to save my sanity… and likely my holiday.  :)

To your success,

Lara

p.s. if you’re interested in learning a little more about marketing, without having to flounder around trying to do things strictly on trial-and-error basis like I just did, I hope you’ll join me over at the Engaged Marketing series. Witness first hand the results of my efforts of learning a new medium… and add your voice to the conversation (btw, I AM taking questions on marketing there).

Amidst Turmoil

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed that the world’s financial markets are in, shall we say, some turmoil. And while we watch the markets rise and fall, along with it the cost of gas and the value of our currency,  it is easy to let a sense of panic and pessimism seep into our own psyche and business – whether it is one directly tied to the financial marketplace or not.

After working in finance for the better part of my career, I’ve watched how successful business people navigate tumultuous waters and thrive, rather than only survive. These observations I’ve made for weathering the storms of an economy are applicable to any business –  and are something to keep in mind when the trouble shooting seems to be all-consuming.

Have an airtight client communication plan – and stick to it.
When things aren’t going right, when timelines are not going to be met or the worst has happened DO NOT disappear. While they may be the most difficult meetings or phone calls imaginable, your commitment to keeping your clients informed and cared for trumps whatever circumstances arise.
I worked with Investment Advisors just after 9/11 when the stock markets were plunging and the tech stocks that everyone seemed to be getting rich on were tanking. Everything seemed hopeless. The select who survived – and remarkably thrived  – were the ones who were brave enough to continue communicating with their clients and address what was happening head on.
Always, always be transparent and communicate with your clients.

Seek the advice of learned people.
Remember that you are not the first person to face whatever particular trial you are in. History is always the best teacher – and finding a mentor or advisor who understands your business and circumstances is priceless. Their success truly can be your success.

Keep your perspective.
Don’t panic. The most successful entrepreneurs, executives, politicians, athletes…all of them keep their perspective in the face of adversity. They remain calm under pressure and stick to the game plan while remaining willing to make corrections based on the unforeseen circumstances.
I’m a sports enthusiast, so you’ll have to forgive me – but a great example of the power of perspective was the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. This team – while relatively old and (some would say) less talented – provided not 1 but 2 of the greatest 4th quarter comebacks in playoff history.  Their maturity and perspective allowed them to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and, ultimately, win the world championship. So there, Lebron.

Stay the course.
Recognize that nothing can ever stay terrible forever. Honouring your commitments, keeping to timelines and budgets (as best as you can) and delivering what was promised is the right thing to do, and will ultimately serve you and your reputation well.

 

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