Way back in 1999, I said yes to an opportunity that would literally make my career. I took a position working in a rapidly growing PR agency where I spent five years rising up the ladder.
Now, before you wonder why I’m talking about my days in a 9-to-5 and if this is a walk down memory lane, stick with me for a second.
This position schooled me on everything related to running and working in a services business. Those lessons I carry with me every single day, but no lesson more so than the 80/20 rule.
As I juggled managing my team, clients, budget, new business and more, I quickly learned to discern what was most important as a matter of survival.
This, my friends, is exactly why I find the “business” of online marketing completely maddening. The messages we get are focused on getting us to learn and do ALL the things to grow our business.
There’s a steady stream of messages telling us what we should be doing; how we should do it; how we’re totally screwing up if we don’t do it….so much so that our ability to discern what’s right for our business can get short circuited.
Brittany and I have spent the better part of this past year digging into this challenge from the perspective of services business owners because we were tired of our clients and students feeling like they were doing it all wrong. Or having them lulled into the idea that if they only focus on some magical thing, their business will finally be where they want it to be.
Having worked in services businesses for the majority of our respective careers, we knew there had to be a better approach that helped get you focused on what matters most at the right time.
The result is the Services Business Success Map which breaks the fundamentals of a services business into four strategies.
The Services Business Success Map is designed to spotlight what actions are most important to your business and in what order they should be focused on – especially in the early stages.
The goal of the success map is to work on the 20% that matters, as there’s no point in spending six months building the perfect website when you’ve never worked with a client.
Consider this your permission slip to spend your valuable time working ON your business where it will have the biggest impact and to let busywork that’s not relevant go until the time is right.
Here are the four strategies you need for services business success and when to use each one:
Engage: Finding Clients
When you run a business based around clients, finding clients needs to be priority number one.
Now, in your typical online marketing circles, they’re going to have you spend 99 years on getting visible and building a platform (aka the Elevate strategy) to get clients.
It’s time to flip things around and stop wasting valuable time and start finding and booking clients, because that’s where you’re going to get paid and be able to refine what you have to offer.
The truth is, the success of your business – and getting paid – relies on you being able to find clients, and marketing activities like list building take time and patience.
Engage strategy puts you in the driver’s seat by actively focusing on finding clients through networking, community building and leveraging other people’s platforms.
Hands down, this strategy is the MOST important part of your services business as you’ll always need to find clients no matter how long you’re in business.
Exchange: Booking Clients
Exchange is about you literally creating an exchange with your clients that helps you best serve them and, better yet, get to a “yes” so you can book them.
If you’re just starting out, the Exchange step will help you create a foundation for growth once you have your first few clients, and if you’ve been in business for awhile, this step can help you optimize your services business for greater success.
As a strategy, exchange moves beyond the basics and has you thinking at a higher-level about how to package and price your services – how to make the process of getting to “yes” easier and happen more often.
Exchange is all the steps you work through between finding the client and then actually starting to work with them – and it’s the place that so many business owners struggle with. Investing time in this step (as long as you actually have potential clients) can be a game changer.
Experience: Wowing Clients
There’s a reason “serve” is in the word services! When you own a services business, you want to be able to serve your clients, which means it’s about doing more than the minimum. You want to find ways to wow them and have them adore working with you.
With your experience strategy, your goal is to keep your clients happy and coming back for more.
By focusing on creating an outstanding experience for your clients, you’re able to create lasting relationships and turn your clients into your biggest fans. Happy clients will do your marketing for you by providing testimonials, referrals and more.
Once you’ve been working with clients consistently and you’ve started to grow, it’s a good time to consider your experience strategy. As you do that, look for ways to wow clients when you first start, when you work with them day-to-day and when you wrap things up.
Map out all the potential touch points to see where you’ve got opportunities for optimizing your customer experience.
Elevate: Standing Out
If you’re working online at all, you may have found yourself stuck in the Elevate step doing a lot of things that were important, but not urgent. (Yep, that has totally happened to me too!)
Think of the Elevate step as something you want to really invest your time and energy in once you have at least a basic business foundation in place and are actually working with clients.
This strategy is designed to help you stand out and create your own platform with everything from content that connects to email marketing that matters and winning websites. The real secret to success in the Elevate step is to approach it with the needs of your perfect clients in mind.
I’ll be the first to say, this guidance has been unpopular. We’ve been vilified for saying you don’t need a fancy pants website, but we’re going to keep saying it. We’ve watched too many people waste their talents, time and money building something that’s all wrong when they could have been booking clients and doing real work.
If you’re just starting out, limit the time you work on the Elevate step so you’re able to focus on finding and booking clients first. (For example, if you want a website, build something basic for now and upgrade later.)
Put These Strategies Into Action
As you work on building your services business, be honest with yourself about where you’re really at and what strategies from the above need to be your focus.
Put your ego aside, ditch the busy work and get laser focused on the strategies and tactics that will actually make the biggest impact, and not just what you “should” be doing according to someone who knows jack about your business.