Jessica Wicks

Who will pay for your services?

May
31

You have an idea for an amaaaaazing service, and you have figured out your secret sauce. Now you need to know who would be interested in it and if there are enough people able to pay to make your new service profitable. You’ve gotta figure out EXACTLY who your dream clients are – the ones who want what you got and are willing to pay for it.

Sometimes you will have started with an audience in mind, and created a service that they asked for. That’s seriously great! You’re still going to want to think deeper about what motivates them to buy, and to think about secondary audiences that might be interested in it too. But sometimes, you have an idea and you’re just not sure who needs it. So this is where you start – you think about what problem your new service will solve. The problem might actually be seemingly unrelated from your service on the surface, but your service might be a solution that helps them solve it.

Let’s take a window cleaning business for example. On the surface, a window cleaner solves the problem of cleaning a dirty window. But we need to go a lot deeper than that. Window cleaners can easily narrow down their target market by deciding if they want to work for businesses (commercial window cleaning service) or if they want to work on homes (residential window cleaning service), and each market has a different set of problems they are looking to solve aside from dirty windows.

For a commercial window service, your client may fit into any of the categories below:

Customer-facing businesses

Businesses may need their windows professionally cleaned so that their store or office looks cared for. They don’t want to deter potential clients or customers from walking in their doors. They will likely need your service on a regular schedule, so you gain some consistency in your income. However, if you target retail clients they may be mostly smaller jobs (e.g. one storefront window) so you would need a large number of clients to make money. They may have dirty windows, but their real problem is getting more bodies through the door to sell their stuff.

High-traffic locations

They are located in higher-traffic public locations, which means they have more dirt, grime, and fingerprints to deal with than a typical home. Although their windows are within reach (thus the fingerprints), they just don’t have the time to keep up with it and might look to hire you as part of a regular cleaning service. If this is the work you are looking for, you may be contacting business owners directly or you might be better off networking with existing janitorial services to team up as a subcontractor. Their pain point is that they constantly have disgustingly dirty windows and no time to keep up with them.

Owner peace of mind

Psychologically, the owner may just like their windows to be spotless because it makes them feel like a boss. They take great pride in their business and are willing to pay for exceptional service. You might look for businesses with a great reputation, impeccable landscaping, and high-end furnishings. With these clients, you would need to present yourself professionally and explain why your window-cleaning technique is superior to your competition and how your professionalism will mean they get the type of service they are looking for. For these businesses, the owner needs to feel in control over the many aspects of their business to consider themselves successful.

Lack of tools and skills

The building may be much larger than a house or the windows more difficult to reach, so it may be a lack of tools and skill that causes them to hire a service provider. In this case, you may be cleaning windows, but you are also making it so that they don’t have to go out and buy specialized equipment or figure out how to operate it. Really, you’re helping these businesses solve a logistical problem – how do I get up there safely, how much time will it take, and how much will it cost?

Insurance issues

There may be insurance issues with trying to DIY their windows or having their staff clean them. Their windows need to be cleaned and they theoretically could have someone on staff do it, but your service is actually saving them a bundle on hiring and insuring someone for the task of cleaning windows. In this case, it’s actually a regulatory problem you are helping them with.

Cost effectiveness

It may simply be cheaper to pay for the service than to lose the hours of productivity for their staff. It’s not just the hourly rate they may pay their staff to get the job done they are thinking about, but the money that those workers could be making the business if they were doing what they were hired for. In this case, your service is simply cheaper than the lost revenue from having their skilled staff perform the task.

Commercial-residential situations

The business you serve may be a retirement care home or rental development who are looking to avoid complaints from their tenants, and who need to be consistently clean to attract new residents. In this case, having clean windows may be directly related to sales unlike with retail where it is a step in the sales process.

Your ideal clients may have a combination of a few of the problems you’ve come up with. Now that you have a good idea of the problems your service could help to solve, it’s time to draw some lines about the types of clients you don’t want to work with.

For example, you may not have the skills or the tools to handle high rise buildings, so write down that you only want to work on buildings that are three stories or less. And with those commercial-residential buildings, you’ll probably have to deal with a lot of small-talk if you are doing interior windows, so you need to decide if that is something you are OK with and how to charge so that extra time is covered in your price. Other considerations may be the time of day that you’re expected to work, how much set-up and take-down is involved, or the amount of travel you’re willing to consider.

For a residential window service, your potential customers will have a different set of needs or problems they are looking to solve:

Little spare time

If a homeowner has very little spare time after work and other commitments, they don’t want to spend their entire weekend washing their windows when they can hire a professional to do it in a matter of hours. In this case, you’re giving the homeowner back their leisure time.

Home value

If someone is selling or renting their home, clean windows will help play into the buyer’s decision to purchase and even the price they are willing to pay without them realizing it’s your sparkling windows that are doing the trick. In this case, you might want to get to know some local realtors and property managers to help them close the deal faster.

Restricted view

If someone has purchased a home with a view, they did so for a reason and likely paid a little extra for that view of the lake or picturesque landscaping in the backyard. Their problem is that they now can’t see as clearly something they already paid for, so they need someone to do the upkeep for them.

Keeping up with the Jones’

If most of the houses on Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s block have professionally cleaned windows, the Smith’s may feel the need to have their windows cleaned too. Don’t discount the need for people to feel accepted in their social circle.

Again, actually writing down what you will and will not deal with for your customers is key to creating a profile for your ideal clients.

These are all just examples of the types of problems a window cleaning service might help their clients solve. How many problems can you come up with for your service? What types of problems are they, and how much of an impact do they have on the customer?

Something to think long and hard about – is the reason someone is buying your service an investment? In other words, will they get something valuable (money/time/memories) back from hiring you? Can you actually write down on paper the steps that lead to that person getting a return on their investment (e.g. customers walks up to a restaurant, see dirty windows, assume kitchen is also dirty and walk away) so that you are able to see very clearly how much of a return the client is getting?

The biggest trick to defining your target market is looking for people who have a problem and are willing to pay someone to solve it. At this point, the problems that you have come up with are hypothetical. Next, you need to do some research on whether there are enough clients with these problems for you to reach. Then you have to figure out how they are currently solving that problem.

What’s your secret sauce?

May
03

It can be SO TOUGH to identify what makes your business different from your competitors. Coming up with a unique value proposition (UVP) can be challenging because it’s scary to draw the line in the sand and say “this is what we do different”. After all, doing something different MIGHT turn off some potential clients.

Not doing anything ‘different’ is worse.

When you try to compete against market leaders (read: the people or businesses everyone thinks of first) but have nothing to distinguish yourself from them, you end up making yourself ‘different’ in less desirable ways. You compete by offering lower prices or by offering more and more low-quality add-on services. Neither of these options are sustainable for the long-term success of your business. If you’ve thought about either of these – and we all have at least fleetingly at some point – you need a secret weapon to combat the ‘people aren’t buying’ and ‘I’m not good enough’ blues. You need a UVP.

Now, coming up with the almighty unique value prop’ might sound tedious, or difficult, or confusing. It’s REALLY not all that bad because it’s all about figuring out what makes you a special snowflake.

Your unique value proposition (UVP) is your ‘secret sauce’. 

If you own a burger chain and are competing against the other burger chains in the area, there needs to be a reason why *some* people choose you over the other guys. You’re going to need to know what makes the other guy special, too. McDonald’s has an actual ‘special sauce’. Burger King flame broils their patties. A&W uses hormone-free meat. Harvey’s tops your burger in front of you.

You could open multiple locations – more than anyone else – and make accessibility your game. You might offer more topping choices than anyone else, or use local organic produce for your toppings. Perhaps it’s gluten-free buns. Maybe it’s not the burger, but the fact that you offer two side dishes to make that fast-food burger feel more like a real meal (side note: I’ve been saying someone needs to do this for years).

The most important thing to consider when defining your secret sauce is to make it authentic to who you are, how you want to run your business, and why you do the things you do. You need to be able to stand behind it and proclaim to the world why your way works better – at least for the people you want to work with.

Some questions that will help you figure out your secret sauce:

WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?

Take a few minutes to think about why you are running your specific business. The reason ISN’T because you want to make money because you could do that in a lot of different, and possibly easier, ways. So what made you choose this? What is it that drew you to what you do? Was there an opportunity you spotted that needed to be filled? Was there a problem you thought you could solve? If you are running a business that is in the same field you studied in college, what drew you to that field in the first place?

WHAT’S YOUR PASSION?

What are you passionate about, both in and out of work? Do you make a point to support small businesses when you shop? Do you volunteer for a community group? Are you a health fanatic? Are your kiddos your life? Are you a party animal? If you had to cut everything but one service from your business, what would it be? What is one thing that you would happily do over and over and over again?

WHAT’S THE NORM?

Who are your competitors and what makes them different from each other? Are they a national company or a small local business? Do they work with a lot of clients or just a few? Do they have a process that you can identify? Do they sell packages or use hourly rates? What is considered normal in your industry, and how can/do you do it differently?

WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE?

What about your previous experiences make you uniquely qualified to do what you do? This doesn’t have to be a master’s degree or equivalent. Maybe you volunteered a lot when you were younger, and so you are well suited to working with charities. You might be great at handling emergency situations with calm focus. You might be great with people, listening and helping them to solve their problems. Or you could be a long-term planner, able to execute the long game to meet giant goals. Is there something that you do that your clients get excited about or thank you for?

Are you getting a little bit clearer about what makes you so incredibly special?

Your marketing strategy needs to start at the top and has to be a part of how you do business every day. Your corporate story is the what, who, where, when, why and how – but if you do everything the same as the other guy, it’s not going to be all that exciting of a story. We cling to ‘industry standards’ when we are feeling insecure or under-confident in what we do. I’m giving you the permission to dream about what your business might be like if you didn’t have to copy everyone else. What do you want to do? Who are the dream clients you want to do it for? Finding your ‘secret sauce’ will help you to set the foundation for the rest of your marketing efforts.

Next, you’ll need to figure out if people really need or want your sauce-omeness. Defining your unique value proposition (ie. secret sauce) and your target market (ie. dream clients) are two sides of the same coin and need to work in tandem, so don’t go telling the world what makes you different until you’ve read my next blog post.