Joe Riley, a young ambitious lawyer, is starting out on his own. He is smart, diligent and successful. He already has happy clients served in his spare time while he was employed.
He has money and has acquired a small office for his business. He needs to refurbish it professionally, and he is searching for an architect.
The search is dragging on. No architect seems to stand out. Their marketing just talks about themselves and how good they are. They all use clichés like “we give you personalized attention” or “we work to meet your brief and your budget” or “we provide tailored design solutions.”
Joe thinks, “So what? Isn’t that your job?”
They all give detail of technical expertise - using current Revit programs, providing full service from design development to contract administration, and working to the latest codes and regulations, which makes Joe think “they’re all the same.”
Joe is disheartened. Does he need to go to Bunnings to do it all himself? But on one sunny morning, he gives it one more try and he drags himself to the computer.
Glancing at the search results, Joe sees the words “corporate design” and thinks “well, that at last is finally close” and he clicks the link. Providence! One look at the uncomplicated website, and Joe immediately sees the words in big letters “if your offices screams 'Struggling Professional,' you will be struggling for a long time.” This hit Joe right in the gut. Wham! A website chat-line enticed Joe to happily and easily make his first contact in finding a service provider.
When a prospect is looking to engage a service provider, the challenge “give me one good reason why I should hire you” consumes their thinking, but they see endless claims of boring standard expectations and nothing resonates. The provider shouts “me, me, me,” but so does the prospect and the two don’t connect. The provider is talking their own language, not the language of the prospect. The provider seems more interested in themselves than the prospect, when the prospect couldn’t care less about the provider until hiring time.
Is it any wonder many providers say their biggest challenge is that they want more clients? Serving a client is easy; prior training handles that. Winning clients is the hard part, and failing at that means a failing business.
Providers need to understand the prospect's specific concerns, which are different from buying an off-the-shelf product. Services are intangible and can’t be seen or held, but a product is tangible and can be seen and held. Buyers tend to trust a product more than a service and a product can speak for itself; for example a BMW sports car doesn’t need much explanation. Therefore, a service provider needs to work much harder to properly explain their service to a prospect.
Prospects grasp at anything to help them analyze the service, and confirm that risks about the unknowns are minimized. Unknowns include service under-performance, service over-performance with accompanying extra fees, being forced to learn industry jargon, the provider's attitude on any given day, calls and emails not returned, indifference to prospect needs, and so on.
The provider has to make the proposed service more tangible, make the prospect feel more comfortable, and prevent prospect indifference. Prospects have limited time and they give it up to investigate a provider. So providers, give them one good reason why they should hire you and make them feel personally appreciated and cared for.
It needs to get personal. Prospects listen to radio WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Consider what psychologists call the cocktail party phenomenon; you are at a party deep in conversation, and suddenly you hear your name mentioned from across the room. Where is your focus now? The provider needs to be that person on the other side of the room.
And it needs to be close. Juries in courtroom trials by law can’t just hear a witness, they are required to see them simultaneously. This is the ‘hearsay rule,’ and providers can use this powerful strategy to big advantage.
The challenge “give me one good reason why I should hire you” should be taken literally, meaning “give ONE good reason.” Not two, not three, not 10. There is endless evidence of prospects when presented with multiple choices simply give up. They want less to think about, not more. If they don’t give up, they will select one detail out of the myriad of choices and they may not select important or right one.
In the invisible world of service providing, where very little can be shown, practically everything must be described in words. Think of great slogans from throughout history: “we’re number two, we try harder” (Avis Car Rentals), “When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight” (Federal Express), “The personal computer” (Apple).
Fresh, active and powerful words can change and create realities and are what passionate orators motivate audiences with. Clichés like “committed to excellence” and “a tradition of quality service” fail because from a marketing perspective are to be assumed, not focused on, and they are not uniquely powerful. As an old English proverb says, “don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.”
A good marketing wordsmith or copywriter can improve the silence, and also the fortune of a business, and business owners should be copywriting proficient. Even if they don’t do it themselves, they need to be able to judge a copywriter's work. Copywriting is learnable and is often largely done to rules.
Wording should be minimal, simple, readable, specific not general, real not abstract, and used with vivid but familiar examples. Last sentences of paragraphs should entice readers to first sentences of next paragraphs, fewer adjectives with more stories and metaphors can make complex concepts simple.
Avoid jokes, as you may look like you have nothing important to say. Avoid tricks like ‘bait and switch’ (using an unrelated thing to grab attention then switch to the intended thing) because prospects will not let you trick them twice.
Avoid presenting as the better-than-everyone-else choice, as you will need to prove it. Most prospects feel very fortunate to have personal and reliable service which is positively good and not best. Consider the following questions: How often do people look for the best and even know it when they see it? How long are people willing to look for the best when good is available? How much are they willing to pay for the best? How much do they trust people’s assessment of best? How much do they trust people’s self-assessment that they are best?
Avoid mission statements. These are for the providers' directors and staff as a road map to a future goal and should not be publically viewed by competitors (for obvious reasons) or by prospects who just want to know how they can be helped now.
The “give me one good reason why I should hire you” challenge means a provider needs to put a lot of thought into giving a good immediate response. The response should shatter the stereotype, reflect the providers true self without pretention, and show they care passionate. Sell hope and happiness and make people smile.