Finding Your Value Proposition
Value Prop. This was my value prop in the beginning. I would go, and I would say, "We're gonna be "twice as fast, just as good, "and half the price of everybody else." People were like, "I thought I had to choose one. "I thought there was this triangle thing "that people talk about." I was like, "No, forget the triangle. "You get it all." And they're like, "Okay, can we hire you?" I'm like, "Yeah, yes you can." So we're going to do fast value props to the customer, fast turn around, low risk. This is, it's counterintuitive, but you're a company of one, at this point, and so clients may perceive that to be risky. Like the phrase people say is nobody ever got fired from hiring IBM, right? So the way that I counter that, I would just look somebody in the eye, and I would say, "This is the most important project for me. "I will never let you down. "I will not sleep until this project launches successfully." And that person either has to believe me or think I'm a liar. So, it's hard to, whe...
n you meet me, or you meet that person across the table, you're not normally going, "This person's a liar." You're probably going, "Okay, I thought it is risky, "but very emphatically he's saying you can trust me, "I got this, and it's gonna be great, "and I'm seeing that they've done this before." Hopefully you're on month six, and you've got two or three projects, or on your eighth, and you've done a whole bunch of projects, and they go, "Okay, low risk." So that risk mitigation factor is crucial, and I think that a lot of fellow practitioners, you know, freelancers, small shops, they forget that they are perceived, naturally, as risky. So you have to de-risk that. I do it through sheer confidence and a real personal promise that we're not gonna let someone down. So, I think we have a question from the internet.
As you've been going through the value proposition, some people in the chat room, you know, we have people are watching who are at different stages in their businesses. Some things they need a little bit more clarity with. Victoria just wants you to take a step back. Could you just give a basic definition of what is a value proposition. Like, if you're starting from scratch, how do you think about what exactly that is, when you get to that field that you're filling out.
A value proposition, I think, in this context, is some element of what you're going to do that makes your potential customer either really comfortable with separating themselves from their own money, or salivating with the opportunity if you actually deliver that thing to them. So, you know, it's easier to think of it, well, I'll tell you, the service business context, like, you're selling hot tubs. The value proposition is that this is going to give you extreme, warm comfort in a bubbly environment, in the winter and summer months. And so you're like, the value prop is like real, great experience, so yes, I will give you $3,000 for that hot tub. Oh, and you have a lifetime guarantee? Oh, another value proposition to me, you de-risk the process, I just have to give you money now, and I have a hot tub. So, I don't think this has to be complicated, value proposition, when someone hears it, your prospective customer, when they hear it, they should go, "Oh, wow, I really want that." Simple as that. Good? We'll take more. We'll take more from the other end. We'll go to Becky.
When they talk about having confidence and going into these meetings, you can trust they're not gonna let you down, at what touch point is this? Is this we've had a pretty good connection. Now we've moved on to kind of an official business meeting, and now I'm pitching you, and now I'm saying, "Hey, "you can trust that I got this."
I think it's as early as you think you need to, and I'll give you a short description of some of the earliest times I've done it. So, maybe someone reached out via email or otherwise, and said, "Oh, Peter, I heard about the company, "and we need to do some work. "Can you come and meet us and talk with us?" And in the early days, you know, I'd come in and they'd say, "Okay, we see your capabilities, "and it's just you. "There are no employees?" And I'd say, "Well no, we've a really big group "of people that we pull in. "We call it our talent cloud. "These are some of the best people in the business. "It's too expensive to hire them full time. "You get them for just part of their time, "and that's great. "It's cheaper." And if I'm sensing that, like, there's a real concern about the size, or they feel like we're too risky to hire, that's when I literally look them in the eye and say, "Listen, this is the most important project "for me at this point and time. "I have never let anybody down. "Call anyone we've ever worked with, "and they will tell you. "And I will not sleep, so you can sleep. "I just won't sleep. "I'll make sure it's all getting done. "You can sleep, and it's going to be great." And then, hopefully, that pushes them over the edge of not being concerned about the risk factor. You don't have to do that, if they're not perceiving you to be a risky choice, because otherwise, it's just weird, like, why is he saying this. I only pull that out, if like, there's a risk concern. I don't see that as much now, because we're an 80 person company, and we're de-risked to a certain degree. But in those first four or five years, I probably, every third meeting, I probably, that little risk thing was going off in my head. I was like, "I better make sure I'm de-risking this "to them," and really giving that promise of quality and attention, that personal guarantee.
So what we hear pretty frequently is, "Oh, "so is it just you?" And they can point at me and a partner, and we say, "Oh, we have another partner, "and we work with a talent cloud."
It's just you.
So that wasn't hitting me as risk, so is that something that I should be specifically listening for, like, now is the time to guarantee?
Yeah, I think so. I think if someone were to say to me, "Oh, is it "just you?" And point to the two of us, I say, "Exactly. "Which means there's not a whole bunch of extra cost "that we're gonna have to bill you for, "for the big fancy office, and the overhead for operations, "and all the perks and the five martini lunches, "and all the other stuff. "We're an incredibly lean machine. "You're hiring us to knock out an incredible project "for you now, and we would never let you down. "This is the most important thing "that we could imagine doing." And, if that person's not swayed, or at least in their mind, especially if they're very savvy, they're gonna go, "Man, this girl's a killer. "Yeah, we want to work with her." Right? Because they know what they're doing. They're questioning your value proposition. They're questioning your approach to the world, so you have to have, like, that little jab back, right? So, Customer Relationships, we're gonna talk a lot about how to get customer relationships going today, Clinical Prospecting, otherwise. Content Marketing, I will tell you, I know it's a "buzz" work, so real. And Content Marketing, simply running great blog posts, that potential customers might read. There's some blog posts that we've written over the years that have been read over a million times. This is all about Facebook demographics and statistics. You might ask yourself, "Why the heck would we "write about that?" Because brand marketers are thirsty for that information, and there was no definitive resource. So when we wrote those posts, we indexed number one on Google, and everyone referenced them, and they're linked through on Wikipedia, and Wikipedia drives like 50,000 users to our website every month. And sometimes those people are folks like Krueger, who's one of our biggest clients, who found us because of a blog post we wrote, alright? And they said, "We read this really smart thing, "and we have an RFP, do you want to respond?" And then we'll hire you, right? And that's happened a number of times. Referrals, that is one of the clearest, sort of oldest ways to get clients. That comes through the world knowing that you do things really well. It's hard to get referrals immediately. Once you start to do some things, and delivering some projects, those clients will go, "She did such a great job, "or he did such a great job. "We got to hire them." It starts to get easier, as you develop a sort of a portfolio of past business. And then Networking, I'm not gonna dig deep into the networking piece. There's way too much information about networking. I'll say, in the first two years, I went to three or four events a day. That might sound insane to you. I'd go to a breakfast. I'd try to find a lunch. I'd go to two things at night. Insane, and people that would get to know me, they're like, "You are everywhere, all the time. "How is this possible?" I was like, "I love meeting people." Just love meeting people, mind you, I was not going there and like, selling them my services, like some slimy, sales person. I was going there because I just wanted to meet people, and I wanted to hear what their problems were. And some people would say, "Oh, Peter, what is this "company that iStrategylabs? "What does it do?" And I was like, "Oh, we do a lot of things. "It's not really that relevant. "What are you facing right now? "What are you trying to figure out?" "Oh yeah, we're trying to build "this new web application for healthcare services "to connect grandmas with ice cream." That sounds, opposite of healthcare services, I was like, "Okay, cool, well, "what are you trying to figure out?" "Like, we don't know if we should build it "using Word Press or Drupal, "or should we do, like our own "custom application development." "Well, if it was me, I'd use Word Press, "and it'd be cheaper to do. "You could probably get it done, you know, "three months for 75K, or something." "Really? "Because we budgeted like 150." And I'm like, "Well, maybe we should talk, "because I could write you a proposal for like 125K, and I'd love to do the project." And like, "Yeah, let's do it." Alright, so, like, being focused on what are people in the world facing? What are their problems, not what I'm trying to sell. And if there's a match there, then we can work to it. Alright, I'm going long on this art. I'll keep going. Channels, you already know a little bit about channels, I introduced them up front. In this context, agency partner sales might be a channel. So people referring business to you, it's a cross between referrals and channels. You might walk into that agency, it's a 100 person company, you're specialized in virtual reality content production, and you say, "This is what we do, if ever you guys "have a need, let us know." They'll close their deal with their client. They'll call you and say I've got 20 grand for VR work, and now you're in business. And then Customer Segmentation. Do you want to work with local businesses or even farther down the line, further segmentation local restaurants. And Cost Structure, as I said in the beginning, this should be really, really simple. I didn't have this first line. This says 500 bucks a month for we work. We work wasn't a thing when I started this business. That's just to your apartment at that point in time, and you can either allocate costs for that, or not. And then you can write it off or not, this is not a lesson on whether or not you should try to piss off the IRS, so we're not going to go into that part of this. 250 bucks a month for various software. You can imagine that's, you know, Adobe, create a Cloud, a Base Camp license, a Drop Box license. I'll tell you one thing, for the audience here, and online, you know you've made it when you move from the Drop Box individual license to an Enterprise account. I know businesses there, I know some folks that got like 15 employees now, and like we're all using the free individual Drop Box accounts, and it doesn't really work that well. Just pay for the Enterprise thing, so it all works together. And lastly, Bookkeeping. This is not a recommendation, but the first year of the business, I didn't do any bookkeeping. I merely sent invoices and spent money, and was like, I need to just have an idea that I'm collecting more money than I'm spending. At the end of the year, I'll figure it out. That was okay, but I did hire a bookkeeper by like month 12, to clean up my mess. And it wasn't expensive. You can find a good bookkeeper for 200-300 bucks a month, and they all said do it. Be a little bit more diligent. Don't screw up your taxes, and that same bookkeeper I've had on retainer for eight years, and her team has grown. Her business grew from her and an employee, to like 10 of them now, and I have on retainer, like 4 of them, for bookkeeping and CFO services, and all that. So see if you can find a really good person, and stick with you for a really long time. And then lastly, where your revenue streams. You're going to do work for hire, for design build. You're going to do custom content projects, right so might say we're gonna do that photo library you want, or that piece of video, and then we're going to have posting retainers and maintenance retainers.