Is Your Idea a Business or a Dead End?

Ha! So you think you have an idea that you can parlay into a good business, whether it’s a cutting edge technology or a tried and true formula, like a car wash.

Regardless of the industry that you’d like to enter, there is a more or less standard checklist of factors you should consider before investing your money, time and hopes. Before fantasies of entrepreneurship carry you away, do yourself a favor and answer these questions first. You’ll know how to proceed from here, whether it means that you meet with the Branch Manager at your bank to learn about business financing options, or you take a trip back to the drawing board.

1. Who are the target customers and what is the size of the market?

Define your market demographic. Who will pay to buy what you plan to sell? Is this a product or service that is growing in popularity, or maintaining its broad appeal, or is there a shift in customer preference on the horizon as those who would be your customers learn about a new choice that may persuade them to switch to The Next Big Thing?

In addition to demand for your intended product or service, are there enough customers in your location to support the business? By the way, how are your competitors doing? Do they appear to be thriving?

2. What is the problem that target customers want to solve or avoid when they do business with companies like your proposed venture?

Understand the back story of why customers would buy the solutions that you plan to sell. What is it that they’d like to achieve or avoid? One calls a window washer when the windows are dirty because clean windows demonstrate the owner’s desire to protect and enhance the value of his/her home.

3. How are target customers meeting their need today?

What businesses would be your primary three or four competitors? What factors persuade their customers to do business with them—a convenient location, exceptional product variety, discount pricing, the right relationships?

What advantage can you offer that customers might be drawn to—more convenient hours of operation, for example? Can you provide a product or service that meets a need that is valued but not currently addressed?

4. What is your solution (product or service)?

Describe your proposed product or service. You should be able to easily and clearly describe (and sell) your product. Develop an off-the-cuff sales pitch, record your delivery of it, then listen and evaluate. Would you buy this product or service?

5. How will you reach your customers?

If your business is B2C and requires a physical location, can you afford to set up shop in an area that potential customers will visit? If your business idea is B2B, do you have a plan to access customers and referrals? If your plan is for e-commerce, how will potential customers learn about your website?

6. Do you have the credibility and credentials to do business in this industry?

Especially if you plan to enter the B2B sector, be certain that your education and experience will command respect and trust. If obtaining certain licensing, certifications, or an educational degree is vital (even if not required), investigate the process, plus the time and money involved.

7. Do you have the funding to launch the business?

Research the expected business start-up costs and think objectively about how long it might take you to start making sales you can live on.

Pay your bills and get your credit score. Build up your savings. Whether you expect to self-finance, ask to borrow from friends, family, or your retirement account or apply for outside funding, you will need a lump sum of cash on hand when you launch a business.

Thanks for reading,

Photograph: Financial District, Boston, MA. Kim Clark, September 23, 2018


Exit Loyalty, Enter Relevance: The New 5 P’s of Marketing

Which quality best supports and encourages B2B buying decisions? In the 21st century, that quality is relevance.  According to a recent survey by Kantar Retail Consulting, whose North American division is based in Boston, MA, 71% of B2B and B2C customers feel that loyalty-incentive marketing promotional programs do not cause them to feel more loyal toward a company.  It has become evident that regardless of your industry, customers are doing business with you based on the perceived relevance of your products and services to their needs and priorities.  Attempting to buy loyalty with discounts, rebates, rewards, or swag bags is not as effective as it used to be.

A 2017 study by the global consulting firm Accenture found that U.S. businesses lose $1 Trillion a year in annual revenue to competitors because their (former) customers no longer consider them to be relevant.  The study results appear to indicate that to succeed, businesses must be perceived as fulfilling customers’ immediate needs as they occur. Personalization is helpful, but it is best applied in support of relevance.  The authors recommend that companies structure the customer experience  to deliver as does a butler or concierge.

So how do business leaders navigate the paradigm shift? Joshua Bellin, Robert Wollan and John Zeally of Accenture recommend that organization leaders move on from the former gold standard of marketing, the 4 Ps—Product, Place, Price, Promotion.  No disrespect to the 4 Ps, they served companies well for decades, but customer behavior and expectations have changed over the past 10 years or so.  The 4 Ps are unfortunately rather narrow and product-focused for our times.  Today, it’s about delivering customized solutions, especially for B2B customers.

Furthermore, a close reading of purchasing data indicates that the usual product-focused market segment labels, e.g., discount, luxury, or environmentally conscious consumers can no longer consistently predict purchasing choices.  The needs of all consumers, regardless of socioeconomic status and sociopolitical ideology, vary according to their immediate priorities and context.  In response, Zeally et al. suggest that companies expand their marketing guideposts to include these updated 5 Ps:

Purpose:           Customers feel that the company shares and advances their values.

Partnership:    Customers feel the company relates to them and works well with them.

Pride:                 Customers feel good about using the company’s products and  services.

Protection:        Doing business with the company makes customers feel confident.

Personalized:  Customers feel that their experiences with the company are always  tailored to their goals, priorities and needs.

The “what have you done for me lately?” mindset has replaced loyalty, to a large degree. Perhaps it’s a sign of the entitled and narcissistic culture in which we in the U.S. live.  Customer preferences are in constant flux. Short-term strategies and goals are often the norm.

Some companies are able to thrive in this environment, perhaps most notably the global retailer Zara, founded in Galicia, Spain. “Fast Fashion” is the guiding force.  In the 1980s, the company invested heavily in design, manufacturing and distribution systems capable of reacting to market trends very quickly.  As a result, Zara is on top of nearly every trend in women’s, children’s and men’s fashion and customers eat it up.  As of March 2018, there are 2,251 Zara boutiques in 96 countries.

Smaller companies and Freelancers cannot come close to being able to match the power of Zara, but it is possible to leverage relationships and personalization to encourage your current and prospective customers to share what is important to them and discuss how you can meet their needs today and in the future.  You probably already know that all too many of your customers will move on and do business with another company that seems to offer a better mousetrap without even discussing their needs with you first.  It is discouraging, I know.

The best defense is to be found in the 5 Ps.  Start with Personalization and move to Purpose, so that you can make it known that your company can advance the customer’s goals.  Segue next to Protection and use the trust that you develop to encourage prospects to feel confident about doing business with you.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Lurch (Ted Cassidy), the Addams family butler, in an episode of The Addams Family  (1964 – 1966, ABC-TV)

Marketing 2.0: How and Why You Measure Results

Marketing is an essential function of every business.   Smart organization leaders understand that continually reaching out to current and potential customers,  with objectives to create loyalty and trust in the company,  its products and its services and building a brand,  are integral to sustaining a healthy enterprise.  Like all business initiatives,  marketing objectives and strategies must be periodically evaluated,  to monitor and measure results and determine how to adjust and optimize the program if results do not meet expectations.  Choose your marketing activities based on your knowledge of customer behavior.

The measurement of marketing results can be broken down according to a method recommended by Joseph Raymond Roy,  a marketing consultant based in Meredith, NH,  who gives us the acronym DATA:

1. Defining,  identify the result your marketing will promote (increasing the number of potential customers)

2. Assessing,  measure the dollar value of your marketing program (look at the number of customers and gross revenue)

3. Tracking,  determine if customers came to your business as a result of your marketing activities (ask new customers how they found you, or all customers in a survey)

4. Adjusting,  if it is obvious,  do more of what produces the desired result and less of what does not produce results.  In other words,  optimize your marketing activities.

Begin the measurement by calculating the amount of money invested in your marketing activities.  Obviously there is also time involved,  which should be taken into account,  but  it is usually difficult to attach an appropriate dollar figure to one’s time.  How much is the time you spend networking worth?  What is the time spent on social media worth,  or producing your monthly newsletter?

You may develop good relationships with potential referral sources,  but it may take 5 months or 5 years to receive a referral.  Speaking engagements and webinars  are easier to evaluate.  A well-respected venue always has value,  whether or not you receive referral business or meet a future client,  because the very act adds value to your curriculum vitae.  Calculate ROI by deducting the value of resources spent on marketing activities from revenues generated by customers who have come to you as a result of marketing activities.

Tracking  (i.e., forward tracking),  the process of building an identifying mechanism into each marketing activity before it is launched,  so that you can measure the results derived.  If you present a webinar,   the registration of participants,  which includes an email address for each listener,  is a most accurate tracking mechanism.  Responding to a product offer with a special code is another excellent tracking device.   The marketer will be able to identify which customer was not only impacted by a certain activity,  but also will know if that person eventually does business with the company.

There are various types of tracking methods,   including Point-of-sale tracking,  conducted when new customers arrive by asking them how they heard about you.  You will also use point-of-sale tracking when you tally up the sales results associated with the purpose of your marketing program,  be it bigger ticket items,  referrals,  or other customer actions.   Reverse tracking  is the process of going through your customer list and documenting how current customers became your customers.

If you write a blog or newsletter,  measure your reach by counting the number of subscribers,  email forwards and followers.  Point-of-sale tracking  will let you know if demonstration of your knowledge and expertise brings customers into the door.

The ROI of PR should be measured in at least two ways:  first,  through Media impressions,  in which the marketer counts how many media outlets wrote a story or made a radio or television announcement in response to a press release that was sent (a follow-up phone call will likely boost the response rate).   Second,  through Content analysis one can evaluate the accuracy of what was broadcast as a result of the press release and the prominence of item placements in the chosen media outlets.

Online data analytics systems  will track all visits to your website,  customized to your needs.  How many potential customers abandon your website and how many follow-up with inquiries or engage by clicking on your newsletter or blog? What is the impact of your social media outlets on your marketing objectives? Here is how you’ll know.

The ultimate marketing metric is the percentage of your customer base that result from marketing activities,  or Marketing Originated Customers.

It may take a service provider 6 – 12 months to have results to measure.  Obtaining a contract from a new or returning client is a longer sales cycle than selling ice cream cones.  Metrics make it possible to know which marketing activities yield the best results and that knowledge will give you the opportunity to optimize your marketing efforts.  You will do more of what works,  perhaps launching an advertising campaign during a particular season or increasing your participation in certain business or professional groups.  Other activities may be diminished or dropped altogether.  Gross sales will give a dollar value ROI to your marketing program when compared to the pre-marketing program value.

Marketing metrics ensure that you receive a solid ROI on your marketing activities.  Appropriately chosen and implemented marketing activities that are tracked and optimized will always pay for themselves.

Thanks for reading,



Marketing 2.0 : How and Why You Do It

All those with a product or service to sell must institute a marketing program that promotes those products and services to target customers.  Marketing programs consist of strategies and activities that derive from promotional objectives you would like to achieve for your products,  services,  or the company overall.  Advertising;  writing a blog, newsletter, or book;  speaking at business associations;  teaching a subject that showcases your expertise;  making an in-kind donation to a local charity event;  presenting a webinar;  nominating yourself for (and winning!) a business award;  writing a press release to announce to local media that you are presenting a webinar,  have won a business award or published a book;  networking to meet new colleagues or reconnect and build relationships; and presence on social media are examples of activities that carry out your marketing strategies and have the potential to ensure the achievement of marketing objectives.

For most,  the goal of marketing is to increase sales  (that is, revenue)  by increasing awareness and trust in the company and its products and services and in that way increasing the number of its potential customers.  Marketing is a way to fill the sales pipeline,  as is prospecting for potential customers  (wear your sales hat when prospecting,  although prospecting is not quite selling in the same way that marketing is not exactly selling).  Generally,  marketing strategies are created to produce one or more of these results:

1. Awareness,  so that target customer groups will learn of the existence of your company and its products and services.

2. Perception,  so that target customer groups will think of your company and its offerings in a certain way.  This is the core of brand development; trust and confidence are the primary attributes that you must persuade customers to associate with your company and its products and services.  Depending on your business,  other attributes you may want to attach to the brand are luxury,  practicality,  innovativation or quirkiness.  Reputation management and crisis PR are under this heading.

3. Behavior,  so that target customers will be persuaded to take action.  Your objectives may include attracting new customers;  encouraging repeat business from existing customers;  encouraging sales of higher-ticket items or premium services;  or stimulating referrals by persuading customers to recommend your products and services to others.

Because time and money are limited resources for business ventures large and small,  it is a big advantage to know which of your marketing activities works and if possible,  to also know which activities are effective for certain customers.  Further, it is essential to know how many customers come to your business as a result of marketing activities.

To measure the return on investment ROI of your marketing program,  one must venture into the realm of marketing metrics,  from data analytics to Big Data.  Next week,  we will look at simple yet revealing marketing metrics that will evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing and guide your future marketing activities.

Thanks for reading,


What Business Are You Really In?

Every business starts with a proposal to deliver certain products or services to those would be their customers.  The business model encompasses operations processes,  sales distribution and early stage marketing messages.  But over time,  the business owner or marketing team must achieve a more sophisticated knowledge of target customers and use that understanding to advance from exclusively dwelling on the functional aspects of items sold and the obvious benefits.

Successful products or services become  “brands”  by marketing the intangible essence that is associated with what they sell.  Brands connect with an unspoken motive of the customer and promote reputation,  image and aspirations.  Luxury brands like Neiman Marcus,  Chanel and Jaguar sell the image of wealth and status.  Nike sells the image of the focused,  independent,  athletic ideal self.  Puma,  another athletic shoe company,  avoids the athletic angle and sells urban cool along with their sneakers and other apparel.  Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt  (1925 – 2006)  described this phenomenon and its implications in  “Marketing Myopia” ,  his seminal article that in 1960 appeared in the Harvard Business Review.

Brands rise above being mere purveyors of products and services,  otherwise known as commodities.   Getting a handle on the  “je ne sais quoi”  unspoken  mission of your products or services as perceived by customers is the only way to achieve break-out success.  Delivering high-quality products and services via the optimal business model is how to build a following and earn a good reputation.  Being known as trustworthy and dependable are integral elements of building a brand.  But it is only the beginning.  Consider this: a film studio does not function to merely make and promote movies.  A film studio’s real business is entertainment.

So let’s figure out how to learn what business you are really in.  Why not start by teasing out the motives for doing business with you rather than a competitor?  Were you lucky or well-connected enough to persuade a powerful person to do business with you?  Does the coolest kid in class wear the clothing you sell?  The recommendations of thought leaders and other trusted sources are worth their weight in gold.  If a VIP gives you an assignment,  others will want to emulate that VIP and do business with you,  too.  Overwhelmingly,  people are followers and want to be seen where the  “in” crowd goes.

Keep that tendency in mind as you peel back another layer and decode the self-identity of your target customer and the image that your archetypal customer wants to project.  Get your arms around the social or professional impact of your products or services.  Who do your customers aspire to be,  whom do they emulate or identify with?  What is the underlying purpose of your product or service?

When you can decipher and describe the above,  you will discover the business you are really in.   Apply that knowledge and create marketing messages that resonate;  advertising choices that deliver the desired ROI;  design product packaging that customers respond to;  institute a pricing strategy that reflects the perceived value of your products and services;  and write a tag line that reflects the self-image,  aspirations and/or unspoken motives of your archetypal customers.

FYI here is a 1975 version of Theodore Levitt’s classic article  “Marketing Myopia”

Thanks for reading,


ID Your Target Customers

Step One in evaluating the prospects of a business venture requires that you know who is likely to become a customer.  Here are 8 smart questions that will help you gauge whether you have a viable target market for your enterprise:

1.  Who will pay a premium price for my products or services?

  • Investigate how much business those who would be your closest competitors are doing and learn what motivates their customers to do business with them and find also pricing info,  if possible.
  • Assess your competitive advantages: do you possess a  “secret sauce”  that will make customers do business regularly and pay a little more?
  • Assess the value of your personal brand: who will do business with you because they value what you represent and do?

2.  Who has already done business with me?

  •  If your business is up and running,  growing your business often means persuading those who are already customers to do more business with you.  Which upgrades and extras to your service line might your current customers buy?
  • Speak with customers you know well and ask what adjustments in service,  features or delivery system would make their lives easier.
  • Design a survey and send it out to your mailing list and also add to your website and social media,  so that you can get more opinions and validate the findings of the customer Q & A.
  • Beta test new products and services with current customers,  to gauge their acceptance and refine the concept,  packaging,  marketing message,  delivery system,  price point, etc.

3.  Am I overestimating potential demand for my products and services?

  • Hire a marketing research firm to run a focus group to estimate the size of the market for your product or service.
  • Smaller budget holders should refer to numbers 1 and 2 and figure out how much business competitors are doing and if applicable,   ask current customers which new offerings would be useful to their organizations.

4.  Am I assuming that everyone values what I value?

  • Reality test your take on the priorities of your target market by asking them,  in face to face meetings or via surveys.  Read industry blogs to confirm how customers use similar products and services.
  • Find the thought leaders and listen to what they say about the need for what you plan to sell.  Without revealing your motive,  you can write in and ask questions.

5.  Does my business model match my target customers?

  • The business model is the blueprint for positioning your venture to make a profit.
  •  The ideal customer groups for your products and services must receive the right marketing message in the right way.  Products and services must be sold in the right way at the right price,  using the method of payment that customers expect.
  •  Design a business model that inspires trust and confidence and is user-friendly convenient.

6.  Who are my main competitors and how did they get started?

  • Study three or four close competitors and learn the back story of the founders.  What competitive advantages do they possess?
  • How long have those competitors been in business and what may have changed,  or remained constant,  in the business environment that allowed them to find success?
  • Define critical success factors for your venture.

7.  How will potential customers and I find each other?

  • Hair dressers,  manicurists and employees of consulting firms have the great advantage of being able to steal future clients from their former employers.  If you are employed in the industry in which you plan to open a business,  start now to strengthen relationships with those customers who might jump ship and go with you.
  • Learn how to reach your target customers.  Which organizations do they join,   which conferences do they attend,  which blogs or newsletters do they read,  does social media for business resonate with them and where should you advertise.

8.  Do you see opportunities to expand your target market?

  •  Eventually, it will become necessary to find ways to expand your business either vertically or horizontally. Stay abreast of happenings in the industry and maintain good communications with your customers to understand what you might offer in the future.
  • Can you create a niche market or two by tweaking what you have,  or offering it under another name and advertising in different media?

Thanks for reading,


Business Model Guideposts

I will teach “Become Your Own Boss:  Effective Business Plan Writing” , a three part workshop (total 6 hours) held at Boston Center for Adult Education 122 Arlington Street Boston MA on three consecutive Thursdays 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM February 17 – March 3.  Register at, course #420174 or use the direct link:

The business model defines the method by which an organization creates and delivers value through products and services offered and the way in which it persuades customers to pay for that value.  The business model encompasses the manufacture and marketplace delivery of products/services,  how best to access prospective customers,  where and how business transactions take place and customer service.  The business model is the blueprint for how the venture operates in real time and makes a profit.

The business model reflects what the business owner/management team believe about what customers value,  the way in which customers want that value delivered and what they will pay to obtain it.  The business model can also function as an analytical tool. 

 Its examination can help the business owner effectively address challenges such as client retention problems,  insufficient new business development,  or persistent customer service snafus.  It can urge the management team to find a way to lower the cost of goods sold,  add or delete services, or  rethink sales distribution channels.

How’s your business engine running these days?  Might a tune-up be in order? Here are some questions to ask yourself and guideposts to follow as you build or refresh your business model:

  • Who are the target customers?
  • How can your organization best attract,  acquire and retain the target customers?
  • What need does your product/service fulfill or what problem does it solve?
  • What perceived value does your product/service provide?
  • How can you differentiate your product/service in ways that resonate with the target customers?
  • How will you generate revenue?
  • Where will business take place,  how and when will customers pay?
  • Identify and locate customers with sufficient money and motive to do business with you,  preferably on a regular basis.
  • Verify that there will be enough paying customers to allow the business to make a profit.
  • Identify which product/service features and benefits that target customers value most highly.
  • Identify the least costly source location and manufacturing process for your products/services.
  • Use the most cost-effective product/service delivery system that customers will accept.
  • Identify product/service add-ons and upgrades that are easy and inexpensive to provide and for which customers will pay a premium to obtain.

Thanks for reading,


Keep Your Customers Close

Adopting customer-centric business practices is now  THE  survival mechanism of necessity for Freelancers,  as well as businesses large and small.  Particularly for service providers,  the battle to escape the dreaded label  “commodity”  is on.  No one can afford to be just another replaceable face in the crowd.  The “me, too”  era  is over.

In order to keep customers coming back for more,  Freelancers are compelled to demonstrate unique value to those with whom we do business.  It’s the best way to stay ahead of the competition and make your name come to mind when a project needs to be done or a referral made.

While providing top quality products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations is our number one mission,  another important mission is to take  a  look at our business practices from the sight lines of our customers—from the outside,  looking in.  Assess the experience that customers have when doing business with you.

To make that happen,  find out all that you can about what really brings them to your door,  or to the door of competitors.  What assumed but unspoken set of objectives and expectations do they have? What alternatives exist that might possibly allow them to achieve those objectives without you? How easy, or cumbersome,  is it to do business with you?

Your website plays a role in this process,  especially if yours is an online business,  or customers typically search the web for your category of business.  List with GoogleMaps and Yahoo Local to help customers and prospects find you.  SEO friendly algorithms and key words will also give your website presence  a boost.

Furthermore,  your website should promote and reflect your brand very well.  Display core products and services prominently,  along with information that will answer frequently asked questions and get customers on the road to doing business with you.

If anything on your site is time sensitive,  e.g. your list of speaking engagements,  keep that updated.  Present  a website that is easy to read,  conveys relevant information in clear and simple language,  is not overly text heavy,  contains an appealing  “call to action”  and is easy to navigate.

Wherever appropriate,  leverage social media tools to provide additional communication channels for your customers.  2.0 is not only for communicating your brand and  message,  but also for letting people holler back.  Another method to get the heads up on customer priorities is through the online service,  Survey Monkey.  A brief  survey that contains well designed questions will elicit useful information and may shatter a few illusions.

A thriving business is built on the customer:  retention,  satisfaction and growth.  The products and services  we sell,  the way these are delivered and the prices  we charge are all based on what our customers need and accept.  To keep the cash flowing,  stay current with customer priorities and learn their thoughts about what your business does well,  what your competitors do poorly,  what you could offer that will make their lives easier  and what they are willing to pay to have it all.  If you can solve those mysteries  Freelancer friend, you will have yourself a nice little business!

Thanks for reading.  To those who are keeping score,  Freelance:  The Consultant’s Diary reached the one year milestone on June 16, 2010.


The ROI on 2.0 Part I

By this time,  nearly every Freelancer has hopped onto the social networking 2.0 bus.   As a matter of fact, a large cohort of Americans has established an online presence in some fashion, possibly even your grandparents.  Your loyal Diarist can be found on LinkedIn.

Still,  among Freelancers and other business owners, nagging little doubts about the meaning of all this will sometimes surface in our conversations.  What does social networking really do for business?   Have you ever gotten so much as a referral,  let alone an actual piece of business, through social networking? Do you know anyone who has? What is the ROI on 2.0?

It appears that much depends upon the business you are in.   Are 12-25 year olds your target market? Are you an athlete or a rock musician looking to build and connect with a fan base? Are you an author of books aimed at the teen and young adult market,  trying to grow your book sales? Do you operate a retail business that sells clothing,  anime or video games to the teen and ‘tween crowd? Then MySpace is where you want to be,  because this is where your target market hangs out.

Visual and performing artists of all types,  plus restaurants and nightclubs,  most often gravitate to Facebook. This site is also popular for personal networking,  providing a nice way to stay connected to family and friends.   Facebook is about the visual.  Here you can post photos of your latest group of paintings or sculptures;  display the bar scene on Tuesday nights at your establishment;  or show off pix of your new haircut,  the baby,  or your new puppy.  Maybe you sent out Thanksgiving greetings to those you have “friended” and will do the same at Christmas and the New Year.

To create in the moment on the ground buzz,  go to Twitter. You can put the word out about performances at your nightclub,   special events at your store,  book signings,  the waves in Perth, Australia or skateboarding at the Xtreme Games.   Wine shops can announce tastings and let customers know that Beaujolais Nouveau c’est arrive.

I even read about a woman in Belfast, Ireland who tweets these great recipes.  In 140 characters,  she will hook you up with good ideas for dinner! Twitter is best used to augment the connections you’ve made on MySpace and Facebook with microblogging. Here’s how to keep your young, short attention span crowd in the loop about interesting happenings at your business that will keep your business at top of mind.

More 2.0 next week,

Starting A Business? Consider Your Marketing Strategy Part I

Once you have identified your customers, done some detective work to check out your main competitors and positioned yourself relative to them, thus claiming a niche for your company, you are ready to devise a marketing plan for your business venture.

The marketing plan supplies the road map that you will use to reach the target customers.  Sales strategy, pricing, product or service positioning, advertising and distribution channels must all be accounted for in relation to what target customers will accept.  The idea is to convince customers that buying your services or products will give them benefits that are worth the cost.


Describe how your products or services offer more advantages to the customer than what  is offered by competitors.  What’s the hook that will bring customers to your door?

Research the product features and attributes that are important to target customers and what they are willing to pay for them.  Dig a little deeper and brainstorm the benefits—those unspoken and often emotional motivators that will drive customers to buy from or hire you.

What is the challenge or need that customers  face, what is the “pain” that they’re in? Your company must provide solutions that customers determine to be useful. Think about what customers might value in the long run, but remember that tastes and perceived needs are fluid and therefore subject to change


Pricing is a tricky issue, especially for consultants and professional service providers.  It may be difficult to find out what competitors charge,  so there is no framework for  comparison.

If you have relationships with those who hire for similar services,  inquire as to what they pay so that you can set your price points.  Competitors are unlikely to help you with pricing, but colleagues who offer similar services may give some guidance.  If you plan to sell a tangible product, canvass the marketplace and learn how similarly positioned products are priced.

Be advised that  it is risky to underprice.  In general, it is not a great way to rapidly build a client list or gain market share.  In services especially, clients may wonder why your rate is so cheap—are you unqualified?  You don’t want to give the impression that you’re less than first rate.  Moreover, raising prices in the future may be met with customer resistance.

Underpricing will also negatively impact your cash flow.  You could find yourself spinning your wheels like mad, overwhelmed with lots of orders, but losing money overall because you have not fully accounted for the cost of goods sold, be it product production and marketing costs or the time and creative energy it costs you to fulfill a contract assignment.

Unless you’re in the grocery business, where profit margins are traditionally thin, make sure that your pricing strategy builds in a profit margin that will sustain the business and eventually you too.


Think about how your products or services will flow from their source and reach the target customers.  Examine how customers currently buy your type of product.

Do they buy primarily online, from catalogues, from a physical location, by referrals from trusted sources, by contract bids or at trade shows?  Can you access the preferred distribution channel?  How much will it cost you?

Service providers and Freelance consultants must also develop a distribution strategy, so that potential clients and referral sources can be reached.  If you work in professional services, you are on the coattails of the firm’s marketing efforts.  However, these days even junior associates are expected to bring in clients.

Networking and other relationship building strategies will be helpful here.  Put yourself in the places where clients and good referral sources can be found.   Work an expert elevator pitch and see who you can meet.  Visibility counts, so speaking opportunities and leadership roles in business groups will also be important for self promotion.

I’ll be back with Part II of Marketing Strategies next week,