How many hours have you spent this week with prospective clients who are great at draining your time and energy but can’t seem to find the money or desire to hire you? I’ve had my weeks when the number is larger than I’d like to admit. Consequently, several years ago I implemented one strategy that has been my secret weapon in my client cultivation process — I use my website to disqualify as many prospects as I can.
You may be saying, “What kind of addle-brained strategy is that, anyway?” Simply put, I don’t want to work with everyone, as everyone is not my ideal client nor in my target market. A business owner who belonged to the same networking group to which I once belonged was completely flummoxed by what he read on my site. He told me that he had never visited a site in which someone very clearly stated who she was, what she does, and with whom she works. Of course, he thought I was very foolish to be so rigid and turn away clients and “leave money on the table.” I confidently told him that I didn’t mind leaving money on the table, as there was more than enough to go around. He didn’t get it then, and probably doesn’t to this day.
Deciding to use your website to disqualify prospects is a very liberating experience. Without a doubt, it shows the world that you know and understand your target market, and that target market feels right at home when visiting your site. Those who don’t feel at home leave and find another provider who is a better fit for them. When you disqualify prospects, you:
1. eliminate the tire kickers who have no intention of ever hiring you;
2. create customers who call and say, “When can we get started?” rather than have to be sold on the merits of your service;
and3. decrease the number of information collectors who only want to take your time and energy and, and when they have sucked you dry, move on to the next victim.
To best disqualify prospects, I believe that full transparency about your business is key. When a prospect visits your website, she should fully understand all that there is to know about doing business with you, and have no questions about how you work with clients.
Here are 8 pieces of information that you can include on your website to make doing business with you as seamless, transparent, and easy as possible:
1. Target market. Who comprises your target market? What gender are they? Where do they live? How old are they? How much money do they make? What do they do for a living? Where do they hang out on- and offline? To what civic and professional groups do they belong? Use as many adjectives as you can brainstorm to describe them. If you can actually visualize this group of people in your head (and personally know people who fit this description), then you’ve got an accurate portrait of your target market. Describe your target market in enough detail on your site so that members of your target market recognize themselves when they arrive at your website.
2. Ideal client. What are the characteristics of the clients with whom you most enjoy working? What are their beliefs? What values do they hold dear? What industries are they in? What are the traits and qualities of great colleagues/bosses/friends that made them enjoyable to work with or be around? Are there foundational issues that need to be in place before someone is ready to work with you? Sometimes it’s easiest to generate this list by thinking of the traits of your nightmare clients. This strategy isn’t always foolproof, as many prospects can’t objectively judge themselves (i.e. they refer to themselves as “totally involved” in a project when most people might experience that as “micromanaging”).
3. Know their problems. What keeps your clients up at night and causes them great anxiety and stress? What are the reasons that they seek your assistance? If you need to get a better understanding of the problems of your target market, set up 30-minute interviews over coffee or over the phone with people who fit your ideal client profile and ask them a series of questions about things you want to know more about that will give you insight into their daily lives. Or, join in and participate in their online discussion lists, forums. or blogs and research the kinds of questions being posted. On your website, convey that you fully understand their struggles and difficulties and have walked in their shoes.
4. Solution to their problems. Once a visitor understands that you work with others like him who struggle with same types of issues, that visitor wants to know how you can help him solve his problems. Do you have a process, method, program, or strategy? Is that solution delivered via information products, a consulting contract, a service call, or a service purchase? Do you offer various ways at varied price points to help your target market solve their problems?
5. Demonstration of your expertise. Prospects want to know that you’ve successfully helped others like them. Scatter client testimonials throughout your site, or post case studies or before-and-after scenarios to show how you helped others in this target market successfully solve a particular problem. Information-rich content also serves to help you demonstrate your expertise, so don’t be timid about telling your visitors what you know by posting articles you have written that showcase your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to give away your knowledge — 95% of your visitors won’t be able to do it on their own, and you’ll be the top-of-mind pick when they are ready to take action.
6. Post prices. Don’t assume your visitors will want to call you to discover what you charge. If there are no prices listed, many will leave and go to another site where fees are listed. Post your fees on your website so that prospects can tell if they are easily able to afford what you charge. Conventional marketing strategy says that you should have a conversation with prospects and demonstrate your value before you talk price. I think that’s hogwash, and quite frankly, I don’t have the time to have these conversations. Use your website to give your prospects a clear idea of what it’s going to cost them to hire you or buy from you.
7. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Are there questions you answer time and time again? Instead of taking your valuable time to do this, create a FAQ page on your site that answers these commonly-asked questions, and provide a contact form for other questions that someone might have.
8. Barriers to Enrollment: If you offer a consulting-type service, you may offer a comp consultation to prospects who are interested in hiring you. Many times this session simply turns into a “brain drain” session, and the prospect is there only for what he can get without paying from you. Make sure that your prospect is serious about taking action by making him take some action in order to speak with you. You might require him to complete an online assessment or survey before you agree to speak with him. A fellow business coach requires prospective consulting clients to show up with a check for $1000-$5000 and business plans, marketing plans, financial documents and every other document that is relevant to the project they are discussing. The prospects who balk at this are immediately disqualified, and the coach moves on to the next prospect.
Don’t let the task of qualifying prospects drain you of your time and energy. As a service business owner, your time is your greatest asset. Use your website to your advantage and screen out all of those prospects who are not qualified prospects.
Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps independent service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To claim your FR*EE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at OnlineBizU.com. Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at AskDonnaGunter.com.