Being Clear On What You’re Selling

There’s something that happens sometimes where your clients and customers sign up for your service but then appear to be unhappy or confused.  Usually, this can manifest itself in negative reviews and feedback or a bunch of seemingly weird questions.

If you’re providing services to clients this confusion will manifest itself most notably in two situations: just before you start doing the work where they’ll ask a bunch of really strange questions or just after you’ve completed the work and they seem to be unsure about what you’ve done.

In our SEO business, we would get this all the time with customers that were new to buying SEO services.  We would do some work on their site, maybe add some content and acquire a few backlinks, then give them a completion report outlining the work we’d done.

Probably about 30% of the time a first time client would call or email and say something to the effect of, “Hey, thanks for that… I just looked and we’re not #1 in Google yet for our top five keywords, when can we expect to see that.”

Seriously, the number of clients that thought we had some kind of magic Google lever that we could pull to vault them to #1 for their desired keyword was crazy.

The underlying problem in all of these types of cases is that the client simply doesn’t understand what they’ve bought.

I know, this sounds crazy, but it is a really common problem, especially if you’re selling a process as opposed to an actual outcome.

Let me give you a very simplified example.

If I am a travel agent and I sell you a cruise, you can expect to turn up at a dock somewhere, board a ship, have a cabin akin to what you paid for and the ship will head out to the agreed locations at the pre-determined schedule.

You’re buying an outcome – you wanted to go on a cruise, I sold you a cruise, you get to go on a cruise.

It might be argued that I’m selling you an experience as well – the cruise ship will probably be pretty lively, the food will be plentiful, it will go to exotic locations and Captain Stubing will invite you to dine at his table with recurring guest stars Betty White and Tony Danza… Wait, that last part was from the Love Boat, never mind.

Jokes aside, you get my point.  I’m not guaranteeing you’ll enjoy the cruise, but the cruise “experience” should be close to what I pitched.

But if you thought I was selling you round-trip flights to Nassau, that’s on you.

The problems occur when you aren’t clear.

Going back to our SEO business example – we ended up being VERY explicit with our positioning.  We would say overtly to potential clients that we were not guaranteeing them an increase in rankings, that what we were doing was undertaking what we considered to be “best practices” to optimize their site for Google’s crawlers and search index.

That’s a lot less sexy than selling #1 rankings.

On the other hand, it saves you a massive amount of grief.

Let’s go back to our cruise example.  If you run a travel agency and you sell someone two tickets to Nassau, but don’t tell them they’re going on a cruise, there is the potential that someone might be a tad confused when Julie and Gopher turn up to meet them instead of flight attendants.

Ok, that was the last Love Boat reference for this email, I swear.

The thing is, it pays to be pretty explicit about what it is you’re selling.  You end up with far fewer confused clients and the customers you do have are going to be more satisfied because you’re delivering what you offered.

And interestingly, you’ll do better out of this financially in my experience.  Every single one of those confused clients or the ones who felt they weren’t getting what they asked for were pretty “expensive” to service in terms of time and costs.

You’re always better off being fairly transparent with what your product or service is meant to deliver.  It can be harder to sell because let’s face it, “proven on-page optimizations” is way less sexy than “Rank #1 for every keyword you want”, but you’re actually able to deliver one of those two things.

Ultimately, that’s the business you’re in – delivering on what you said you could deliver.  If you’re clear on that up front, you end up with better clients and a much easier to run business.

Leave a Comment