Marketing and Selling High Value Professional Services is Hard!
If you work in the coaching, consulting or professional services, you’ve probably noticed how difficult it is to get traction with your online marketing.
As a sales funnel and marketing consultant, I find most entrepreneurs and business owners are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of marketing that they “should” be doing.
No doubt you’ve heard that to market your business and get more clients you need to:
- Have a modern, professional website
- Blog regularly
- Be active on Facebook
- Join Twitter
- Sharing Images to Instagram and Pinterest
- Making “How to” Videos
- Doing a Podcast
- Doing SEO
- Running Facebook Ads
- Advertising on Google
- Using Google Plus
- Writing Ebooks
- Creating Infographics
- Building Landing Pages
- Offering Free Gifts
- Doing Email Marketing
- Creating an Online program
- Publishing a Book on Amazon
- And much, much more!
I know, I’ve been there too!
I first got interested in online marketing when I’d just become a managing director for a large veterinary practice group. The day I became a partner, I realised my role in the business needed to change. Before that day I had just needed to worry about my patients and clients. From that day on I needed to plan how we would attract, engage and convert new customers to keep our business growing and thriving.
The Problem with Marketing Professional Services Online
Over the next 5 years I tried most of the things on the list above, and it worked!
I learnt to build websites and built and rebuilt our clinic websites several times to incorporate new requirements. I became an expert at Search Engine Optimisation (Eventually starting a digital agency specialising in SEO in 2011), and embraced Social Media and content marketing as they grew in importance.We totally dominated Google in our city and local region. We got hundreds of new clients a year who found us online. I was able to educate clients on common problems, share useful pet care advice and demonstrate our expertise in our areas of interest.
We totally dominated Google in our city and local region. We got hundreds of new clients a year who found us online. I was able to educate clients on common problems, share useful pet care advice and demonstrate our expertise in our areas of interest.
There was just one problem – all this marketing was almost a full time job! It interfered with me seeing my clients, occupied my time outside work, and made it hard to switch off (because those social media alerts would ping all night!)
And I knew the ROI still wasn’t as high as it could be.
In fact, a lot of what I did had very little impact in spite of taking enormous amounts of time.
What I also found to be really challenging was the more serious, professional and useful the content I created the less impact and engagement it had. People were more interested in cute pictures of cats and puppies than they were on expert veterinary advice.
I’ve seen the same thing with my clients – their most generous, knowledgeable and expert articles or social media posts provoke a chorus of crickets, while an uninformed post from a beginner would often attract great interest.
The professional in me found this incredibly depressing – but I knew I had to face facts. Specifically, I began to study what the top marketers were doing in other markets where they were selling professional services, education and information. I knew that other people were making this work and I knew I had a lot more to learn.
Bottom line: This stuff worked, but there had to be a better way – one that would generate more ROI
How to Get Decent ROI from Your Online Marketing Efforts
The Secret to Generating High ROI when Marketing Professional Services
Over the last decade or more I’ve come to see that the secret to generating ROI in your online marketing of high value professional services is to market with the end in mind, but optimise our marketing for just the next step.
What do I mean by this? I mean that we should keep in mind what our main business or marketing goal is: whether it be to sell a specific product or bring on a new high value client. However we need to bring the focus back to the single step we are working on and maximise the results for that step (providing it is leading us to our destination).
I often refer to this as a Funnel or Campaign approach to marketing.
In contrast, most businesses market without a clear plan to get to specific, high value business goal, and then don’t pay enough attention to generating the results they need from each specific marketing step.
Planning your sales funnel can help you break down your marketing to a series of interactions with your customer, making sure that each step of your marketing is taking you in the desired direction and improving or changing what doesn’t work.
This is especially important when you are selling high ticket services, because:
- They are expensive
- The ROI can be hard to define
- The products and services are often complex and hard to explain
- They are by nature intangible, so can be difficult to convey the value
- They aren’t for everyone – only some people will benefit or be able to use them
- They are normally sold in high trust, high touch environments which is hard to replicate online
- If the buyer buys the wrong product or service or from the wrong provider, the negative outcomes often exceed the cost of purchase
This means you need a particularly good plan to market and sell high value professional services online.
When I looked around in my industry, and at other professional practices, coaches and consultants, I discovered that most people were failing in their online marketing. Their blogs weren’t being discovered, their content wasn’t being consumed, and their social media sites lacked engagement and their content wasn’t shared.
So I started to look further afield. There were plenty of success stories in online marketing, but a lot of them were in retail or lifestyle brands that were very different types of products from what most professionals sell.
Eventually I identified 6 industries that were successfully selling high value, high trust, complex products for premium prices online.
- The online marketing industry – largely selling “How to make money online”, “how to market your business” or “how to use social media”. In this industry they were selling: Coaching, Consulting, Courses and Done for Your Services. In many cases the value proposition was “Get rich quick”, so these needed to be taken with a grain of salt.
- Celebrity Coaches. Top end coaches often used online marketing, usually leveraging a celebrity brand positioning and highly active and engaged social media platforms and other media types like video and podcasts.
- Online courses. The online education industry is currently a 4 Billion dollar industry. I separated this from the Online Marketing Industry so that I could focus on more serious educational ventures (Large Educational institutions from Harvard to Oxford are now embracing online platforms to reduce costs, increase reach and offer more diverse educational experiences).
- High end consulting services. Some Consultants were doing a great job of promoting themselves online. They tended to use an educational and expert positioning platform, and often employed partnerships with larger organisations or product vendors.
- Startups and tech companies. Startups were often aggressive and successful users of online marekting, and indeed their use of online marketing, especially their ability to leverage social sharing, viral launches and PR could make or break their whole business
- Mature Enterprise technology services and SaaS solutions. These had the benefit of decades of serious study of sales funnels, processes and pipelines, and had paid special attention to branding, messaging and other quality signals that I felt were important in professional services marketing.
From my study I discovered that when it comes to selling high ticket coaching and consulting services (eg from $2,000 to $10,000 and upwards, either as a single payment or a monthly retainer) there were 3 main models used online.
The models shared these common characteristics.
- A clear offer promising the final outcome. This creates strong demand from the right clients and gets them to take action and ensures the message is on track
- Targeted to the needs of one buyer with specific goals and challenges, which are spelt out and explored in the marketing. The goals, challenges and language fo the buyer are explicitly used through the marketing to build the relationship and demonstrate understanding of the market.
- Extensive education and value is given in advance of the sales pitch to build status and credibility for the vendor and to qualify the buyer.
- There are preliminary test drive, taste tests or initial products to allow the buyer to experience the product or service in advance to ensure a good fit, increase attachment and lower barriers to entry
- These models work best for solution selling – where the vendor offers a complete solution that will solve a clearly defined problem or business need or goal (rather than partial solutions or products – where other marketing models work well.)
I’ve identified 3 popular sales funnel methodologies used extensively to sell high ticket professional services online. Each of these has pros and cons which make them best suited to selling either one-on-one services (such as coaching or consulting), one to many services (such as group coaching or masterminds) and programs and courses (such as online training programs). Specifically, it makes sense to choose a sales funnel that acts as a “test drive” for the final product, in line with characteristic #4 above.
3 Proven High Ticket Sales Funnels for Coaching and Consulting
In my recent guide on high ticket sales funnels to sell professional services online I’ve detailed the 3 top sales funnels used by coaches and consultants.
To learn the best sales funnel to enroll high ticket coaching and consulting clients in your business download your free copy of High Ticket Sales Funnels for Coaches & Consultants.
Get your copy now.