Educate Them!

One of my favorite self-care activities is getting a massage. I tend to tighten my shoulders when I’m working intently, and despite stretching, the end of a major project always finds me feeling as if there’s a hot spear piercing my left shoulder.

A friend recently told me about a chain of stores that offer inexpensive massages, and I’ve noticed a proliferation of clinic signs promising slashed prices. I’ve been sticking with my favorite massage therapist because she’s fantastic and I like her tremendously…  But those signs kept showing up, and I found myself wondering if perhaps I should check out cheaper massage options and save some money.  But I wondered if the massage would be as effective and relaxing.  Would I save money, or would I waste it?

I tell you this story not to discuss my massage habits, but because this is the thought process that your clients may go through when they become aware of another service provider who charges less. It’s human nature, especially when times are tight, to notice and to consider investigating a deal.  But we all know that a “deal” isn’t always a deal.

How can you help your clients distinguish a deal from a sub-optimal service?

Educate your clients. While I was mulling massage options, I received a newsletter from my favorite spa that offered a series of questions to ask a reduced-price competitor, inquiring about important massage aspects such as the training/experience of the therapists and the atmosphere in which the services are performed.  The questions qualify the preferred provider — in this instance, the spa — as the ideal, but they’d also allow me to vet competitors to see whether another option might be a good deal.

WHAT?  Tell potential clients that someone else is offering a good deal?  Why would you do that? When you give candid information that may cut against your economic interest, clients recognize it, and it tends to raise your credibility.  When your credibility goes up, it becomes more likely that they’ll trust you when you tell them that in situation A, it’s fine to use a cut-rate provider, but in situation B, they’ll come out ahead by paying more and working with you.  And when you gain client trust, all manner of good things begin to happen.

To educate your clients and potential client market in this way, take these steps:

  1. Who are your competitors?  Who offers the same services to meet the same needs (your direct competitors) and who offers different services to meet the same needs (your indirect competitors)?  To continue the massage example, other massage therapists are the spa’s direct competitors.  Yoga studios, gyms, aromatherapy solutions, and many other modalities can credibly claim to help with physical tension that results from stress, and those other service providers are indirect competitors.
  2. How are you different from your direct competitors?  Why is massage better than yoga for addressing stress-induced tightness and pain?  Why should a business planning to incorporate hire you rather than using LegalZoom?
  3. Once you’ve identified what sets you apart, decide how you can communicate that to your potential clients.  Maybe it’s a newsletter, like my favorite spa sent.  Or you might write an article that compares and contrasts your services with others.  Perhaps you’ll weave it into conversation.

However you communicate your distinguishing factors, make sure you provide both emotional and rational distinctions. You have more experience (rational), which means that you can give clear guidance about a convoluted situation (emotional).  Because you’ve been through an experience like your client’s (emotional), you’re able to identify the steps that will have the biggest impact for your client (rational).

Instead of worrying about competition, educate your clients and turn obstacles into opportunity.

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