Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Service Sales

We have been developing service businesses for over ten years, and one of the biggest challenges we face is in overcoming all of the sales literature out there that treats service sales the same as product sales. Time and time again, we see our clients using product sales language on their websites and in their brochures.

For a service business, the single most important thing to achieve is to establish credibility.

Service sales is fundamentally different to product sales. You are not selling a tangible thing, and so the customer is not buying a thing. They are buying a result, and since they can't touch and see that result yet, you are essentially selling a promise.

And why would a potential client trust your promise?

Therefore the most vital thing is to establish credibility.

At CGW Publishing, we help service business owners to capture their expertise and credibility in a book, and there are some other ways of doing this that are important too, especially in creating a brand around your book.

Case studies are valuable, and by writing the case study around a clear purpose, you can position yourself clearly as a business partner rather than a provider of technical components or commodity services.

For example, here's a quote from a case study which sums this all up perfectly:

“We want freedom to move on and do different things, to grow our business and explore other ventures and ABSEM have given us that freedom”

Compare that with, "The widgets that XYZ supplied us with were very good and their price was the best in town".

If you want to sell on price, the latter is fine. The problem with selling on price, though, is that you are easy prey for your bigger competitors who can exert price pressure and not feel the pain as much as you will.

Many service owner businesses offer a free consultation, but if you do this, it marks you out as a small player. A free consultation is not a try before you buy, because you can't take your time and expertise back. Free consultations are a lazy way to sell, and you won't sell any more because of them. In fact, you'll just end up giving away a lot of your valuable time for free. Preventing our clients from giving away their time is one of the toughest things to do, because time=expertise=value.

Bakers don't give away free cakes - they give away tiny samples. This serves three fundamental purposes:
  • If you like the sample, you'll buy the cake and share it with your friends
  • If you don't like the sample, you won't buy the cake which saves the bakery from the negative impact of you telling your friends you didn't like it
  • It allows the bakery to get rid of yesterday's cakes

Service business owners consistently undervalue their expertise, and in doing so have no idea what to give a client that is analogous to a 'free sample'. The most important thing to bear in mind is that free samples are NEVER free. They are merely a way to reduce the risk of a decision.

How you describe your business is vital too, and the mistake that many people make is to describe what they do instead of what they achieve.

If you introduce your business by saying 'we do XYZ' then what you attract is people who just want to buy the components of XYZ, as cheaply as possible. If you start with a business proposition, you are more likely to attract people who are looking to invest in a partnership.

For example, in choosing to work with CGW, you chose to invest in a partnership. We're not the cheapest supplier of copy writing or editing services, compared to self employed providers from India and part time working mothers from America, which you will find in abundance on marketplaces such as Elance.

Marketplaces such as Elance, Freelancer and PeoplePerHour are overrun with job requests for SEO article writing at $1 per article. We're not in that market and so we don't say anything that suggests we are. There's nothing at all wrong with that market, it's just not for us. The bottom end of the market will always be under attack. Because clients are buying on price, they will always look to drive the price down, and there will always be suppliers willing to write articles at 99¢, then 90¢, then 75¢ and so on.

If you lead with what you 'do' then you are caught in the same problem; there will always be someone else willing to do what you do for less. But no-one can easily replace a relationship that you develop with a client at a business level.

Some service business owners try to demonstrate credibility by showing that they have a methodical process, but it doesn't work. A method is implicit in the nature of your business. If you go to a cake shop, you are already assuming that they know how to bake cakes. Bakeries don't tell you how they make their cakes, unless they have some special ingredient like locally produced organic flour. But even then they don't tell you how long they are baked for, how hot etc. They deliver an end product and the process to create that is implied.

Companies only list an ingredient or a process if it is a unique differentiator, e.g. beer being triple filtered or meat being 21 day aged.

If you are an Internet search marketing agency, your knowledge of search engine marketing is implicit. If you are a presentation skills expert, your knowledge of pitching is implicit. If you area hotel, the fact that you have bedrooms is implicit.

On your website, you need to distinguish between what the visitor already knows by the time they land on your home page and what they need to know in order to make a buying decision, which they have largely done by the time they contact you.

CGW and ABSEM working on a marketing partnership

One of the biggest problems that faces any business is marketing, and marketing comprises two key factors: Credibility and Visibility

For your business to be successful, you need potential customers to be able to see you. On top of that, they need to believe what they see.

This is especially vital for service businesses who don't have a tangible product.

CGW Publishing gives the owners of service businesses a tangible product by encapsulating their knowledge and expertise into a book and using that as a marketing platform.

What about visibility? We still have to market the book, even though it gives the author the credibility they deserve.

Today, the Internet is probably the most important marketing channel, so we are working with search marketing experts ABSEM to deliver a complete package to businesses.

As this partnership develops, we'll let you know more about what it means for you as a business owner, marketing professional, expert or author.

Ebook distribution options

We've just set up some new ebook distribution channels.

In addition to Ingram, who distribute through many of the major ebook retailers, we have added two large niche providers.

I say large niche, because of the ebook formats that they use.

The first is Amazon, who are advertising their new Kindle ebook reader aggressively on TV and in the press. Priced at £109, the Kindle device is an ebook reader, plain and simple. We've seen ebook readers come and go in the past and the key to success really has to be title availability. Kindle uses a proprietary 'AZW' file format, hence the niche position.

Unlike ebooks that come as ubiquitous PDF files, the Kindle format only works on the Kindle reader. Luckily, a software reader is available for a few other hardware platforms.

The second is the Apple iBookStore. Apple are rather more difficult to trade with because they only accept submissions to their AppStore and iBookStore via their authorized agents. Ingram have just signed up as an agent, and so we have signed up with Ingram. This means that you can get your book onto the Apple iBookStore through a professional and credible publishing imprint rather than one of the horrible imprints of some of the rather amateurish distribution channels that are available.

Apple iBooks use a rather stringent version of the 'epub' file format, so getting books published on the iBookStore is actually more complicated than getting a book into print.

One of the biggest problems is graphics; ebook readers are really designed for text novels, not for books with illustrations, so if your book has diagrams, charts and graphics in, we have to do a fair bit of work on the conversion. Also, if your book contains fancy fonts and formats for chapter headings or callouts, don't expect to see them in the ebook version unless you're talking about gold old fashioned PDF, where the ebook will look just like the printed book.

iBooks are available for iPads, iPods, iPhones, iMacs and probably anything else that begins with an 'i'.

The first title to hit Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks will most likely be The Pitching Bible by Paul Boross.

Print on Demand in Australia

We've been printing books in the UK and USA for the past 8 years, mostly using the services of Lightning Source.

Ingram, Lightning Source's owners, have just announced that they are opening a POD facility in Australia, which is excellent news for our authors and readers in that part of the world.

Their press release says, "Ingram Content Group Inc. today announced it will expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific market by establishing a full-scale Lightning Source print-on-demand book manufacturing operation in Australia.

Locating a print-on-demand book manufacturing facility in Australia gives publishers options to reduce or remove the need to warehouse local inventory and reduces transportation and potential stock write-off costs. For publishers that currently take advantage of book manufacturing and distribution from Lightning Source, adding expanded distribution to this new market will be seamless and straightforward.

The Lightning Source plant in Australia will be Ingram Content Group’s fifth networked book manufacturing facility. Lightning Source North American facilities include its headquarters in La Vergne, Tennessee, and a plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Lightning Source international locations include a large-scale operation in Milton Keynes, UK, central to London that serves the European region and a facility in Maurepas, France, a joint-venture with Hachette Book Group.

Ingram Content Group’s Lightning Source facility in Australia is expected to begin operation in June 2011."

This will make worldwide distribution of Print On Demand titles even more cost effective and we're looking forward to continuing to work with Lightning Source.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Pitching Bible

Paul Boross' new book, The Pitching Bible, is now ready for ordering.

It captures Paul's 25 years of experience in business pitching, bringing together his expertise from the entertainment, media and corporate worlds.

Paul, also known as The Pitch Doctor, has based The Pitching Bible on his successful lecture series, The Seven Secrets of a Successful Pitch, which he has delivered at various media and corporate events around the world.

The Pitching Bible is priced at £14.99 and is available from all good book shops now.

ISBN 978-0-9565358-2-5