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Begging for clients

Most new entrepreneurs ask the question: how do I find customers?

But that is the wrong question to ask. It puts you in a position of begging the clients to buy from you.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to say instead: “Sorry! We are sold out, but we have a waiting list?”

So how do you get there? Why do people stay in long lines to buy the latest product from Apple?

One word: INSPIRATION

People are not lining up to become customers; they are lining up to become part of a movement, of something that inspires them to take action.

Therefore a better question to ask is: how do I inspire people?

And you can start with things that inspire you and talk about them in a way that might inspire others. You can help solve a difficult problem or assist with a worthy cause. Or you can write your inspiring vision of the future and then ask for help to bring it about.

When you focus on inspiration instead of sales, you shift from a self-centered approach to creating value for others.

Why do people buy spiritual products?

The essence of making a purchase is the belief that “what you are getting is more valuable to you than the money you spend.”

But it is challenging to pinpoint the “thing you are getting” with spiritual products.

It could be access to some teachings, it could be a membership, it could be a personal or a group session where you get some insights, or it can be a form of healing.

In some cases, it can be the feeling of being seen and accepted as you are. It can be a cure for feeling alone or alienated. It can be a way to create meaning and purpose in your life.

It can be a way to increase your self-esteem or to make you feel more worthy. It can be a sense of belonging. A fulfillment of a need for validation.

Most of the above are needs or desires that go deep in our being. And so they are potentially very valuable.

If you are a spiritual seeker you will eventually stumble into the saying that everything you need is already within yourself.

So then the question arises: why pay money for something that you already have?

I believe that it is similar to paying for coaching. A good coach inspires you to discover, nurture and bring forth the talent or skill that is within you. They cannot train for you, but they can give you feedback, they can help you see where you make mistakes, they can cheer you on when you feel discouraged.

Another way to look at this is looking at priorities. When you are giving your money for something you are communicating to yourself and those around you that this “something” is important for you; that is a priority. So spending money on spiritual products can be a way for people to say to themselves that “I am now getting serious about my spiritual development.”

Should spiritual teachings or products be free?

Some say that yes they should. That the information comes from Source, God, Divinity and therefore it should be accessible to everyone. But if that were true, how come not everyone has access to the information already? How come we still have teachers around the world? Why is “Source” only favoring these teachers?

So maybe is not the information that you’re paying for, but instead the guidance, the mentorship, the way showing. The information may be available to everyone, but not everyone is able to easily access that place inside where they know it.

We could argue that those teachers need to eat and that would justify the price, but I disagree. People buy things because they get value out of them, not to feed the teachers. Yes, that is a nice side effect, but not the main reason. It is an energy exchange. The more value the student gets, the more money they are willing to pay. This way the teacher gets more money they can then use to further advance the teachings or to just have a nice comfortable life.

So maybe Spirituality is a business like any other business: where the teacher creates something of value, and the students are willing to pay to consume that value. What do you think?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – or why “value” is subjective

The Dalai Lama opens his present box looks inside and says: “Wow… NOTHING! That’s exactly what I wanted!” If anything would have been in that box it would have been less valuable to him.

Or a personal example: when I moved out from Bucharest to live in a village the buyer of my previous home said in disbelief: “You’re moving to a village?! There is nothing to do there!”… and that was exactly what I wanted: peace and quiet :).

And I am sure you have had the following experience: you notice a person receiving a gift and being grumpy and dismissive about it while you keep thinking: “I would have exploded with happiness right now if I were in his shoes!”

Every single time the object or the experience does not change, but the perceived value of it does.

Because of this subjectiveness, selling to your own wallet is dangerous. You may be thinking: “I would never pay $400 for a meditation app!” but that does not mean that other people would think the same. If meditation solves a big problem in their life, the $400 price tag would feel like a bargain!

In my quest to discover how to quantify value in a way that I can understand it from other people’s point of view I came across this formula from Alex Hormozi:

Value = Dream Outcome x Perceived Likely Hood of Success / (Delay to Outcome x Effort-or-Sacrifice)

A product that fulfills a big dream in a way that is guaranteed and does so instantly and with no effort has infinite value. Think “Aladdin’s Lamp” ūüôā

A product that fulfills a small dream with a poor rate of success and that it takes a long time and lots of effort has zero value.

And the mind-blowing part is that each term in the formula is affected by how the buyer perceives it and not if it is objectively true or not.

You may know that meditation is extremely helpful in expanding your awareness, but if the perception of your customers is that it only creates 15 minutes of utter frustration that is what is real for them.

And this is both a blessing and a curse. If you think everyone is like you then it is a curse as no one will see the value as you see it. But if you accept that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” you will go the extra mile to communicate your offer in a way that your customers can perceive it as valuable.

If you understand the subjective nature of value, it is easy to understand how you can trade a paper clip for a house but most importantly it unlocks your mind to find ways in which you can provide immense value to your customers at a very low cost to you. And now you can create meditation apps that sell for $400 :).

One of my dumb moments – Fast Beats Free!

More than 15 years ago, a friend of mine pitched me this idea:

Let’s band together and create a CMS (content management system) app that people can use to build their websites.

My reaction?

That’s dumb! Why would you create a paid CMS app when you have WordPress and Joomla that are feature-rich and¬†free? How are we going to compete with that? Why would anyone pay for using our app?

Time proved me wrong. 

My (no longer) friend moved on and partnered with someone else. They created the CMS, and they sold the service to lots of customers. 

Many years later, when I discovered this, I was confused. I could not understand who would pay money for a service that you could get for free elsewhere. I imagined that were regular users who were duped into buying this CMS app. 

But I was wrong again.

Eventually, I discovered on my own that I would pay for software that had a free alternative. Why? Because it saved me time.

“Fast Beats Free” – I’ve heard this line from¬†Alex Hormozi, and it clicked so hard in my head as many puzzle pieces were falling into place.¬†

As a young person, when I had lots of time and no money, I would always go for the free stuff since I imagined I would have plenty of time to figure it out. But a paid service is for people who already realized that time is the most valuable resource, so they would gladly spend money to save time. 

So how do you compete with WordPress or Joomla!? You provide the same service faster and with customer support. And that is exactly what my friend did. And his customers were not duped, but they got immense value from building their website in hours instead of months. It was truly a win-win situation that I could not see.

I hope this story will challenge you to think differently about how you go around building your online presence. And to realize that if someone can help you do it in a few days, they are worth way more than someone who can help you do it in six months! Even though the six months person works longer and harder for you. 

It’s not about the effort; it’s about the results and how fast you get them.¬†

The Buyer decides what is worth to them

“The price you’re charging for this is ridiculous!”

“Are you trying to rip me off?!”

“What?! Is this made out of gold or something!?”

“How can you live with yourself when you charge ten times it costs you to make this?!”

If you have ever been in a position to sell something, chances are you have heard some or all of the above. If you haven’t, you are on a race to the bottom, competing on who is the cheapest.

Who decides if the price is right for a product or a service? 

What is the correct value?

The answer is that a buyer and a seller decide.

If the buyer feels that she gets more value than the is paying, and the seller feels he is making a profit from the sale, then the price is right! And the price is right for that context only.

For a different buyer or another seller, the price may very well be “ridiculous!”

I have heard many times, and I also used to believe that it is a shady practice to price the client, not the solution, meaning: to change your price depending on the person sitting in front of you. 

Does this feel like a scam to you? Do you want to know the price upfront, and do you want to know how much the other person paid, so you get the same price or better?

If you feel that way, then you are shopping for price, and not for value. And that is OK. I believe everyone is doing that in some areas of their life.

But if you are shopping for value, then the price is not that important.

How can that be?

If the value you are getting out of the product or the service is greater than the price, it is always a good deal for you, regardless of what someone else paid for it. Of course, you can still negotiate and try to maximize the value over price ratio, but ultimately it is the value you are after. If you could spend 75 cents to make a dollar, you would go for it!

To understand this better, let us look at an example from photography.

You went into the jungle and captured some amazing bird photos. You had to pay for the trip, the insurance, the equipment and also pay yourself. So there was a cost incurred by those photos.

How much will you sell them for? How will you decide what the right price is?

Let’s say you decide $200 for each photo. That is your price for everyone.

Now a blogger comes along; they look at the photo and think: “My God! What a ridiculous price for a picture! I can get a free one from Unsplash. This guy is crazy trying to sell for this price!” Maybe you will think: that is OK! They don’t understand the costs of making these pictures. It is still a reasonable price for my work.

Next, National Geographic comes along and purchases one of the images and the right to print it for $2,000. It gets on their cover, and it becomes such a hit that it becomes a “National Geographic Classic.” Does the $2,000 still feel fair to you if sales increased by $200,000 for the magazine because of the cover?

How much would it cost you in time, tools, and resources to draw the Nike logo? Can you put a price on that? How much is the Nike logo worth today? Is that close to the price you came up with?

We all want to be good fellow humans. We want to help out. We want to be seen, appreciated, and valued. And we want to thrive.

When you allow someone else to judge you on your value and make you into a horrible person because of your price, you get into trouble simply because some of the people you will encounter will assign a different value to you and to your product in their eyes. 

So you may be horribly overpriced to them. And then, they are not your customer. There is no need for you to lower your price or to feel like a bad person, just because someone could not see the value in what you do.

In the same way, you will not be able to serve everyone. Some of the problems are too small for you to handle, and you need to refer those out, or just say “no.” And some of the problems may be too big for you right now, and you also need to say “no” instead of over-promising. But in between those, there is your range: a range that will grow with experience and personal development.

I still believe luxury goods are a scam, or that some people just gave in to the “marketing” and bought a useless product, but¬†I am wrong. The truth is, none of the parties would have agreed to make that transaction if they did not feel the price was the¬†right price. I may not see the value, but that does not mean that value was not there. I simply value other things.

Don’t allow others to push their value onto you. And mirroring that, accept that other people value other things. And all that is OK.

Credit: Thanks, “The Futur” for their inspiring videos.

If you had to charge ten times as much

This is such an interesting question because it asks for ten times, not twice as much. 

Asking for twice as much can trap you into thinking: 

  • I will work twice as hard!¬†
  • I will double the quantity of whatever I am offering!¬†
  • I will simply increase my prices, lose a few customers but keep the premium ones.¬†

None of those strategies really work when you need to charge ten times as much. Something else needs to change.

I have not found the “right answer” to this one, just yet.

But somethings are obvious:

I cannot work ten times more hours or put in ten times the effort. With 24 hours on any given day, that is simple, not possible. 

Ten times the quantity may also not be possible, not to mention that the customer may not be interested in that much more quantity. 

So what can it be? 

On the same airplane, different people pay different prices. And yes, you can find a ten times difference in tickets. The same plane does not fly farther, does not fly faster, and does not land in a luxury airport for those who pay a premium. So what exactly do they pay for? 

In the software industry, given the same project specs, you can hire developers on a wide range of prices. The specs don’t change, so the end result should be the same, so why the different prices? Why is a developer more expensive than the other. And why would a customer choose to pay for someone who charges ten times the lowest price on the offer?¬†

A possible, but lazy answer is status. If you care that a “Google Developer” worked on your project, you will pay to be able to say that, even though a “less famous” developer may have done the job. Beyond status, this can be a marketing signal as well. When you sell this service, it may be worth it to your customers to know that a “famous” developer worked on it if that signals quality.

Trust may be a better answer. I don’t think you can trust someone “ten times more” than another person. Still, you do have a definite feeling that you can trust person A but not trust person B.¬†

And if trust is essential to my business, then person A can successfully charge ten times more than person B. What is the value-added to justify this increase? In the moment, probably none. But in an environment of clickbait and shady practices, person A has spent valuable time, resources, and emotional labor to prove trustworthy. Their reputation is their asset that you pay for. 

Going higher on the “better” scale, you may have to change the people you serve. If you are a high precision car mechanic, that will not matter if all your customers want from you is to fix their headlights. You may be fast at it, you may be precise, but it will not matter. You will not be able to ask ten times more for your services in that crowd. You need to find a different crowd, likely a smaller crowd, looking for that particular skill. To them, it will make sense to pay you ten times more, because the value they get out of your work is twenty times more. For them, you will still be a bargain.

On the same level with “change the people you are serving” can be “change your story.” In fact, the two go hand in hand and influence each other. If you sell a commodity, you have no choice but to join the race to the bottom. The alternative is to trade in emotions. To transform fear into belonging. For that, you need a story. You need to stand for something. To serve people at the edge, that everyone else has overlooked.¬†

For “regular” people, water is free. For someone stranded in the desert, water is priceless. A way to charge ten times more is to find people who are thirsty and then create the product or service that will satisfy their needs.¬†

Charging ten times as much is scary because it usually means you need to change and sometimes in dramatic ways. Letting go of the old clients is not easy. Letting go of the old product or service feels frightening. What if you are wrong? And we arrive at risk. Those who play it safe always find themselves in a crowded place. Setting out to sell water in the desert does not mean you will also find someone there. 

How about you? What would you change if you had to charge ten times more? 

What does it mean to add value to your customers?

“How can I add value?”

This is the question I write at the bottom of my daily planner almost every day. Why? Because I want to train my brain to think in those terms. Why? Because I hear this is the key to success.

I never managed to answer this question adequately. And I had the insight that I need to answer a different question first! And that is:

“What does it mean to add value to your customers?”

Looking at this question, I realized that my efforts have been selfish. I was concerned with “my success.” The reason I wanted to add value is that I become successful by doing so.¬†

This question forces me to face the fact that I don’t know what “value” means for my customers. Yes, I can make guesses, but I don’t truly know.¬†

So many times, I have been tempted and followed through with this idea: what I do is valuable to me, so it must be valuable customers too. And if they didn’t see the value, that was their loss! This approach has resulted in projects that are too complex or in features that I thought were cool, but the customers did not care about them.¬†

And this has happened because I never paused to ask: “what¬†is valuable to my customer?”.

Value is very subjective, I have discovered. I don’t handle loss very well, so I have a reliable backup policy. But others are much more willing to start over again, so backup is not essential.¬†

I value aesthetics and elegant design. But most of my customers value ease of use and the ability to manage the website themselves. 

I also have discovered that I am biased. And my bias is not the same as my customer’s bias.¬†

The first step in discovering what it means to add value to my customer is to be humble enough to admit that I don’t know and that I need to have a discussion. In this discussion, I need to ask the customer what is valuable to them, and if required, to help them discover their values in that process. I also need to set my bias aside and truly understand where the other person is coming from.¬†

The second step is for me to determine if we are a good fit. Based on what I now know about my customer’s values, can I truly serve them in their best interest? And sometimes the answer is no. And in this case, I have to send them away.¬†

But there is a way to refuse to work with someone that is not selfish. You can still add value by making a recommendation and send them to a specific someone else (your competition), instead of simply turning them down. This way, interacting with you has still got them one step closer to solving their problem, and you have been generous and trustworthy enough to recommend another person for them to work with. You may have lost a client, but you have earned trust, and in today’s world, trust is precious.¬†

So how can I add value to my customers? It first starts with showing empathy and meeting them where they are at. And in some cases, it means saying “no” and pointing them in a different direction.

Credits: my viewpoint on marketing and adding value is shaped in great part by people like Chris Do, Seth Godin, and Blair Enns.