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Selling Services as a Product

We have been working with a few service-based companies and we keep having the same issue come up: they find it challenging to define their “types” of services to their audience.  Meaning, what makes their service different from others doing something similar to them.  What I always tell people is, define your products.  What is it you are selling and why does someone want to come to you?

Anything, from home organization, photography, massage, tourism, consulting… can be defined to a “product” level to help people understand what you do.

Simply think about it from your customer’s perspective (or simply ask current or perspective customers).  If you come to me with language I don’t understand, I get confused and move on.  I don’t have your knowledge; I need your help in understanding it and making it simple for me.  What is it that you do that is different from others and why is it valuable to me?  (enough to pay you for your time)

If you want to get information from your customers, or try to gain customers, keep in mind context. If you are at the grocery store trying to sell me your services, I am tuning out.  They must be receptive to the knowledge.  Networking events often times feel “sales-ey” and can be another poor time to get understanding and knowledge from folks.  Do it one on one or when they are more receptive to information.

Don’t think you have a competitive edge?  Often I have found those folks just need help defining their “product” and their competitive edge will become clear.  Not only for the customer, but for the business owner.

If you are a service based business, start brainstorming and thinking, what are your products?  What makes you different?  How can you communicate them simply to your customer?  Then, do something about it and communicate (or market) it out.  You will find things a little clearer all the way around.

Fresh Eyes On Your Business

 Recently I met with a new client to discuss their marketing efforts and how they can launch/grow their business.  They use to do workshops, on select weekends, for free and they had a huge interest (and a waiting list).  People would tell them they would gladly pay for this workshop… so they started charging.

They told me, “I don’t understand why our business isn’t growing.  People wanted this.  We had a huge waiting list.  Why aren’t they scheduling workshops.”  Then I asked the one critical question, “Do people need to schedule the workshops themselves or do you create a workshop and just have people sign up?”  Want to guess what happened next?  One of Oprah’s famous “ah-ha moments”.   They were not scheduling sessions and having people sign up – they expected people to just call and organize a workshop themselves.  That got them thinking, “Of course.  Why don’t we schedule a few sessions and just promote those.”  It is a better use of their marketing dollars and much easier on a potential customer.

The lesson here?  Sometimes it pays to just sit down with someone who isn’t involved in your business to get some clarity in how to grow your business.  Seems like a simple statement – but it requires that you put yourself out there and show someone your weaknesses… and in some cases fear.

Being on the board of two non-profits, I see the benefits of this on a weekly basis.  Board members from different backgrounds have different perspectives and ideas … and that just make us all a little better.

Of course, be smart in who you talk to – make sure it is someone who you value and respect.  Talk to people with different backgrounds, perspectives and interests.

So get out there.  Put yourself out there.  Share and listen to what people have to say… you may have your own “ah-ha” moment. 

Simple Improvements to Paid Search

Recently I worked with a client who had a paid search campaign running but it wasn’t performing.  He was ready to turn it off and walk away.  “Paid search does not work for our business.”  I was shocked but also curious – why?  I went into their paid search campaign and knew instantly I could help.  Here is why:

  • Set up. Their campaign was not set up well. One campaign with multiple keywords.  No use of match types…  just a mess.  So I spent some time cleaning it up and making it easier for Google to understand the campaigns.  Many people also set up the targets wrong and try to reach too many folks all at once.  If you are a New York photographer, you don’t need people in California seeing and clicking your ad.  It is a huge waste of money.  You can solve this by setting up your account well or by doing the next item…
  • Keyword Research. There were some good keywords in there, but they hadn’t added to it in over a year.  They never expanded.  They never tested. Note: This isn’t as simple as it sounds – it takes a lot of time, expertise and knowledge.  Once you do all of your research you have to go back and make sure you set up all your new keywords well (step1).  Keyword selection is extremely important.  You can waste a lot of money on non-targeted keywords for your business.
  • Test, test test!  They never did any major tests.  Sure, they tried different creative (ads), but never tried testing keywords, doing a strong test of creatives, or testing landing pages.
  • Welcome, now buy.  When someone clicks on an ad in Google, they are dating.  Looking around.  Seeing what is out there.  Maybe they’ll like someone else better.  So, when they click your ad, they don’t want to hear “MARRY ME NOW”.   Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here…  A landing page should welcome someone to your site, introduce your brand, reinforce your message and give a nice encouragement to purchase.   Maybe include a great offer they can’t resist.  Basically, show them how great you are and ask them out.
  • Hey, that is my brand.  This can depend on the business and opinions vary.  (I think it is a good idea generally – feel free to ask me more about it in the comments or privately)  This business had a competitor bidding on their brand with a competitive offer.  Plus, it is very easy to misspell their name… and their competitor knew that.  Guess where some of their search traffic was going?  You bet – to a competitor.
  • Promoting offers.  They were having some great promotions, but were not promoting them on their paid search at all.  Promoting an offer can help increase your conversion rate and grow your paid search efforts.  What would you do if you were deciding between two companies and one offered 50% off and the other one did not?

After one week of launching our new campaigns, they started to see growth.  After two weeks, they were profitable.  After three weeks their orders increased significantly and their cost for every order (their success metric) was down by ninety percent.

If you have a campaign that isn’t working for you, get some help from an expert.  Get someone to help set up your campaigns correctly.  Sure a phone call to Google may help – but keep in mind, their interests are different than yours.  Don’t get me wrong, their support is great – but they don’t give you the hints and tricks to spend less money with them.   That is not their goal (they are a business after all).  Get someone that has experience to help you set up your campaigns and make sure you monitor results to see if it works for you.  After all, paid search can really be profitable if set up well.

Magic Marketing

Over the years I have worked with a few clients who have hired marketing  specialists (many SEO folks are especially prone to this)  that help them market their business.  They spend hundreds, if not (tens of) thousands of dollars on this person who a) doesn’t provide (or even track) results b) promises the world or c) doesn’t show them how to improve their marketing when the specialist leaves.  As some of these clients have seen, this frustrates me.    Why?  I expect more from people in my industry.


When working with you, someone should see where you are now, and where you can improve.  They should share this information with you and send you a weekly or monthly report on how you are trending.

What are the success metrics for this effort?  What can you track?  At a minimum, they should be able to pull Google Analytics/Website data.  At the high end they can pull sales revenue data.  Sure, this takes time, but in the long run it helps you better understand the effort and results – helping you make better decisions.

Why is this important?  You are paying someone money to do something, and if they can’t provide results and accountability, why are you hiring them?  They should want to show you how they have improved your marketing efforts.  You should want to see it because it helps you make better decisions.  It is a win-win!

Here is the world.  All yours.

What I can’t stand, more than anything, are these emails from SEO companies that say “Pay us tons of money and I can put you on #1 in Google”.  Gaaaaah!  Can you hear me screaming?  This bugs me for a variety of reasons:

–       You can’t promise the first place/page for any placement.  You can try, but you have to remember many things come into play with organic search.  Competition.  Clicks. Consumer behavior. External links….  I mean really?  How do these companies think this is okay?  Oh wait, to my next point.

–       If they do get you on the first page of something, it is probably with a keyword you don’t really want.  If you are a photographer in Dallas, and someone gives you a keyword of “wedding  portrait photographer wonderful supplies”, they can get you to number one.  Why?  It won’t get you any traffic (or anybody else).  No competition = #1 placement.   Money back guarantee satisfied.

–       Many say they can get you links.  Can you hear it:  “Links for sale!  Links for sale!”  Ya, no.  Maybe they have some quality links but many will be garbage.  Guess what?  Google can penalize you for bad links.  Is it worth the risk?  (hint: the answer is no)  Basically, don’t do this.  Go for quality when you can.

There is more… but I need to get off my soapbox before I lose everybody in this thread (thanks for hanging in there).  The point: Don’t listen to folks that promise things that sound to be good to true….because if it sounds too good, it probably is.

All someone can promise is an improvement and give you tangible results (if you can get to this data)

It’s Magic!

Just so you know, marketing is not magic.  When someone says they will do marketing work for you, they should leave you with bits of knowledge where you can make good business decisions to grow your business.  No, they don’t need to leave their magic wand with you… but they can leave you with a little knowledge

For example, one new customer we have previously worked with a “SEO expert”.    When she was done with the on site optimization, she disappeared.  Sorry clients – the expert has left the building.  Guess what?  Their SEO did not improve AT ALL.  They aren’t ranked and have had no search traffic. Zero.  Zip.  Nada.  Why?  She was so focused on site optimization she forgot to tell them to do off site optimization. This means, focus on links.  Get people talking.  Do stuff.  Their site was (loosely) optimized and nobody is pointing to it.  So, who cares?  The magician disappeared.  Sorry folks!

When your expert is done, make sure they tell you what they did and how you can continue the momentum they started.  You aren’t going to pay them whenever you make a business decision – so you need to know how these things impact your business.  One of our clients grew her SEO results by 115%.   Between our on site optimization and the tips we gave her to maintain her SEO efforts she was able to grow her organic search traffic.

What You Are Saying Is…

There are some great folks out there but remember, there are also some lemons.  Get out there and do some research.  Talk to folks.  Ask them what they are going to do when they are done to make sure you can maintain, or continue to grow that program.

Did you take a bite of lemon when you thought it was an orange?  Make lemonade!  Call some new folks and ask them about what they do.  It is better to be on top of it than be frightened due to a bad experience.   If you aren’t doing it, you can bet your competitors are.

Take what you learned and use it to your advantage.  Got someone that wasn’t focused on results?  Look for someone that is.  There really are some great folks out there – you just have to find them.


As many people know, a few years ago I had a full hip replacement.  This was to correct a childhood issue (basically I knew it was coming – and blew the doctors estimates away.  Yes, I am an overachiever…).  Over the years, I have been playing with my balance.  For years I could not put a lot of weight on my left leg.  It just hurt too much.  I would avoid stairs.  I would grab furniture in my house.  Anything to avoid the pain… and it really hurt my bodies balance.

Since my surgery, I have been focusing on regaining balance.  Putting weight on my left leg for more than 5 seconds?  Bah, I can now do a few minutes.  Take that hip!  Run up stairs?  Ya, I can do that.  Running after my kids?  Ha, I am finally faster than them.  Neener neener!  It is all about balancing my weight and gaining strength.

Now, in my real life, I feel like it is a juggle of kids, family, home, dog, business…  Is there a thing called me time anymore?  Many of you are probably thinking “hahahahaha!  That ended with kids.”  This is true in a lot of ways, and I am happy to do it for my little guys.  But, at the same time, I have to carve out me time to balance myself out.  It makes me a better wife, mom and business person.

For example, as I write this blog post, I am sitting at a local Chai shop, watching some musicians play folk-ish music.  Kids are at school.  A little work is getting done and I get to enjoy the local music talents on a nice sunny day.  It is about balance – carving out time when you can.

It is a challenge for us all – but slowly we will figure out.  Funny thing is, once you think you figured it all out, someone throws you something new to juggle and balance.  It is just about steadying yourself enough to be able to handle it.

I'm a portrait and wedding photographer. I really enjoy creating beautiful images and I feel fairly comfortable  behind a camera. But... web design, marketing, and SEO? Not so much. Stephanie transformed my online presence by offering much needed advice on how to move up in search engine ratings. She not only fulfilled my requests and answered all of my questions, but she went above and beyond by continuing to research my ratings and check in on my progress for months after our first consultation. I definitely recommend Stephanie and Our Marketing Person.


Owner of Rebekah Dotson Photography

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