In the “Build A Better Website” series, we’ll dissect a website page by page and put it back together with purpose and great content so that each page of your site can build trust, earn credibility and drive revenue for your business.
This post is geared toward service providers, who have the unique challenge of selling something that doesn’t exist. Businesses selling tangible products have more leeway when it comes to making the sale than service providers because consumers are more likely to plunk down a few bucks for something they can see, touch and eventually play with once it arrives on their doorstep than to pay for brainpower and time, which is what service providers are really selling.
So if you’ve ever been frustrated by trying to convince someone that your time is worth as much as, or more than, that bright red plastic thingamajiggy that’s stuck on a bookshelf somewhere, you’re in the right place.
The “Time” Vs. “Stuff” Conundrum
If your business is all about selling brain trust, intellectual property, ideas and time instead of pretty, shiny objects, you’re in for a challenge. Part of the challenge is that people don’t value time as much as they value “stuff”. Oh sure, logically they would disagree. Given five minutes to answer, most people would agree that they’d prefer more time to another “thing”.
But when it comes to purchasing, have you ever really heard anyone haggle with the A&P manager over the cost of bananas? But I bet you’ve heard – and probably even done – some haggling when it comes to services (time).
The other part of the challenge is that retailers and product vendors can do some pretty fancy pricing, couponing, and discounting, and use strategies like loss-leaders to drive purchases. Service providers either get paid for their time and energy – or they don’t. Every time you charge someone $99 for an hour of your time instead of $100 you’re diminishing your revenue potential and quite possibly devaluing yourself.
Ok, ok, being a service provider is kinda tricky! What the heck can you do about it, especially when there are probably a lot of “you” doing what you do?
You can start with the “Services” page on your website.
You know the one, it sits there talking about how great your services are, how much experience you have performing them, maybe the process you follow to achieve a result. The one that probably uses words like “synergy” and “leverage”.
If you ever plan to make a single sale with your site, it’s time to rethink that page.
The One Thing You MUST Do On Your Services Page: Make It About Results – Not About Services
Might sound like a contradiction, but it’s true: your services page should not be about your services.
I’m sure you’ve worked very hard to describe them, market them, make them sound fantastic. The problem is that they probably only sound fantastic to you. They’re your children! You coddle them, groom them, watch them grow and love them even when they use stupid marketing buzzwords like “innovative”. (As opposed to, say, stuck-in-the-90s?)
But nobody cares about what you do. I’ve said this many times and each time I do, I feel a little pang of guilt because I’m sure there are some people reading this who get offended every time I suggest that they are NOT the center of their customer’s universe.
But I don’t say those words to be mean or disparaging. I say them to remind you that when it comes to your services, the only thing people really want to know is… can you guess?
I’ll give you a minute to think about it…
They want to know, “What’s in it for me?”
Take a look at your services page and tell me: does it talk about your services, how they work, what they are… or does it talk about how you can help your customers?
Does it tell them what problem you will solve for them?
What benefits they’ll get out of working with you?
Does it address their fears and pain points and provide a solution that’s direct, immediate and easy to understand?
Or does it assure them that you “leverage the power of social marketing to ensure synergy among all aspects of a robust and innovative marketing plan?” (Heaven help you if you ever use the phrase “bleeding edge”. I will come over there and cut you with your own edge.)
Sell The Hole, Not The Drill
In the gorgeous words of Harvard economist and professor Theodore Levitt, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.”
I can’t say anything more brilliant or clearer than that.
Examine your Services page and see if it talks about what your services are. If it does, I want you to rewrite it and instead talk about what your services do.
Start by making a list of everything your customers want. In my business, people don’t want a website. Oh sure, someone will call me up and say, “I want a website.” But the website is the drill. The “hole” they’re really looking for is new business – new leads, new customers, new sales generated by the website. The hole might be prestige and credibility. Deep down it could also be about saving money, time and energy by having a website that can do a few tricks of its own.
I can sell the website – sometimes – if the price is right and the planets are aligned. But I can sell the vision of more customers, more money, and less work a whole lot easier and more often.
Get to the heart of what your customers really want and write your Services page about how you’re going to give it to them.
Remove The Baggage
I also want you to write a list of things that your customers fear and hate. Part of the sales process is removing the fear and the doubt that people may have about your industry, your company or just doing business with you in general.
I once read a great book (article? post?) that unfortunately I can’t credit right now because I can’t remember enough about it to find it, but the key takeaway was that every customer comes to you with baggage.
Think of your customer’s brain like the baggage carousel in an airport.
All their problems, fears, concerns, questions and doubts are sitting on that carousel and circling around and around and around.
It’s your job to remove the baggage one piece at a time until all that resistance is gone. (Extra bonus points if you’ve heard this analogy before and can source it!)
Unless you’re brand spanking new at your job you’ve probably heard a complaint or two from customers. You’ve probably gotten the same resistance in meetings with different prospects. Even if you are brand spanking new I bet you’ve heard a few unsavory things about people in your industry.
For me, it’s often about SEO scams and web developers who “disappear” along with the client’s money and code. Sometimes it’s about fear of the unknown and of the amount of time and energy it will take my client to engage in a web project. Instead of selling them a website, I sell them peace of mind.
Think about how you can apply this to your business. What do prospects in your industry worry about? What’s preventing them from signing on the dotted line? Why would someone walk away instead of giving you their business and trust?
If you know what those things are you can craft your Services page about those things and not about the “services” that are probably provided by lots of other vendors everywhere.
Tri It Now
Whatever business or industry you’re in, I want you think about one of your services. You may do a lot of things but focus on one for now.
Do you provide coaching or consulting services? Development services? Design or creative services? Contracting, plumbing or landscaping?
Write it down.
Now I want you to spin it around so it’s not about the service but about the result.
Instead of promising “award-winning landscaping services” I want you to “build a dream garden” where your customers can “spend summer afternoons relaxing under a cool shade tree and watching the butterflies instead of fighting with weeds and worms.”
Build a picture of how much better your customers’ lives will be once they do business with you and I guarantee you’ll be selling a lot more a lot easier than the guy who’s still selling hardy shrubs.
Want to practice? Tell me about one of your services in the comments below and then tell me how you can spin it so it’s about the benefit to your customer and not about the service. I’ll throw my two cents in and we’ll turn that typical services page of yours into one that makes your customers asking you to do business with them – instead of the other way around!
P.S.: Do you think the woman in the photo above wanted a hammock, or the chance to sit outside and work on the porch on a sunny day? The answer will make or break the sale!
More In This Series
11 Tips For Writing A Great About Page
8 Tips For A Contact Page That Converts
Top 10 Ways To Make Your Product Page A Selling Dynamo
Join the discussion 21 Comments
LOL, Carol, as I was reading your post I kept taking it personally thinking that you’ve been to my coaching sales page and thought that it was awful! 🙂 Paranoid a bit?
Well, you definitely make one wants to review their service page. I know that I’ve included some of the benefits/issues that people who are looking for coaching are looking for and have, and I’ve tried to explain what a life coach does as I am sure many people may want to have more info about that as well before they can make a decision if it’s for them or not.
In any case, there is no doubt that the “hole instead of the drill” thing is well known to me and I always try to keep this in mind when I write anything really. When we write it’s never about us, always for the recipient, wherther they are the readers or the buyers.
This was a very good post, Carol, as always 🙂
Don’t tell anyone but it’s not easy to take my own advice, either 🙂
I remember reading about the hole on your blog and loved it there, too. No doubt, people want to know what good will come out of working with you. It’s especially important for small biz people to explain their benefits because there is a ton of competition and we don’t have big brand names that people recognize.
Better get to work!
I agree with Sylviane…
The more I read I thought oh no, she checked out my new consulting page and is slapping me on the hand. Yikes!
So what you’re really saying is that we should put the benefits of what we can do for them on that page just like we do in our content. It’s never about us, it’s about them. The prospects, the customers and our clients. I get that put I thought you had to clearly point out what your services entail.
I was also thinking so maybe she means put more testimonials on there but then what if you’re just starting out in this area. I get that is should be more how we can help solve their problems then anything else. Oh heck, back to the drawing board I guess.
Thanks for sharing this though. Hey, am happy to do what’s right ya know!.
Enjoy your week Carol and as always, great post.
Not to confuse matters but I didn’t mean that you shouldn’t describe your services at ALL. yes, it’s important to make it clear to people what you do. Don’t keep ’em guessing! But a lot of pages with services are either a list, or just a long description, or worse, a whole bunch of stuff about awards the company won or how great they are. So once you make it clear what you do, then make it VERY clear why that is good for someone, and why it will help them. For instance, I tell people I build websites – I let them know what I can do in terms of building and marketing – but then I give them reasons WHY they want a website, how it can help their business, how I can give them what they want, a good experience, more customers, etc.
I wouldn’t go overboard with testimonials either. If you have a few, great. But too many just look spammy. I hope that makes sense!
I love this idea (and use it). The problem is that many (potential) clients don’t believe the results you have obtained- or they know you’ve (i.e., I’ve) chosen the examples that provide the largest changes for the client.
A bit of a double edged sword! It’s like on the TV commercials where they say “results not typical”… I think your answer lies somewhere in the language you use to describe your services. You have to make them sound worthwhile and beneficial without sounding “too good to be true”. It’s definitely a fine line and tough to know what will be impressive and what will make people suspicious. Of course we show our best work – none of us would put testimonials on our site if they were bad or work we thought wasn’t so great! maybe in your case it would be beneficial to show a range of results – from “average” to great.
A message that can never be repeated enough! I agree with you analogy Carol. It is about ‘them’ and keeping that in mind is the best way to communicate your business.
Although I see there is a fine line and balancing act, if you will. Sharing your services is a good combination of both. Clients will want to know what’s in it for them, but then they will ask, well how qualified is this person to help me with that.
Being aware of both and creating that happy balance is a challenge, but what I am finding, you can always make changes if your original ‘pitch’ isn’t being acted upon. It can mean you are not giving enough information or that you are giving way too much that you can actually be confusing.
A really great topic Carol…. thank you for sharing your awesome insight!
You’re quite right, Lynn – you do need to describe your services so people understand what you do and so they can feel confident of your experience. But you also have to give the benefits, and a lot of people leave that part out. Ok, so you’re a consultant… there are tons of those! How are YOU going to help people?
Thanks for your insight!
Hey Carol, I gotta get back to the drawing board. Just when I thought I’ve done it correctly, I am going back to re-do it. It needs to be re-vamped anyway. You have given me great insight because I’m a service provider. That is a difficult thing to sell, I agree.
Before commenting, I went to my page and said Yuck! I need to revamp this one up. I use Evernote and went though each of your tips and jotted them down so I can re-do what I have written with fresh eyes.
I thank you so much for your insights and appreciate your teachings.
The quote you mentioned above “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.” is repeating in my mind. I just wrote it down on a post-it and put it on my screen.
Once again, you have helped me and I am grateful to know you.
Awesome, Donna! It never hurts to improve. I’m always writing and rewriting because I obsess about the best way to say things but that’s just me 🙂 As long as you’ve got the “what’s in it for me” then you’re doing good!
Such a good reminder. I know when I sell to people I need to sell the benefits and not features but I hate to confess I put together my husband’s website with a services page all about us. I need to take your advice and redo it.
I love your analogies here – great examples.
Thanks Sue, glad I could help! Believe me, I’ve done the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times I rewrite my own pages because I remind myself to take my own advice 🙂 Good luck, it won’t be that hard – just think of all the great things you’re going to help people with!
Love this post, Carol… awesome!
I’ve heard it said (and I agree), for example… no one really wants a business, they want the lifestyle that success in their business will bring them. This is similar to what you’ve said… they don’t want the services, they want what your services will accomplish for them.
Wise words indeed.
You’re right Bob, that’s exactly what people want! I don’t know anyone who is just DYING for an internet business – they just want the freedom to work from where they want, when they want and make money so they can get on with life! Likewise for any business, really. I know we all love what we do but at the end of the day, we also love our lives and we need jobs and careers that let us live them.
Carolyn! Great stuff!!! I’ve heard this “focus on results/benefits/outcome” etc. like a million times.
What I love about how you approached is that you started by explaining it from a “services page” angle, and lead with an explanation of the psychology behind “time vs. stuff”.
So good. Might be time for me to tweak my coaching page: http://ryzeonline.com/ryzing-star 🙂
Thanks again for this, rock on and ryze up!
Jason, I think the reason that people like me repeat the “benefits vs features” thing is because there are so many people who still don’t get it! Some company pages just go on and on about their history and their great awards and services and the only thing anyone wants to know is, “yeah? so? What do I get out of that?”
Your coaching page seems like more of a landing page so I think you’re ok there. If you want a real “services”-like page I know you’ll come up with about a billion lofty inspiring things to say!
Talk about timing because I am in the middle of revamping my blog and the service(s) I want to offer, need work. I offer Blog Critiques and that is what I didn’t do is focus on the results. It was more about blah blah blah and not stating what’s in it for them. The worst part is I know better, and I could hear Ken Pickard in allot of your post because that is something he told me when I got to meet him and his family a while back. Great stuff here Carolyn and I will be referring to this post for my pages that I am changing around. Thank you girl!
Glad this came at a good time! It’s easy to forget all the good advice when you’re writing your own stuff, trust me, I’ve been there. Blog critiques are a perfect service-solution opportunity. Why do you do that? What are you going to tell people and how will it help them make their blogs better? Sounds like you can offer a lot of benefit from a good critique so definitely highlight it!
Very nice article Carol Lynn Rivera. I just launched my new website essentially following this methology – need to maybe take it further – there may be a bit about services, ha, ha. Your words gave me affirmation that I’m moving in the right direction. Thanks for the article.
Thanks, Jim, and I’m glad to be able to give you some food for thought! Sometimes we know the things we **should** be doing but when we’re close to it – like writing our own services page – it can be tough to follow. Trust me, I know!
There’s definitely no need to change your services, but you make a good point that the way you package them can make a difference. Sometimes you can find the right combination that resonates with people. takes some research but it can be done!