The sole purpose of your business…
This is a bit of a long quote, but it’s important. It’s from Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory and, as they say in San Diego, he’s kind of a big deal…
There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. The customer is a foundation of a business and keeps it in existence […]
Because it is the purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. These are the entrepreneurial functions. Marketing is the distinguishing, the unique function of the business.
Note that Drucker didn’t say, “sales”. He said creating customers. For you and I, that means clients. It also means that we are in the client-creation business. Everything else is a distraction.
Client Creation Marketing (CCM) is not new, or at least the idea is not (the above quote is from 1954).
CCM is based on well-proven, market-validated ideas you will find top companies and entrepreneurs of every size using today.
It’s also at the heart of work by marketing leaders such as Seth Godin, Andre Chaperon and Shawn Twing.
What is new here is how they are brought together to work for people like you and me who sell our expertise.
But a word of warning…
Simplicity comes with understanding slowly. Simplistic arrives with haste.
Take your time because these ideas have the power to transform your business.
Lastly, CCM is an approach, not a method and that means it’s based on First Principles.
Below are the key ideas that define CCM.
What your clients want
Somewhere around 2,500 years ago Plato wrote…
Once humans were perfectly happy but that angered the gods, so, they split humans in half. Instead of one, unified, happy human, there were now two halves, each desperately missing our other. Miserable humans. Happy gods.
Our hedonistic behavior, our insatiable desire for more and more and more, that empty feeling after the last episode of the box set we binged? All of that is down to that inherent emptiness inside us.
The only way to fill it is to find our other half.
This was how Plato explained Client Acquisition (and not romantic love, as most academics mistakenly think). And it illustrates a fundamental truth about finding our ideal clients…
Your clients are as eager to find you as you are them.
Yet, most marketers and businesses miss the power behind this. Why? Because they think great marketing is about selling.
It’s about fit. And that’s something you create, not sell.
Selling vs Marketing
It seems no one likes selling. Or being sold to.
It’s often associated with words like, “tacky,” ‘“pushy”, “sleazy” and “manipulative.”
If we walk into a shop and an assistant approaches, our guard is immediately up and we’re “just browsing.”
Yet, we love buying.
What’s that about?
(Before I answer, think about what kind of marketing you would prefer for your business: one where you’re selling to your prospect or where they are buying from you?)
Marketing is a Commitment. Not a Score.
There’s a lot said about the difference between marketing and selling.
One view is marketing is what you learn about in an MBA program. Selling is what you learn about when you need to make money.
There’s truth in that.
Another view is that marketing is the soft, non-pushy end of the same stick. It’s the Super Bowl ad. It’s sponsoring a local softball team.
Selling is the pointy end. It’s the broker selling you life insurance. Junk mail selling a time-share apartment in Cancun. There’s truth in that too.
But here’s a simpler way to think about the difference.
It’s the work of connecting with good-fit leads, educating them about your service and giving them enough information so they can make a decision about whether they want to buy from you. (“We made this for you. We hope it’s what you’re looking for.”)
Selling doesn’t care about any of that. It’s a one-night stand and damn the consequences. (“You’d be crazy not to want this hotness!”)
(In case you think the two can live together, they cannot. You will always be forced to prioritize one over the other.)
You might be thinking, does this really matter? Will my bank balance even know?
Yes, it will.
Because the difference can be seen in cold-cash numbers. Increased Lifetime Client Value (LCV) to be exact.
Clients want to buy, not be sold to. They want to feel in control of the process.
They want to be sure this is the best decision for them on their terms and in their own time.
They want to feel confident about their decision.
Selling throws that out the window. It uses emotional pressure. Sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle. And even if we buy this way, part of us is always left wondering, were we taken? And that has consequences.
How you are marketed to is part of the reason you buy or don’t buy.
If you want a long-term, high-value relationship with your clients, then you want them as buyers and not you as a seller.
But how exactly does this kind of marketing work? Especially for someone like you who sells their expertise or creativity?
Clients who tell other people about you
You can sell the hell out of a bad movie with pre-release hype, saturation ad campaigns and packing the cast with A-Listers. It’ll kill on opening weekend, but if the movie misses with the audience, it will be gone before the month’s out.
Then there’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
It opened in 1975 to bad reviews and an even worse box office. The world just didn’t want this, or so it seemed. But the audience at Waverly Theater, NYC did. They were a perfect fit.
The film’s cult status began right there and spread by word of mouth around the world. It ran for over 30 years in my local cinema here in Dublin. Every Friday night. A full house.
Today it is considered the longest-running cinema release in history and its $1.2 million budget has returned $226 million.
And the secret to fit is…
“You make me want to be a better…”
A friend told me about a conversation he had with his dad about dating.
My friend complained that it was hard to find the right person. His dad laughed and said, you need to become the right person.
As an expert who sells what is inside your head, you need to do the same. It’s your marketing’s job to discover what that needs to be and how to communicate that.
This does not mean you compromise on the work you want to do. It means you discover what matters most to the person you want to serve. If you can deliver that, then that’s half the fit puzzle solved.
And the same is true for your ideal clients. They need to become the right fit for you.
Think of it this way…
Have you ever had a conversation with a prospect and you wished they understood the value you bring and were fully onboard with your process?
Wouldn’t that make your work together so much easier?
Wouldn’t that make them a better fit for you?
Your marketing can do that.
If we want perfect-fit clients, it’s not so much a matter of finding them. We must create them.
This is the work of Client-Creation Marketing (CCM).
CCM’s Three Stages
On the surface, Client-Creation Marketing is a straightforward framework with clear, logical steps. Each of these steps is about establishing and enhancing fit.
At the end of the process, your prospect will be in an excellent position to make an informed decision about working with you. And they will have undergone a transformation so they are a much better fit for you.
It runs like this…
CCM’s Three Stages
1. Attract your ideal prospects and demonstrate value
Create a well-defined ideal prospect profile. The more specific, the better. Then attract the attention of this audience and repel everyone else. (The repel part is very important.)
Attract them by showing up as an expert who can immediately offer a free solution to one of the big-ticket problems.
This is usually through high-level content (article, report, video, etc.). Do not ask for anything in return, not even their contact details.
2. Convert your ideal prospects to high-fit clients
Once you have demonstrated your fit as an expert, present an option to interact with you without a bribe. This might be a newsletter or low-cost continuity offer. Use this to build trust and deepen fit.
We also start the “if-only-they-knew” stage.
Imagine everything you would want your ideal client to know and believe about you if you were about to get on that first call. Then create marketing that accomplishes exactly that.
This is largely an education phase but it is also when we establish your uniqueness and raise your expert status in their eyes.
If your marketing has done its job when you finally get on a call, they will already have made a decision about your ability to solve their problem and you will be their preferred expert.
Your job on that first call is not to sell. This is key.
It is your job to help them make a decision. To hire you or not hire you. That is part of your service to them.
3. From Client to Promoter
This is the marketing stage I’ve rarely seen in a small-medium business, which, honestly, is baffling.
I believe this is because most marketing is all about the sale, so, once the sale is made, the marketing kicks back and cracks open a beer because its work is done.
That’s a mistake.
What happens after your client signs is when your most important marketing happens.
If you want to optimize the chances of your new client becoming a super fan, someone who will endorse you and come back with more business, then you need to design an experience for that.
That’s what In-Project Marketing delivers.
In-Project Marketing is your onboarding, managing expectations for every stage of the work, pre-empting all predictable issues, expanding on all value in every part of your process, and continuing your client education so your work together becomes the greatest possible case study to demonstrate your expert status.
The end result is a client with a much deeper understanding and appreciation of your value to them and your uniqueness.
That translates into higher Client Lifetime Value (CLV) and referrals to their peers.
That’s Client-Creation Marketing from the outside. But what makes it work is hidden under the hood…
The Secret Sauce
Client-Creation Marketing works because of two things…
First, it uses well-proven Direct-Response Marketing principles.
These include accountability through meaningful metrics, understanding your audiences’ needs more than they do and continual testing.
The second reason is the guiding principles that lie under the hood of CCM. They are…
Your Metric is your compass
If you pick sales, then that’s Sales Marketing and you will end up in a different place than if you pick Client Creation. Client-Creation Marketing delivers delighted clients who will let you do your best work and elevate your status. (Sales numbers are important as a signal, just not a destination.)
Be highly intentional about the prospects you want to attract
Only speak to those who will help you achieve your goals as well as whom you can help the most. Repel the rest.
Your prospects are already your clients
A follow-on from that is, your marketing is part of your client service.
Status is everything
It is beyond hard to overestimate how vital status is in any transaction or relationship. Every contract, every relationship is 100% influenced by status. And just as you want to elevate your own status, you must discover the status needs of your client and fulfill those too.
Your marketing is a win-win partnership
Commit deeply to your clients’ success. Look for clients who will do the same. Make this expectation clear from the start.
Pick a tribe
Pick people who are united by something that clearly defines them and that they feel strongly about. For example, I’ve made it clear that I want to work with independent or small teams of experts and creatives who want to do exceptional work.
I’ve picked this because these people are usually deeply committed to their craft/profession, conscientious, dedicated to continual improvement and think long term. These are the clients I want to work with because that’s who I am. That makes it a great fit.
Think about your tribe. Who do you most want to serve? Where do you want to make a difference?
Attract clients who will empower you
Attract clients who will empower you to do your best on their behalf and who will amplify your brand. In turn, do the same for them.
These are the underpinning principles that make Client-Creation Marketing so much more powerful than Sales marketing.
If this is marketing you’d like for your business, then this site is here to help you learn more.
And if you’d like to talk to me about working together, then my services page explains your options.