The value conversation
It’s natural for prospects to want to know how much we charge for what we do. But for anyone selling services, the complexities of pricing and the difficulty of establishing value against cost dictates that ‘the money conversation’ can only ever happen after we’ve had ‘the value conversation’.
Those who email us looking for copywriting charges are often not serious prospects – they’re mystery shoppers, ‘tyre kickers’ and occasionally they’re competitors curious about the day rate. And this is fair enough. It’s all part of the ball game, but the notion of ‘value for money’ is a hard one to get across to a prospect – and it’s actually just as hard for the prospects themselves. Why should they commit to working with a particular copywriter? What is it that convinces them that they’ll get the value they need?
Success is being disliked by the right people
With so many hurdles on both sides, these initial conversations are vital. From the supplier’s side, it’s just so important to be ‘who you are’ and not ‘all things to all men’. We are, none of us, everyone’s ‘cup of tea’. Which is a really good thing. Success comes from being disliked by the right people.
In fact, this is what helps us refine our brand identity. I always warn new groups of copywriting students that if they don’t like interacting in groups, discussing in pairs, taking part in simulations and games, they’re probably not going to like what’s coming up, because that’s how I like to work. And with professional services it’s also incumbent upon me to communicate the ‘personality’ of my agency with as much information as I can about how my agency works, what kind of work we’ve done and our general approach.
It’s also incumbent on me to learn about the prospect and be prepared to refer them somewhere else if it doesn’t look like we’ll be a good match for one another, whatever has been said about copywriting charges. That can be a hard call to make when you’re actively looking for new clients. But paradoxically, it’s probably going to help you achieve that very goal in the long term.
Generalist or specialist?
All of this doesn’t mean agencies have to operate as sector specialists. A generalist agency can shout about the fact that it has a documented record of success in applying universal skills and know-how to marketing for organisations in diverse industries. For the generalist agency, though, the selling point is not so much ‘we know the demands of marketing in your particular industry’ as it is ‘we know the demands of marketing for your particular company.’ Thus we are already, at this early stage, developing an understanding and appreciation of the prospective client’s USP.
I’m certainly not suggesting that specialist sector knowledge has no value. Successful generalist agencies will, in fact, often find themselves developing particular niches – which will often prove attractive to prospects. Industry familiarity also provides instant common ground to kick-start a good working relationship.
‘Relationships’ – the whole broad sweep of them – from ‘but I hardly know you’ through ‘how are you, long time no see’ to ‘hi friend, here’s something else for you to look at’ – is the common theme in everything I’ve been saying here. At the ‘hardly know you’ stage we need to be able to filter genuine prospects from time-wasters and identify the quickest and best ways to take the relationship from cold to warm.
So there’s a few thoughts which occurred to me recently when contemplating content and copywriting charges. It would be interesting to hear your views, and whether any of this meshes with your own experience. And if you want any more from me, it’s 100 quid. In used banknotes. In a brown paper bag. Or you could just call me for a bit of chat and we’ll forget the money. (For the time being at least.)
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