If ever there were an industry in need of educating its clients, it’s ours: the web world.
In a perfect world, an informed client is more likely to hire us. In the real world, an informed client is just as likely to hire someone else – or no one at all.
It’s not your fault; your client’s neocortex is to blame. That’s the part of the brain that controls rational thought, reasoning and judgment. If you could perform a brain scan on your client while you’re busy educating them, you’d see the neocortex light up like a Christmas tree.
Here’s the problem: that over-stimulated neocortex isn’t in charge of decision-making. That job goes to the limbic node, our “feeling brain”.
Yes, it’s the emotional part of our brain that controls the decisions we make. We don’t act unless we also feel.
Logic Is for Thinking; Emotion Is for Acting
That’s why “educating clients” can be a waste of time. Logic doesn’t drive behavior and cause people to take action, emotions do.
If you want to influence another person’s decisions, you must appeal to their emotions.
Does that mean facts, figures and logic play no part in selling your services? No, of course they do. People need logic to feel better about the decision they’ve made. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what legendary sales guru Zig Ziglar said:
“People usually buy on emotion and then they justify it with logic.”
Let’s be clear, educating clients isn’t always a waste of time, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to educate clients. Let’s talk about both.
The Wrong Way to Educate Clients
To Justify Your Prices
If educating your client is a thinly veiled attempt to justify your price, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
Perhaps you went to an expensive college to earn a degree, invested in a top-of-the-line computer with the latest software and have a student loan to repay. You don’t necessarily deserve to be paid a higher amount for explaining this to your client.
Clients have no clue how much work is involved in what we do, the education it took to enable us to do it, or the expensive tools required to get it done. And sadly, they often don’t care.
What they do care about is: “What can you do for me?”
“How can you help me make money, solve a problem, retire early, or send my kids to college?”
If you must educate your clients, educate them on how you can help get them what they want.
To Show Off Your Expertise
Yes, it’s important to demonstrate you’re qualified. But if that’s your sole purpose of educating your client, it’s a self-serving one.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Try empathy, understanding, and compassion. You know, limbic lobe stuff.
The Right Way to Educate Clients
Educate to Create Fear of Loss
If I’m going to educate a client about SEO or social media, it’s to show them how they’re losing money and customers to their competitors.
Fear of loss can be more powerful than hope of gain. Both appeal to the limbic “feeling” brain. But showing what the client stands to lose by not buying your product or service will convert more prospects into paying clients.
Educate to Set Proper Expectations
I’ll never forget the client who called to complain that his website was on page one of Google. Mind you, this client had purchased a website – not search engine optimization. So what’s the problem, I wondered.
The problem, according to the client, was that his website wasn’t the number one position on the page, and was therefore “worthless”. Talk about poorly managed expectations.
Clearly, this client hadn’t been educated on how Google works nor what to expect from a website that wasn’t optimized. Yet, when he’d been given an incredible gift – page one on Google – it fell short of his expectations.
Educate to Upsell
I enjoy talking on-page optimization as much as the next person. But if I’m going to educate my client on the advantages of properly optimized content and title tags, it will be to sell him on the benefits of professional copywriting, which I’ll charge extra to include.
Educate to Persuade
At my company, we’ve identified seven components our small business clients need to succeed online – each of which corresponds to a product or service we offer. As much as I love creating blog posts and ebooks explaining how local search works, if at the end of the day no one buys our products or services, I might as well teach a marketing class.
Educate to Answer Questions and Address Objections
A favorite sales axiom of mine is “Don’t answer questions your client isn’t asking”.
Whenever possible, tell them what you do and why your client needs it, without explaining how you do it. Otherwise, you end up giving away too much free information.
Or you could teach a marketing class ;)
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.