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The Million Dollar Bet

By: Robert Middleton

Robert Middleton, of Action Plan Marketing in Palo Alto, Calif., has helped hundreds of professional service businesses attract new clients and get paid what they're worth.

His website is a resource for marketing professional services. Visit it at Action Plan Marketing.

One of the biggest challenges we have as independent "knowledge business owners" is effectively communicating to our associates and prospective clients exactly what it is that we do. We often settle for broad generalizations such as "Organization Development Consulting," or "Process Improvement Specialist."

Now if you've been following the Marketing Flash [editor's note: Marketing Flash is a newsletter, published by Robert Middleton, where this article originally appeared] for some time you know you need to phrase what you do in terms that really mean something to the prospective client. I call this a Solution Statement or an "Audio Logo." But really it only starts there. Once you've said, "I work with organizations to improve performance, specifically in the area of getting products to market faster," what do you have to follow up with?

I have a million dollar bet I make with people when I'm giving a presentation. I ask them to give me the names of 20 of their associates or clients whom I'll call and ask, "Can you tell me exactly what so-and-so does?" If all 20 can give me, even generally, the same answer, you've got a million dollars. I've never had a taker. Most admit that even their husbands or wives couldn't tell them what they really did!

So what's a poor knowledge business owner to do?

The next step, after clearly defining the solution you offer, is to hunker down to the hard work of creating some marketing materials that communicate precisely what you do, how you do it and why you're qualified. It amazes me how few people have adequate marketing materials. Here's a basic guideline: For each of the following headings you should have about a page of material. Lay it out nicely in your word processor and print it on your letterhead and put it in a presentation folder and, viola!, you have marketing materials that communicate what your prospects want to know.


People are always thinking about their problems. Are you aware of the problems your clients are experiencing? List the various problems in some detail one after another in order of importance. This is a great attention getter and naturally leads to the next part.

Solutions & Results

Now tell the reader how the services you provide addresses the problems listed. Again, list them one by one in detail. Don't be general and vague. Let them know exactly how your service addresses their issues and how they result in solutions that mean something to them.

Why Me/Us?

Your prospective client has many choices in solving their problems. So let them know how your approach/solution/results/experience is the best choice. Is it the way you approach an assignment? Is it the fact that you guarantee a result? Is it your industry specialization? Let them know your Unique Competitive Advantage. It needn't be complex but it must be relevant.


Now think through the many times you have provided similar solutions to past clients. Let your reader know the problem your client faced, the solution you provided and the results that ensued. These might only be a paragraph or two. But make them clear, relevant and as impressive as possible.


You DO ask your clients to give you a testimonial letter after you've done a great job, don't you? If so, dig out those letters and extract the best nuggets and put them all on a page. If you have no letters, it's time to give them a call and make the request. This might not be a lot of fun but it has a big payback.

About Me/Us

This is background material on you and your business. List anything relevant regarding your ability to provide solutions to your clients. Education, projects, related interests, values, philosophy--anything that gives solid reasons for you being the qualified person for the job.

Working With Us

Finally, let your prospective client know exactly how you start working. Do you offer an initial consultation, a needs assessment, a free presentation? When you do start work, what do you typically do first? The idea is to make your prospect feel comfortable calling you becasue they know how you start and how you work.

That's it really. It does take a lot of work but with materials like this you have answered the main questions a client might have about you and your services. Good materials make prospective clients more comfortable about doing business with you and often makes you a higher ranked contender over someone else with inadequate or no materials.

© Copyright 2000, Robert Middleton

Other Articles by Robert Middleton

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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