• Advice

4 ways to simplify your business and sell smarter

What makes us buy? Why do we pick one product or service over another?

Why do we buy the cup from IKEA and not the Seen-on-TV tea cup that keeps hot, cold, holds snacks, has a toddler nozzle, a self-cleaning feature, and… (see how you’re already bored reading this list of features)?

According to a study of over 7,000 consumers and marketing executives, Corporate Executive Board found that the single biggest driver of customer purchasing decisions and loyalty was, by far, “decision simplicity,” according to an article published in Harvard Business Review.

“The ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options. What consumers want from marketers is, simply, simplicity,” the researchers found.

They graded companies by degree of simplicity, and the results are pretty stark: companies that scored in the top quarter in the study were 86% more likely to be purchased than companies in the bottom quarter. Those products were also 9% more likely to be bought again and 115% more likely to recommend that product to others.

How simple is your business? Are you overwhelming your clients or customers with jargon and confusing messaging, when you should really be talking about how you’re going to make their lives easier?

Here are just a few ideas on how to simplify your business:

1. Have one or two CTAs (calls-to-action)

What are you asking people to do on your website? Chances are your #1 goal is to get them to use your contact form. Is it clear from your website that that’s what you want them to do? Is the tab hidden after 8 other tabs that explain what you do? Or is your front page loaded with copy, without a single reference to “get in touch with me at”?

When you send a pitch, what are you asking for? What do you really want your pitch to do? Instead of talking extensively about your business, asking questions about their business, and then asking them to look at your resume and portfolio, and then pitching them an idea, and then asking them to get coffee with you, try to narrow it down. Overwhelming them with information at this point with help neither of you. Link to your portfolio in your footer. Explain what you do in one sentence (see #2 below). Explicitly ask (don’t just imply) to email you back if they’re interested.

Learn more: 5 tips for a better pitch

2. Explain what you do from your client’s point of view

Many freelancers have a muddled explanation of what they do.

The trouble is that most of us are so freaking multitalented we can’t help but list 3-4 things we do. As soon as you list 3-4 things, the person you’re talking to or emailing can’t remember 1 thing about you.

Even worse, sometimes we’re so deep into what we do that we end up explaining services and features we do, not what we do for our clients. So we say “I’m a fast, efficient project manager” instead of “I’m a project manager who helps busy start-ups ship better products faster.”

Learn more: Why freelancers should specialize, not generalize

3. Understand who you’re selling to

In today’s environment, clients are busy, overwhelmed, doing the work of 3 people, and just want stuff to get done. Are you selling to them?

They usually hire freelancers because they either don’t have time to do something, don’t have time to do it well, or don’t know how to do it.

Most managers don’t like feeling burdened with details, and they certainly don’t like feeling dumb. A sure way to make someone confused and defensive is to overwhelm them with details or software or processes that you think are important or make you sound smart/capable.

This is why it’s so important to make sure your business is about using your talents to make your clients’ lives better, not just applying your talent to a project. It’s about you but it’s not about you.

Career coach (and marketing expert) Justine Clay recommends that you interview your clients to find out what your value really is. When Justine interviewed her past clients, “I found that their description of what I offered was far better than my own, so I incorporated their language right into my message.”

Learn more: How to interview your clients

4. Don’t over-rely on copy

Copy is only one way to market yourself. A crucial way you shouldn’t overlook (hire freelance copywriters for your business!), but not the only way.

Your website should rely on a small amount of text -- and instead on the structure of the website, graphics, and photos that show, not tell. Portfolio items and client testimonials will do to convey trustworthiness than 500 words of copy.

Achieve simplicity by hiring a graphic designer to do a review of your business. They’ll look over your emails, your business cards, your website, and any marketing materials you hand to first-time clients. Good graphic designers hate clutter and will help hone and tone your visual brand.

Simple visual branding conveys professionalism and expensiveness. Avoid cluttered and cheap!

Learn more: 4 client-attracting websites (and why they work)

Freelancers, let’s go forth and make the world a simpler place! How can you clarify your business?

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