Do you know why clients should hire you? Congratulations! That’s an excellent beginning. But it’s not enough for you to know why clients should hire you — they need to know it, too. It’s hard enough to find clients without also having to educate them on why they would want to work with someone like you in the first place. The needs your service fills must be important enough that prospective clients are already looking for a solution like yours before they hear about you.

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Let’s say you are an accountant looking for more year-round clients in the small business market. You want to help business owners stay on top of their numbers on a regular basis, not just at tax time. So you begin advertising your firm as offering “full-service accounting.” But do small business owners know they need full-service accounting? Typically, no. When they hear the word “accounting,” it’s most likely to translate in their minds to “bookkeeping” and “tax preparation.” If those needs are already handled, why would they need an accountant?

What you know that many of your potential clients don’t is that, as an accountant, you are qualified to advise them on many areas of their business: budgeting, cash flow, investment strategies, advance tax planning, business financing, expansion plans, incorporation, retirement and estate planning, and more. But unless you speak directly to those specific needs, most prospective clients won’t make the connection on their own.

Find out what the “hot buttons” are for people in your target market. What do they perceive to be the greatest problems they face, or the biggest goals they wish to achieve? Ask these questions of the people you serve and the other professionals who serve them. Read trade literature or special interest publications and educate yourself on the key issues in your marketplace.

When you have a clear picture of what your target market is truly looking for, you’ll be able to package your service as a solution. Design all your marketing and sales tools — elevator speech, website, social media profiles, blog, brochure, telemarketing script, sales presentation — to show how what you do addresses the specific hot buttons you identified.

Make sure when you describe your services to potential clients that you’re using words they will recognize, rather than your own industry’s jargon. Perhaps you know that as a marketing communications consultant, you are qualified to write web copy, brochures, sales letters, and advertisements. But your prospective clients may think the person they need to hire provides “copywriting” rather than “marketing communications.” They may not even recognize that your stated specialty is exactly what they need.

You will probably have much more success in connecting the dots between what you offer and what your clients need if you focus on describing the results you deliver instead of the services you provide. “I write web copy, sales letters, and ads” is much more understandable to the person on the street than “I’m a marketing communications consultant,” or even “I offer copywriting services.”

Seasoned professionals know that the way a service provider gets in the door is to solve the “presenting problem” of the client. When potential clients have already identified that they have a pressing need that you can fill, you always stand a much better chance of being hired.

Once you are on board and working for the client, you will no doubt uncover all sorts of other issues that need to be addressed. And since you are already on the scene, building rapport and trust, of course they will retain you to help resolve those problems.

This sequence of events is common for any service business professional, from hypnotherapists to graphic designers. The client hires the designer to create business cards; then the designer discovers the client doesn’t have a logo.

When the designer shows the client how much more impressive the business cards would be with a custom logo on them, the client agrees to pay for one. But if the designer had approached that person about creating a logo, the client would likely have refused. In the client’s mind, it was business cards that were needed.

Don’t worry if the most pressing issues your prospects seem to be facing aren’t the ones you think are the most important. If you attract clients by marketing to their perceived needs, you’ll create plenty of opportunities to explore other ways you can assist them. But if you market something they don’t yet know they want, you may never get to have the conversation.

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