Running an eCommerce business requires knowledge of market demands. The type of eCommerce business you are running determines how unique those demands may be. When selling services to individuals, every detail matters.
Unlike selling digital or physical products online, selling services may force person-to-person interaction. The perfect experience for one client could be a nightmare for the next.
As a service provider, especially online, you will need to take things like marketing, pricing, and even methods of communication with clients into consideration. Why would a potential client choose you over others? Will clients expect to pay more (or less) simply because their purchases are custom? Is email correspondence sufficient?
Let’s talk about things you can do to make the experience a pleasant one for both you and your clients.
State your case
First of all, who are you? From browsing your website for a minute or two, I have a general idea of the services you intend to provide, but why should I pay you for those services? What makes you any different, or better, than my other options?
This is arguably the most important statement you can make when selling services online. Whether you are a one-person show, or you have a team of dedicated professionals ready to serve the market, clients will always want to know exactly who they will be dealing with.
There are several ways to make this clear before any interaction with the client. We’ll go over a few of them.
Over the past decade or so, About pages — pages that describe what a particular website or business is “about” — have become so standard that they are often neglected. It is not uncommon for an eCommerce business selling software, a different business selling custom t-shirts, and another providing life coaching sessions to have similarly formatted About pages.
To be frank, I do not care where you were born if I am purchasing your software. Likewise, I’d love to know if meeting with you and your team in person is possible before I commit to paying you for unique services. Are you local?
When crafting an About page for selling services online, think about how your service could yield very specific questions and concerns from clients. Use the About page to answer those questions before the potential client has to ask. Give thought to what is relevant and what isn’t.
This doesn’t mean you can’t provide an extra touch of information and personality. In fact, I suggest that you do. Just remember to cover what is needed.
Depending on the type of service you are selling, you may have more marketing options than the typical eCommerce business.
Tell me, when was the last time you saw a stack of random business cards near the checkout counter at a local business? Depending on the service you provide, the customers at your local Starbucks could very well be your potential clients.
Be sure not to focus only on digital marketing if you are selling a service online, especially services that could be discussed over coffee. The fact that you are local could very well be your unique selling proposition.
Brainstorm ways to expand your marketing strategy so that it targets online viewers as well as those offline.
Portfolio and social proof
Would you rather I tell you that I am an excellent massage therapist, or have your best friend tell you that I am an excellent massage therapist? I think it’s safe to assume that your best friend will share with you a more relatable review of my services than I would. That’s not because I am dishonest, but because my opinion is based on my intended performance, not my actual performance.
Having some sort of portfolio, display of testimonials, public client reviews, or other form of proof that you provide quality services can go a long way. It gives potential clients and past clients the opportunity to have a “discussion” about you, without your input.
Of course, you as the business owner will always have the ability to organize client feedback in a favorable way, at least on your website. But allowing potential clients to determine how much they trust the judgment of your past clients is a way to remove yourself from the equation.
Everything we’ve discussed so far is part of your introduction. At this point, potential clients haven’t even contacted you yet. How you introduce yourself has the ability to secure clients before you even know they exist.
One of the most difficult parts of selling services online is establishing boundaries with your clients and sticking to those boundaries. It requires you to be assertive, yes. But it also requires your clients to have a clear understanding of why they chose you.
Your website should make clear what services you provide. Whether it be from a “Services” page, the implications of your portfolio material, the description of your pricing (more on pricing later), or a combination of them all.
The goal is to communicate to clients exactly what you have to offer before the transaction begins. This can save you from stress later on as you provide the service.
Description of services
Much like an About page, a Services page should be tailored to your business. This seems obvious, but the tone and verbiage used on this page can be the difference between a smooth experience and a disaster.
On your Services page, avoid leaving much to the imagination (unless imagination is a unique component of your business). For instance, take a look at the following example of what you might find on the Services page for web development agency:
Our website designs will make you look like a rock star to your visitors!
This type of rhetoric is fun, and sometimes exciting. But it doesn’t mean anything and leaves too much to the imagination. While there is a place for this type of excitement, it should not be the basis for describing what services you provide.
Consider this description of web development services instead:
We follow the latest coding standards to ensure your website is not only fast and easy to navigate, but also optimized for the most popular search engines. Furthermore, our designs are responsive, meaning your website will look professional on any browsing device, from desktop computers to mobile phones.
While that description isn’t overly technical, it makes clear that the agency intends to provide a service that is [most likely] beyond the abilities, and possibly the understanding, of the client. Furthermore, the revised description is also less subjective and geared more towards an agreed upon standard rather than an opinion.
Describe your services in a clear and concise manner to help establish accurate expectations.
We won’t go into detail about how to price your services. There are too many factors like what kinds of services you provide, your reputation, market research, adopting value-based pricing, and much more. What we will discuss is thoroughly communicating what your pricing includes.
Oftentimes, providing a service begets maintaining a relationship. In fact, client retention may be a part of your business model. Even if it isn’t, how you charge for a service should have a clearly defined starting point, any subsequent payments, and an end point if applicable.
In addition to the payment structure, you must express exactly what is being paid for.
Keeping with the web development agency example, a common occurrence when providing web development services is site maintenance and adjustments after the services have been completed. For those with experience in this field or similar fields, you have most likely suffered through a situation where the client does not understand that your services have been fully rendered, and additional work is to be considered a new transaction.
There are ways to combat this in a preventative manner using your website.
If/when you display pricing on your website, clearly define what your pricing includes. If two adjustments to the delivered product are permitted, state that. If copy writing is not included in the price of web design, state that as well.
It’s easier to succinctly express what your service does provide than it is to tell an already-paying client what you will not do.
I am a firm believer in asking clients to explicitly agree to a set of terms before providing a service. These terms should be displayed on a dedicated page or section of your website, regardless of the fact that your pricing already describes your service.
Whether or not you require the client to check a box and submit a form on your website, or even sign an actual paper or digital contract, is completely up to you. Just remember that leaving “room to wiggle” will almost guarantee excess wiggling.
Promote open and direct communication for the duration of the project. It helps to reiterate the specific details of the service you are providing while the project is ongoing.
Consider adding a component to your website that facilitates project management. There are hundreds of project management software scripts that can be built directly into your website. Or, consider a third party system like Basecamp. The goal is to be transparent, keep the communication flowing, and make sure there are no misunderstandings about how the services you provide accurately satisfy the pricing.
Never underestimate a client’s ability to make assumptions about the service you provide. Manage expectations by thoroughly describing your service and pricing details.
Return on investment
Too often, service providers focus only on receiving payment for services rendered. Money pays the bills, but credibility keeps the clients coming. Take advantage of the opportunity to get more out of your clients than just paid invoices.
Because paying for a service is a more personal experience than purchasing a digital or physical product, clients are oftentimes more excited about what you have done for them (assuming you did great work). 🙂
Use tools like surveys and questionnaires to get feedback from your clients. Not only does this let them know that you care, but it also gives you the information needed to improve the experience for future clients.
You can also request testimonials, either through the survey or directly, and use those testimonials to enhance your social proof.
Sure, this is something that all eCommerce businesses can do to get feedback from customers and improve future marketing efforts. But remember, it is especially important for those selling services online as you may need to do a little more convincing to a potential client than you would to a potential customer who never intends to interact with you directly.
The experience of selling services online can be an intricate mix between today’s disconnected, digital way of life and a more personal, intimate interaction between two [or more] people. It’s up to you to understand how your services craft the expectations of your clients, and what you need to do to meet those expectations.
Use your website to set yourself and your business apart from others while also communicating information that matters to potential clients. Then use the experience gained from selling services to better understand future client needs and desires.
Perhaps you’ve learned other lessons from selling services online? If so, drop a comment down below. Or feel free to ask questions!