Last year - 2020 - was the year I spent more money investing in my education and professional development than I ever had before. (Except maybe university… shout out to my student debt!).
Some of them though came from a place of fear. Fear I was wrong. Fear I didn’t know what I was doing. Fear of missing out on the secret sauce I needed to be “successful”.
Of course, hindsight is 20:20 and I definitely didn’t realise what I was doing until I was already several thousand dollars in the hole, in a year where I really couldn’t afford to be.
It was around the time I was digging that hole that I ‘found’ Kelly Diels, and also Maggie Patterson from Small Business Boss. They were saying things I hadn’t seen anyone else say in the industry, about predatory marketing techniques and how harmful they can be.
I have a marketing background - I’ve worked in the industry for over 8 years now. But not only did I realise in some cases I’d used those harmful, predatory techniques myself, but I’d also fallen victim to them.
And both of those things felt very gross to me.
I had severe buyer’s remorse that had left me feeling bitter and jaded. But worse than that, I became terrified that I had ever made someone feel the same about investing with me.
We're not just talking about ethical marketing here; we're talking about good customer service. Furthermore, since I mostly work with women and other small businesses, as both of those things myself, I know how hard it can be to get cash together, and then part with it.
I kind of can't believe that needs to be said, but we are in the service business after all, often with very big price tags attached. So I want to be absolutely sure my clients are making conscious, deliberate decisions to work with me, without being triggered by sneaky sales techniques.
With setting boundaries, creating high ticket offers, and passive income the talk of the town at the moment, I worry some service providers have swung too far the other way. I worry we're sacrificing good customer service, fair prices and economic, feminist justice, for the sake of another dollar.
So I thought I'd outline some of my processes for avoiding buyer's remorse and providing good customer service (some I've always had, some that have been influenced by Maggie or Kelly).
- Employing non-predatory sales techniques
One of the core elements of non-predatory marketing is leading with values, over scarcity. Scarcity is when you imply that unless someone buys that thing TODAY they will miss out on something amazing. I no longer say “limited time only” (unless there is a genuine deadline, such as holiday closures), and I never imply that I am the only one who knows how to do the thing that I do, or that everyone else is wrong.
I’ve also stopped saying I only have a certain number of spots available for clients in whatever month. Yes, there are obviously limits on my time, but all that can be sorted out with the client during the lead process.
- Allowing long lead times
I never make bonus offers where (for example) the first 12 people who sign up get something for free. All this does is force impulse buying which is most likely to lead to buyer’s remorse. If someone is really in the best financial position to work with me, then they’ll sign up without being rushed into it.
My quotes and proposals are valid for at least 30 days, and sometimes longer if there is a holiday period in the middle!
- Rejecting payment plan markups
As 2020 plugged along and financial situations changed, it became clear to me that offering monthly or fortnightly payment plans was the best way to help support my clients through a tough year.
Despite urging from some of my counterparts, it never occurred to me to put a markup on those plans. After all, it requires no extra effort from me - the work is still the same.
And Kelly sums up pretty succinctly why you shouldn’t have a payment plan markup either, in this Instagram post >. But the crux of it is, that payment plans take advantage of those least able to afford it. “In other words: Got less money than some of your counterparts? PAY MORE.” - Kelly Diels
- Providing regular progress updates throughout the creation process
Now, this is where we get to just good customer service. I’ve worked with service providers who I’ve literally never heard from again after I signed the contract, unless I prompted them on their progress.
Thankfully I’ve never had a situation where it’s turned out no work was even being done, but I know that’s a common theme out there, just from what I’ve seen in various small business Facebook groups.
Weekly to fortnightly touch base emails are sent to my clients with progress updates, or even just to say hello if there’s nothing new to add. Just so they’re never left wondering if I’ve taken their money and run. And all working documents (except for design files) are kept in shared Google folders or Dropbox so they can see my progress in real-time.
Ethical marketing, feminine empowerment, good customer service and fair prices all go hand in hand, especially when creating a values-led business. If you stand for anything, I hope you stand for your peers and your colleagues; your fellow small business owners who are simply trying to chase their dream. Do right by them!
Until next time, be kind to yourself and create something remarkable!