10 alternatives to selling on price

“If you sell on price, you don’t have a sustainable business”


This is a topic drilled into small businesses from an early age, that you can’t sell on price. Some choose to ignore it – at their peril I’d say.

Here are 10 things I think you should be selling on instead.

  1. You – as a business owner – you are a differentiator and a personality.
  2. Ongoing support- can you persuade people you’re a safe pair of hands and will look after them ongoing. My dad would buy on that when it comes to IT services, that’s for sure.
  3. Your geographical location – being close to someone can be a distinct advantage.
  4. A unique benefit -benefits are only unique to an individual. What floats one buyer’s boat, won’t necessarily float another’s. There is rarely such a thing as a USP – drop that from your vocabulary.
  5. A genuine USP – yes, I know what I just wrote… however, if you’re Apple you have one. You may have one too – just be really careful it is unique if you’re planning to sell on it.
  6. Speed – can you deliver faster? People will buy from you because of it and guess what, they’ll pay a premium too.
  7. Recommendation – people buy on recommendation and referral every day of the week – make sure you are set up to do this on an ongoing basis
  8. Timing – being in the right place at the right time is key. You should spend a good proportion of your selling hours increasing your chances of this
  9. Desire – creating longing amongst buyers and appealing to our primate ‘Croc Brain’ is one of the best ways to sell. Painting a picture of the outcome of buying your service will create desire.
  10. Brand – it worked for IBM… (for a while)

Rarely of course does it boil down to just one thing off this list. Normally there’s a combination of factors involved however focusing on a subset of these 10 means you will remove the price discussion from the sales cycle, assuming you’ve done the budget qualification in the first instance.

I want to leave you with the inspiration for this post… undeniable proof that you don’t have to sell on price.

The world’s most desirable PET HOTEL. (yes really – and there’s a video to prove it, I’m afraid).

If you stand still, your small business won’t survive

“If you’re looking out the window enjoying the view, you’re doing something wrong”

In 1998, I was fortunate enough to earn my Private Pilots License whilst I was living in Australia. It was a life long dream and after a couple of months of having the license, we returned to the UK and I’ve never flown since!

A lot of people have said to me – what was the point of all of that expense and effort if you don’t fly now? My answer to that is simple – firstly, it was a dream, which I fulfilled and loved every second of the experience. Secondly – I truly believe the experience taught me so much more than just learning to fly a plane.

Flying is perhaps 80% “what if”. The majority of your training is to help you to react in an emergency and my instructor always said to me that if you’re looking out the window enjoying the view – you’re definitely doing something wrong. I’m thinking that’s a pretty good analogy for the small business. It’s far too easy to ride a wave when things are going well, however that’s the time you should be more worried about your pipeline than any other time.

Are you listening to trends in the marketplace? Are you getting first mover advantage? Are you listening to your customers?

You need to keep adapting and changing, because if you stand still, you won’t survive.

37 Signals never stand still. I found this timelapse video of how their website has changed over the years – and I think there’s a message in there for all of us. The thing I take out is that the changes you make don’t need to be big. Small and often is the way to go for best results.

Evolution of a homepage from 37signals on Vimeo.

What happens if you publish content and react in real time

The results of a fascinating experiment


I’ve been publishing content online for 3 years now – regularly. This blog is starting to prove popular, but I guess a lot of my publishing has been through training video production for and on behalf of other clients. It’s more recently I’ve started to produce video for my own purposes, based on the knowledge I’ve picked up over this time.

Last Thursday (5 days ago) I spent 20 minutes putting a video together, shortly after I’d implemented a technique for myself and I couldn’t help but think, for the ‘man in the street’ who isn’t overly technically literate, this might be a confusing and tricky thing to do.

That ‘thing’ was syncing Outlook with iCloud.

iCloud and iOS5 was released on Wednesday 12th October 2011. I produced the video the following day. If I’m honest with myself, it was a bit rushed, however I knew I had to ‘ship’ so out it went – it was a lot more than was out there at the time. I worked out a new technique for explaining a concept, to save me time (slides would have taken longer) and I wrote the post and published the video on YouTube.

Stats as of 10pm on 18th October

[UPDATE: 8 November 2012 – 100,000+ views now!]

Before I produced the video I did something I don’t always do – and will do from now on. I did a search for various phrases around the subject and found nothing. Hardly surprising – iCloud had been out for less than 24 hours. It suddenly occurred to me that being first at something might be a good idea – so it’ would be worth investing the time in producing this. As it turned out, 20 minutes wasn’t much of an investment! That said, when you produce videos as often as I do you’d expect to do them quickly.

Within a couple of hours – I was amazed. The searches hitting the site (as opposed to being from an email promotion for example, where you’d expect a barrage of traffic) were extraordinary… visitors to the site shot up and within 4 days – through search alone, the video stat looked like this:

A couple of other by products occurred – I was suddenly seen as the global expert in syncing Outlook with iCloud (despite the fact that I’m certainly not!) I’ve had emails from the far corner of the earth asking me questions… not perhaps what I wanted, but nice to be asked nonetheless. In addition, visitors to this site and as a result affiliate clicks and revenue have shot right up and show no signs of falling – the searches are consistent in both hitting this site and YouTubedirectly.

So – the moral of the story – if you want to get known in your niche, publish great content whilst reacting to real time events.

What you should you, the lone consultant be doing about this?

I’m not an IT consultant, however, if you are, you should be kicking yourself. IT consultants across the land should have been producing content on the day iCloud and iOS5 was released. Remember this, publish early. It’s called first mover’s advantage. Get known for being an expert.

If you’re a finance consultant or a small accounting firm – find out what new legislation and rules are coming online in your country / state and become expert. Publish your thoughts, show people what to do. Be seen as an expert and people will call you up and ask you to work with them. It’s just a fact of life.

If you’re an HR consultant, legislation changes seemingly hourly here in the UK. I suspect it does throughout the rest of the world. If there’s a big change coming, build up to it, write about it, explain what effect it will have on your potential customers. The press will pick up on you, interview and before you know it, your phone will ring.

[UPDATE: Thanks to @newyork0605 – legislation changes in the UK have standardised – 1 October and 1 April – so get planning for next year!]

I could go on, but I know you know what I’m saying. Are you doing it though?

Further reading

If you’d like further reading – one of my favourite authors, David Meerman Scott has devoted a whole book to real time marketing which is a great read. There’s a stack of examples inside of this technique working as well as a discussion on why it’s such an important concept.

How to sync Outlook with iCloud

Making your life easier…

So much about being a lone consultant is about having your life made easier by technology. More often than not, it transpires against you to make life harder.

With iOS5 launching yesterday, I’ve been keen to find out how iCloud is going to help sync our lives – how helpful would it be to have all contacts and appointments etc on all devices? In addition – I wanted to see how iCloud interact would with Outlook and PC users.

It turns out it’s pretty darn good… oh and it’s all completely free for the first 5GB anyway.

There’s a short demo below – what it actually is… how to set it up… and watch it in action.

Just start. And then iterate.

Keep it simple…

I wrote about Newton’s 3rd Law a while back – and I still subscribe to it – pretty much every day. To paraphrase Isaac himself:

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

A friend of mine taught me this a long time ago and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s the way things get done. It’s the way fortunes are made and it’s the way great things are created.

The inch thick business plan doesn’t have a place in 2011 or in fact in any year going forwards. Having a one page plan… a direction… a vision even, is a very good thing, but then, just start. Try something. Put your toe in the water. Make a noise. Go outside your comfort zone. Anything.

And see what happens.

And then, iterate.

Change something. Try something else. Do something different. Talk to customers. If you don’t have any, find out what your prospects might want. Tweak your offer. Produce something in red instead of blue.

And see what happens.

And then, iterate.

Want to see this process in action from a company that started with nothing and now has multiple websites in the Top 1,000 most viewed? Here’s Collis Ta-eed, founder of Envato speaking more sense in 5 minutes than most of us do in an hour.

Does your website have a personality, like these ones?

People buy from people

Clients don’t buy ‘companies’, they buy people and as a rule, clients don’t buy dull, boring people.

In the first instance, a new client will always buy into a company website first – who doesn’t check someone out first before interacting with them? So, why is it that companies big and small insist on being dull, corporate, out of date, uninspiring and in the case of the lone consultant often don’t do their own personality justice.

Have you ever considered how many people have visited your website to check out what you do and have disappeared into the ether straight away, as they’re put off by your company personality? It’s the equivalent of the “I really must go and get myself a drink” moment at a party, when you’re talking to someone… except online, you have no idea who’s walking away.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot of late and come up with some screenshots I hope will inspire you – in both a good way.

So – here we go – 10 screenshots from websites that I hope will make you go and check out your site to see whether it has the personality you know it deserves.

1) Useful

If you need a company logo, what do you do? Go to their site and right click to download. Akismet has pre-empted that very nicely – look what pops up when you right click their logo… How useful is that?


2) Honest

I’ve admired these guys from afar for a couple of years. They make the awesome Market Samurai software. Have you ever seen such an honest about us page? Sometimes it’s just as important to say what you don’t do.

See the full page here:

3) Geeky

A 404 page not found page… which normally says “Page not found” or something dull. These guys are geeks – but THEY HAVE A PERSONALITY!


4) Cheeky

I left the Dilbert email list the other day… and you know what, they almost won me back – because they had a personality. How many unsubscribe pages say “UNSUBSCRIBE REQUEST COMPLETE. – CODE as8987e02” or something similar. What does yours say?

5) Uncorporate

I will take the First Direct bank with me to my grave. Why? Because they know how to relate to humans. Even their FOOTER conveys their personality. That’s pretty special.


6) Clever

Did you know if it’s your birthday according to your Google Profile, they’ll display you a Happy Birthday graphic. Google has oodles of personality. That’s one of the reasons they are where they are.

7) Playful

The Digital Telepathy team are superb designers. You’d expect them to have personality – and they do. It runs through their products too.


8.) As you would expect

I’d be surprised if you don’t know the Innocent Smoothie brand. Their navigation header wobbles. I’ve never seen that before. It just works – because it once again conveys their personality. Am I getting through here?


9) Makes you smile

Another geeky 404 page not found page with real thought. Remember those dark, distant Internet Explorer days? Here, they reminisce.


10) Helping you to buy

I’m reliably imformed that wherever you are in the world, the header changes to reveal whether the Threadless folks ship to your country. It really doesn’t get more helpful than that… immediately, they put you in the buying frame of mind.


Go on then – what are you waiting for…. go and get your website a personality!

Think small if you want big results

Having time off to think over the summer meant I came back to my desk on 6th September with more ideas than I could possible handle in two years and the Mark of old would have attempted to tackle them all at the same time. It is a terrible trait of mine – have idea, abandon everything else and just do it.

Well I’m better than that now – I’ve been around too long to know that’s a bad thing to do. There’s a lot of people who’ve been saying the same thing to me recently. Ed Dale brought it to my attention at the beginning of the year at the Going Pro conference (you can watch his speech here for free) If you want to change, move, grow, whatever… then you have to take small steps.

Small steps can lead to big change.

Step change without these small steps, rarely works.

You only have to look at the diet industry to know how true that is. But the same applies in the small business world too.

So having had all this time to think, I filed the big ideas, broke them up into small chunks and then started to tweak how I work. There’s a summary below.

  • I’ve been using Evernote for 3 years, but haven’t been using it well. It’s now on every PC. I’ve changed the folder structure to fit with where I am now (not 3 years ago) and I now use it everyday to file away ideas when I’m ready for them.
  • I had heard about a great way to manage multiple websites about 9 months ago and Tweeted it in fact, however had never tried it out. I’ve now got ManageWP up and running and am writing this post through it now. It’s a massive timesaver. I can now update plugins, WordPress core and deal with comments on 20 websites in single clicks. Nice.
  • I bought another whiteboard – one that I could wipe clean and is reserved for ideas – I’ve a separate one for targets and goals. I used it 3 times alone yesterday to mindmap scripts. It means you have to get up from your chair, and it gets you being creative. Great advice from James Schramko in this podcast.
  • I bought a mic boom for my voiceover work. It now takes me back to my radio days – I feel more professional (and I’ve been told I sound it too).
  • I now review Targets and Objectives monthly – it used to be quarterly – but things can drift. They’re written clearly on the (other) white board and there’s a countdown of the number of days left before the end of the month too.
  • Sales targets are updated weekly. I track progress and print it and stick it next to me so it’s in my line of vision all week. That’s a much more effective eyeline than Tweetdeck (which it used to be).
  • I’ve a blog post calendar. I know what I’m going to write and when over the next few weeks. As new ideas come in, I file them away ready for writing.
  • I’m saying ‘no’ more regularly, which actually isn’t a small thing. But it is really.
  • I’m pausing more. Rather than rushing in.

What are you doing small?

To sum things up, one of the most successful online companies on the planet does things in small steps too – so I thought this backs up today’s post rather nicely…