This article is the second in a set of two. If you haven’t yet read the first, I recommend starting there.

In part one, I planted the seed that it might be time to stop giving away free, pre-contract thinking to win future customers.

Here’s a summary of what I covered:

  • Manufacturers who sell complex, engineering-driven solutions often give away hours upon hours of their technical expertise upfront for free – just to win the job.
  • There was a time when my own business (a marketing agency) operated in a very similar way. But we managed to escape and never looked back. Maybe, there’s another way for you too.
  • Encouraging your future customers to break off the first 1-5% of their project budget for a low-commitment, high-value consulting engagement (examples: pre-engineering, facility audit, prototype creation, etc.) might be your way out of the trap.

Here in part two, I’ll introduce a concept that I call “the spectrum of value creation” – a progression of interactions and engagements with future customers that progressively build from low to high commitment for both you and your prospect.

I’ll share how we’ve designed this range of engagements for our own business at Gorilla to provide context for what yours could look like.

And I’ll conclude by explaining how your buyer’s mindset will change for the better one you’ve begun positioning your products and/or services along this kind of spectrum.

OK – let’s do part two.

The spectrum of value creation

Years back, there were only two ways our agency engaged with (and therefore created value for) our prospects and customers:

  1. The long, drawn out (free) diagnostic process I described in part one
  2. Our flagship marketing implementation services that typically cost $60-120K+ per year

That was it. No precursors and nothing in between.

But today, things look much different.

Here’s what I call our “spectrum of value creation”:

spectrum of value creation

Notice how we’ve filled the gaps both before (orange) and in between (blue) the two original engagements (black) we offered.

What we’ve created here is a natural progression in the relationship, where more value is delivered as you move from left to right. And simultaneously, more commitment from the customer is required in exchange.

Let’s unpack each of these seven engagements along this spectrum.

1. Article

This is the smallest possible “transaction” between a prospect and our agency. And it’s exactly what’s happening between you and us at this moment.

You’re reading a publicly-available article we’ve published (as we do at least once per week). We’re exchanging a small nugget of our expertise in exchange for 10 minutes of your attention.

Our goal here is simple: to incrementally earn a little bit more of your trust.

2. Gated resource

The next level of transaction between us and a prospect is the exchange of a resource for permission to market to them.

In the “Tools” section of our Learning Center, we offer resources like our Content Planner Worksheet and our Customer Acquisition Funnel Worksheet. We also prompt visitors to subscribe to our bimonthly newsletter, download in-depth guides and sign up for webinars (both live and on-demand).

But in order to access this premium content, we ask our visitors to “pay” for the extra value we’re delivering with the currency of online lead generation (their contact information).

3. Free consultation

For us at Gorilla, “Free consultation” once meant the beginning of a long, time-intensive process consisting of a discovery meeting, research and eventually the delivery of (free) recommendations. I detailed this ineffective time suck in my part one article.

But our current version of a free consultation is much simpler. You get 30-60 minutes of our time at no cost. We get the opportunity to earn an additional bite of your trust and attention via a human-to-human conversation.

If we both agree there could be a fit, we discuss whether a relatively low-commitment, paid engagement (the “paid discovery and action plan” described a little further down the page) makes sense as a next step.

4. Paid content

Here’s where things start to get interesting. This one is experimental for us – very much in beta mode. And depending on when in time you’re reading this article, we might have even killed it. But here’s the idea…

We recently launched a membership site through a platform called Patreon.

Here, our prospects can subscribe to access exclusive content for $20/month, attend live trainings and Q&A sessions for $100/month or receive private coaching for $500/month.

We’ve created this platform for three primary reasons:

  1. To create significant value at lower levels of financial commitment for those who can’t (or aren’t ready to) invest in a full-scale agency engagement
  2. To create that value in a scalable way using a one-to-many (instead of a one-to-one) delivery method
  3. To deepen relationships and trust with our most engaged followers

5. Paid discovery and action plan

Our thought process behind this step made up the bulk of my part one article.

This first (paid) client engagement always looks exactly the same. We begin with a tightly defined, branded process that we call the Industrial Marketing Road Map.

Our Road Map process starts with a half-day Discovery Workshop with the client’s president, VP of sales, director of marketing, a few key salespeople and ideally a few technical professionals.

And it concludes two weeks later with the delivery of a concise Road Map consisting of a documented marketing and lead generation strategy, tangible action plan and options for implementation – all backed by research. This project costs exactly $7,500 with no additional commitments required.

The Road Map is our “break off the first 1-5% of their project budget for a low-commitment, high-value consulting engagement” project. Yours may be something similar. Or it could be something along the lines of pre-engineering work, a facility audit or development of a prototype. You’ll find more ideas like these in our article “7 ways to generate revenue on the path to the big sale“.

Regardless of the shape your introductory paid engagement takes, you’re asking your customer to put some skin in the game (both financially and in terms of their time). In exchange you’re giving them the full attention of your experts and access to all the knowledge and experience that comes with it.

6. Preliminary implementation

The recommendations that emerge from our paid discovery in the previous step make up the first stage of implementation for our clients.

If we’re hired to implement the Road Map’s action plan, more often than not this set of priority projects plays out over six to nine months. Typically that implementation involves both foundational work to set up long-term success and lead generation work to jumpstart results.

7. Flagship implementation

We’ve had the luxury of working with one client on retainer for over ten years. A handful of others have been with us for five to seven. And in most cases, these scenarios are ideal for both us and the client.

Our revenue becomes predictable and they have a partner who incrementally develops a deeper and deeper understanding of their business.

But the trust required in these kinds of relationships doesn’t build overnight. It builds over years.

Before we added steps 4, 5 and 6, we were essentially asking a client to go from a first date to getting married – which in retrospect was a ridiculous ask.

And that’s exactly why we created our Spectrum. 🙂

So back to your world…

Take another look at this graphic. From step one all the way through to step seven, what could this progressive series of engagements with prospects and future customers look like for your business?

spectrum of value creation

Just as we had once isolated potential clients who didn’t have six figures to spend on marketing from day one, have you created a situation where your prospects can only choose between #3 and #7?

What’s your version of this Spectrum of Value Creation?

How your buyer’s mindset will change

I’ll conclude by summarizing the key benefits to your business when you implement a progressive range of engagements.

A. The sale starts before you even talk

Here’s a reality check:

Your future customers will buy on their schedule. Not yours.

So on the left side the spectrum (steps 1 and 2), you create an opportunity to build trust before your prospects are ready to talk.

They’ll consume bite after little bite of your expertise in the form of articles, videos, webinars, white papers, podcasts or whatever medium you choose.

Read our article “Give” to dive further into this topic.

B. Having skin in the game earns the attention of decision makers

One of the biggest (and most pleasant) surprises we experienced after introducing our Industrial Marketing Road Map (the step 5, paid discovery and action plan engagement described earlier) – was that we instantly earned the full attention of the presidents and VPs of sales at our prospects’ companies.

Back in the days when we gave away 30-plus hours of free consulting just to win the job, the top dogs rarely came to the table with any consistency.

But once they had some skin in the game, they were all in.

C. You can now give it your all

Giving away free consulting or engineering is a huge suck on your most valuable resources.

And when you’re already busy, it becomes difficult to give the free stuff the attention it really requires.

But when you’re being compensated fairly for that work, you can do it right. And doing it right earns you even more work.

D. Your customer doesn’t want to backtrack

One of the biggest objections to everything I’ve laid out in this article is the fear of a customer taking the solution you helped them decide upon to another provider.

But consider these two points:

  1. If you’ve spent hours upon hours working with that new customer to arrive at the perfect, customized solution, how likely are they to say, “I think I’m gonna go see who else could implement this for me”?
  2. Even in the unlikely scenario they do go elsewhere, at least you’ve been fairly compensated for the work you’ve done to date.

E. You’re no longer seen as a vendor

In my part one article, I broke down the long and drawn-out discovery process we once gave away for free to win the job.

I mentioned how new stakeholders would unpredictably enter the picture at inopportune times, how the president would randomly pop his/her head in and out of the engagement and how procurement would haggle over price.

This was all because we were “just another vendor” to them.

When your prospects and customers perceive you as an advisor (instead of a vendor), your solution suddenly commands a price tag that sits above those of your competitors.

That sums it up

If you’re still with me, you probably either think I’m crazy or your mind is overflowing with new ideas. I’m hoping for the latter!

Regardless, if you’d like to chat about how to put a spectrum of value creation into play for your company, I recommend requesting a free consultation (you know – step 3, right?).