Be the Butcher not the Supermarket

February 22, 2016

Stop being a one-stop-shop and start providing value to your clients

A few weeks ago ConvertKit published a post talking about how being a small business has it’s benefits. As many of you know, I embrace being a freelancer and know it has freed me to better serve the client and keep a nice balance of life and work. I cherish my flexibility, control over my time, and the power to provide value to my clients every day. Being a ‘one-man show’ makes this all possible.

Don’t freelance to make a living – freelance to make a life…

You need to remember why you started and keep it in focus.

The one thing that I disagree with in the ConvertKit article is their statement that more employees means less revenue for the owner. Let’s say I hire someone and have to pay their salary and social costs (which, in Sweden, are pretty high), it would sure bring me a higher revenue and profit. The right people in the right positions aren’t a cost, they are an investment.

Now, I don’t want to criticize larger businesses, as they often do very well, but I want to focus on how communicating values can make doing business with a smaller businesses more desirable for clients.

Defining value WITH your client

For me, the first step when taking on new projects is to determine what value they believe they are bringing to their clients. I find that it’s a great question to see how they look at their own company, their product, and how they relate to their customers/users. More often than not, this is the response I get:

“Value? What do you mean? We have a great product and we want people to pay for it!”

Obviously – don’t we all? When we define why they should pay for your product over your competitors, the conversation changes. You are no longer talking simply about what a great product it is, but how the client interacts with it, how vital it becomes to their daily experience, and use this information to figure out how it can be improved. With what the client values LEADING the conversation, the product turns out MUCH better.

How does this value concept apply to us small business owners?

Perhaps it’s the start of the new year or that I’m rethinking my visual identity, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what value I bring to my clients. As I transition from Le Petit Garcon – my old company – to just Anton Sten, it is a convenient moment when I can think deeply about what values I bring to my clients as a small business.

Just as I take the time with my clients to help them look at how their clients value them, I also have to look at myself and my business and the values I provide to them. Take some time to understand how your clients see you and how you can improve how they value you.

Personally, I have a background in design but also an education (and keen interest) in business management. Combine this with my interest in technology and it’s (now) endless possibilities, I think we’re set for a great start for a user experience designer. UX design is so much more than redesigning a page or two. It’s a mix of understanding technology, business, design, conversions, and psychology.

Don’t get me wrong, there are agencies out there where you can get really talented user experience designers as well – some with backgrounds similar to mine. However, what sets me apart and defines my value to the client is my singular focus on their product utilizing the experience that I am able to clearly define.

Be the butcher

Think about a butcher (or a fruit-market for our vegetarian/vegan friends) and then think of a supermarket. Is the meat you’re buying at the butcher really better than the meat at the supermarket? Is the variety that much broader? Are the prices cheaper? In most cases, no. Yet, there is something that appeals to the customer about buying meat from the butcher, fruits at the market, and fish from the fisherman down at the port. What is that? It’s perceived value.

You know if you go to the butcher, then your needs are going to be taken care of in a specific way. That you will be seen standing at their counter and his/her full attention will be on taking care of you. There is no hidden agenda from corporate telling him what products to push or what their bottom line needs to be. Their focus is on providing you with a great product and taking pride in their work. One bad customer experience and their reputation can be demolished.

All successful small businesses understand this formula. I know that my flexibility, skillset, and having no desire to sell them solutions they don’t need keeps clients coming back. Being a freelancer makes this possible. I don’t have to advertise – I promote my business as the butcher promotes his: by giving his clients the best possible product at a reasonable price and always with a friendly smile on his face. 🙂

Moral of the story?

Value equals happy clients. Be the butcher.

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