Prod­ucts have prod­uct pages, but what do ser­vices have?

Well ser­vices gen­er­ally get some kind of copy describ­ing the ser­vice, but gen­er­ally noth­ing describ­ing the expe­ri­ence of work­ing with the ser­vice provider. Noth­ing that’ll answer ques­tions like:

  • How can I explore the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing with you with­out get­ting a sales pitch or com­mit­ting or even giv­ing you the impres­sion of a commitment?
  • What can I expect at each stage of the ser­vice or project?
  • How much con­tact and review and con­trol will I have dur­ing this time?
  • When can I see the fin­ished work?.

And leav­ing this stuff out of your copy is a fatal mistake.

If you’re sell­ing a ser­vice rather than a prod­uct — or if you’re sell­ing a cus­tomized or per­son­al­ized prod­uct — it’s vital to get prospec­tive cus­tomers as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble with the process of hir­ing and work­ing with you. More impor­tantly, you must get them to imag­ine — in the most invit­ing and non-threatening a man­ner as pos­si­ble — the ben­e­fits of receiv­ing your services.

Peo­ple go only to places they have already been in their minds” — Roy H. Williams

 Now, there are plenty of ways to achieve both goals — get­ting the prospect com­fort­able in explor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing with you AND get­ting them to imag­ine the process of work­ing with you — but my favorite strat­egy for achiev­ing this is what I call a “Men­tal Walk-Through” page, although it usu­ally shows up in the nav­i­ga­tion as some­thing like, “Project Time­lines,” or “Work­ing With Us” or “The Process.”

So here are the..

7 Ele­ments of a men­tal walk­through page:

 1. Point of No Commitment

I orig­i­nally called this the “Point of Com­mit­ment” until I real­ized I had it back­wards: prospects want to know how far into the process the they can go before they have to pay/commit or at least before they get a seri­ous sales pitch. And how con­fi­dent will they be in what they’re buying/getting before they actu­ally have to pull the trigger?

Note that there’s two ways of approach­ing this: a) empha­siz­ing the low-key, “come check us out and see for your­self with no has­sle or com­mit­ment because we’re that con­fi­dent in our value” approach, or b) empha­siz­ing the “I’m in way too high demand to waste time with tire kick­ers, and you’ll need to pay my gate keeper before I even talk with you” approach. Approach A is usu­ally the one taken by the vast major­ity of men­tal walk through pages

2. Phases and Stages

What are the stages to this project or ser­vice?  And why are the stages in the order that they are in?  Also, if you do things a bit dif­fer­ently than oth­ers — because your way gets bet­ter results  — make sure to explain that as part of the Phases and Stages ele­ment in your Men­tal Walk Through. The same thing goes for any spe­cific actions or review peri­ods you include as “hand-holding mea­sures” used to keep the client in con­trol and con­fi­dent.  This is where you can brag about those things a bit.

3. Results and Upsides

How quickly till I see results?  At what stage will I get to see mock-ups or will I notice my page rank improv­ing.  How soon till my child can play a com­plete song on the piano?  When do the var­i­ous indi­ca­tors of progress show up, and how long until I can enjoy the first fruits, and when does the full or final pay­off come.

Peo­ple are impa­tient. Achieve clar­ity upfront on when they can start to see progress, results, mile­stones, etc.

4. Down­sides

Be equally upfront about any dings and down­sides they’ll expe­ri­ence along the way. An expected down­side is way bet­ter than an unex­pected one. So make sure to men­tion when and were down­sides come in and how soon they go away or are eclipsed by the upsides.

If you cre­ate a mess when you knock down a wall for my add-on or rip out my old appli­ances and cab­i­netry for my kitchen ren­o­va­tion, how long till the mess is cleaned up, and how much longer until the new cab­i­nets are in and how much after that until I get my kitchen back?  If I should expect to be sore the next day, let me know.  In fact, let me know how sore and for how long.  If it’s a pro­ce­dure, how long until the swelling goes down or until I can get back to work, and so on.

5. Options and Customization

How many ways can I updgrade to pre­mium options or per­son­al­ize this ser­vice or have it custom-tailored to my needs, and at what points in the process will I see this tak­ing place? Peo­ple who want things the way they want them are often anx­ious to make sure their requests have been taken into account and put into action. They want to make sure the final result is as planned in their mind’s eye. Use this page to put them at ease.

6. Tes­ti­mo­ni­als

Every state­ment you make in your walk through needs  sub­stan­ti­a­tion, just like any state­ment of claim on your site.  If you tell me the red­ness from the laser skin treat­ment will sub­side by the next day or a few hours or what­ever, put a cus­tomer tes­ti­mo­nial to that effect right in the timeline/walk-through.  If you tell me I’ll see the dif­fer­ence in my next energy bill, hav­ing a few tes­ti­mo­ni­als to that effect will help.  This is also a good place to put before and after pictures

7. Audio & Videos

Ever see cool time-lapsed pho­tog­ra­phy or a super-speed video show­ing the grow­ing of a plant or the con­struc­tion of, well, any­thing?  If you can put one of those together, do so.  You can even slow down or pause the action at var­i­ous stages of com­ple­tion to show off ben­e­fits, before & after’s or what­ever else.

I can think of noth­ing bet­ter at mak­ing the prospect feel as if the end result is worth the wait and dis­rup­tion than a time-lapsed or super-speed video. Talk about men­tally walk­ing them through the project!

The Final Result

At the end of the walk-through, you’ll not only have added quite a bit of reas­sur­ance to your prospects, but you will have allowed them to have done busi­ness with you in their mind’s eye. They’ll have already gone there and done that in their imag­i­na­tion, mak­ing them that much more ready to go there and okay it for real. That’s why the end of the walk-through is an ideal place for a “next step” call-to-action.

So if you’re a small or local busi­ness spe­cial­iz­ing in ser­vices or cus­tomized prod­ucts, try cre­at­ing a “Doing Busi­ness With Us” or a “Project Time­line” page. You’ll be sur­prised at how many cus­tomers will quite quickly move from imag­in­ing doing busi­ness with you to actu­ally doing busi­ness with you.

Comments

  1. Mitchell Roth on 02.29.2012

    Excel­lent step-by-step pro­gres­sion! I appre­ci­ate the dissection.

    I just made an appoint­ment for a ser­vice, and this is exactly how their offer was laid out. The appoint­ment is for LASIK eye surgery. Choos­ing who will per­form the surgery was a very impor­tant deci­sion, and I wanted to be sure I make the cor­rect choice. By the time I choose to make the appoint­ment, I was com­fort­able with the decision.

    The one thing I would add after #6 is the guar­an­tee, if you have one. For my surgery, they have a life­time com­mit­ment to repair any prob­lems I may have due to the surgery. If you include a stel­lar guar­an­tee, it may make your offer even more solid and sew up the deal for you.

    Thanks for the insight Jeff!
    Mitchell Roth´s last blog post ..Com­ment on Stop Email Clut­ter Once and For All by Mitch

  2. Geno Gruber on 02.29.2012

    Jeff, you nailed it. I have built some­thing sim­i­lar to guide me while I write but this is much stronger. I will keep this at my side as a check­list. Thanks.
    Geno Gruber´s last blog post ..DEFINING YOUR MESSAGE

  3. Ann Almquist on 06.13.2012

    I am cur­rently in the process of rework­ing my web­site. Your sug­ges­tions sound good, but what should a busi­ness do if they are new and don’t yet have client tes­ti­mo­ni­als to use, or “Doing busi­ness with”? Please email me with your reply.

  4. Jeff on 06.15.2012

    Ann,

    You may want to “give’ your ser­vice away to some peo­ple on con­di­tion of hav­ing them sup­ply tes­ti­mo­ni­als and Word of Mouth.

    You might also use tes­ti­mo­ni­als about your abil­i­tites in cer­tain areas rather than tes­ti­mo­ni­als at pro­vid­ing this or that ser­vice. For instance, if you were start­ing, say, a graphic design ser­vice, you could have some­one give tes­ti­mo­ni­als regard­ing your abil­ity to gen­er­ate graphic ideas effec­tively and quickly, even if that per­son was a for­mer boss or col­league rather than a true-blue client. Or you could have some­one rav­ing about your photo-shop wiz­ardry. That sort of thing. Don’t mis­lead peo­ple, but feel free to get tes­ti­mo­ni­als about com­po­nent skills of your service.

    Apart from that, I think that merely show­cas­ing that you have thought through and cre­ated a pro­fes­sional work-flow will help peo­ple feel com­fort­able in buying.

    - Jeff

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