The most important message to nail down when you run a business is what you offer.
This sounds obvious, but it’s also one of the most challenging pieces for most startups and freelancers. When you first start a business, you’re often not sure exactly what you want to offer, which niche you should focus on, or which industry will be most lucrative. So you start out by offering everything — or at least everything someone’s willing to pay you to do.
Over time, as you gain experience, you begin to narrow your services, eventually turning down clients that aren’t the right fit.
And once you’ve clarified in your own brain what it is you offer, the final step is turning that understanding into a clear message you can share with the world.
Some startups manage to nail this from the beginning, and that gives them a running start. Yet while you should aspire to clearly identify and communicate what you offer from the get-go, don’t feel bad if it takes a while to hit the mark. Most new businesses pivot at least once before finding their sweet spot.
It took me several years to figure out exactly what I wanted my company to offer. When I started out as a freelancer, I focused on social media management, but I also provided whatever anyone wanted to hire me for, including building basic websites. I realized pretty quickly that I needed to narrow my services, because trying to learn something new each time a client asked for it meant I was spending way too much time on some accounts. You want to push yourself to learn new skills, of course, but it’s more efficient to keep them within the parameters of your basic services.
Over the last two years, as I’ve scaled and systemized my content marketing business, I’ve identified our specialty as blog management, and specifically, management of high-frequency blogs, those that publish at least a few times a week. (Some of our clients post up to 20 posts weekly.)
I chose this niche for a number of reasons: it’s in high demand, it’s lucrative and scalable, and it utilizes the large network of writers I’ve built over time. But most of all, I chose it because it’s a good fit for my personal skills and (journalism) background, and I enjoy it. Over the last few years, I’ve learned that I prefer both the high-level strategy around creating content for blogs, as well as in-the-weeds editing and optimizing, over the strategy and daily tasks of growing social media channels.
Once I figured this out, the next step was to get that message across — what we offer — through a website. I think we do this pretty well on our new Socialexis website (which was built by my web developer husband). Simply launching that site, which includes our average client budget, helped bring more qualified leads into our inbox. Before we created that site, we got lots of leads, but many were from individuals who wanted help with social media or startups that didn’t have a budget, and that’s not our sweet spot. One of the huge rewards of communicating what you offer is it helps the right people find you.
Still, I wanted to take this one step further and make our services crystal-clear to anyone who’s considering hiring us. So over the last few months, I worked with Fire Starter Videos to create this 75-second cartoon video:
(You can also watch the video on the Socialexis website.)
It’s fun, right? They did an awesome job, and I think it clearly explains what we offer.
While Fire Starter Videos did all the hard work, I weighed in with ideas and feedback throughout the process. Here are a few lessons I learned from this experience:
I’ve written before about how putting systems in place changed my business, and Fire Starter Videos is a perfect example of just how much of a difference this can make. While I don’t know the founder personally, and I only have an outsider’s glimpse of how the company runs, I was impressed with how seamlessly they passed me from one specialist to another. First I worked with a copywriter for the script, then with an actor on the voice-over, then artists for the storyboard, and finally the animation team, who brought it all together.
Throughout the process, Fire Starter Videos was clear about what’s included in their packages — and what’s not. Want a few extra seconds in the video? That costs extra. Want a different voice actor than the ones they recommend? That’s extra, too. While it might sound like they’re nickel-and-diming customers, I appreciated these boundaries. Not only did they help me understand the limits of what I’d paid for, but these rules are likely the reason why this company can keep their costs low.
That’s the real kicker here: It cost about $4,200 to create this video, and now that I’ve gone through the process and seen how much work it takes, I feel like that’s a real steal. I’m willing to bet the reason they can offer such competitive pricing for awesome deliverables is because they’ve systemized their processes and stick to their guns about their packages.
At first, $4K felt like a lot to spend on a video. But when I thought through the goals of this video — to bring in clients — I realized it’s worth it. If we land just one new client from this video, we’ll quickly make back all the cash we spent on it.
When you look at it that way, it’s a no-brainer. Making this mindset shift and feeling comfortable investing in your company doesn’t come easy, but it’s the only way you’ll grow to your potential.
It’s never easy to hand over the reigns of an important project. But throughout this process, I forced myself to trust the artists at Fire Starter Videos to create something awesome that would make my team and me proud.
In some cases, they recommended details that weren’t exactly in line with what I envisioned. Even though they were open to my feedback, I kept reminding myself that they are the experts. They create these videos all the time, and they know what works. So why hold them back from creating something awesome?
I try to take this approach with my team, too, letting them do what they’re good at without getting in the way. But it took practice to feel comfortable with that, and it’s something I still work on every day.
If you have any questions about the process of creating this video, I’m happy to answer them in the comments! I was super impressed with Fire Starter Videos and would recommend them to anyone who’s looking to create an explainer video or cartoon video for your business.