In a recent post I discussed different business models for service-based businesses – specifically those that would work for coaches, consultants, and other experts.
I want to go a bit deeper now and talk about the 5 frameworks that support those models; because it may not be the business model that’s the problem in growing your business. It may very well be that there’s a problem with one or more of your supporting frameworks.
You can think of these as sub-models if you’d like but I like the term framework better because I think it’s more true to its function – supporting the success of your business model.
According to dictionary.com, a framework is “a skeletal structure designed to support or enclose something or a frame or structure composed of parts fitted and joined together.”
That’s the exact mental picture I get when I think of one of these things.
If your business model is the big picture how you make money, frameworks are the supporting processes to make your model work. Each is its own collection of systems, processes, strategies, and tactics.
5 Frameworks That Support Your Business Model
There are 5 frameworks and I’m going to explain each of them as well as talk about things we introverts need to consider when constructing our frameworks.
How you’ll build a brand, position yourself, and attract potential clients. Marketing is all about entering the conversation your potential client is having inside their head.
Sales involves four elements – educate, elevate, inspire, and invite. At it’s essence, good marketing does all those things quickly and efficiently.
There are costs associated with acquiring clients and our goal is to find the right blend of elements that gets our message out to the right audience, in the way they most want to receive it, and at the time when they’re looking for a solution.
Marketing legend Dan Kennedy would call this “Message to Market Match.”
We run into problems when our message isn’t powerful enough or clear enough.
We choose words that are weak. We don’t clearly address the problem(s) we solve and we tip-toe around the subject.
We’re afraid of being polarizing; and, while we may understand the value of focusing our message so it’s targeted to the needs of a specific audience segment or niche, we’re afraid of doing that because it seems so counterintuitive.
We need more clients, not less.
But when you have a well-defined message that targets a clearly defined population, and that population can relate to you and easily recognize you as a trustworthy authority who can solve the problem they have, you’re easy to recognize as their ideal solution provider.
You’re also easy to refer.
It gives you permission to let go of all the other stuff you feel you have to be an expert at in addition to your core work.
Think in terms of positioning yourself the way a doctor does – a brain surgeon isn’t going to clean your teeth, right?
Of course not. And they’re not worried about the dentist getting all the teeth fixing jobs.
The other problem with creating a marketing framework is there are too many options to choose from.
Marketing frameworks are more than just the stereotypical funnel you hear about or most people talk about. It involves marketing through the entire relationship – taking someone from stranger or potential buyer (where they don’t know you) through their purchase of and delivery of the transformation you help them achieve, to solidifying that relationship to the point where they rave about you, refer others to you, and – if appropriate – return to purchase again or otherwise maintain a positive relationship with you.
A critical piece of the marketing framework is your brand and how you’ll build and maintain it.
Brand building is a conversation for another day but in a nutshell, your brand is the reputation you have in the marketplace and it’s what the marketplace thinks of when they think of you.
Your objective is to become the “go to” person for the problem your audience has and for the outcome they ultimately want.
Oh how we hate this piece, huh? There are lots of reasons we hate selling and most of them are tied to our past – when we’ve been “sold to” or felt manipulated by someone we saw as pushy and “salesy.”
We don’t want to be “that guy.”
But your sales framework has to do with how you’ll invite prospective clients to take action and say yes to working with you once they recognize you’re the best solution provider for them.
If you feel you’re trying to convince people to buy then you’re doing something wrong and / or talking to the wrong people.
This framework also includes elements of client fulfillment – specifically the initial client experience because that’s where long term client relationship begins.
You want to prevent buyer’s remorse – which is their second-guessing their purchase to the point that they decide they want to cancel working with you or return a packaged product.
You’re not focused on persuading them. You want to allay their fears:
- that this is too hard for them
- that they won’t be able to achieve the transformation or outcome you offer
- that going through your process isn’t going to have the payoff you promised and that they dream of
Much of the time this is about their own self-doubt and Inner Critic (who I refer to as Mini Me) screaming its head off because it’s terrified of the Path of Change they’re about to go down.
As much as someone is unhappy with where they are, it can often feel safer to stay in that unhappy place where life is predictable though sad.
That sounds crazy but you’ve probably felt the same way at some point in your life.
When you build your Sales Framework you want to make sure you include steps to help people believe in themselves as much or even more than they believe in your power to help them.
Again, this supports focusing on a narrow audience segment with a problem you can help them fix because all of your “stick” elements should recognize what they’re thinking, what they’re afraid of, and that you not only believe they can achieve what they want but you’ve helped others just like them achieve similar results.
This isn’t convincing as much as it’s calming their fears.
This is different from sales and relates to your offerings – what you’ll specifically offer to clients that earns you money. You’re going to consider what lines of service you’ll offer – coaching, consulting, products, etc. and where those items fit in your business model and money pyramid.
Your Money Pyramid is made of all the ways you generate revenue. Initially you may only have one offering – which is totally fine. At some point you may create books, courses, and packages that are at different price points and that serve different purposes for you and solve different problems that are under the umbrella of the bigger problem you solve for clients.
If you’re a strategic thinker this can cause you some headaches because you can see in your head how you could offer X, Y, and Z programs. And gurus put out tons of messaging convincing you that if you have a “trading dollars for hours” model you’re doomed to a life of stress and misery.
So you end up buying some course or program designed to teach you how to create courses or books but you’re not really ready for those pieces yet because the chances are good your own message and process isn’t well defined.
That doesn’t mean you can’t write a book, start a podcast, or create a course. Sometimes working on those projects can help you think and articulate your POV or document your process. But if you’re trying to build a business based on that and you don’t have an audience yet it can be a frustrating – and expensive – path to go down.
As one of my mentors says, “You have to learn to make money during the day before you can ‘make money in your sleep’.”
This framework includes decisions on the price / value of your offerings and how you structure the price. You may offer flat, all-inclusive prices. You may offer payment plans. Maybe you offer tiered services.
The challenge here is building a brand that supports your pricing.
When my brother decided to ask his then girlfriend to marry him, his only thought was he had to buy the ring from Tiffany’s.
No other brand said “love” to him the way Tiffany’s did.
But Tiffany’s has worked hard to build and maintain a reputation that justifies the premium you pay for that robin’s egg blue box.
Walmart may sell diamond engagement rings but he wasn’t motivated by price and you don’t want your clients to be either. This is why – although it involves a framework all its own – price is very closely tied to marketing and branding is a crucial element that ends up supporting your pricing.
Of course you want to price in a way that doesn’t just cover your bills but that supports your turning a handsome profit.
I didn’t go out on my own to struggle; but that’s just what happened because I priced myself too low and didn’t consider all the time I was working that was uncompensatable / unbillable. So don’t make the same mistake I did.
If you’re already stuck in that trap, it’s time to dig your way out. You likely have a money story going on that’s part of a disempowering pattern. You’ll need to break that to really become profitable and create business that thrives.
Offering / Product Creation Framework
Most former corporate employees (or “corporate escapees” as I refer to us) rarely fully think through exactly what they’ll offer and how they’ll package it. I didn’t and none of my friends or colleagues did either.
This framework speaks to what services you’ll offer and how you’ll deliver those offerings. It also involves how you’ll identify what you’ll offer, the feedback mechanisms you’ll put in place to let you know if your offerings are working, and finally, how to create tangible products from your knowledge capital.
This framework fits in with and supports the other frameworks and ultimately drives success of the business model.
If no one wants what you offer, they’re unwilling to pay for it, or they see it as a commodity you have to decide if you can make effective and profitable changes to the offerings, if you’re trying to sell the wrong service to the wrong people or if you have the right service but the wrong market.
This is often where an outside consultant or coach can provide significant value by spotting problems, opportunities, and value that you’re missing.
Starting and growing a profitable coaching, consulting, or expertise-based brand and business is more complex than it looks.
When you’re a big picture, strategic thinker who believes the need for your service is as obvious as the value of the work you do it can be hard to get clear on these pieces by yourself.
If you’re stuck trying to get your consulting, coaching, or expertise-based business off the ground or break through to the next level of success, do some reflecting on where the problem could be.
If you know what to do but just can’t bring yourself to do it, then there’s something you’re actively resisting. If you’re taking action but nothing’s working, then there’s probably something you’re missing – your message may be off, your market may be wrong or unclear, or you’re not clearly positioned as THE solution provider for your audience.
Or something else.
What Introverts Need to Consider When Planning Their Frameworks
We need to consider three things when we’re building our business:
- Our personalities, including what we’re not willing to do to market, run, and grow our businesses
- Vision for the business and ourselves
- The overall business model
Our personalities. I can’t tell you how many coaches have told me I need to change in order to create what I want. What they wanted me to do was become more like them.
That’s never going to happen.
What I did have to do was recognize there were elements of my personality that were unlikely to change because they’re too entrenched, take too much effort to change, and I have no real interest in changing them.
So what I recognized was I had disempowering patterns of behavior.
Once those became clear to me, I addressed those patterns while also changing my business model and my frameworks. Changing conditioned habits and behavior patterns is easier than making wholesale personality changes. (You can learn more about this theory of change and personality by reading the book, What You Can Change and What You Can’t by Martin Seligman)
Our vision. You hear a lot today about understanding your why. I couldn’t even understand the concept of understanding my why. But what I did understand was that I had a vision (4 of them actually — one for me personally, one for my business, one for the world as it relates to and is impacted by my work, and one for my clients). Once I got crystal clear on the change I was trying to bring about in the world I could then recognize whether what I was doing was going to help or hinder achieving my vision.
And just because conventional wisdom says you have to work to build a big business and get on the Inc 500 list, I’m here to tell you no you don’t.
What you do “have” to do, is unleash your potential. Live your fullest life. Give your best. Support clients to achieve the transformation they long for.
And you can do that by creating a business that fits YOUR definition of success.
Our Business Model. Here’s the first thing I realized was wrong with what I was building and what I was doing. In my post about business models I talked about all the things I hated about the consulting model. I finally gave myself permission to change my model.
When you call yourself a consultant, there are certain types of expectations that go along with that.
And I hated the game playing that went along with it. Plus, the size of the clients I wanted — solo professionals and micro firm owners — didn’t think of themselves as being “big enough” to hire a consultant.
But a coach — that made sense to them and they could see the value in working with a coach.
So as much as I’m really not a true coach I gave up and started calling myself a coach. Because that model was one that fit me.
The most important point is to create a business that brings you joy from how you do what you do to who you serve, and how you get paid.
Do you recognize any frameworks that are missing or not working as well in your business as you’d like them to?