Captain’s log, stardate 20181108
Things you could do for $500
Sent by Jonathan Stark on November 9th, 2018
Thanks to everyone who sent in a reply to yesterday’s question. Here it is again in case you missed it:
How would you respond if your best current client sent you an email that said: “We’ve got $500 left in the budget that we need to spend before the end of the year. What could you do for us for that amount?”
The question is tricky for two main reasons:
- Low dollar amount—$500 is a very low dollar amount for most of the people on this list whose primary income comes from offering professional services. Accepting this little amount from your best client for services that you normally provide to them would likely devalue your work and/or damage the relationship by behaving in an uncharacteristically transactional way.
- No direction—The client has provided no direction on what they want you to do, or what outcome they would like you to help them achieve. It’s probably a fairly trivial amount of money for them and for you, so the idea of even having a meeting to discuss business goals or possibilities wouldn’t make much sense. You have to propose something to them without discussion.
In the fifty or so replies y’all sent in, several patterns cropped up. Here are the ones that I liked the most (and that were sent in by multiple people):
- Dinner with senior leadership - e.g., “How about I invoice you for a strategy meeting, and then take you, Alice, and Bob out to dinner at $fancyRestaurant to discuss opportunities around $specificTopic the coming year. Sound good?”
- Redirect to the project itself - e.g., “How about we put it toward the marketing campaign we’re working on... do an iPad giveaway, spend it on FB ads, etc?”
- Redirect to the project team - e.g., “Actually, your team has been busting their butts on the project... what if we used that money to take them out for drinks or have lunch brought it?”
- Donate to charity - e.g., “I know we both care deeply about $cause... how about I match you and we donate $1000 to them?”
- Diagnostic unrelated to current project - e.g., “While we’ve been working on the warehouse project, I happened to notice that the accounting team is doing a lot of manual data entry. How about I do a workflow diagnostic and make recommendations for optimization and automation?”
- Beta test a workshop - e.g., “Funny you should ask... I’m putting together a workshop on $topicOfInterest. I’m planning to charge $5000 for it eventually but if you’d be willing to send 5 employees to participate in an initial session, I’d be willing to do it for $500 as a beta test. How does that sound?”
- Sponsorship - e.g., “Sponsorships for my podcast/newsletter go for $1500 but if I could invoice you for $500 and slot you into the next unsold spot. What do you say?”
- Bulk book purchase - e.g., “For that amount, I would be happy to give you 10 signed copies of my book to gift to friends who are into $bookTopic. You can email me the contact info and I’ll ship them, or I can send a big box to you to distribute.” (Disclosure: Okay, this one’s from me. Nobody sent it in... but someone should have!)
The key to this puzzle is that you want to offer something to the client that is different from what you normally do for them. You want it to be something out of left field. Maybe something that they aren’t even aware that you offer or are capable of. Otherwise, you risk devaluing your current engagement. Bonus points for offering something that gives you indirect benefits, like:
- Deeper relationship with client leadership
- Branching into other departments within the client organization
- Getting beta feedback/testimonials on a new offering
- Powerful word-of-mouth/referrals from books given as gifts
NOTE: If you had a hard time coming up with anything you could do for your best client for $500, my guess is that you only offer one thing. A product ladder with a single rung... and it’s the top rung, hovering high above the ground. You might want to diversify a bit by filling in some rungs lower down.