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March 2017
| Issue #7

Marketing an outcome, not a practice

By Anja Ebers

I think I’m not the only one having a hard time marketing my services as ‘facilitation’. And this is only partly due to the fact that the term is rarely known in German :)

End of last year, my fatigue to explain what a facilitator does and why it’s worth a certain day rate coincided with an inspiring meetup and the request of a client to help in a change project. As a result, I’m experimenting with a new way to market my services.

Change of perspective

I was inspired by Lydia Schültken, a business consultant and coach, who helps companies to build a new and better organisational structure and culture with Workhacks. Lydia markets her services on a monthly subscription base.

In that framework she helps her clients to identify the most powerful “hacks“ to change the organisation in a participatory way, and she supports during the implementation of a hack. I did a brief interview with Lydia to find out more:

Is it difficult not to discuss day rates and the time you invest into your service?

My clients are looking for an outcome which has a certain value for them. My approach is not to download input on them in lengthy sessions but to enable them to identify the most effective measures to change their organisation. Most of my clients are entrepreneurs – owners of smaller start-up companies – and they are used to paying for a result. The time I had to invest for that end is not relevant for them.

What made you package your offering in that way?

Change cannot be outsourced and takes time. That’s why I’m offering to be a companion on that journey. I worked with other consultants and felt a growing unease with their tendency to sell follow-up projects. Like that, you weave dependency into a relationship, which is counterproductive for the establishment of self-efficacy - something I am striving for.

Re-packaging

This inspired me try a new approach for an incoming change project. The major change in my offer was shifting from ‘what and how’ to ‘the value I bring’. Or metaphorically: Shifting from explaining what a gardener does to the fruits of her work.

I highlighted desired outcomes that were natural links to my work. I ended with a description of my role and the qualities I would add as their facilitator. For example, designing a participative environment with a focus on solutions, not problems. And I included a sum for facilitating each phase.

This resonated better than my usual offer – at the moment two other teams in that organisation are interested to embark on a similar journey.

I have the impression that with more and more organisations aspiring for participatory, self-organised structures, our business is about to change. We are no longer the ones being called in for that workshop out of the norm but we could become the role models and coaches for the development of a new code of work or operating system.

I’m planning to experiment with packages such as “Meeting Culture” for chronic participatory challenges in organisations and would love to continue the conversation within our association how we market our service in the future!

Members’ input

Our call out to IAF members for more repackaging ideas got many responses. Most responses pointed in the direction of discounts for bundles - giving a discount for returning clients or for a series of workshops. Gary Austin from Circleindigo: “We just tell clients that we have a ‘bundle’ package price if they are interested or if the client tells us they need more than one session. We don’t explicitly state it anywhere.”

The scaling of services (e.g. basic, advanced, premium) is another strategy when it comes to packaging of facilitation services. Paul Brand of Risk Solutions: "We now tend to work on a sort or menu pricing, which helps regular clients better define what they want from us. We make this super transparent and it seems to work. The real challenge is if the client says they only want the basic design and delivery, sticking to that, doing it well, and ensuring the client carries the rest of the load, but not in a confrontational way." 

Sample facilitation packages