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Value Ladder: the Ultimate Creative’s Guide

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I’m gonna have to ask you to stop what you’re doing. Okay, don’t stop reading my guide on the value ladder.

Stop sending your dream clients on a wild goose chase to hire you.

Okay, I know you don’t think you’re doing it, but the truth is that it happens more than you think. I can guess most of us have done it. We’re so excited to grow that we do whatever we think it takes to get that client in the door.

Take it from me — the recovering hot-mess octopus. Keep the structure simple and be your dream client’s compass. Guide them down a path that solves the pieces to their biggest puzzle. Before I tell you what the Value Ladder is and how to use it, you need to identify ONE BIG THING…

Until recently, I thought in order to have a successful business, I needed to have a lucrative service. Simple, right? … until my copywriting service didn’t get booked solid and I panicked. I added content writing… then SEO… and then web design… consulting… and more and more until I had an ah-ha moment. I was confusing the heck out of my audience (and myself!). And an old marketing phrase goes like this:

a confused mind will always say no.


Quote: A confused mind will always say no.

I was so focused on trying to decide what my Signature Offer was that I completely bypassed the ONE BIG THING I needed to address: what PROBLEM am I trying to solve for my dream client?

Here’s what my business looked like before:

Lots of random services, lots of irrelevant social media posts, lots of nail-biting downtimes.

Here’s what it looks like now:

Streamlined copywriting and web design services to help creatives launch with confidence AND coming soon, an educational wing to help creatives plan and create marketing content in batches. I want to help my creative friends get out of their sleep-deprived, hair-on-fire-busy grind and find balance. Problem: identified!

So if you know what specific problem you are solving for your clients, then you can move on to working through your Value Ladder (not in 1-5 order, though!). I recommend mixing it up like die-hard Star Wars fans do.


Feeling Lost?

If you’re still stumped and can’t figure out what problem you want to solve or your big purpose in life, I highly recommend reading Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and Find your Why. So page-flippin’ good.



Let’s work with some basic examples and how they fit into the value ladder from real-life professions in our creative industry and their dream clients’ problems:

  • Photographer example: a couple may face the problem of needing someone to reliably capture the special moments on their wedding day in a way that fits their personality and aesthetic style.
  • Educator example: a new creative entrepreneur may face the problem of not knowing much about business principles, though they have mastered their craft.
  • Artist example: a homeowner may face the problem of needing to decorate a space in their house yet doesn’t want to buy something from a big box store.

 

Signature Offer

Value Ladder Step 4

Let’s start with the big one… the Signature Offer. What is the one big service, one big course, or one big event you can offer to solve the vast majority of the elements within your dream client’s big problem?

  • Photographer example: full-service wedding day photography and detailed editing.
  • Educator example: comprehensive business basics course.
  • Artist example: custom wall or sculptural art.

It’s likely you already know your signature offer inside and out, so I won’t go into too much detail on how to decide what to do or how to price it appropriately. But I do want to take this opportunity to remind you to check your alignment periodically. Ask yourself: is what you’re offering in alignment with the problem you want to solve AND your skills and interests?

 

Loyalty Offer

Value Ladder Step 5

Next, we’ll dive into the Loyalty Offer. This is the one where you hang onto your precious clients/new BFFs and continue to serve them in other ways. Loyalty offers can look completely different from one another and you can get super creative here. Don’t feel like you can’t make more than one loyalty offer — shower your clients with love and support, always.

  • Photographer example: invite your couple to join your exclusive free Facebook group where they can build community and you’ll post exclusive offers on future photography sessions (early signups, discounts, etc.).
  • Educator example: invite your past students to attend an alumni retreat or participate in an up-leveling mastermind.
  • Artist example: offer digital versions of their custom artwork to be printed on notecards, textiles, etc.

Your goal here is to encourage signature clients to stick around and see what other bonus amazingness you offer. They may have had the entirety of their original problem solved by this point, but now you are opening a loop and helping them see a new problem they may have — an “I didn’t even know I needed that, but now I’ve gotta have it” kind of thing. The Loyalty Offer can be ongoing, in a $50-200/month range average.

You will continue to serve and inspire them in big ways, but now they’re in a position where they may be interested in helping you out too. Here is where you can offer affiliate/referral programs.

Intro Offer

Value Ladder Step 3

Now we need to take a few steps backward in the value ladder. Think back to your signature offer and how it probably solves 75% of the pieces of their problem. The intro offer, tripwire offer, and freebie offer are before that. If we want to get technical and mathy, let’s say the Intro Offer will solve the 10% of the puzzle right before the Signature Offer. The Intro offer is the tipping point when someone is on the fence and will likely decide whether to invest in your Signature Offer or not. This offer might be in the $100-500 range.

  • Photographer example: engagement-only or other one-time session.
  • Educator example: one-off coaching call.
  • Artist example: video-format interior design consulting session, going over art placement and pairings.

It’s tempting to brush this step off as unnecessary or too much work, but helping clients through this stage may give them the confidence they need to hire you and become your biggest supporter in the long run.

 

Tripwire Offer

Value Ladder Step 2

We’re heading backward again to #2, the Tripwire Offer. It’s the first paid offer in the journey, but nothing too wild and crazy. This offer might be in the $5-50 range. I’m going to say it should solve another 10% of the pieces to your client’s puzzle and with the low price point, you can guess it can be an easy yes! Your goal is to establish credibility and help your dream clients get to know you (ever hear of that know-like-trust factor?).

  • Photographer example: an “ultimate guide” to planning (and surviving) the wedding day
  • Educator example: in-person or virtual workshop covering one hyper-specific topic
  • Artist example: a printed and shipped version of the downloadable freebie

With this one, you’ll want to make your invitation right when your dream client takes you up on your freebie offer, noting urgency if you’d like (while you’re here…, one time offer…).

 

Freebie Offer

Value Ladder Step 1

The last (and also, kind of first) one is the Freebie Offer. This is the offer that helps your dream client through the first 5% of their problem. THIS is where I notoriously got into my squirrel brain and thought up all the potential freebies I could hand out. The more the better, right?! Well, not exactly. It’s 100% okay to have multiple types of freebies, but they all have to play nicely together in the metaphorical sandbox. For me, I have created this awesome swipe file for Five email subject lines you can use today.

  • Photographer example: a must-have vendor interview checklist: what to ask before hiring a wedding pro
  • Educator example: an email or social media challenge to help them take the first steps in launching their business
  • Artist example: a quiz helping them define their decorating style

With a freebie, it’s important to remember what you’re trying to get in exchange for the value you provide: their first name and email address. Don’t skimp out on quality here just because it’s not a paid offer. After all, this will likely be someone’s first impression of your business. Do it well… always.

 

Conclusion

Be the Dumbledore to the Harry… the Yoda to the Luke… the Gandalf to the Frodo (yeah, I’m a nerd, okay?). Always aim to lead your dream clients down a smooth path toward their version of success. The Value Ladder starts with the Freebie, which is a no-cost lower-value offer. Then as the value goes up, the cost goes up — from Tripwires and Intro offers to Signature services and loyalty programs.

Tap here to download the printable PDF worksheet that goes along with this Value Ladder guide.

 

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