I installed the furnace and HVAC system in our house. It was a solid 3 – 4 months of working weekends.

Here in Portland, there is massive demand for skilled blue collar workers and not enough supply. The consequence is that it’s common to pay three to five times what you would in another city and still have the work poorly implemented.

Hiring a HVAC company seemed riskier than doing the work myself.

One of the things that stood out for me in the research I recently completed on marketing channels for digital agencies was that most work was referral based.

I already knew that referrals were a significant source of most agencies’ work- but that has never been my experience. It was eye opening to see how many referrals occurred, how they happened, and the impact on pricing.

An inference I draw from this is that clients view agencies the same way I was looking at HVAC companies: high risk. People don’t look for referrals for services that are low risk- you just buy them.

If we sold oil changes like Jiffy Lube, our marketing might be completely focused on pricing and trying to get people to try us. No one asks their neighbor, “Do you know a good oil change shop?”

As service providers, that means that we need to emphasize tactics that lower risk to our clients. In our marketing, that might be case studies and testimonials and in our sales that might be starting with small engagements.

Beyond the implications for my business model, any business needs to fit into its environment.

There are ramifications to what you offer and who you offer it to. The better your business takes these into account, the easier it is to land customers and grow.

Featured image is the world’s first jigsaw puzzle by John Spilsbury. He created it in 1766 to teach geography. Used under CC0