Worth Every Penny: Build a Business That Thrills Your Customers and Still Charge What You're Worth

Worth Every Penny: Build a Business That Thrills Your Customers and Still Charge What You're Worth

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by Sarah Petty, Erin Verbeck

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A revelation for small business owners: creating a profitable business is possible without getting into a slash-and-burn price war with your competitors.
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A revelation for small business owners: creating a profitable business is possible without getting into a slash-and-burn price war with your competitors.

Editorial Reviews

Seth Godin

“The breakthrough definition on page 8 will pay for this book all by itself. The rest is worth even more. If you run a small business, I hope you’ll read this book.”
John Jantsch

“This is a business book that isn’t filled with theory or fluff. It lays out a proven way of running a small business that will show you how to get every penny you’re worth.”
Anita Campbell

“Sarah and Erin have written a guide to help you create and operate the business you’ve always dreamed of—one where you can charge what you’re really worth!  A must-read for every small business owner.”
John R. DiJulius III

“Petty and Verbeck clearly demonstrate how any business that follows their blueprint can make price irrelevant by creating an extraordinary customer experience.”

Product Details

Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
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6.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)

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Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60832-277-0

Chapter One

Why Boutique Businesses have to Get Branding Right


That's an understatement.

Years ago, you could go to your corner grocer and ask for flour. The grocer would scoop it out of a big bin for you and put it into a paper bag. There were no brands to choose from. There was no differentiation even between different types of flour. Products were commodities.

Once brands were introduced, the world changed. Now you have a choice on what type of flour you want. One brand is made locally, from farmers you know and trust. Yet another brand donates a percentage of its profits to a charitable cause you support. And yet another brand uses pesticide-free wheat. Now you can have a product that means something to you, and you are willing to pay more for it because of the brand. The brand now stands for something more than just the flour in the bag. As a consumer, you have choices.

Being a boutique business, your brand is fundamental for your survival. It's critical to charging what you're worth, because as you'll learn later in the book, you're going to be charging more. If you want to stop discounting, you must build a strong brand. Without it, you might as well start dropping your prices today. A disjointed brand attracts price-sensitive buyers. Like sharks circling wounded prey, cheap consumers can sense a brand that is limping along and will push for lower prices. As soon as you start making decisions based on the wrong consumer, your perspective as a business owner gets skewed. And that's when you feel the mounting pressure to discount.


Branding is a smudgy term that changes depending on who you ask for a definition. Think of it this way. Imagine one client, friend, relative, or neighbor who thinks you are the absolute bomb at what you do—they think you are the smartest, or most talented, or most creative, or most gifted person in your craft. (As a rule of thumb, you must exclude your mother from your list, simply because all mothers think their kids are the bomb. And, let's be honest: mothers applaud when their children poop.) Okay, got that fan in mind? Can you envision how he or she perceives you? it's that person's perception of you—the way you shine in his or her mind—that you want to expose to everyone who could be an ideal client. This is your brand. It's how people feel about you. It is the feelings conjured up when someone mentions your name or that of your business. It's like a dog whistle; it signals to your ideal client that you are just right for them.

Monster companies, like apple, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, and FedEx, have very deep brands. Their brands are seen, felt, touched, and heard all over the world. And, although you may not believe that you have to pay as much attention to your boutique brand as these companies do, we beg to differ.

Being boutique, your brand has to be more dialed in than the brands of the big-box stores, because one mistake can leave you unrecognizable. It is easy for the gigantic companies to overcome one misstep—they have zillions of impressions in the marketplace. One misstep (alienating their core customer base in a marketing piece) is a drop in a very large bucket. Big brands have the resources to shout from the mountaintops.

But we only have a little megaphone that can't be heard past the end of the block. That's why we have to make sure we get it right. We have a smaller budget, limited reach, and lower frequency, so when we make a branding mistake, it can cause a lot of harm. The stakes are higher for us because we are smaller. every misstep is a big splash in your small pond.


When I first started charging for my passion of photography I, like many of you, didn't understand how to charge for something that I loved to do anyway. I was guessing at pricing, charging my photography clients $75 for thirty-six hand-printed black-and-white proofs. Between the cost of film, processing, and printing, I was barely breaking even if the client didn't place an additional order. I was banking on the fact that people would love my photography and order more. After I had two clients in a row come to me thrilled about my work and gushing about what I did and then not place an order, I was frustrated. I learned from talking to my happy clients that I was earning the reputation of being a fantastic value—people could invest a little and get a lot. Then, two weeks before I went full time and opened my studio, I attended my first Professional Photographers of America convention. I learned about cost of sales, pricing, and how to sell. I realized that, because I was underpriced, people were not seeing me as a brand worth paying more for; to them, I was just a photographer. To get the prices I wanted, I needed to create a brand that would justify the profitable prices I wanted to charge.

I knew I didn't want to be a commodity, so I quickly refocused. I continued to insist that I would not diminish my passion and dedication to perfection by ever sending out a coupon. I decided to create a dynamic promotional piece to showcase my style, my work, and my love for photography. This piece had to communicate my passion for what I do so that I could attract the right consumers—ones who loved what I did and weren't lured in by a cheap price. Nobody in my market specialized in the whimsical, playful style that I had created to photograph babies and toddlers. These were the things that had to be communicated in my promotional piece. Hard-selling my services wouldn't have connected with the customers I wanted to attract on an emotional level. The people who loved the images in that promotional piece wouldn't care about price. They would connect because I had tapped into an emotion or desire.

You can check out this promotional piece at worth everypennybook.com/promotionalpiece. It opened four times. Each flap had minimal copy but oodles of emotion, making a deep connection with the prospect. And, instead of telling the world that I was a great photographer through cumbersome self-promotional wording, I showed them that I would dump all of my energy into creating something magical for them to hang in their homes, giving them warm-fuzzy feelings for years to come. The promotional piece made a massive impact upon receipt by parents of new babies. The first week I mailed it, a new client came in and ordered twice as much as my previous largest order. A steady stream of new clients followed.

The right clients were calling consistently, and I was showing steady growth. Referrals were starting to come in as well. However, it was hard to measure the impact my efforts were having on my brand. How long would it be before people would look at my work and immediately know that I had become more than simply a photographer?

Fewer than six months after mailing that first promotional piece, my husband and I listed our own house for sale. During an open house, a young woman, toddler in hand, stroller in front, and huge diaper bag on arm, walked through the front door, pointed at the portrait on the wall, and blurted, "Is that a Sarah Petty!?"

She was excited. she had recognized my work immediately. My brand meant something to her.

My initial response to her spirited excitement was embarrassment. I was speechless. I was seconds away from a reaction, but had no idea what it would be—laughter, hysterical sobbing, puking? This young woman was, by all definitions, my ideal client. And she was thrilled to see my work.

That was the day I realized that my brand had meaning to at least one person. And it reinforced my belief that building a strong brand would continue to help me attract clients who were willing to invest more so that I could continue to create the time-intensive, magical experience and powerful images that would blow them away.


Being a boutique business, your brand needs to be stronger. You have the opportunity to make people fall in love with your brand, thanks to the enthusiasm, personal flair, and individual attention you present to each of your clients. Even with your limited resources, you can beat big companies at the branding game because these power-players will never be able to offer something to their clients that you can offer—you. You are an integral part of your brand—the one that's built on your passion. You carry the brunt of the load. Your distribution might be slower than a big-box competitor, your marketing budget might be restricted, but your prices shouldn't even be in the same ballpark as the big-box stores. When your brand exposes you and your talents, customers will choose your company over and over and over again.

Sue Thompson, owner of The sue Thompson Gallery, in Springfield, Illinois, got a firsthand demonstration of how highly people in her community value her brand. She offers art, handcrafted jewelry, and other one-of-a-kind items. And she's built a strong brand—so strong that her hand-painted, store-branded bags are coveted. A customer asked sue to exchange a gift she had received from a friend. Happy to oblige, sue opened the store-branded bag to find a product she had never carried. The gift-giver had hoped some of Sue's brand reputation would rub off on a gift bought elsewhere. Now that's a strong boutique brand!

Big brands need to spend a lot of money to get you to be loyal to them. As a boutique business, you have the opportunity to get that loyalty immediately—through one meaningful conversation, one unforgettable, earth-shattering experience, or one product that a customer couldn't possibly find anywhere else.

Your goal is to build a strong brand so you can charge more. You want your customers to be so impressed with your brand that they tell all their friends about you. You want your brand to give people a reason to shop, do business, or even wish to do business with you in the future. You want your brand to be so strong that people are willing to spend more money with you. You want them to do business exclusively with you, and complain that every other company isn't as fabulous as yours. It's about people being so excited that they talk about you and invest with you—that's the ultimate goal.

* * *


1. Take out a sheet of paper and write down what your biggest fan thinks about your business. What's the coolest, most special thing about what you do? That should be the core of your brand.

2. Reach out to your ten biggest fans. Ask them what the coolest, most special thing is about what you do. Does it match what you said above? If not, you have some rebranding work to do, which we'll share how to do in chapter 3. If yes, great job! Now you'll learn more about how you can promote that.

Chapter Two

Boutique Brand essentials

WE ALL HAVE THOSE MAGICAL moments in life when we discover bliss. Erin had one when she stopped into cupcake Joe's while in Portland, Oregon, on vacation and discovered a decadent chocolate cupcake. She was instantly hooked. And, four years later when she returned to Portland on a business trip, she knew she wasn't going to leave town until she stopped at cupcake Joe's.

We've all found those obscure little shops that provide something amazing—they sit in the corner of our minds somewhere as a symbol of possibility. They show us how scrumptious chocolate cupcakes can be, or how completed we feel finding that obscure item that feels like it was designed specifically for us.

What happens when those special things change? What happens when you return to those businesses with an expectation, and you find a stale selection of cupcakes, a rude employee, fingerprints on the front door and the glass case, and crumpled-up receipts scattered around the counter? If this happened even once, Erin probably wouldn't stop back in on her next trip to Oregon. (Fortunately, this wasn't her experience, and she'll be going back next time she's in town.) Basically, you, as a customer, lose your loyalty to that business. The brand—in other words, the way you feel about the business—changed.

Failing to get every single piece of a consistently mind-blowing experience right is where many small businesses fail when it comes to branding.

When Erin and I worked at an advertising agency, we regularly saw companies come in with inconsistencies in their brand. Most of what we saw was directly related to each company's identity.

Clients would bring in their advertisements, their promotional materials, and other branded items to our first client meeting to give us a chance to see where they had been. Sometimes we'd see five variations of a logo being used simultaneously (some of them were even clean, well-designed logos, but the variations still created inconsistencies). Or we would see numerous fonts within a logo or haphazard color schemes. Even the slightest change to a logo creates inconsistencies in identity and brand. It creates a disconnect with customers and prospects because of all those little inconsistencies, whether it's a sloppy logo or a disorderly bakery counter. And, this is also where the greatest opportunities exist for boutique businesses to beat their discounting competitors and charge what they're worth.

Your brand is worth more to the long-term success of your company than most other things. Don't hand it off just because you don't know how to manage it. You have the ability, unlike your thrifty competitors, to directly oversee the management of your identity and reputation with every single impression.

The bottom line is, your identity and brand are worth protecting. a strong brand creates consistency and a feeling of trust among your customers. It creates immediate recognition of your business.


The concept of building a strong brand—a brand that allows a boutique business to charge what it's worth—seems unattainable to many small business owners. However, by focusing on five simple points you can begin to build the foundation of a strong boutique brand.

1. Your Identity: how do people recognize you and your company? Think about it this way: the identity of your business is like your face. It's how people recognize you and know they can trust you. Your identity is more than just a logo. It's everything about your company, from your logo to your signage to your marketing pieces to how your location looks (if you have one) and your website. It's the foundation on which you build your brand and is truly the most important thing you have. So, your identity is how you look, and your brand is how people feel about you. If you change your face, people will not recognize you or immediately be able to determine what you stand for. Inconsistency in your business identity—a different logo in every application, mismatched fonts, or varying messages—can weaken your brand in an instant. Customers won't recognize you and all the goodness you offer—the experience, the service, the customization, and the relationship—if your identity is marginalized, scattered, or conflicted. Your identity is the glue that holds your brand together. here's the bottom line: you can't build a strong brand on a weak identity.

As a boutique business, you need to commit to building a strong brand, and that starts with your identity. We know that it's easier said than done. Many of you have tried this before. You've tried to improve your identity by having a better logo designed—with fancy new fonts and graphic elements that you think will draw more attention—but the problem is, slapping a new coat of paint on a cracked wall doesn't fix the problem; eventually, the cracks start showing again. In the next chapter, we'll show you how to fix a broken identity.

2. You Can't Please Everyone: If you aim to please everyone, you won't excite anyone—you become washed out and stripped of your personality. You can't fill every niche. You can't offer inexpensive, fast, customized, detailed, high-end, and everything else in between. Think about how generic some political figures become during elections because they want to please everyone. They have to appeal to the masses to get elected. As a boutique business owner, you don't. so avoid the trying-to-please-everyone trap.

3. Your reputation: if your reputation, personal or professional, is questionable, you risk losing the love and trust of your customers. As a boutique business owner, you must always have the highest integrity. It means that you pay attention to each detail of your offering, your identity, your attitude, your relationship with the public, and the outcome of every interaction and transaction. Your personal reputation, unlike the reputations of the leaders of most big chain stores, plays an enormous role in developing and strengthening your boutique business brand. Focus on your reputation. Manage it. Tweak it. and pay attention to it.


Excerpted from WORTH EVERY PENNY by SARAH PETTY ERIN VERBECK Copyright © 2012 by Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Anita Campbell
Sarah and Erin have written a guide to help you create and operate the business you've always dreamed of—one where you can charge what you're really worth! A must-read for every small business owner. (Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends)
Seth Godin
The breakthrough definition on page 8 will pay for this book all by itself. The rest is worth even more. If you run a small business, I hope you'll read this book. (Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur)
John Jantsch
This is a business book that isn't filled with theory or fluff. It lays out a proven way of running a small business that will show you how to get every penny you're worth. (John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine)
John R. DiJulius III
Petty and Verbeck clearly demonstrate how any business that follows their blueprint can make price irrelevant by creating an extraordinary customer experience. (John R. DiJulius III, author of What's the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience)

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