11.5.2019

How CORE can help you charge over $10k for discovery

Long before there was CORE and a Jose and Chris duo, a good friend of mine, Fabian Geyrhalter, had shared that he was working with David C. Baker (author of The Business of Expertise) as his consultant to help him reevaluate his business.

David charges a flat $10k (plus hotel and airfare) for a 1-day consultation.

I was blown away for two reasons. One: Fabian had agreed to do this without any guarantees. Two: someone was able to earn $10k for one day’s work—what!

I became obsessed with hitting that benchmark as a personal challenge. What would I have to do for someone to see me as worth that amount?

Fast forward, I met Jose and learned about CORE. I thought to myself, this is it. This was the framework I needed to solve big problems for prospective clients (things like marketing, revenue, operations, creating an internal culture, and brand) and start landing higher-paying projects.

Some details to note:

  • The person who authored the CORE framework, Jose, was the one who taught me. The first time I ever saw it was during a real client meeting with Trojan Storage.
  • I quickly saw the benefits of CORE as it applied to branding. For the first time in my life, I saw a direct connection between the craft and the strategy.
  • The idea of becoming an agency (offering advertising, marketing, and branding) seemed like an impossible dream. Now, it was within sight. Of course, the framework, originally conceived to tackle UX and digital product design, would need to be modified to suit my needs.

Patience perseveres.

For the next year, I tried to offer discovery (really, CORE) to many entrepreneurs. Though a lot of them were interested, they either couldn’t afford it or just didn’t see the value. Having seen it firsthand, I knew I would be able to deliver in excess of the $10k they would need to pay.

While waiting for the right client, Jose and I ran a CORE workshop. I focused on user profiles, and Jose handled the brand attributes and the goals/prioritization exercises. Jose had remarked that for someone new to this, I was really good at doing CORE and teaching. Turns out, my 15 years teaching design students and dealing with commercial clients was more than enough “training” and preparation to be a facilitator.

Eventually, I found a client. And, I changed the discovery price from $10k to $30k. How did I get to that number? If I hadn’t been able to sell it for $10k, why did I increase the price by 3x?

If you want better clients, you have to charge more.

The project was a little daunting as the C-suite executives flew from the east coast for a 2-day session just to work with us. I had hired Jose to help me facilitate the session as a safety net. At the end of day one, I had everyone from the CEO, CRO, CMO and CTO giving me hugs. They all felt a sense of validation. Their needs were heard by their respective team. I also helped them “discover” why they weren’t gaining traction with their customers. This was worth the entire price of admission.

The engagement started at $100k and blew up to over $250k as the scope grew. Again, you might be in disbelief that someone who had never sold strategy, let alone do it, was able to sell an engagement of this size.

As we moved into creating deliverables for the client, Jose and I ran our second CORE workshop at our office. I was now teaching the framework.

And the best way to master something is to teach it.

A few years later, and over a dozen paid discovery sessions, we’ve been able to charge over $100k for discovery alone (thanks in large part to the negotiation skills of Ben Burns).

By my account, CORE, had fundamentally changed me, my business, my client’s business, and all the students we’ve taught. It was the catalyst that sparked all the change you all are now a part of.

How CORE helps

CORE is a UX strategy framework. It has components that help you define the brand and write a positioning statement. If done properly, it can produce actionable insights, and at the least, give you (the creative) an opportunity to be more than an “order taker” to the key decision-makers. Like many things, it’s a tool. The tool is a reflection of the person who uses it. Nothing more.

  • CORE is an open framework
  • It’s encouraged that you adapt it for your specific needs
  • It’s not a shortcut
  • It’s not magic, but the results can be magical
  • There are some outdated examples that are included (but do not materially affect how you use it)
  • There are some errors, omissions and typos (again, should not impact you on any real level)
  • Jose is the author. I contributed to it, but I am not the author.
  • The framework I use resembles CORE but is not the same thing
  • CORE will not produce anything. It wasn’t designed to.

Hope this clears up a few things. If you made it this far, I have a few words of wisdom for you: don’t overpromise something you can’t deliver. You don’t need the extra pressure. If you are over your head, reach out and ask for help. I did.

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