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The Iceberg Illusion: What people see & what is underneath

I’m not normally one to throw around some Jargon, but the Iceberg Illusion resonated with me, and also it made me think of a lot of discussions I have had recently about knowing your worth.


Let’s jump back a step. I hear you saying ‘What is the Iceberg Illusion?’. To everyone’s disappointment, it has nothing to do with the Titanic. Or with lettuce for that matter. It is ok if you are disappointed about the lack of lettuce in this post. I am as well.





The Iceberg Illusion is where Success is measured by what you accomplished. Kind of like this:

Hey Alana,
This blog post is so informative. I can’t believe you rattled it out over a cup of coffee at lunch time!
It doesn’t ramble or digress. At all.
You must really know what you are doing. I should hire you…”

It's the conversations that frequently end with:


Oh, that much? I saw something similar on Freelancer for $6.50 an hour, so I’m going to go with them. Its seems like a simple task”.

What they see is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.


Below the surface is what makes a successful outcome. It’s the sacrifice – the training, school, university, internships, the eating of your feelings, the fights because someone ate your chocolate you brought to eat whilst cramming for an exam (a grudge you take to the grave).





These are the sacrifices we made to get where we are.


It’s the amount of failures you had. The things you screwed-up and your ability to learn and never do them again. Never. Ever. Again. You know the one.


They don’t see the disappointments.


They don’t see the hard work.


They don’t see the persistence and dedication.


How many years have you spent refining what it is that you do? Educating yourself? Practicing? Training? Upskilling?


You can do a task quickly. Obviously it is because you are awesome. But it is also because of the part of the iceberg that is underwater.


The market will dictate what people are willing to pay for your services and products, true. But think of it more as a price range.


Don't get me wrong, if you are selling for less than you think you are worth - I am not discrediting the fact that you are selling. This is an accomplishment and you should own it, because the practicality is that you have to eat more than just lettuce.


But I want you to start thinking about why you feel you are not valued – and come up with a plan to show people your worth.


Because understanding the value you bring to the table means your clients and customers will understand the benefit of engaging you at a better price.


Some food for thought:

  • If we were having a coffee, could you tell me what distinguishes you from your competitor?

  • If I am about to buy your product online, do I have the same feelings and knowledge as I did when you pitched over coffee?


How do people know what is unique about you if you have not told and/or shown them?


Loyalty is not dead. We consumers are just a bit more picky – and not very forgiving when you break our trust.


Look at the About Me that you use on your website, store, etc. How does it position you? How could it better reflect your values and passions?


This is absolutely easier said than done. Make no mistake. My humble advice is:

  1. Don’t lie. Ever. You will be found out.

  2. Find your voice and speak your truth.




If you feel your elevator-pitch is more of a Shakespearean soliloquy, indulge me by trying a little exercise. Explain what you do to someone, then have them surmise it back to you.


Don’t pick the nice supportive person who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. You know that person who is brutally honest in only the way a family member or close friend can be?


That is the one you want.


Explain what you do and ask them to explain it back:

  • Maybe this little exercise will help you to refine your pitch.

  • Maybe it will tell you that what you think are the interesting points, are not the aspects which stick in someone’s mind. And if not, what is it that stuck - or didn’t? Is this a new angle for you?

  • Maybe it will tell you what aspects you need to clarify better?

  • Maybe it will make you question your life decisions, so please have supportive friend or family member on speed dial and a block of chocolate on hand when you do this exercise.

I may not know you, but feel free to call me with an existential crisis and I will absolutely eat chocolate with you.


In a nutshell, conveying your worth is about how you communicate with your clients. And how you communicate, how you connect with your customers and clients will convey your point of difference. This is your worth.


Often we don’t think a communications strategy is necessary in small businesses.


But it is. Communications is more than talking, and it shouldn’t be in the realm of something only relevant and attainable for Corporations. It starts with the first interaction:

  • How easy is your site to navigate?

  • Does your Ad take me to a relevant page?


It’s the follow-up:

  • Do you send an automatic thank you or confirmation email from a subscription or a purchase?


It’s the personal touches:

  • If you do commission work, how about including a hand-written thank you card?


And finally, my pet hate. Brace yourselves as we are going to get controversial here: Are you on sale all the time?


Personally, I love a good bargain. But If you are always on sale, you might be conditioning your clients that you are not worth your value.


We expect that big stores mark-up their prices so they can then mark everything down and still turn a profit.


Small businesses don’t have those margins. Please don’t sabotage yourself!


Try adding value, instead of discounting.

Hang on, what is that? You have just subscribed to my blog? Naw, you make me blush.
Well, if you purchase my Motivator Package, I will give you an additional hour of follow-up training and set-up assistance.

FYI - I will absolutely do that for you. And also, that is value-adding simply put.


The thing is, we often fall into the trap of thinking that Marketing and Communications are just what we do to get exposure to clients. We think it is all pumping out ads and content.


But I want you to take a minute and think about what happens after a client has connected with you. Could you improve your communications?


Communicate better and show your value, you might find it converts clients in your pipe-line more easily, and you get that repeat business.


In the end, with better conversion rates you can spend less on ads whilst maintaining the same sales rates - at a better price.