The complete guide to productising your services
Are you stuck in the trap of trading your time for money? Read on for the complete guide to building a product-based business by Julia Chanteray, founder of Adventures in Products.
A straightforward way to stop changing your time for money is to start productising your services. But many people get stuck on what they can create, and the process they need to go through.
This guide talks you through the process, step-by-step, so you can change how you work – for good!
The key elements of productised services
Your first step in productising your services is to think through what you currently do for clients and make this into a product. Here’s the process to follow:
- Work out the processes that will best serve your clients
- Distil this down and take out any fluff
- Describe it clearly so that people can easily understand what it is
- Package this together as if it were a product on the supermarket shelf
- Get it in front of the people who might like to buy it
- Put the rest of your marketing effort into ways to encourage people to trust you and your productised service
- Do good work and get repeat business
What are productised services?
Productised services are services that you standardise and sell like a product. Each productised service you offer is clearly defined for the customer and how you provide that service. And productised services usually have a clear price tag overtly displayed, like a box of cornflakes in the supermarket.
Productised services can dramatically reduce the time per client project. You can sell your productised service many times over without all the extra frills of a bespoke service. Doing this starts to break the relationship between your time and money.
Six reasons why productisation is a good idea
I love product-based businesses (including my own) for two reasons. By breaking the link between how much time you spend at your desk and the amount of money you make, you create more freedom in your day.
And you can earn more money because you’re no longer limited by the annoying fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. In fact, introducing productised services into your business means that you can reap these six benefits.
1) You can serve your customers better
Your clients and customers will appreciate the simplicity and transparency of your offering. You can be super clear about what they’ll get, how much it costs, and the timescale. This degree of openness can be a competitive advantage for you straight away. Make it easy for your clients to buy what you sell.
Productising can be a mindfulness technique for how we work with customers. We can bring out the best in how we work, go deeper into what truly matters for clients and continuously improve how we work. I’ve noticed that when my clients work on the processes they use when productising their services, they enhance them and make what they offer to their customers much more helpful.
2) You can get more prospects and higher conversions
When you make the sales process more straightforward and transparent, you increase the number of prospects and conversions.
One client told me that when he introduced just one productised service, a simple discovery session for new clients, his conversion rate went up from 30% to 80 – 90%. Imagine if 90% of people you talk to about doing some work with you signed up! And the best part is that he charged £750 for an extended sales meeting.
3) You can focus on the customers you want to attract
Your productised service might not be for everyone, but you already know that you don’t want (or need) all the customers in all the world. You can focus on finding clients who are a good fit for you. I call this your super niche.
4) Your marketing becomes so much simpler
Marketing for productised services is so much simpler than trying to sell fluff-covered bespoke work. Packaging up your service into a product for a particular group of people means you are 80% of the way through what you need to create your marketing collateral.
You’ve already described all the benefits and features, and you can focus your marketing efforts on getting the word out there.
5) You can increase capacity and work with more clients
When you productise your services, you cut out the unnecessary frills and unproductive elements of running a business.
You might no longer need those “cost of doing business” elements such as sales meetings and proposals. Instead, you can concentrate on doing good work for lovely people. That’s satisfying in itself. Plus, it makes business sense – you have more time to work with more clients.
6) You get rid of the tyre kickers and time wasters
When I pivoted my business coaching to a productised service way back in 2003, I put my prices on my website. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about doing this at the time – I had this silly idea that my competitors shouldn’t know what I charged.
My conversion rate went up dramatically. And then it went up again when I made it even easier for people to get in touch for my “coffee and cake” meeting.
The people who came to me were ready to buy. The time-wasters who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay my prices didn’t get in touch. So I didn’t have to talk to people who didn’t know what business coaching was or that it involves a substantial investment.
Best idea ever.
And they already knew how it all worked because I’d described this on the website.
How to apply the productised services mindset to your business
Once you have the productised mindset, you can use it in various ways. Here are a few ideas.
Done-for-you services (DFY)
This is the simplest form of productised service and the easiest to get going with
Take a look at the work you currently do for clients. Pay attention to the requests you get for types of work – the projects that people specifically ask for can become your introductory products.
Consider the kind of work you love to do. What fits in your zone of genius? And what processes could you delegate or outsource that you don’t enjoy doing? A big bonus of productised services is that once you get going, you’ve got a head start on getting other people to do at least part of the work instead of you. And to make sure that they do it your way, which is often the headache with subcontracting work out.
When you apply these elements, you begin to see how your product can be packaged, so it’s simple for your client to understand. Then you can write a sales page for it, set your pricing, and be in business.
Recurring income productised services
Want to go beyond the done-for-you model and develop more recurring income with your productised service? Work out what your clients might need regularly, and set up your service to give them this on a weekly, monthly or annual basis.
Maybe there’s a productised add-on to your existing bespoke service. You could offer an ongoing maintenance contract, a monthly update or check-in. Or an additional piece of work every quarter. This technique is a simple way to increase customer lifetime value.
Even very simple recurring income productised services can add a substantial chunk of income (and financial security) to your business. I regularly see people who get started with a product-based business with one of these examples, and they’ve already added in an extra 20% of easy turnover.
Simple add-on recurring income productised services you can start right now:
- Maintenance contracts – anything that requires your skills to upkeep, such as websites, technology, systems and processes
- Monthly reporting – keep clients on track with regular reporting such as finances, staff data, analytics and marketing insights
- Access to a dashboard you’ve made from their data, with key recommendations tailored to your client
- Continuing coaching after a training session to embed good habits
- Paid email newsletter with information or ideas your clients won’t find elsewhere. Make this high value by tweaking each email to the specific needs of your client
You’ll notice here that although this is productised, there’s always something primarily for each customer. That’s the key to charging better prices for your products.
Could you run a software with a service business?
Software with a service is very different to Software as a Service. Building and scaling a SaaS product is usually a big undertaking. I don’t recommend it as your first product because I see too many people going this route and failing to get their product to market.
Software with a service takes someone else’s software and adds a productised service that runs alongside it. For example, if you are an accountant and your clients use Xero, you can build a productised service of providing clients with a regular cashflow and management accounts report. You run the reports in Xero and Fluidly, see how the business is going and write a bulletin for the MD.
Or, if you’re an SEO expert, you might want to focus on a recurring quarterly report of suggested blog articles and keywords for your clients. You run the report in your fancy SEO software and produce action plans for your client.
The software with a service approach can be a fantastic cash generator and practice-run for building a SaaS business in a few years.
Consultants – change how you work forever
Most consultant and professional services companies are rich with opportunities to productise. Adopting a product mindset makes you stand out immediately in your field, as many consultancy companies are very traditional and to productise.
“Book me until it’s sorted”
Rather than writing a proposal for a project or a certain number of days’ work, offer to work with a company until you have got them to a particular milestone. You charge a recurring monthly fee (giving you stable cashflow), and then it’s up to you to achieve the outcome. I’m working with a client right now who is using precisely this model.
Or try out paid discovery sessions
Most consultants will offer a discovery session for free. These meetings can take up a lot of your time. Often, you will have done the heavy lifting in that session and worked out in your head what the client’s problem is and how you want to solve it.
A more extended paid-for discovery session put together as a workshop allows you more time and freedom to co-create the solution with the client. By charging for the first session as a productised one-off, consultants and agencies I’ve worked with have found that they are happy to put in the time and effort with the client ahead of a more considerable project. This approach cuts down on time wasters – only people serious about booking you will pay for a discovery session.
When your client pays for the discovery session, they’ve already made a small commitment to working with you. That increases the likelihood that they will want to book you for a much bigger piece of work. The follow-up might also be productised, or it could be more of a bespoke approach.
Coaches – are you still selling hourly engagements?
Coaching services, including business coaching, can be packaged up as a productised service. To be honest, I’m always surprised when coaches don’t adopt this approach and prefer to sell hourly engagements.
What kind of services can you productise?
Productised services can work across different price points, sectors and types of business, from vets to books and technical services to training. The only services that do not lend themselves to productising are the ones where you want to assure your clients that everything is 100% bespoke for them.
I would argue that you might want it to look completely bespoke. But under the radar, you’re using Standard Operating Procedures, templates and automation to make your services into highly efficient products.
Here are a few ideas for you to think about:
- Design – pick one area of design you can excel at (tip, not logos)
- Lead development – cold calling, LinkedIn research, appointment setting
- Automation – setting up email capture, managing ConvertKit, Zapier zap set-ups
- Bookkeeping – do the bank reconciliation in Xero for businesses (tip, keep it simple)
- Landing page design and set-up
- Infographic design
- Guest post requests
- Appointment management
- Data cleansing
The lower end of the market is already saturated for creative services. You’re also competing with freelancers in low-cost countries via Fiverr at lower price points. These folk have already accidentally productised by offering a logo design for a tenner. You probably don’t want to swim in this competitive red ocean.
Think about how your super niche. You can focus on the kind of clients you want to work for, a specific piece of work you love doing. Or pick a service you can do easily but not many other people can. Productised services work very well indeed for specialists and super nichers.
And don’t forget to try to include at least some recurring income with that.
Itching to get started? Here’s a free guide
I want to spread the word about this, and I’m encouraging people to break with the tired old trading time for money mindset. It doesn’t have to be like this.
I’ve made a 16-page Mission Guide to Productised Services to get you started. It’s a productised version of having a conversation with me. It has questions and checklists to help you apply this thinking to your business. You can download your Mission Guide here. It’s free, and I’ll send you some follow-up emails with adventure stories about people who have done this already.
Download your free Mission Guide to Productised Services here now.