The concept of the productized service has become all the rage and for good reason: online competition is fierce and we’re all battling it out for our dream clients’ attention.
How you present your service offerings matters, because when you look at it from their perspective…
They’re busy, distracted, overwhelmed and they just don’t have the time to figure out how your bulleted list of capabilities is different and more valuable than everyone else’s bulleted list of capabilities.
The traditional way of presenting ‘what we do’ is to let people know the function of our service: we design websites, write sales page copy, provide language tutoring, offer administrative support, consulting or coaching, etc.
Then, we invite people to ask for a quote, calculate how long we think it will take and multiply that by our hourly rate et voilà!
It sounds reasonable, but it’s actually fraught with a lot of problems for service providers looking to attract clients online. The old way of presenting service offerings doesn’t work as effectively as when there was scarcity in the market — now, your dream clients have endless options to choose from.
Not only that, but this way of doing things prevents you from allocating the time you need to work ON your business rather than just in it.
A productized service, in contrast, is fixed in scope, price, and timeline
So in that way, the experience your client has is more like buying a product. They know what they’re getting, how much it’ll cost, and when they’ll get it.
With a productized service, you’re the expert, you’re in charge of the process, and you price your offering based on the value of the result rather than your time.
At this point, you’re probably thinking…
“But! Every client project is totally unique! Every client wants and needs something completely different, how could I possibly present my services that way?”
When you’re solving a specific business problem, they come to you because it’s the result they want. You’re not eating up your precious time re-creating the wheel creating custom solutions depending on whatever they tell you they need.
You (the expert) determine what they need in advance and then design an offer that gives them the outcome they want.
And while every client is unique, your process of guiding them toward that solution is the same each and every time. The more you do it, the better you get, the happier they’ll be, and the more profitable you’ll become. This is the formula for a bullseye offer.
A productized service helps you to overcome these common pitfalls:
#1 Inability to Scale
Your time is finite and there’s only so far you can grow when you’re selling your time. Yes, with experience and proven results for your clients you’re able to command higher fees, but there’s always a cap and there’s always someone faster, better, and cheaper.
#2 Inability to Develop Mastery
When you’re re-creating the wheel with each client and creating custom solutions for them, much of your time is spent doing tasks that aren’t focused on your core competencies.
Being a generalist and being all things to all people means that you’re not able to become a specialist in solving a specific business problem — and specialists who solve specific business problems are always going to have the edge over a generalist, both in the price they can command and the demand for their services.
#3 The Feast or Famine Cycle
For most service providers, it’s very challenging to predict when the next great client is going to come along and pay enough money to keep the lights on. So when we’re presented with an opportunity to book a client, we snatch it, put our head down and get to work.
While we’re busy serving every client that comes along, we forget to do the things we need to do to keep generating new client interest (marketing): “I don’t have time for that, I’m too busy with client work.” (Sound familiar?)
This is feast mode. Feast mode feels great and we allow ourselves to think things like, “It’s always going to be this way!”
But invariably, there comes a day when the work comes to an end and there are no new opportunities to replace it and there’s no system for bringing in new projects because ‘you didn’t have time for that’ and ‘you were too busy with client work to worry about it’.
This? Is famine mode.
And the problem is, any marketing program you undertake at this point is unlikely to bring in new business quickly. Marketing is a long game and it requires consistency to work. The marketing actions you needed to take to have clients pounding down your door today needed to start months ago. But you “didn’t have time” months ago because you were too busy serving clients…
The way to get off the feast or famine roller coaster is to find a way to leverage your time so you can work ON your business rather than just in it.
If you’re putting 100% of your attention on your clients and none on your own, how it’s going to go for you depends entirely on them.
#4 You squander your most valuable business asset – your time
When you’re recreating the wheel with each client project and creating custom proposals to land the gig, the sales process looks like this…
- Initial mails, DMs, Tweets
- Back & forth emails
- Attending meetings
- Sales calls
- Free consultations
- Defining outcomes
- Coordinate with subcontractors
- Research solutions
- Drafting timelines
- Proposal development
- Negotiating terms, contract, payment
- Follow up emails and calls
And then? A few things can happen. If you’re lucky, you’re invited to FINALLY send the bill! Or, you lose the gig to a competitor. Worse, you never hear back — they weren’t serious, they were just curious; kicking tires and “doing research” and now they know it’s not for them.
#5 Puts you in the position of being an order-taker rather than a go-to expert
Imagine for a moment you’re a doctor. Your patient goes to your services page and sees a bulleted list of all the things he can do. He walks into your office and says, ‘Doc, I need a heart transplant and throw in some diabetes treatment too.” And you say, “Sure thing! Can you give me an idea of your budget and when you need it?”
When your clients self-diagnose and tell you what the solution to their problem is and ask you how much it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take, you’ve missed your opportunity to demonstrate that you’re the expert.
How the project is going to go when a client self-diagnoses depends largely on them. They’re in charge of the process, not you — which means if you get a particularly challenging client, you’ll be dealing with lovely things like…
- Scope creep
- Managing unrealistic expectations
- Project delays
- Emailing URGENT! requests on the weekend
- Have I mentioned scope creep?
So you’re always and constantly having to enforce boundaries as you go. No fun.
#6 Trading Dollars for Hours Disincentivizes Efficiency (And it Sucks For Your Clients Too)
The problem with hourly billing is that as you get better, faster, and more masterful at what you do — you actually make less money.
For example, I’ve been a designer for 20 years or so. It may take me a day or two to design three bullseye logo concepts for a client. Twenty years ago, it would have taken me two weeks, and that’s pretty average for a typical designer to estimate for a logo project.
But what matters, the quality of the work or the time spent? If I’m calculating the hours it takes me to do the same job, even if my hourly rate is much higher than a junior designer, I’m still going to make less money.
And frankly? Clients don’t care about hours and they don’t have a grasp of how long things take. What they care about is a result.
A few years ago I hired a copywriter who charged by the hour. What I wanted was a sales page that would help me attract more clients, I didn’t want “hours.” But because she charged by the hour, I was constantly looking at the clock and worrying how much everything was going to cost me.
Rather than relaxing into the process, it was fraught with anxiety. And in the end, I didn’t get the result I wanted and reworked everything myself
Creating productized service offerings is a way to make more money and make clients happier without spending more of your time.
Rather than re-inventing the wheel with each client, with a productized service you can walk them through your process – because it’s your process, you’re automatically perceived as an expert which is automatically perceived as more valuable.
You can deliver results more efficiently, make your clients happier, scale, grow, and profit — and possibly even deliver your offer to more people at once (e.g. group coaching programs, retreats, and workshops, etc.).
To learn more about how you can create bullseye offers and begin productizing your services, preview the first lesson of The Bullseye Offer Formula free.
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.