For a few reasons I find myself looking at a lot of business websites.
One thing that stands out to me is how often I’m confused by what a company is offering.
You would think that it would be straightforward.
I thought it was just me at first, but I’ve asked a few others about a few websites. I’ll ask the question:
Tell me what this company does.
If it takes longer than 3 seconds or so to figure it out I think it’s too confusing.
There could be a few reasons for the confusion.
The company could be offering too many services. The company could be using too much industry jargon.
But it could also be that the company has more of a service than a product.
A guy I know, Brian Casel, has been a champion of the idea of productizing service businesses. Brian is/was a developer, but he was tired of working by billable hours.
He wanted to build businesses and not be limited by his own time. So he began creating products instead of services.
The whole idea is that you figure out what your customers are really buying and create a package so they can visualize what they’re buying from you.
An hour is difficult to visual. A service can be difficult to visual.
A product is easier to visualize.
Let’s take the web design industry. That’s an easy one.
Some web design companies offer web design services. But is that really what the client is purchasing?
The product is a website.
I’ve been seeing lately some really smart web designers that are finding a way to package the websites they create. Maybe it’s a local business website for $2,000. Plus an additional package of management and updating for $50/month or $500/year.
They also have examples of sites they’ve crated so it gives potential clients something to visualize.
That’s a little bit about productization.
Let’s get into some steps for turning your service into a product.
Step 1. Breakdown Your Service
The first step to going from a service to a product is to start breaking what you do down. Look at the entirety of what you do for your clients.
All the hours you bill for. All the tasks you do.
Break it all down to really figure out what you’re doing and what you’re getting paid for. A service can be many things, but that’s where it can get tricky.
People don’t want to buy many things. They buy something because it’s good for them or whatever. But it can’t be confusing. Your customer has to understand what you’re offering and you can’t really understand that unless you breakdown what you do.
Step 2. Identify The Main Item(s), Niche It Down
Let’s say that you’re a private practice doctor. You have the ability to do many things in your practice or service. Now you’ve broken it down into all the different things you do and you have a list of items.
Now it’s time to identify the main items. They could be the things you enjoy most or the most profitable.
But it also has to be what your customer really wants or what they want most.
A doctor could break things down a few different ways.
Maybe the doctor is more general practice. Patients come for all kinds of reasons, but they all come for consultations or checkups or appointments.
Those are items. They are products.
A doctor can sell appointments for a price. And it makes sense to the customer. It’s a transaction that makes sense.
Another doctor may break it down differently. They might find that they’re doing mostly ear infection exams and treatment. So they create a product where they diagnose an ear infection and make a prescription for healing. That’s the product.
And they can niche it down to what they specialize in.
They can get rid of the things they don’t necessarily like or the things that aren’t as profitable. Breaking it down and identifying items in your service business allows you to better analyze what you do in those terms.
Step 3. Set The Price
The price can obviously get kind of tricky. The reason that many entrepreneurs drift toward hourly rates is because they’re not sure what to charge. They fall back to billable hours or quoting by the project because every situation can be different.
But that’s really pretty true for a lot of service businesses.
But one of the first things customers wonder is what the price is. They want to do a quick value check in their brain to see if it’s even worth talking to you.
What I’ve found with most service businesses is that there are a few outliers, but for the most part the service they provide is pretty consistent.
One website might take a few weeks from start to finish. It’s pretty straightforward and pretty much the same process across industries and companies.
But those few outliers can throw things off in your mind.
But ignore those outliers for a bit. Base your price on the 80% that are virtually the same. Then go back and look at the outliers and add some buffer into your product’s pricing to account for those outliers.
It might be as simple as adding 10-20% into the price above what you would normally charge to account for those outliers.
Or you might get to a great position where you can identify red flags and avoid those outliers in the future.
Step 4. Look For Recurring Opportunities
One-time projects are fine. You can build a good business with one-time projects, but there is great opportunity with recurring products.
Web designers are a good example. It’s great to offer a one-time website for people. It’s something that’s very much in demand and needed.
But if you can also offer recurring products you can smooth out the revenue and even make more money while also offering more value to your customers.
The recurring opportunities could be add-on or additional products. Many web design companies offer ongoing hosting and maintenance. They offer to make changes and updates.
All for a monthly fee. Kind of like a retainer so when the customer needs something updated they just reach out and it’s taken care of for them.
Another opportunity might be breaking the one-time price down into more of a monthly type fee.
We kind of see this in the cell phone industry now. Instead of paying for a phone, the companies just charge a monthly fee for everything including the phone.
A web designer could do that. Instead of charging once for a website they just lump everything into a monthly fee. Say it’s $200/month for the site and maintenance for three years.
At that time the site can be updated. Or the customer could keep their site and switch to maintenance only.
Or they could leave early and pay an early exit fee or something.
Step 5. Tweak
Don’t be afraid to tweak your product.
Especially if you’re a startup you don’t want to avoid tweaking. It’s good to start with something. That’s what I did with blog posts. I started with a price and a word count and I’ve tweaked it over the years.
You have to jump in with something. See how it goes with a client or two. Make changes. You’ll notice things that aren’t in your favor or the favor of clients.
That’s fine. You’re always learning in life and it’s totally okay to make tweaks to your product offering.
A product is definitely more appealing than a service. I think that’s true from the customer perspective and from your perspective.
It’s confusing to customers when they’re trying to figure out what exactly you’re going to offer them. If you break it down into a product or product it’s much more easier to understand.
It’s good for customers. It’s good for you.
It’s good for business.