Does every new client feel like starting over?
Brian Casel said it well in this post when he said, “Every time a client approached me for a new project, we entered into a long, drawn-out discovery process, which included having multiple meetings, doing a needs analysis, writing a proposal, and laying out the costs. In other words, I had to constantly reinvent my service to fit the unique needs of every new client.”
Let’s be honest, you can’t run a business like this…
Well you can, but it hurts. Every client engagement feels like recreating the wheel from scratch. It’s slow. It’s inefficient. Worst of all, it’s extremely hard to experience any momentum in your business because you are always starting over.
I believe the process for developing unique programs and proposals is broken.
Request for Proposals (RFPs) are a prospective client’s best attempt at describing their needs and expectations from their next consulting partner. However if they really knew what they needed, they won’t have to hire anyone to help. They would simply assess the situation and solve it in house.
The RFP process is broken
There are often unasked questions in the RFP and you aren’t given any opportunity to fill in those gaps. Even if you wanted to offer additional expertise and insight to aid in the decision making process, you can’t. The overly-structured form doesn’t allow for any creativity.
That means your RFP submission is being judged on partial information. The prospective client will review the submissions in a private vacuum without any the necessary context which can only be provided by an expert (you).
Most honest proposals are destroyed by scope creep. Even if you make it through the proposal process, most well-intentioned custom consulting engagements are destroyed by scope creep. The client is in control of the engagement and we just agreed they don’t have all the information they need to make proper decisions in this area. This makes it very easy for them to expand the terms of the engagement as they “notice” things along the way.
How many times have you received a call or email that said, “Can you add this too? Can you include this additional thing? Can you do us one last favor?
Before you know it, you’ve done ten extra things, when you only agreed (and priced) one. Not only does this take more time, but it also tears away at your profit margin.
Developing proposals is very time-consuming. I know how draining is it to go through the entire custom proposal process and not get the work. It can be as simple as drafting up a couple of pages and sending it in, but in some situations it can take weeks or months to put together a custom proposal. And if you and your team have to travel and present it, the cost of the proposal hits a multiple. Not to mention it pulls effort away from standing projects. Even if you have a 50% close rate (which is phenomenal), you are putting out a lot of effort as a company to only bring in work 50% of the time.
It doesn’t matter how experienced the company, losing the bid stinks and it creates an energy letdown in your company. Consulting firms often suffer from a revenue related feast and famine dynamic and some firms do a pretty decent job handling those ebbs and flows. But what do you do when your team experiences a famine of energy after it extends to earn a new piece of business and then doesn’t get the work?
Productized services is a better way
A productized service is a pre-packaged consulting solution solving for one specific problem.
Analogy: Package up your service and present it like box of cake mix on the shelf at the supermarket.
- Your prospective client pulls the box off the shelf.
- The front cover has a picture of the end result and with a matching title.
- The back of the box lists the ingredients (necessary tools) needed before starting the project along with instructions (expectations) for each project phase.
- The left side of the box shows the serving size (project scope) and nutritional value (additional benefits).
- The right side of the box contains company information, client testimonials, and a phone number to call for inquiries.
Productizing allows your services to be neatly and cleanly understood before your or the client commits resources to the new project. When they say yes, they know exactly what they are saying yes to (and so do you). The prospective client can choose to put the box back on the shelf or they can choose to open the box and experience the services. Either decision is easy, straightforward, and efficient.
Specific benefits of creating a productized service
To be honest, the decision to productize your services can completely shift the speed and agility of your consulting practice. But without trying to over-sell the point, here are five (almost) immediate benefits you will experience as you include productized services into your mix of consulting offerings.
Eliminate charging by the hour. Counting billable hours feels like nit-picking. Chasing client invoices feels like badgering. However productizing your services opens the door to value based pricing which is better than both.
No more RFPs or custom proposals. Writing proposals and discovery meetings are two of the biggest bottlenecks for service based companies. That’s a lot of effort just to have a prospect respond with the message, “We’ll get back to you if we are interested.” Productizing your consulting services puts that time back into the hands of you and your team.
Shorten the sales cycle. Consulting is an intangible service that can’t be seen or touched. This is scary for prospective clients because they won’t know what they’ve bought until after they’ve purchased. This fear delays the purchase decision. However if your choice to productize and specifically define the elements of your consulting make it much easier (and safer) for a client to say yes.
Manage scope creep. How many “favors” does a client ask of you during a typical engagement? How many times do you “play nice” and honor the favor? How much does it cost your business to honor all of these favors? You’ve got to get your projects back under control. Productizing establishes a clear scope of work up front so both parties understand the commitment.
Scale! Focusing on a specific service allows you to create the systems, processes, and necessary support to be excellent. Your service is no longer based on your random creative brilliance. It’s now based on your systematic, repeatable brilliance. You can’t scale what you can’t repeat. Think about that for a minute.
Here are over 30 examples of productized services
Below are 30 different examples of productized consulting services. Look them over. Be inspired. I’m sure you will find a model that works for your business.
AUDIO / VIDEO EDITING
Cashflow Podcasting by Ben Krueger. Podcast editing as a service. You record the content and they do the rest. How it works: Record your content, send in the raw files, editing team takes out the mistakes, producers add professional polish, and final episode is uploaded into your podcast hosting account.
3 Wise Bears by Gurpreet Sandhu. They believe in stress free accounting and have experts prepared to advise via monthly payment plans. The packages include your own dedicated accountant who will get to know you and your business. They specialize in working with contractors, freelancers, and small one/two person businesses.
Bench by Ian Crosby and Jordan Menashy. Packaged monthly bookeeping services. Every plan comes with a dedicated bookkeeping team to handle your monthly books and simple software to let you keep track of your financials.
Zenkeep by David Willson and Jonathan Willson. Family owned business focused on making bookkeeping a zen experience for business owners. Their most popular package includes: weekly bank reconciliation, monthly management reports, unlimited transactions/month, dedicated team, support, AR/AP reconciliation, and cash flow management.
CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION / ANALYTICS
Clicky used to primarily target smaller web sites and blogs because it tracks a high level of detail on every visitor, and those types of sites find that information very interesting. Since then, many additional features have been added to Clicky, such as the customizable dashboard full, and a filtering interface that gives you actionable data on any subset of your visitors. They have a cool comparison chart on their homepage claiming to have the most features on any analytics tool out there.
Custora by Corey Pierson and Jon Pospischil. SaaS platform designed to help online retailers better understand and market to their customers. Their platform creates specific reports to help you optimize your adwords spend for customer lifetime value, measure the value of each social network to your business, and prioritize which ad networks & affiliate partners are driving customer growth.
Draft Revise by Nick Desabato. Draft Revise is a high-touch UX consulting service for websites. Monthly deliverables include Visual Website Optimizer report, heat tracking, click maps, A/B testing, and a summary of the most important points of your site’s user experience.
Kudu by Luke Kennedy – The best Google Adwords experts picked from around the world. How it works: Get matched with the best AdWords expert for your business, you and the expert discuss your goals, they create a free tailored advertising plan, and you start advertising.
Mint is an extensible, self-hosted web site analytics program. Its interface is an exercise in simplicity. Visits, referrers, popular pages and searches can all be taken in at a glance on Mint’s flexible dashboard.
Website Rescues by Kurt Elster. Turn your Shopify store into a revenue generating machine. In one week they diagnose the problems with your site, fix them, and boost your conversions for 1/20th the cost of a typical redesign.
Webtrends by Mike Laber To get the most out of your SharePoint environment, you need to know how it’s being used and if it’s creating a return on your investment. Webtrends Analytics for SharePoint was designed specifically to understand the details of SharePoint and is used by leading enterprises worldwide to measure user behavior and increase ROI.
CONSULTING / COACHING
Dr Alexis Shields by Dr. Alexis Shields – Online natural medicine consultations. How it works: choose your preferred consultation type, pick date/time for your consultation, complete the new patient intake form, have your consultation. Deliverables include: detailed assessment of your blood work (if available), follow up summary email of consultation, individualized health action plan, and a link to recommended natural medicines.
Superfast Business by James Schramko. Site offers productized coaching, website and traffic services for the internet business entrepreneur. Each major offering has smaller services underneath with full step-by-step explanations to set client expectations.
Copyhackers by Joanna Wiebe. Because no one’s paying you to write. They’re paying you to sell. With Copyhackers, you’ll turn your words into a scalable online salesforce.
Audience Ops by Brian Casel. End to end content marketing structured in three tiers. All packages include monthly reporting. The most advanced tier produces a blog post, email newsletter, and social media promotion and each week.
Ghost Blog Writers by Dayne Shuda. They write blog posts that bring target customers to your website. How it works: discovery process learns about your company, industry and customer. The setup process provide titles and a blogging schedule. The blogging process includes writing, optimizing, and scheduling your blog posts.
My Content Sherpa by Philip Morgan. Monthly guidance for technical firms looking to improve content marketing and marketplace positioning. Specific packages can include content creation, marketing automation implementation, or strategic direction.
CREATIVE DESIGN SERVICES
Correlation by Jane Portman. Get the undivided attention of a seasoned creative director to bring your software business to life. Every month includes a consultation, review of past month’s activity, and priority of new targets for the upcoming period. Specific design deliverables can include web pages, interface ideas, branding concepts, whitepaper layouts.
Design Possum by Scotty Truong. It's like having an in-house designer without paying a hefty salary. The basic business service is monthly and includes designing new graphics or creating them from scratch. It covers one brand with an unlimited number of tasks. Their services are designed to attract a small number of long-term clients.
Kesato Today, your website became one of the main way for you to communicate with your potential customers. Whether you need a corporate website, or whether you are selling your products directly online, we will build an adapted and scalable solution to fit your vision and ambitions.
Rocking Book Covers by Adrijus Guscia. Service includes: discovery questionnaire, consultation, book cover design reflecting your story, 5-10 day turnaround, client feedback, and final approval.
Help Flow by Jon Tucker. Simplified online chat as a service. Once you signup, they study your website and the competition. The onboarding call is used to ask very specific questions that only you can answer about your business. After the launch, they continue to update their knowledge base about your company with minimal input from you. The objective is to constantly learn and help your visitors with the most complex questions, without taking a lot of your time.
Wise Bread by Will Chen. Wise Bread is a community of bloggers here to help you live large on a small budget. Despite what you may have heard, you don't have to sacrifice your financial independence to enjoy life.
Abroaders by Erik Paque and A.J. Dunn – Offers a set process for researching international travel. Personalized assessment shows you how many flights you can get per year, how much money you'll save, and if business/first class is a possibility.
WEB DESIGN SERVICES
Chalet Engine by Mark Lawrence – Web design & hosting for the ski niche. They only work with the ski accommodation niche so their service packages are extremely focused. Service involves a 7-day launch and a fully managed website including hosting, updates, backups, and security.
Landing Page in a Day by Jarrod Drysdale. He will write, design, and code a custom page for you in 24 hours. Begins with a Skype meeting, you provide the essential details, and he creates a beautiful landing page with custom copy, logo, and graphics.
Tourism Tiger by Matthew Newton. Websites for tour operators. How it works: initial call to understand your tour business, website build via their unique system, and customization to match the exact feel of your business.
Undullify by Sukey Gaven. – Undullify is a worldwide team of graphic designers offering unlimited graphic design services. Their most popular package includes unlimited number of tasks, unlimited revisions, one day turnaround, dedicated designer, dedicated account manager, design support, and advice.
WPTheory by Adam Clark. Your website launched in a day. Pick your WordPress theme, customize it to your brand, upload your content, and launch it...in one day. It’s a simple one-day service that combines consulting and a done-for-you offering.
WP Tech Support provides ongoing support and maintenance to WordPress websites. Our services include WordPress Core and Plugin updates security monitoring, off-site backups, support and custom development.
Vepp sends notifications if something goes wrong with a website. For safety and stability turn on automatic backups, daily malware scans and uptime monitoring
Will this work for your company?
Yes, without a doubt. If you are in the advice business and you have turned your advice into services, there are common questions, challenges, and circumstances in each arrangement. If you are in the service business and you produce a certain deliverable for clients you have common steps, phases, and milestones in each project.
It’s to your advantage to assess what those are and package them up into structured offering your client can understand, and therefore purchase, as easily as possible.