I’ve been running a productised service business since about 2003. In those days, I didn’t know anything about productised consulting services. I just thought it would make life easier for prospective clients and me if I simplified what I offered and packaged it up so people could understand it quickly and decide if they wanted to buy it.
Since then, I’ve worked with a few hundred clients, and I understand productised services a hell of a lot more now. But it comes down to the same simple truth:
The simple truth behind productised services
That’s the simple version – this article takes you through the more sophisticated nuances of developing your productised service business. Along with this article, I’ve made you a beautiful step-by-step Mission Guide to Productised Services. You can download this for free.
Definition of productised services
Productised services are services that you standardise and sell like a product. Each productised service you offer is clearly defined, both 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.
You can sell your productised service many times over without all the extra transaction costs of a bespoke service. But it’s still a service. You (or someone working for you) spend time doing something for a client. You don’t entirely escape the “time for money” trap, but productised services can dramatically reduce the time per client project. It starts to break the relationship between your time and money.
Advantages of productising your services
I’m a massive fan of productising your services. You might see this as a baby step to full productisation because productised services are quicker to set up than most stand-alone products. Or you can introduce one productised service as an introductory product to bring in more customers for your fully bespoke premium-priced services. And some people will have their entire product ecosystem as a range of productised services – see this example from Luna 9 for how they’ve done this.
Whichever strategy you want to pursue, productised services have the same significant advantages for your company.
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. Imagine standing in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, puzzling out exactly what’s in the box. You don’t want to mess about. You want to know what’s in there, pick the one that’s right for you and put it in your basket to buy. Make it easy for your clients to buy what you sell.
And I’ve noticed that when my clients work on the processes they use when productising their services, they improve those processes and make what they offer to their customers much more helpful. Productising can be a kind of mindfulness 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.
When you make the sales process more straightforward and transparent, you increase the number of prospects and conversions. 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 the clients who are a good fit for you.
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
What’s not to like?
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.
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.
Formats and Variants
Once you have the productised services mindset, you can start to apply it in all kinds of different ways. Here are some ideas and examples.
Done-for-you services (DFY)
Take a look at the work you currently do for clients. Pay special attention to the requests you get for particular pieces of work. The kind of project people specifically ask for can become introductory products. Or this shows an area where you could narrow your focus and specialise.
Consider what kind of work you love to do. What is in your zone of genius? Identify the processes you could delegate or outsource in your projects with a standard operating procedure.
Using the productised services mindset, you then start to see how you could package this up so that it’s simple for your clients to understand. Write a sales page for it, decide on a set price or a sliding scale, and you’re in business with your productised service.
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 consultancy services. 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.
Recurring income productised services examples
Access to a dashboard you’ve made from their data
Continuing coaching after a training session to embed good habits
Membership programme with a monthly workshop
Online community membership including you answering questions
Paid email newsletter with information or ideas your clients won’t find elsewhere
Retainer – you’re on call to help if they need it
One of the most famous productised service companies that people talk about was WPCurve, run by Dan Norris. Dan and his partners set up WPCurve to offer an unlimited number of fixes to WordPress websites. I was a customer myself for about a year before the company was bought by GoDaddy, which now operates it on a different price model. These days there are quite a few companies with a very similar offering.
WPCurve was attractive because of the unlimited or “all you can eat” offering. It was a brilliant marketing idea. If you’re thinking of using this approach, ensure that you have transparent boundaries around how customers can use your services. And be ready to change your pricing as you monitor your gross profit margin and the number of customers you need to pass the breakeven point.
Add more value by adding in time with you
When you want to sell a mastermind, a learning programme or a course, your potential clients are often buying into the idea of you and your philosophy. By adding live workshops, one to one sessions or the ability to ask questions directly, you can increase the perceived value of your course or programme.
If you aim to build a product and then be free to take six weeks off, this may not be the advice you want to hear. But even if this is your ultimate aim, I often recommend being available, at least when you’re piloting a course or programme. You get to have valuable conversations with people about exactly how they understand what you’re teaching them or how they see the problems you’re helping them to solve. And then your second version is much better.
If spending time answering Slack questions or doing some group calls isn’t a problem for you, you can either use this personal touch to enhance the value of the whole programme or position this as a high value extra or upsell.
You might have three versions of your stand-alone product, for example
Silver – just the course
Gold – the course plus 2 one to one sessions with you
Platinum – Gold plus an element of a done for you service
Note: The Platinum option here should be a high price, act as an anchor, and make the other levels look reasonably priced.
I do this with my Sweetspot Pricing book and resource pack
Examples of productised services
We can already see how 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.
Productised services examples
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Let’s look at some examples which are likely to make you more money and save you more time.
How to productise your creative digital services
Productising your creative digital services works remarkably well if you’re a freelancer or a small agency creating content, a designer or a marketing company. You can ditch all the boring transactional bits like proposals, competitive bids, and people shopping around when they don’t have the budget to pay. Concentrate on doing good work for clients and making a decent income.
The lower and more generic end of the market is already saturated for creative services. At lower price points, you’re also competing with freelancers in low-cost countries via Fiverr, who have already accidentally productised by offering a logo design for a tenner. You probably don’t want to swim in this competitive red ocean.
Instead of generic services, think about how you might niche your productised services. 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. Spending some time researching competitors and ensuring you have the right product-market fit.
And don’t forget to try to include at least some recurring income with that.
Software with a service
Software with a service is very different to Software as a Service. SaaS is usually a stand-alone product, such as Xero accounting or Canva design software. And 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 SemRush report (SemRush is specialist SaaS 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.
Productised consulting services
Most consultant and professional services companies are rich with opportunities to productise. Interestingly, this area is one where adopting a productised services approach allows you to develop a clear competitive advantage, as many consultancy companies are very traditional and therefore reluctant to productise.
Productised consulting services examples include:
“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 how you achieve the outcome.
Paid discovery sessions as productised consulting
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 more 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. And productising at least the start of your consulting services increases your conversion rates.
Here’s Mark Vaesen from Tomango on how he productised his creative digital services
Top tip for paid discovery sessions – offer the client a report as an outcome from the meeting. The report adds perceived value for your client because they get something tangible from their investment. A company offered me a discovery session workshop and action plan. They sold it to me on the basis that I could take this report to any other consultant for implementation. A brilliant sales technique that led to me immediately signing up for the £750 discovery session and 6k of implementation work.
Coaching as a productised service
All kinds of 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.
And you can add in additional products as upsells to your coaching. I like Lyndsey Segal’s Productivity Prompts cards which she sells as add ons for her coaching clients. Or Ella Jaczynska at Mastering Mindsets offers continuing access to her Mastery Knowledge Hub, a library of resources for her coaching clients.