As you can imagine, I hear a lot of feedback about Productized Services. Ever since I began publishing my lessons about this model, there's been plenty of excitement about it, especially from freelancers, consultancies, and agencies who are looking for a better way to scale.
But there has been a fair bit of skepticism too.
Is it really as "easy" as folks claim it is? Spoiler alert: It's not, and I wouldn't ever say that it is.
Is it really any better than traditional consulting or freelancing by the hour? Do customers really buy productized services?
These are all perfectly natural and legitimate questions to ask. I think it's smart to be a little skeptical, or at least ask these hard questions before committing down any new path in your business.
Today I want to highlight 3 pretty common myths about the productized service model. Having a misunderstanding on these things can cause some to be more skeptical about this model as a whole.
But if I can illuminate the reality behind each of these, I believe you'd see that in fact what seems like pitfalls or falsehoods can actually work in your favor.
Let's get into it.
People "buy now" off your website
Most of the time, the website for a productized service shows the pricing, packages and offers a button to "buy now"—just like any other product you'd buy online.
From the outside looking in, this can leave the impression that a website gets floods of traffic, and some percentage of those people click and buy the service on the spot, without talking to a salesperson first.
Here's the reality:
I've been running a productized service business for almost 5 years (as of this writing). We've had hundreds of clients buy our service. These accounts are worth $12,000 - $24,000 per year (and most clients stay much longer than a year).
In that time, I can only remember two, maybe three cases where a person arrived at the site and bought a package without talking to someone first.
At this price point, virtually every customer needs to have a conversation with someone before committing to buy.
That means you have to do sales calls!
But that's a good thing, and in a productized service business, your sales process is a unique differentiator.
- It doesn't have to be you, forever.
As the founder, it's probably best for you to be that sales person at first, and maybe for a while. But once you get your sales process dialed in, you can—and often should—hand off that responsibility to someone else.
- Your leads come to your sales call pre-qualified.
They've already seen your pricing. Perhaps they've been pre-educated with automated content, a recorded demo video, etc (all of which, I do and I recommend!). By the time they get on the call, more often than not, they just want to ask a couple final questions and feel reassured that there are real, trustworthy, people behind this "machine"!
- Your sales process is a process, just like everything else.
Optimize it! Make it more efficient over time. Forget custom proposals. Forget "discovery meetings". It is possible to automate most steps in your customer's journey and boil down the personal touch-points to a 15-minute call and a couple of email followups.
In my experience, some clients provide their billing information right there on the call. Some take a few days after the call to think about it, then return to the website to buy. All of these paths can and should be optimized.
After all, you're selling a product and you have a sales funnel!
A productized service can't work without "you"
Your clients love you. They trust you. They want face-time with you. They want your personal touch.
I get it.
While I'm sure all of that is true—I'm also sure of this:
Those clients want their problem solved, and they want that more than they want to spend time with you (sorry).
Now, let's assume your goal is to get to a business where you don't need to be personally involved day-to-day in order to keep the lights on.
Will this require some changes to how you sell and how your business operates? Of course it will. And it won't be easy or happen overnight.
But here's the reality:
It is possible to still give clients that same sense of trust of working with you personally, without you personally being involved.
Let's get back to the client's problem. They trust you, because they believe you're able to solve that problem. So that means they'd be just as trusting of your ability to put the pieces in place—the methodologies, the processes, the people, the systems—to solve that problem at scale.
For example, clients of my business know that I'm not personally the one creating and delivering their work. But they know I'm the guy who created our process, who found the exact right type of people to hire, and how to get these pieces working efficiently together.
And they trust (and see first-hand) the results: A better final product than hiring someone else, and even a better final product than if it was me alone delivering their work.
So yes, a productized service can work without you. In fact, I believe that (eventually) it can work better without you.
There's no room for custom work in a productized service
A productized service can only deliver cookie-cutter, template-based, work. It's a fast-food joint, not a fine dining restaurant.
What your clients receive from your productized service can be just as high-quality, just as custom-tailored and personalized as if they had hired you directly as a solo consultant.
The difference is in how that work gets done. Yes, the work might involve creativity, expert analysis, strategic thinking. But none of that prevents you from building a process for how that work gets done.
Your creative process. Your production process. Your analysis process. Your delivery process. Your process for managing and handling feedback.
If these processes require specific types of talent or expertise, then hire that talent! (yes, other people have the same talents as you, and I'm sorry to say, often are more talented). Or hire smart, capable people who are ready to learn your methodologies.
The timeframe for delivery, the tools you and your team uses, the ways you track progress, the way you deliver to clients, the way you take their feedback and approvals... All of that can be standardardized and built into your process.
But the work itself can be fully customized and unique for each client—within the parameters of the packages/scope that you've sold via your productized service.
It's not uncommon (or "frowned upon") to offer configureable add-ons or options with those packages. I recommend limiting those to the most common, but optional, requests.
It's also not uncommon to have your productized service offering serve as a precursor to a larger, more customized and more traditional consulting engagement. That's fine as well, if you think you want to do that.
But you might get to a point where your fully productized offer has enough leads, customers, and work in the pipeline that it's a better business decision to keep scaling up that machine, and scale down or eliminate the higher-variability consulting work. The key benefit here is having that optionality!
A non-myth: It's hard
This one is true. Breaking away from the way you've done things for so long is always difficult, and feels risky.
I believe that if you're feeling the itch that I felt and so many others have felt with traditional freelancing and consulting, then it's more of a risk not to explore an alternative path.
For years, I've been saying the same thing (because I've done it myself): The productized service model is that path of least resistance to growing into something bigger than your billable hours.