How to productize services 1: why do so?

Productize your services to make it easier to sell and deliver your expertise – and easier for your clients to buy it

George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion, Saint Joan, among 60 other theatrical works) once remarked that the only reason he wrote plays was to get people to read the preface.

It was his hack (or so he claimed tongue-in-cheek) for getting people to listen to his opinions, including his subversive leftwing politics.

Confession – I’m kinda doing the same here! The beauty of “How-To” articles is that you can about not just how to do something but why to do so.

Some context for productizing services: services firms and product firms are two sides of the same coin. The coin is solutions to client problems. The “side” is what you show the client.

I have B2B SaaS firm clients who are essentially consulting firms with a branded product. I have B2B tech consulting firm clients (custom development, data science, etc) with highly systematic technical processes, such as agile development, release-cycle deployment and maintenance, and plug-n-play architecture. Kinda like a product. That’s how I organized my prior tech consultancy, in fact.

But here’s the problem with custom consulting: it’s harder to sell. Also, it’s a much less flexible Swiss army knife to your clients’ problems than a product.’

This is counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t custom services be more customizable pricing-wise? If you play with the semantics sure. But we all know the common refrain: if the prospective client can’t pay X, we can’t even get on the phone with them. With X being a pretty damn high number.

Meanwhile, SaaS products can (and usually are) creatively packaged into 3 or 4 pricing tiers, each with its own diverse set of solutions: features, integrations, support & services levels, capacity, etc. And you can take that packaging and make it very easy to read.

That’s why you should productize your tech/creative consultancy services:

  1. make yourself more accessible to a broader set of client/needs
  2. eliminate lengthy and time-consuming pre-sale negotiations
  3. make it easier to sell
  4. make it easier to deliver

Starting point. Let’s follow Steve Jobs’s advice on where to begin creating products: start with the customer experience.

Where does the customer experience of productized services starts?

The pricing page on our website. That’s your starting point.

Get out a pen and paper. Or a wireframing tool if you have one, and sketch out the pricing, starting with the problem faced and ending with your special ability to solve it. Think about how your horizontal and vertical specializations can be expressed as things like checklists, manuals, cheat sheets, training videos,  audit reports, architecture diagrams, ebooks, web-based workshops, in-person workshops, and regularized consultation sessions.

Examine the detritus of your client work and marketing work and look for building blocks. Be creative, mix and match.

That’s the experience-first productization of your services.

Go deeper. An alternate, more profound, and equally (if not more) valid method is the problem identification method. What causes your clients’ pain?

Answer the question by drawing a quadrant with High Pain vs Low Pain on the Y-axis and Low Buying Power vs High Buying Power on the X-axis. See it in action on this Google Doc and feel free to make your own copy.

Clients who land in the High Pain and High Buying Power quadrant – they’re the ones who need your custom consulting services. But even they might be candidates for “simpler” (to deliver or justify the cost of) productized services. 

Take action. This is not a simple undertaking, but it’s important to start somewhere. Make at least one digital product that’s very easy to buy and at least somewhat easy to deliver.

I did so by mashing up my tech industry and marketing knowledge with 6 cool products: WordPress, Google/Outlook Calendar, Calendly, Zoom, Temi, and Stripe.

Was it as easy as the customer experience feels simple? Hell no. Building and polishing takes work. 

But the result is a product that reduces the scheduling, contracting, negotiation and payment dysphoria that spans weeks to less than a minute:

My best,