Your WordPress business is ideally placed to operate as a productised service.
As Troy has highlighted previously, there are many potential elements in your business that you can turn into a product - meaning that you have something that you sell with clearly defined parameters. This differs from a “service” in that it cuts out many of the more taxing elements. For example, back and forth over what will be done.
This can be a little difficult to wrap your head around, especially if you have a background in consulting, freelancing or generally billing by the hour. It can be easy to fall into the habits that kept you tied to your work more than you’d like before. This can have you slipping away from product and back to service.
So what makes a productised service run successfully? Here are a few thoughts:
Get into the Mindset
Getting into the right mindset is a common barrier to achieving success with a productised service. We get it, getting caught up in the “service” bit is easy to do when it’s what you’ve been used to.
So you find yourself working on a request because the client asked and well, you want to please them. If you carry on in this way, your work hours won’t be any less and in fact, you can find you’re not making the money you need for the amount of time you put in.
The whole idea of a productised service is that you get to quit trading time - that finite resource - for money. It’s not about how many hours you work, but the value of the result that your product can provide for the client.
Most productised services are set up as monthly packages, much like what you see from SaaS companies. With this in mind, it’s important to think about what you offer in terms of being a packaged product. When you buy a product from a shop, you might have some choices in terms of any add-on features, but you choose and pay for these as part of the whole package. You can’t generally go back and say “what about this and this, can you customise them for me?”
This isn’t to say that you’re necessarily selling a cookie-cutter product, but that you have processes around what gets done and how. Website development is an example. You’re not going to build every website to look the same, but you can have a clear process for putting it together.
Take a look at Design Pickle as an example. They offer unlimited graphic design requests with a monthly subscription, but that doesn’t mean they’re working 24/7. They have a process around it - you can request as many as you like, but as they state, they’re “powered by humans” so your requests will queue up and be handled as quickly as they can within their set procedures.
“It Can’t Run Without Me”
Another common mindset barrier is that your productised service simply can’t run without you. The client trusts you and they’re paying for your personal touch. Okay, maybe you are the face of the business, but we guarantee the client cares more about getting the result they need than necessarily having you personally work on their project.
Getting caught up with “things can’t run without me” impedes the growth of your business. Remember, one of the core ideas of productising is that you can scale what you do without personally having to do more work. Troy highlighted three core tenets of a productised service:
If your clients see you as a trusted expert, they will also trust that you know how to put the people and processes together that solve their problem at scale. Always build a productised service so that it can run without you.
Systemising is your first step to building a productised service that you can take a holiday from and expect it to keep running. This means looking at your product from start to finish and putting repeatable processes around it (which you can then teach to others and scale your business):
Document, Document, Document
If it isn’t written down, recorded with screen share or otherwise documented, then it’s not a process that is easily shared. If you don’t document, then you’re keeping it to yourself, and that’s missing the point, isn’t it?
The whole idea is that anyone whom you hire to help should be able to access a clear process at any time so that they can repeat what you do, how you prefer it to be done. And when we say everything, we mean everything.
Let’s say part of your process included sending an email. You wouldn’t just write “send email,” you’d document specifics about what to send and how to send it. Where possible, templates for what you need done are a great way to create repeatable processes.
Store your documentation where it is easily accessed. Cloud services are a great way to do this and many are free. For example, the various Google Drive functions.
Have Clear Communication Channels
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
Poor communication can limit your success. If you spend a lot of time on back and forth or chasing things that have been missed, then communication is a “time burglar” for your business.
This is equally the case for communication between your business and your clients, and communication between you and your team members. It should be easy and everyone should know what the process is.
Consider your business setup when deciding the best way for clients to communicate directly. Sometimes that might be via a central email address, but email can easily get out of hand. Another option might be to communicate via a project management tool, such as Asana.
When communicating with your team, think about how easily messages will be able to be referred back to or followed up. Inboxes become stacked up and Skype is not easily searchable. You might find better success with Slack (which is searchable) or project management tools where you can assign tasks and add a due date.
Have a Process for Issues That Fall Outside of the Norm
Ideally, a productised service follows predictable patterns and processes at all times. This is often not the reality though, especially because you’re dealing with humans. We can be an unpredictable bunch and you just don’t know what will come up and when.
That said, you can still have a process for the unexpected. Decide what sorts of things your team members have discretion over and what needs to be escalated. Document the process for escalating any issue - to whom and how?
Know That You’ll Probably Still Need to Talk to Clients
Your website might have the option to purchase your productised service right away, but in reality, most customers will probably want to talk to someone first. Generally speaking, a productised service may be a “big ticket” item for them - they don’t want to commit to $599 per month without some personal contact.
With that being said you don't want to spend a long time on a call with someone, give them a lot of free advice only for them to give the job to another business.
That's why Simon and Troy reframe what could be seen as a sales call to a "discovery call" that you charge for.
For those of you who have completed the WP Elevation Blueprint course, you would have the process down pat by now and have the templates we gave you running like a well-oiled machine. But for those of you haven't done the course, you will need to create templates for a series of "anti-follow" up emails.
You don't want to seem desperate!
Having a well-dialed sales funnel should be a key component of your productised service.
Beware of Iterations
Your productised service is kind of like software in that you will get customers making requests for new features. Some of these will be awesome ideas that will easily appeal to most of your clients, whereas other ideas will be niche items that appeal to one or two.
If you want your productised service running like a well-oiled machine, then you have to make like a software company and “beware of bloat.” A lot of extra features means a lot of extras to manage.
Pick out the most popular or scalable requests and assess them. Sometimes they might easily fit into your current processes without creating extra work. Sometimes you might have found a new revenue stream by offering that feature as an optional extra.
A productised service can be just the ticket to sustainably scaling your business without having to work extra hours. If you want it to run like a machine, then you need the right mindset and some predictable processes.
Mindset is usually the trickiest component. We second-guess ourselves and get caught up in the “service” aspect of the product. However, if you’ve done your research on the need and identified a defined target audience, be confident that you’re offering something of value.
If you were to package up a service to sell as a product, what would it be? Need some inspiration? Here are 18 ideas to get you started!