Running a remote business part 3: How to productize your business

By Guy Anderson

From a consultancy to packaged services

While running my first agency I read the insightful book Built to Sell. It’s about how to create a sellable design business and is a great, short read.

Wildheart started out as a consulting business and has changed into a ‘productized’ business to use Brian Casel’s own phrase from his online course called Productize. I’ve never done the course, but creating a systematic approach to delivering bundles of services called packages has been my mission for a few years.

Why productize?

The reason for this is that a consulting business is not scalable because it’s based on the in-depth knowledge of highly skilled individuals. If those individuals are not around, the expertise is lost and the work stops or at the very least the quality of work suffers as it’s picked up by someone else.

A productized business relies on deep knowledge, experience and expertise in order to package the consultant offering into repeatable steps. These steps can then be done by anyone with the right attention to detail and with minimal training. This standardises the quality of the work delivered regardless of who’s doing it – if the process is adhered to.

Handmade to assembly line

To use a manufacturing metaphor, in a consultancy business the consultant is a craftsman who uses their expertise to hand assemble a car. A productized business looks much like Ford’s assembly line to produce cars.

Making craftsmanship count

While I love the idea of the craftsman, and have spent 20 years honing my craft, I also value efficiency. I believe it’s more desirable to use this craftsmanship to design an awesome digital product assembly line rather than hand-crafting bespoke one-off products. That doesn’t mean that the results of our products aren’t bespoke or tailored to the client’s needs. Instead it means we add craftsmanship to both the process and the products.

Productize what’s important

I’ll be straight up with you and say that my first attempt to productize Wildheart was a complete flop. I spent a lot of time documenting and taking screenshots of how to set up servers and migrate websites – repetitive tasks that I had been doing for decades over and over again.

What I quickly and painfully learned is that these multi-step processes are surprisingly complicated when you break them down step by step. And are only part of a product or package. As a marketing agency we can’t sell a server set-up process to a client because it’s only one cog in the machine. The problem was my focus – I was zooming in too closely on only one part of a potential package.

Productize reloaded

The next attempt to productize Wildheart was more successful for two reasons:

  1. Firstly, and most importantly, because I didn’t attempt it on my own.
  2. Secondly, because we were focused on whole packages that could be delivered to customers.

We were focusing on packages or products that could actually be sold, which means we could quickly generate revenue from them.

We started by analysing the projects we had already delivered for clients and seeing where the logical breaks were, so that we could split them up into packages. Over several months, Hannah (our queen of content) and I created spreadsheets capturing all the tasks needed for each of our new content marketing packages. We also looked at what our customers needed but hadn’t bought.

We then began delivering these packages with both new and existing customers. We currently have 8 packages and most customers buy between 2-4 packages initially. Our most popular package is our SEO Package followed by our Website Updates Package. Interestingly, we still do consulting work for most of our existing clients, but new customers usually start by buying a fixed price package.

Consulting versus packages: what’s the difference?

The difference between consulting work and packages is that we charge by the hour for consulting work and invoice when the work is complete. Packages are a fixed price and paid for upfront or on a payment plan.

Packages and remote teams

Packages are essential when working in a remote team because they minimise the ‘what do we do now?’ conversations. From a sales perspective, we also have a matrix of clients with the packages they’ve bought, so we can quickly see what their next steps should be with Wildheart.

Tips for starting to productize your business

If you already run a business and you want to start productizing what you offer then the job is fairly straightforward. (But still a lot of work!)

Start by thinking about what you already deliver but perhaps haven’t been delivering in a standardised way. Pay special attention to things you find yourself doing over and over again. Where there’s repetition there’s likely to be an opportunity to standardise.

Create a spreadsheet of all the tasks you need to do and allocate time to each task. This will give you a package price.

Pitch your product

Pick an existing customer who you have a good relationship with and pitch them the idea of them buying a fixed price package. If they go for it then you’re off.

If they don’t go for your pitch, then you may have chosen the wrong thing to productize, or that specific client doesn’t need your product. Maybe it’s a timing thing: a good product is still useless to a client who’s not ready to make use of it. If your first pitch doesn’t go so well make sure you understand why it didn’t and pivot accordingly.

Either move on to another client who you think may be a better fit. Or, re-evaluate your product then repackage and re-pitch it to the same client or another existing client.

You may not want to offer your package prices upfront on your website, as you may need to refine the tasks that make up a package. Our experience has shown us that we’ve needed to deliver each package several times to dial in the process and assess profitability. There were things missing that we needed to add in, which we only learned through the actual delivering of the packages.

For us this has been an 18 month process! But it could be a lot simpler and quicker to dial in if you only offer 1 or 2 packages.

One-off versus monthly packages

One-off packages are easier to sell as they’re a smaller investment for the client, both financially and time-wise.

But recurring monthly packages are a good fit for a client who is serious about their content marketing.

Most of our packages are one-off investments, but we also offer recurring monthly packages for clients looking to grow their audience and business using regular content marketing.

Drop us an email if you’re interested in productizing your business. We’d love to hear from you!

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Read the other posts in this series

Go back to Blog series: Running a remote business to read the other posts in this series.

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