Do you run a service business? Are you a consultant or a coach?
If so, then you’ve likely thought about the issue of how to scale. The idea of trading time for money is something many people grow allergic to. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, however every service provider eventually starts to look ahead at how to evolve the business beyond that.
How can you scale a service business? How can you turn it into a product? How can you begin to set things up so that it isn’t simply a trade between time and money?
In this episode of Coffee Break, I’m talking specifically to people who run service businesses. We’ll be discussing 7 specific strategies to begin executing so that you can begin to scale a time-based business.
This isn’t a transition one just jumps into. And I’m not going to recommend you just jump into the world of membership sites and online course creation. There are certain systemic things you need to be doing internally to strategically AIM your business toward more systematization and productization.
It is a myth that the kind of marketing and revenue generation strategies we discuss around the Blog Marketing Academy somehow don’t apply to service businesses. They most certainly do.
Today, we have got a really cool topic that I know is relevant to a lot of my listeners… and that is turning a service or time-based offer into a product and therefore scaling your business. And specifically, we are going to go over 7 different tips; 7 different things to keep in mind for turning a service offer into a product and therefore scaling your business.
Now, before we drop into that, I wanted to let you know that this show is brought to you by… ME! 😀 But you can go over to blogmarketingacademy.com/listeners. This is the Lab which is the framework of everything, everything that we talk about in this podcast. What I have created with the Lab is an all-in-one Training Library and a Support Community for those people who feel as if starting and growing an online business can feel like an awfully lonely experience. Okay?
Inside the Lab, we have got the full course Library which as of this recording contains 23 Courses; or 22, I think and it is about to be 23 with the launch of the Facebook Ads Blueprint which will be coming out shortly. We have got the big Lab Community which is really active, where all the Lab Members, including myself are there helping each other every single day.
It has actually gone really well with my recent transition away from using Facebook for that. We have got the Member Feedback System where all Lab Members now have the ability to submit ideas, strategies, lead magnets; whatever it might be… from your business, send it to me and I will respond to you privately. It is a way of giving some private consulting essentially from me as part of your Lab Membership each month.
Now, it is not going to be you and I on the phone; it is going to be usually that I am replying to an email, but it is going to be more of an in depth response or in times (many times) what I will do is record a private audio kind of like what I am doing right now with this podcast except instead of you listening to the podcast, I will be talking to just to you.
We have also got the Office Hours Sessions where I am live streaming right from my office… We have got a Chat Room inside the Lab in the Live Training Room and we just do Q&A and Live Training and stuff like that.
This is all basically the underlying framework around the Blog Marketing Academy that is known as the Lab. And you can learn more about that at blogmarketingacademy.com/listeners and get an exclusive option to join the Lab, kick the tires, without investing the full amount upfront.
So with that being said, let’s jump right in to our topic and that is the 7 Tips for Turning a service offer into a product and scaling…
Trading Time For Money
First of all, let’s talk about this idea of trading time for money. This is where a lot of people find themselves… Now, first of all, I want to make reference of the fact that if you think that that is not a good thing, I want you to disabuse yourself of that idea. A lot of people tend to look at people out there talking about passive income and all that… It looks all sexy… The idea of sitting on the beach, drinking a piñacolada and you got this passive income. Certainly it is a great thing! But I don’t want anybody to look at that and then look at you trading time for money and then regret it. I don’t want you to feel bad about it.
Trading time for money is essentially the way that our economy works. And quite frankly, even those people who now have passive income; worked their asses off to get to that point. So, let’s just call it what it is. Essentially, when you are receiving money for something, you are receiving money in exchange for the value of your time. And that is essentially what that is. But I also understand that if you are solely trading time for dollars that you might want to get out… You might want to scale up.
The truth is that when income is tied directly to your time, your income is automatically capped. Okay? That’s the truth. Unless you are just not very busy right now, then you have got that room for growth because you have more time available in your day. But it gets to a certain point in the service business where you are just busy… You are really, really busy and you can’t get more than 24 hours in a day. And so, there’s really no way to increase your income other than increasing your prices and then you are wondering “Okay, are people going to stop coming to me if I increase my prices?” And it leads into this doubt about what to do about it.
The other thing too, is that when you are in at this service business, clients can sometimes be a little annoying. Now, if you are charging right; typically higher prices, you are going to get nicer clients. I have certainly found; and I know that a lot of people do, too… that the less you charge, typically the more problematic customers you are going to get. Now, it is still always a very small ratio of the whole. So I don’t want anybody to be scared by that. But just ratio and ratio; it is what it is. But we don’t escape this fact that sometimes, clients can really be a real pain. Most of them are not, which is a good thing. 🙂
It is also; when you are in a service business and it is all based on your time, you probably know that it can be really demanding on you. It can introduce inflexibility into your lifestyle. The idea of going on a vacation with your family can now become more difficult. It might not be because you have difficulty affording it; it could be that, too. But it could also be because you have all these clients depending upon you and it is just simply difficult for you to get away.
And so, for multiple reasons, you might want to look at changing your business around a little bit so that your time is not necessarily directly tied to your money. But this transition process can be a little bit difficult and so, to that end… I want to give you 7 pieces of advice today on how to maybe rethink a few things in a service based business. And again, these could be; if you are a web developer, a programmer, a consultant, a coach… lifestyle coach… Whatever it might be… If you are in a service type of business where it is based on your time, then let’s talk about these 7 strategies right now.
7 Tips For Turning A Service Offer Into A Product And Scaling
1. Productize Your Services
Now, you might be thinking… “Duh?” But here is what I really want you to focus on here is that it might be time; if you are in the business of doing customized work like really custom stuff where it is a kind of a thing that people have to come to you for estimates and really the whole buying process doesn’t really start until you go through this estimate process and all that…
You might want to look at productizing your services so that you can now create packaged services that you can price at a fixed rate. And the reason is because in a lot of times people can make that buying decision on the internet because they know the prices upfront. Whereas, if they have to wait for an estimate, they might not ever contact you for it. Some people they see or request an estimate and they just won’t bother even if they are curios what you are going to charge. They just won’t bother because they think they are getting into a sales process, it takes time, they want instant gratification… A lot of psychology comes in there when people see that “Request an estimate” type of button or “Contact our sales team” or whatever.
So one of the things about productizing your services is to literally turn it into a product; in that you know what the price is upfront.
Now, it might be that you got to simplify some things which is going to get us into our next point here, in just a minute, but it might require also that you stop doing certain things and that you concentrate on certain aspects of your service offering that are pretty repetitive.
I want to invite you to check out a book called “Built to Sell“. Off the top of my head I actually don’t remember who wrote that; but I did read it a few years back, and it was fantastic. It was basically a story wrapped around a business concept. And it was the idea of this guy who is running this… I think a web design or a graphic design type of company. But it was running him ragged; he was working on like long days, that type of thing… And he ended up working with like a coach of some kind and that coach happened to be the author of the book. And he was writing this book and this story… like a fiction-story style of way.
Ultimately, what ended up happening is that the coach convinced this guy to stop offering all these á la carte type of things that is all customized and every kind is being treated different, whatever… And just concentrate on doing logos. And this guy, hand on head, was like “Oh my God, you are going to kill my bottomline! I’m never going to make enough money! How can I possibly do that if all I do is make logos?” And he was like “Just trust me. Do this.” And so, he took the leap and he did… And all he did was do logos. And he built up a lot of different procedures around doing logos and getting to the moral of the story; his business’ sales increased dramatically because he could focus exclusively on “This is what I did… I make logos. We bam out logos really fast; here’s what our prices are.” And ultimately, he sold that business and made a lot of money; that is what I recall.
And so, that is a book “Built to Sell” and it is the idea of offering packaged services and instead of trying to be all things to all people, we productized it and we might even simplify it down to just a few things.
2. Simplify Things
Offer less things. Don’t have one of these situations where you are trying to accommodate such a wide variety of clients that you have to do things like “Request an estimate” and have a fancy phone call with them and that type of thing to determine what they want and you got to do the estimate process and all that… Just offer less stuff. You might even want to specialize what you are doing so instead of being all things to a very wide market, you just pick a sub-section of that market and you just focus on them. And then you become the person who does “that”. And that is going to make you stand out in the sea of like wider amount of people.
So for example; this is something more related to my market… Let’s say you have a web developer, like a general web developer who would do WordPress and program things and whatever. So this guy or gal is going to have a hard time positioning themselves in the market because they are just kind of up there against every other developer around the world, some of which are overseas and charges less because their economy allows them to do that… versus… Let’s say the same person says “Well, I know how to do membership sites really well.”
And so therefore, he completely repositions himself to where instead of just being a general web developer which of course he is, he now specializes and just put having membership site owners putting their membership site together. And so it simplifies everything because now, he can create templates, he can create all kinds of things to shortcut the process, but you can now just focus on creating membership sites; only membership sites. You are the membership site building person rather than a general web developer.
Now, that is just an idea off the top of my head in my particular market and obviously membership sites is something that I am big on and that is why I thought of it. But the idea here is to simplify; to offer less stuff, maybe more specialized stuff that you just do it better.
3. Systematize Production
First of all, let’s talk about this word “systematize”. Systematize means to turn something into a system. Now, on business terms, a system is basically like an assembly line in a factory where you get certain inputs, certain very predictable steps take place to those inputs and then on the other end of it you get a finished product. And it is very, very repetitive, in fact a lot of factories are now using robotics to do everything because it is that predictable. That is systematizing things.
Now, you can do this with a service as well because most likely, your service consist of certain fairly repeatable steps; things that you kind of do with most people, and it is going to be the same from client to client. And so, you should be looking at those items and how to systematize things. So look for opportunities to create templates, shortcuts, things that you do on a repeating basis, but now you have got 60% to 70% of the work already done because it is so similar and then all you got to do is tweak that remaining 30% for that client. Look for opportunities for canned responses where you have really good, solid customer support replying and stuff like that, that are already pre-written so that you can concentrate on just delivering and only customizing the necessary things.
Even in terms of marketing… You might have a customer follow-up process for a new lead and you can totally automate all that with your email autoresponder and so your site is literally doing your marketing for you while you are sitting there just working on growing the business and performing client work.
Look for opportunities to use forms. Like for example, if you usually need certain input from your clients and they are like everybody needs to answer the same questions, send them to a form which asks for all those things and it avoids all these email back and forth and all these crap. You can systematize that using forms. Look for opportunities for internal staff checklist and even if it is just yourself, make checklists for the things that you do. Also, look for anything that you can turn into a procedure… a checklist, that type of thing. This is all a matter of systematizing production.
It might seem like an extra amount of work at the beginning but I guarantee you, it is going to save you a lot of time later on. It is going to allow you to scale up to service offering in a much bigger way plus it is definitely going to come in handy when it comes to productize the business even further.
4. Turn Your 1-on-1 Work Into A Group Offer
Now in some lines of work, this isn’t going to make sense. But if you are in the consulting business, coaching, that type of thing, then it most certainly can; in fact, a lot of coaches actually do that. So instead of actually offering one on one work where your time is not really very leveraged at all because you can only talk to only one person at a time, you instead scale up by offering small group coaching where you might put 5 to 10 clients into one class. And you teach that class and it is basically very systematized (that’s going back to our last tip where we talked about systematizing everything) you are going to have a systematized process at this point which you can bring 5 to 10 people at a time through it, simultaneously. So instead of you talking to one person at a time, you are now talking to ten. You are delivering 10 x scales from what you were before.
Now, obviously, every client is going to have their own little unique thing and so you are still probably going to have some one on one in there and you build that end to the value of the program and you make time for that. But then, you are only talking about those things that are custom to that client. You are not covering and repeating ground with each client one to one because you are now got the group coaching to it.
The other thing that is great about offering group coaching type of things like these is that it allows you to basically open and close each one and that provides that marketing scarcity which you can say “Hey, you got to get on this class by such and such date” and it gives you that sense of urgency and it helps you basically close the sale and then you deliver for a while… And then when that class is done, you go to marketing mode again or to bring in the next set of clients.
So it works out really well, especially again, if you are in a consulting or a coaching style of business.
5. Record Everything That You Do
Record all of it; even your one on one call with your clients. Now, it doesn’t mean that you are going to like distribute those calls; I wouldn’t think that is legal, but record everything that you do just for archiving purposes. So you are going to find; from that material that you are going to have things that you can add in to products later.
Obviously, for private one on one type of work, you are not going to be able to do that, at least without permission. If you got their permission to turn their thing into a case study, then you can go ahead. But otherwise, you definitely don’t want to do that. But you want to record everything that you do for people, especially for “how-to” type of things, because while you are performing a service…
Let’s say you are on your computer and you are performing some service that some client hired you to do just like you have done over and over again… Why not open up a video recording software and just talk out how you are doing what you are doing? It is a pretty big deal because that material can turn in to a product later. But the other thing that it does is that it enables you to someday be able to walk away from what you are doing and have somebody else fulfill your role. And this is something important for all service businesses to keep in mind; especially, like single entrepreneurial business whom they are doing all the work themselves… is that even though you are doing all the work and you are like the face of the whole thing, you want to document your own job as if it is a job separated from you.
In other words, don’t identify yourself with your own work like it is a part of your identity. Look at your job as a separate job, as an employment position. And you write it up and you document it as if it is just another employment position. And what you are doing is you are making that thing doable by somebody else. And therefore, the entire operation becomes less dependent on you over time and that means that one of your avenues of scaling is simply going to be hiring other people to do it. And therefore, you are still doing a service business but you are now the owner of the operation and somebody else is now doing what you used to be doing.
Record everything you do because it will get to come in handy for future products or it will come in handy for you to be able to make your position doable by somebody else.
6. Take The Repeatable Systems And Turn Them Into Products
So this one you might have known was coming, but you have been recording everything, you are hopefully even spending time on systematizing your production, you may have simplified operations to allow you to do that, you are not focusing to being all things to all people but you are specializing on certain services that you know people need and want…
And now, you take a lot of these repeating systems that you are now doing and you assemble them into a product that people can purchase from you and it is complete and total scaled at that point. Because if it is going to be a digital product and now people who don’t want to have you do it for themselves; they just want you to do it on a cheaper way, you say “Well, fine! Here’s the how-to, there you go… It’s cheaper!” And go for it! And it is a digital product so it is 100% profit to you, right? And the other thing too is that you can build that into your funnel at that point where you have the product offer, maybe a series of different product offers but you are also, still offering the service. It is just now more of a back end product; it is more of a higher end product, but you now have that front-end type of thing of digital products in your business.
7. Look For Opportunities For The Back End Of Your Sales Funnel
So you have got your core thing that you do, hopefully now you are thinking about simplifying it, systematizing it, productizing it and things like that… You still want to look at the idea of a sales funnel. And you want to build that in to your service business… So some opportunities for this back end of your sales funnel might include service arbitrage…
Service arbitrage is very simply where you have some other business provider; some other provider out there performing a service that your clients might also want. But instead of doing it for them yourself, you arbitrage somebody else’s service and you take a cut on the other end.
So let’s say that other providers charges $500 (I don’t know… We’re just coming up off the top of my head) and maybe they cut you a deal because you are referring people to them and they don’t have to do any marketing work and they are now charging $300, and then you get to pocket $200! Something like that… service arbitrage. So look for opportunities to partner with other businesses to refer people to them and basically you are getting a finder’s fee. And then you can set this up in multiple ways…
It can be a simple affiliate type of relationship or it could even be where that person is performing the work under your brand and you guys just create kind of a licensing agreement there. So another opportunity for a back end would be in offering supporting offers as an affiliate; basically, simple affiliate marketing. So what you would do there is look at products and services (if you want) but in this case, I am talking about products, software and things like that, that would be of interest to your type of clientele.
So like in my business, one way of doing this would be if somebody joins the Lab, which is not really a service aspect; it is a teaching aspect… But I do have services at the Blog Marketing Academy, too… And they need to create a bunch of landing pages, which pretty much everybody in my line of work does; I would offer Thrive Themes as an affiliate, and I do, and I do fairly well, too. So that is an example of that. It is offering something that is just part of the service; something that you know people are going to need and offering it to them as an affiliate.
Last one I want to mention here for a backend opportunity would be Retainer Fees… So if you are in the service business and you kind of get the core product done, you can actually have a maintenance agreement after that or something like that. You are on retainer to help them debug certain issues and they might pay you monthly for that and that is just basically the opportunity to have you do smaller scale follow-up work. But what you have essentially done there is allow you to build a recurring revenue into a service business, which is a really, really beautiful thing.
Alright, so those are our 7 Tips. I hope that was useful for all of you guys, who are in a service business, coaching, consulting… or actually performing a “done for you” services for people; whatever it might be, this can help you to move in to the type of stuff we are talking about here. Because one area of confusion that I have definitely seen with some people before and that is to think that they are in the service business, that this online marketing stuff that we talk about around here somehow doesn’t apply to you or that it is a little bit different… And you know what? It is not! Blog based marketing and the online marketing that we talk about works for pretty much everything. M’kay?
Now, I am not going to be helping people like sell Etsy products and eBay… I mean, that is not what I do. But essentially, if you are selling anything from your own website, even if it is trying to get local leads to local service business, it can be done using blog based marketing.
And so, if that is the case with you, and you need some help setting some of the stuff up, I would encourage you to jump into the Lab that we are talking about earlier. And again, the Lab is the teaching and community and support aspect of the Blog Marketing Academy where you and I can work together to implement much of what we have talked about in this podcast.
If you would like to check that out and have an exclusive “in” to the Lab without paying what everybody else pays… head on over to blogmarketingacademy.com/listeners and check out the deal that I have exclusively for people who are listening to this podcast.
Hopefully that was valuable. I will see you next time here on Coffee Break Blogging! Take care!