“It feels like riding a roller coaster of clients and revenues.”
If you’re an owner or operator of a service business, like an agency or a consultant, there’s a good chance that line describes you.
That’s what one of several customers wrote to me last week in reply to my “Rock Tumbler” article.
In it, I told my story of starting from scratch and eventually figuring out how to grow by productizing our business.
The people who wrote to me said they felt stuck (like I was). They asked for help to transition their business away from custom services and towards a productized business.
First, what is a productized business? I’ll explain with an example…
As a kid, I used to earn extra money whenever I could.
In the summer, I would wash cars or bus tables at a restaurant.
In the winter, I’d shovel snowed-in driveways.
When a particularly bad blizzard hit New York one year, I managed to earn $1,000 in a day which is a lot when you’re broke.
I’d hired a few friends, and I pre-sold homeowners the day before on our shoveling services. That way we were ahead of the competition and could focus on getting paid.
All it took was a bit of sweat equity to get my own “service business” off the ground.
Service businesses are the easiest kind to start because they require zero up-front investment of money. All you need is a client and boom, you’re in business!…
The problem is that service businesses are also the most challenging to grow.
- How do you efficiently find, educate, and convert client leads?
- How do you qualify and sell high-ticket services to those leads?
- Moreover: How do you keep taking on new clients when your skills and time — not to mention your sanity and emotional fortitude in the face of a mountain of work — are limited resources?
The solution is to transition to (or create) a productized service.
A productized service solves all these issues by packaging the service and systemizing every detail of the business’s delivery of the service. It does this to the point where you can eventually step away, and the business runs without you.
I’ve done this.
This is me celebrating in June 2017 with the girl who would become my wife.
I won’t tell you it was easy — I figured it out the hard way, as I wrote last week.
I launched my first productized service (not even knowing that’s what I was doing) in 2015.
I did it out of sheer frustration.
It did ok. Here’s a graph of revenue from the first 11 months.
I launched a new productized service again (but better) in April 2017. We went from 0 to over $230,000 annual recurring revenue within 60 days of launching.
I’ve continued to learn, reflect, and grow as an entrepreneur since then.
Today I want to hammer home for you how different it is to owning a productized business compared to being owned by (because that’s how it feels) a non-productized business.
It’s like “night” vs. “day.” — like a roller coaster vs. a well-oiled machine.
Other entrepreneurs who have launched successful (6- and 7-figure) productized businesses contributed theirs to this article.
With their help, here’s what I’m sharing with you today:
- Amazing examples of some of the most successful productized businesses.
- The top benefits of running a productized business. Each founder explains them in their own words.
- Top tips (from each entrepreneur) for how to productize your business.
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Examples of Productized Service Businesses
Let’s begin by introducing the businesses and founders.
Each is a unique example of a productized service business. Their price points range from under $100 per month to thousands of dollars.
Many use a subscription model, others use a credit system or per project fees.
Remember: what makes them productized is the fact that they have packaged their services, limited the scope of work, and systemized the delivery.
Example #1 — Scribe
Tucker Max is the Co-Founder of Scribe.
Scribe is a productized service for entrepreneurs and authors who want to write a book but are strapped for time.
(And they get the top slot since I love the concept and I’m currently on the 2nd draft of my own sci-fi trilogy right now. Click the link if you want early access before it comes out.)
Writing a book (not to mention three books) is a challenge. It takes time to outline, draft it, rewrite, re-read it, editing—and that’s just for creating it.
If you want it to be successful you need to put some marketing muscle behind it.
Scribe helps solve all aspects of this.
For instance, they collaborate with entrepreneurs by interviewing them and then turning their knowledge and their own research into the actual book.
In the sections below, Tucker talks about what he feels are the biggest benefits to running a productized business, as well as his top tip for successfully transition to be one.
Example #2 — AutoGrow.co
Obviously, this is our company.
As I discussed in the intro above, in 2017 we had great success when we launched our done-for-you sales funnel service.
The big problem we tackled with the productized service was the fact that it takes a lot of time, and a wide range of skill sets to create an effective sales funnel for your business.
- As a business owner, you’re busy.
- You know the marketing basics, but you’re not a copywriter / developer / designer / ads manager, etc.
- There are a lot of pieces to create, apps and pages to fit together, then tracking… Optimization… And on and on…
It’s a lot to handle, to say the least.
But you have to do it to succeed online! 🙁
Our solution was to become our clients’ marketing team, and for a monthly fee, we did it all for them on autopilot.
“AutoGrow.co” get it? 😀
The end result: fresh, qualified leads generated and sales converted.
Similar to Justin McGill of Leadfuze (below), the productized service was a stepping stone for us to transition to a products-focused business model.
However, I see there’s still great demand from our audience for this service. I’m planning on relaunching a new version of it in the near future. If you’re interested, click here to let me know.
What we’ll launch will be something really cool, a hybrid of software + done-for-you service. Stay tuned…
Example #3 — Design Pickle
Design Pickle was founded by Russ Perry in 2015.
The service addresses the problem of needing to hire a graphic designer to create various icons, images, banner ads, etc. for your business.
Many graphic / web designers don’t offer affordable, on-going services.
Design Pickle solves this problem by giving you a dedicated designer for a reasonable monthly fee.
As someone who started in web design, I admire what they’ve created.
In the time since it was founded, Russ and the team have scaled their service to over 11,000 customers and tens of millions in revenue.
Russ speaks from his experience running a design agency as well as tips related to an increase in competitive services.
Example #4 — Lead Cookie
(Love that logo).
Lead Cookie is focused on solving the problem of B2B lead generation.
It tackles this problem by striking relevant / casual conversions with prospects via LinkedIn.
Content Allies also utilizes LinkedIn but for the purposes of spreading or repurposing content in order to nurture relationships and drive more leads.
I love his tip in the Q&A section below…
Example #5 — Ethercycle
(Another great logo)
Ethercycle is a productized marketing agency service co-founded by Kurt Elster.
They specialize in designing and optimizing Shopify stores.
They charge both flat fees for their services, as well as monthly fees depending on what clients need.
They publicly advertise their packages, prices, and everything included on their website.
Example #6 — SpeedKills
Vic and his team provide a productized service around hosting WordPress websites called SpeedKills.io.
The problem their service solves is the fact that a website’s Google ranking (traffic), as well as its sales (conversion rate) is directly tied to how fast a website loads.
They specialize in solving this problem by upgrading a website’s speed, increasing security, and saving their clients the time of doing these optimizations themselves.
It’s a fully managed service, so they take care of all the technical stuff.
He is also the founder of MemberFix, a productized service which helps online entrepreneurs create membership sites as well as troubleshoot tech problems.
Example #7 — LeadFuze
Justin McGill is the founder of LeadFuze.
I’ve known Justin for a while.
He started with an agency business. Then transitioned to create LeadFuze as a productized service.
His vision from the start was to turn the business into a SaaS (software product).
But the productized service allowed him to validate the market need, grow revenue and profits, and then reinvest to create what LeadFuze is today.
As a productized service, and now as a software tool, they address the problem of B2B lead generation and prospect list building.
They solve this problem by providing unlimited access to their database of 350 million contacts to ensure accurate data and to save time on prospecting.
Example #8 — SEOak
SEOak was founded by Jeff Couret.
This company provides professional SEO services for small businesses. It also focuses on helping them solve their leads, sales, and revenues problems.
They offer SEO reseller plans for established digital marketing company owners and eCommerce SEO Services monthly plans.
All these to help them grow their businesses and increase their MRR.
SEOak delivers too long-term marketing strategies for small businesses to increase their ROI.
After migrating to productized services, Jeff had more time to focus on growing his business without having to actually do the work.
And that’s the beauty of having a productized business, isn’t it? Jeff gives more details on the benefits of productizing in the next section.
8 Benefits to Productizing (From Entrepreneurs Who Would Know)
For each of the businesses listed above, we asked each founder two questions.
The first was:
What do you feel is the biggest benefit of a productized service vs. what you had before?
Tucker Max, Co-founder – Scribe.com
“There are two major benefits to productized services, and they are intertwined:
Scalability and leverage.
Having a properly productized service means it can be scaled far beyond you, and serve dozens, hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of clients more than you could do yourself.
This is what creates the ultimate competitive advantage in life—leverage. You can do so much more with so much less when you can scale—assuming you do it properly.”
Matt Ackerson (Me), Founder and CEO – AutoGrow.co
“The biggest short term benefit I experienced from productizing was peace of mind.
I felt and knew that I owned the business and not the other way around. It allowed me to relax for once: clients were being taken care of, the team took care of 95% of operations, and so I could actually take a break to spend time with friends and family.
(This is one reason why my upcoming ebook / audiobook is titled “Relax: It’s Time to Productize”)
Longer-term, the benefit to productizing is that clients get better results, revenue is predictable, and clients are happier because they have clearer expectations.”
Russ Perry, Founder & CEO – DesignPickle.com
“What is really nice about a productized service is simply you know exactly what you’re getting: you know what the cost is and you know what the output is (usually the output is linear, meaning if you pay more, you get more — there is no confusion on that).
Typically, the company that’s running a productized services has a defined process, meaning that the output is a lot more consistent.
This is just huge especially with sales funnels because if you are looking at tasks to create using visual designs as part of your sales funnel, you are going to want to make sure that you have a resource like design Pickle that can be known quantity[?] as you’re building out those strategies.”
Jake Jorgovan, Founder of 2 productized services – Lead Cookie & Content Allies
“The biggest benefit of a productized service is that you sell the exact same thing every time.
There is no customization, no proposals, and no back and forth. You have a conversation, evaluate if it is a fit, and then they either buy or don’t buy.
There is no back and forth on terms and scope. You set your own terms with the boundaries of the service and the prospect can take it or leave it.
The biggest mistake most people make with building productized services is that they bake themselves into the delivery of the service. This makes it hard for them to ever step back because their personal expertise gets tied into the deliverables.”
Side note: I 100% agree with Jake’s comment about the top mistake people make when productizing. I made this mistake the first time I tried to productize our agency! You want clients to buy your brand and your solution, not you.
Kurt Elster, Co-Founder & CEO – Ethercycle
“The biggest benefit of productized services is the ease of selling. Your sales leads will be significantly more qualified.
In traditional consulting, they need to contact you, talk, get a proposal, and then discover there’s a mismatch and you both wasted your time. Not a fun experience for anyone.
With productized consulting, you’re advertising the scope of work and price upfront, so clients have a much easier time making a purchase decision before contacting you. For that reason, productized consulting packages suit themselves well to your initial service offerings.”
Vic Dorfman, Founder – MemberFix & SpeedKills.io
“In the case of both productized services we run (SpeedKills.io — a managed WordPress hosting service, and MemberFix — a WordPress and Membership site support service, which is by far our biggest business), the benefit I’ve found is a certain predictability that allows you to proceed relatively calmly with growth and improvement.
When you “productize” you’re forced to craft and refine specific terms of engagement along which you and your customers agree to do business.
It takes a while to arrive at terms that benefit you and your customers in equal measure (in a good relationship there should be a mutual net gain). It’s normal to have to refine your terms many times over the lifespan of your business.
What we had before was more of an agency scenario.
Customers would engage us when they needed us and we never knew when we’d get flooded with a deluge of work or left to buzzards with no income for months on end.
Productizing not only allowed us to deliver better value to our customers, but it also evened out our revenue and made our income as a company more predictable which has allowed us to invest in great team members, processes, and growth.
Crucially, over time, these incremental improvements fueled by a more or less predictable revenue stream, adds tons of value to our customers which makes the product more valuable, attracts more business, reduces churn, etc.!”
Justin McGill, Founder – Leadfuze
“I have an agency background where everything was custom. This meant longer proposal times, longer sales cycles, and different specialties for each campaign.
When I launched LeadFuze, I knew it was eventually going to be a software product. But I wanted to start with a productized service to offer what the end software was ultimately going to provide.
This was a way to validate the market and start making revenue immediately while the software was being built.
Being productized allowed me to go through the repetitions a couple of times to fine-tune it, and then immediately outsource it. It meant I could also price it like a software solution, where they just picked the best plan for them.”
Jeff Couret, Founder – SEOak
“The biggest benefit is the ability to much more easily scope out my processes, which makes hiring much easier.
Before doing productized services, it was almost impossible to hire because I was saying yes to nearly every opportunity that presented itself to me. There was just no predictability in what I’d be doing from one project to the next.
Once I decided to focus on white label SEO, I started doing the same types of things over and over again.
As you might imagine, at that point it’s fairly easy to put a list of steps together and to find the right people to execute the tasks.
And then the major side benefit there is freeing up my own time to focus on marketing my business and growing it instead of always being the only person “doing the work”.”
Pro Tips to Successfully Productize Your Business
The second question I asked everyone was:
One simple tip or lesson learned for anyone who wants to make a successful leap to productized services?
Tucker Max, Co-founder – Scribe.com
“The biggest thing when moving from custom services to productized services is that you have to change your mindset from “I’m the expert, I can just do it,” to something like, “How do I make this so it can be done by anyone (or the properly trained people)?”
You have to become a systems thinker.
You have to let go of the feeling that there is some special magic to what you do. If there is a special magic that’s fine—but that means you cannot actually productize your service.
Matt Ackerson, Founder & CEO – AutoGrow.co
“Create a well-thought-out sales funnel, with super clear copy…
But here’s one specific action:
Offer a strong win-win risk reversal.
When you do everything custom, like an agency, you can’t afford to offer a money-back guarantee or a free trial.
After all, you’re usually charging thousands and on a per-project basis. So if one client isn’t happy, that’s going to be painful to refund. Most service businesses don’t do this for this reason and because you can’t refund your time.
A productized service is different because the scope of work is limited and expectations are clearer.
Not only that but revenue is more predictable, and the sales cycle is reduced to a single phone call or none at all.
Offering some sort of a 14-day or 30-day guarantee will make the decision even easier for clients, allowing them to buy with peace of mind.
As long as you fulfill expectations, no client will need to exercise the guarantee. On the other hand, if they do, the business can afford it because of the economics (speed of conversions / pricing) of the model.
Russ Perry, Founder & CEO – DesignPickle.com
“Simple. Niche, niche, niche, niche, niche.
I think we see a lot of competitors at a time for Design Pickle but if you truly want to compete against us it would be like the super niche — you only do graphic design for 20-year-old women launching Instagram brands, something like that.
That is my tip for anybody no matter what type of services you’re focusing on.”
Jake Jorgovan, Founder of 2 productized services, Lead Cookie & Content Allies
“My #1 tip is to hire someone else to do the implementation for you from day one.
If it’s a design service, hire a designer. If it’s a content service, hire a writer.
The problem most people run into is they say “I’m a writer so I am going to build a content writing service. Once I am big enough I will scale and hire others.”
That is a mistake because people start hiring YOU instead of your service.”
Kurt Elster, Co-Founder & CEO – Ethercycle
“Don’t overcomplicate your offerings.
Your productized consulting offering should be very straight forward.
No options, no ranges, just a clear outcome or deliverable for a single fixed price.
With experience, you’ll revise the price, scope of work, and sales letter to perfection.
Keep it simple.”
Vic Dorfman, Founder – MemberFix & SpeedKills.io
“There’s no hack.
You really can’t encapsulate a serious business undertaking in one tip—or even ten!
But thanks to the magic of run-on sentences, I can suggest the following…
Work hard to develop your terms, give your customers the best possible service you can, hire excellent team members (we hire in Eastern Europe exclusively), spend a lot of time on processes / documentation, remember to take days off and insist your team members do the same, fight hard to keep your customers, switch to Profit First accounting, when you can afford it hire an operations manager, and don’t give up. :)”
Jeff Couret, Founder – SEOak
“One tip is to not give your first customer too much pull when deciding what’s included and what’s not.
I let my first customer basically decide what the first iteration of my first productized service was, and then no one else bought for a few months until I redesigned it a bit.
Instead, I’d suggest putting a package together that 3-5 people in your target market are willing to try at a discounted price in exchange for some testimonials.
This way, you know you’ll have something with more mass appeal.”
Ready to Get Off the “Roller Coaster” and Productize Your Business?
To recap, here’s what it means to productize your business.
- It means you sell a service, but it is packaged and the delivery of the service is so well systemized that the company can eventually run without you.
- It’s “productized” because the service is so well defined it is almost as if clients were ordering an actual product.
- This transition of your business model is significant because most service businesses today require custom proposals and custom work to be done with every single new order. With a productized business, the process is templated out in a way that streamlines the work, making it easier to delegate and grow.
Productizing ultimately is about allowing you to work on your business rather than in your business.
If you are ready to get off the client & revenue roller coaster, you should know I’m getting ready to launch a comprehensive ebook / audiobook on how to productize.
The book is a step-by-step guide to help you make a transition from where you’re at today (whether you’re an agency, a freelancer, a B2C service business) and transform into a productized service.
Even if you’re a startup entrepreneur who hasn’t launched anything yet, this book is a comprehensive guide to creating, launching, and growing a productized business.
In addition to the audio version, it also includes templated resources.
I’ll be launching it within 2 weeks, tentatively titled:
“RELAX: It’s Time to Productize”
Now it’s your turn to tell me.
What did you think of this article? Did you relate to any of the examples?
Where are you at today and what do you find most appealing about the idea of productizing your business?
Leave a comment below now. I’d love to hear from you.
Keep Productizing, Stay Focused,