If you’ve been getting my newsletter for a while or have taken my course DYFR, you know all about my love for productized consulting. It’s a fantastic way to package your time into what looks and acts like an off-the-shelf product, and — done right — it can be huge for both the long-term stability of your business (by creating recurring revenue) and as a low touch method for getting new clients.
But if you don’t know what productized consulting is, or don’t fully yet grasp what it is and how you could create your own productized consulting business, read on. This post is for you.
I had written up an exhaustive description of what productized consulting is (and isn’t), but decided to scrap that in favor of examples. I’ve created case studies for 3 really great examples of productized consulting.
Kudu – Managed AdWords as a Service
Head over to http://kudu.io (now called Fencepost) — Is it an app… or a consulting business?
I honestly didn’t know at first. (OK, maybe I should have after reading “…gives you a dedicated AdWords expert”.)
But it looks like just about any other software-as-a-service website. The wall of gray-scaled logos. The explanation of benefits (I love, “No longer will you have to drown in Google’s confusing metrics and reports. Kudu makes it easy to track the numbers that matter to your business” — Software? Human? I don’t know.)
I also love that they have a pricing grid. Instead of a fixed price, you have options. These options are tied directly to your ad spend — ultimately, not that big of an issue, but they could do better. If I were Kudu, I’d be thinking about how they could provide additional value to their higher-value customers. I’d consider more intensive 1-on–1 coaching, landing page optimization services (after all, what’s the point of a really dialed-in ad campaign if the page that gets clicked through to sucks?), and other benefits that go above and beyond AdWords management.
Lastly, and the thing I really want to bring to your attention, is the weekly updates and the monthly report they provide. If I’m paying Kudu $599 a month, the last thing I want to see is a line item on my American Express bill for $599 and need to think, “What exactly did they do again?”
A lot of retainers and other subscription products need to justify their cost on a monthly basis. If the only thing your customers see is a monthly invoice, that’s often a hard expense to continuously justify. You can’t expect your clients to think: “Oh right, yeah, he did X, Y, and Z this month. Totally worth the cost.” — you need to show them this.
I’m a big fan of showing “deltas” in these reports — what changed between this month and last? How did putting more money into Kudu increase the value of my ad campaigns? They could do a bit better in showing this, but overall, well done!
My Content Sherpa – Audience building on autopilot
This case study is a bit… awkward for me to write about. One of the examples given on the website is about me and my business — but I’ll try to be as objective as possible 🙂
The first thing that caught my eye about My Content Sherpa is that Philip addresses the pain directly. You’re running a busy agency, but you don’t have time to manage your “content marketing” (gah, I hate that phrase) strategy. He does a great job of getting you to want to read on and see what he has to offer to fix the pain.
I also really like how Philip describes exactly what you’ll get. In the first month, this will happen. Afterward, so-and-so will happen.
A lot of us, when setting up long-term retainer agreements with clients, set it up as an ambiguous “pay me $X and I’ll… do work for you each month.” There’s no clear benefit. There’s nothing about that relationship that helps the client realize why they should consider paying you monthly.
The last thing I want to point out is that Philip does an excellent job of slaying objections. “My business is crazy complicated. There’s no way you could know… ” — and then he jumps in to counter that objection. And he does this again, and again, and again.
When people are deciding whether or not to buy, they’re often looking for any excuse to bail. This is true of people reading about My Content Sherpa, or prospective clients reading your consulting proposals. Philip’s done a great job to anticipate what objections might rise to the surface, and he eliminates them early on.
Correlation – Monthly creative direction for your startup
Hiring a full-time designer is expensive, and for bootstrappers like me often unrealistic. So a lot of us engineer-types (myself included) end up rolling our own designs, to the chagrin of our bank account.
I love how Jane qualifies. “You should consider using this service if…” By doing this, she’s not only weeding out people who aren’t good candidates for Correlation, but she’s also reaffirming the service to the people she’s targeting. I was nodding my head in agreement as I read through each point — which is exactly what you want your prospects to be doing.
Correlation also comes with a full money-back guarantee. This can be risky, but if the total reward outweighs what you need to do to provide the product, it should be a no-brainer. Think of it a bit like an actuarial table — What’s the risk that someone would cancel and ask for their money back? Does the reward (the new customers who will sign up because there’s no risk on their part) outweigh that? If the numbers make sense, a strong guarantee can be the single best objection killer available.
And the last thing I want to point out is that Jane realizes that not everyone is going to take her sales page at face value and be willing to part with $1,350 a month on someone they don’t really know.
She has a free email course that teaches people how to manage designers (these are the sort of people who are prime candidates for Correlation), and allows this group of people to receive value from her before they’ve paid her anything. She also has an ebook on app design that helps establish Jane and her philosophy toward design. I read the book before I ended up hiring her for Correlation, and there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have hired her if she wouldn’t have “sold” me with her book first — and $39 is much easier to part with than $1,000+ a month.
What can you offer?
Through these 3 case studies, I hope I’ve planted some sort of seed in the back of your mind. I’ve talked to literally hundreds of freelancers who want to sell products but aren’t sure how.
All of the services above are products. And none of the companies above are selling their time — they’re selling a result. Each of the examples I listed above are going to wake up next month with guaranteed income. There’s a clear “pay this, get that” benefit that their clients receive.
…And there’s nothing keeping you from doing the same. It doesn’t need to be some grand, public service offering like Kudu. It could start with a simple PDF that you give to your clients at the end of an engagement that offers them some sort of ongoing value for a monthly fee.
DYFR teaches you how to set up and sell productized consulting services, but regardless of whether or not you’ve taken the course, the above should inspire and inform you enough to start something new — no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential it might be at first.
(Note: I have no affiliate or commercially lucrative relationship with any of the above. I know Philip and Jane personally, both of whom are customers of mine and kicking butt when it comes to implementing what I teach. I also am a paying customer of Jane’s Correlation service, because she spoke to the pains I have in running a software business more than any other designer I’ve come across.)