Productised services – the alternative to being a consultant

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Productised services (or productised consultancy) is a replacement for traditional consulting. It’s the opposite of the billable hours model but doesn’t have all the investment cost and difficulties of selling full-on products.

Here’s how the productised services business model works.

Productised services is just a set of services you do in a set way. You decide how you can best meet your clients’ needs and wrap up your answer to their problems in one particular way.  This makes it easy for them to just pick up your services and get going with them.

Like a box of chocolates, you package up your services so people can choose what they want and get going.

productised services

As a business model it’s a bit different to the traditional divide between products and services. One person described it as non-binary, in the same way that non-binary people are a bit different from the traditional divide between men and women. And given how many people seem to be coming out as non-binary, we might see a whole lot more businesses coming out with productised services.

You have a few options as to how you put together your productised services offering.

Productised services packages

This is where you package up what you do and offer it as the solution to a particular set of client problems. You might offer a choice of different packages, or just one.

My 2-hour strategy sessions are like this. The people who book these have a particular business challenge they want to get some advice on, such as how to give away shares to a key member of staff or to get me to check over their pricing strategy.

They don’t need my ongoing business coaching because they just have one thing they want my help with. And they definitely don’t need me pitching all kinds of full-on help with running their business and charging them for dozens of hours of consultancy time.

They can click on the strategy session button, pay me £300 and schedule a time for us to meet up online. Job done.

Productised consulting – outcomes only

You’ll notice a theme here of how you can make products of your consultancy services.Traditional consultancy is based on the billable hours business model where the client pays for every hour that you work for them.

This is a hassle for you as the consultant. You have to always be filling in your timesheet, and thinking of ways to increase the number of billable hours you can charge for. This isn’t very satisfying for many of the intelligent people I work with, as they don’t want to charge by the hour. The satisfaction of the work for them is about achieving the right outcome for the client. Coming up with the elegant solution, not maximising the number of hours they’re on the job.

That’s why clients laugh in recognition when I tell them that we have to get them out of the prostitute business model of the billable hours.

Outcomes only productised consulting is one way out of this dilemma so you can concentrate on achieving the outcomes for your clients. It works very well when your customers are paying you for something only you can provide – the sum of your experience and expertise so you can give them the cool new way of looking at the problem.

An example of outcomes only productised consulting

My pal Ian helps companies to move forward on tech projects. Ian goes into a company where they want to streamline their sales process or develop a new SaaS product and spends some time with them every week. He helps them get organised and deal with the tech challenges. And he does research, a bit of coding and brings in other talented people.

What Ian doesn’t do is stay around for longer than he’s needed, or become a team leader or manager. He could do – many of these companies would love to have him permanently. But he’d wants to be able to do several projects at once, and spread himself around a bit.

His clients don’t care if he’s there for an hour or 20 hours each week. What they want is someone who will help them get to the end point, the bit where they can sell their new SaaS product and make money, or stop losing potential sales because their sales process is leaky.

How you can be like Ian

It takes a little bit of bottle to be able to sell like this. You do need to believe in yourself. Or at least act like you do. And you do need to have put the time into developing above average skills. If you are inexperienced or just starting out, this wouldn’t necessarily be the productised consulting package I’d recommend for you.

But, for many people this is exactly the right way to make the most of your skills. You get great results for your clients and get paid at a good rate.

I’ve helped quite a few clients put together a marketing plan to position their business in this way. And to set their sweetspot price to make this all worthwhile. If this sounds like your ideal way of working, let’s have a chat about how to make that transition.

Recurring productised services

The third option with productised services is to do your thing for your clients on an ongoing basis, but in a structured way with clear boundaries. This makes is different from the retainer business model.

Here’s an example of recurring productised services

Imagine that you are a Facebook ads expert. Your productised service is a monthly management service to put together Facebook ads for your clients. You agree in advance with them how much they want to spend, and you spend your time looking for ways for your clients to get better results with their Facebook ads but by spending less money. Nice selling point, when every other Facebook ads manager is selling their services on a proportion of the ad spend.

You’ve done lots of Facebook ads before, so you know how long it will take on average to do a campaign for a new client, and how much will be needed as upfront pre-loaded work, and how much time it will take you in subsequent months.

And off you go. You’re selling something a certain group of people need. And you know how many you can take on, so you can set your sweetspot price for each package that you sell.

Why would you want to switch to productised services?

I have two good reasons why you might want to switch entirely to productised services, or at least start to try them out as your introductory product.

Reason number one – it’s good for your clients. Clients want certainty. They want to know what they’re buying, how much it costs and know that they’re covered. They don’t want to get ripped off, but they also don’t want to have to sign off your time sheet or agree to an increase in the number of hours each time you do a bit more or a bit less work for them. Working through the productised services business model means that your clients know what they’re getting and how it all works.

Reason number two – it’s good for you. Productised services can mean that you can charge more money, which means you make more money and have more fun. And because you are being super clear with your clients, you can do this in an ethical way, without ripping anyone off. And you can have more lovely clients to work with because offering a productised service means that you can stand out from your competitors. You can be confident, clear, and your marketing can focus on the problems you can solve for your clients. Which should be the basis of all great marketing after all.

Want some support to get going with the transition to productised services?

Sometimes it really helps to get someone else’s perspective on how you package up what you sell. Not mention getting some help in assessing the right price to charge for those packages, and working out how to sell lots of them.

Here are some ways I can help with that:

1. If you’re making the change from traditional billable hours consulting to productised services and want to spend a couple of hours going over your proposed packages, you can book a couple of hours with me to make sure you’ve got this covered. Here’s how to book a one-off strategy session with me

2. If you’d like to talk about getting ongoing one to one business coaching for repositioning and pivoting your business, here’s how to get together for a coffee and cake, either in person in Brighton, or online if you’re somewhere else in the world.

3. Getting the right business model is a big part of the Remarkable Business programme I run. Check out when Remarkable Business is next scheduled here…

Photo credits

Linda Sondergaard, Brunno Tozzo from Unsplash, Ruth Hartnup from Flickr Creative Commons

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