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Category: Consulting

187’ing Proposals

I hate writing proposals. This isn’t a new development.

When I was the Director of Marketing for Ye Old Day Job, I wrote and submitted ~ $400 million of proposals in a year. To say I got burnt out on proposal writing is an understatement.

Nothing takes the wind out of your proposal-writing sails like:

  • Busting your tuches writing a 27-page proposal for a $$$$ project
  • Making it to the third-and-final round of interviews
  • Watching the selection committee crack open your proposal for the very first time. After taking the proposals out of the still-sealed FedEx package they arrived in three weeks ago. (Scout’s honor. I wish I were making this up.)

But I love Productized Offers. Mostly because productized offers make writing proposals (and quotes) so much more comfortable, less painful, and less time-consuming.

Proposal writing uses a lot of the ol’ creative energy. That’s especially true when your services are more of a range of skills (e.g., “I know SEO”) than specifically defined service offerings (e.g., SEO TuneUp for Shopify Stores).

Today, writing a custom proposal for a lead can take me ~3-5+ hours. Writing a quote for a productized service usually takes me ~20-30 minutes.

Every custom proposal you write involves re-defining what you’ll do for your client, re-estimating how long it’ll take, and figuring out a price. That’s a lot of work.

Switching from custom proposals to writing quotes for your productized offers makes this all rediculously easy.

See, instead of a range of skills, you have pre-defined productized offers (e.g., SEO TuneUp). When you have an initial call with your lead, you can learn more about their current situation, diagnose their problem, and decide which productized offer is right for them. After your call, you can follow-up with your lead and let them know which service you recommend.

If your lead needs a quote, you can write one up, reusing a ton of the pre-existing information you already have for your productized offer (e.g., the scope, the timeframe, the outcome, the price). Then, you can use a small amount of creative energy to reflect your lead’s current situation and problem back to them in the quote and send it off.

Altogether? Productized Offers help make consulting feel like E-Z mode. Standardizing your service offerings into productized offers makes it easier for both yourself and your lead.

Interested in succeeding with your productized offers? The excellent Marie Poulin and I are releasing our course on how to Design Your Productized Offer. Lessons will include:

  • Moving into a consultant role
  • Exploring your options for a productized offer
  • Creating (and iterating on) your offer
  • Pitching, promoting, and selling

And so much more.

Excelsior!

Kai

The productized offer secret sauce โœจ

Last night when replying to your (excellent) questions about productized offers, I realized that I’ve yet to write about my favorite secret sauce for successful productized offers.

The first bit of secret sauce (and one of the major “ah-ha!” moments for your clients) is that with a productized offer, your prices are no longer a guessing game for your clients.

Where your competitors are saying,

“I charge $/hour, and it’ll take somewhere between X and Y hours…”

You’re able to say,

“This is $X. And that’s a price quote, not an estimate.”

That’s a fantastic differentiator and will make your clients (and their pocketbooks) happy.

The other bit of secret sauce factor is that Productized Offers are backed by SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures, more info on that here: https://kaidavis.com/standard-operating-procedures/).

What this means is that your process can change, improve, and get more efficient over time. And as you develop your process and get better at delivery, you’ll earn more per hour — even if your prices stay constant.

When you’re just getting started, maybe that looks like $500 for 10 hours of crank turning, making you $50/hour. Not bad, could be better.

Once you’ve got a few reps in and have started improving your process, maybe that changes to look like $500 for 5 hours of crank turning, making you $100/hour. Pretty good, well done.

With your improved process (and social proof e.g., testimonials from clients), maybe you raise your price to $1,000. Now those 5 hours of crank turning make you $200/hour. That’s magical.

Excelsior!

Kai

Creating Productized Offers

What are tips for determining what goes in the offer, and then quickly putting it out there to test?

Crafting and testing a productized offer is an iterative process.

You’re going to start with your best guess, collect information and feedback through research, interviews, and conversations, and then use your findings to craft the next version of your productized offer.

If you’re thinking about launching a productized offer, start with a first draft using a simple structure and then start testing your offer in conversations:

The basic structure I like for a productized offer is:

  • Fixed price (e.g., $500)
  • Fixed timeline (e.g., “You’ll receive the deliverables three weeks after kickoff”)
  • Fixed scope (e.g., “I’ll do A and B, but not C”)

Here’s an example of what this could look like for an imaginary Podcast Graphic Design business. Their initial Productized offer could be:

Get updated art for your podcast! You’ll receive new podcast cover art and a set of banners to use on social. The price is $500, and this will take three weeks from kickoff to delivery.

What goes into the scope of your offer? You want to include the essential outputs and deliverables that your client will need.

What’s missing from the structure is the why behind your productized offer — the sizzle.

  • Why would a customer buy this service? Why aren’t they?
  • What’s the pain or problem they’re experiencing as the trigger?
  • What objections could someone experience when considering purchasing this service?

The answers to those questions are what adds marketing sizzle to your offer1 and go into your sales page.

Sizzle comes out of having conversations with prospects or people in your industry or target market and learning from their questions or feedback. But sizzle isn’t required to take your first draft productized offer live and start testing and collecting feedback.

Once you have an initial draft of your productized offer, you want to start showing your offer to people and having conversations with them about it.

Do people you show your offer to like it?

Throw money at you?

Have questions, hesitations, or objections?

These are all valuable outputs from testing.

For me, the quickest path to testing a productized offer looks like using quick + easy-of-the-shelf tools. e.g., put up a short, initial sales page or overview page in Google Docs or Notion and then start outreach.

Why use off the shelf tools? Because that removes the trap of fiddling with your offer on your website to ‘get it perfect.’ Get your text into Google Docs or Notion and move forward.

There’s a lot more to the process of crafting + testing a productized offer. To help you succeed, Marie Poulin and I are putting together a course on how you can design your productized offer. More on that in a few weeks time.

Excelsior!

Kai

p.s., Got a question about the whys, whats, or hows of designing a productized offers? Send me your questions (kai@kaidavis.com) or thoughts. I’m excited to hear from you.

  1. For a deeper dive on these ‘Why?’ questions, your recommended reading is The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza https://www.amazon.com/Brain-Audit-Customers-They-Dont/dp/0473175045 โ†ฉ

Your April SEO Tip

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), I like the garden metaphor because

  1. The best SEO strategies are of the ‘plant the seeds in the soil, water regularly, and harvest the crop in a few months to a year.”
  2. You’ve got to be careful where you walk, so you don’t step into a pile of bullshit.

Today, an SEO reminder to make sure you’re running the right (free) tools on your site, so you have the vital information about your website and your most popular pages when you need it for your marketing.

Google Analytics (GA)

First, you should have Google Analytics (GA) running on your business site.

GA helps you by collecting data about your traffic, visitors, and pages. This information enables you to optimize existing content or write new content. (e.g., “Hmm, this post on how ‘how to get on podcasts as an indie consultant’ gets a lot of traffic, I should test publishing a few more posts on that topic.”)

Google Analytics only collects data for you once it’s added to your site. So if you don’t have it running now, you’ve missed out on what’s happened in the past. But if you install it today, you’ll capture what’s happening in the future.

Get started here: analytics.google.com (it’s free).

And then in 1 month look in Google Analytics at the Behavior -> Site Content -> Landing Pages report. That tells you which pages people first land on when they find your site through any of the channels (e.g., social, referral, search, email).

I often look at that report to see which pages are getting a bunch of traffic. Then, I look at those pages to see if I can better optimize those pages (e.g., call to action, images, copy) for that traffic.

(If you’re opposed to Google Analytics, I recommend Fathom from the excellent Paul Jarvis).

Google Search Console (GSC)

Second, you should have Google Search Console (GSC) set up for your site.

GSC tells you about your site’s performance with reports on web search clicks, errors, issues with your coverage (Google saying “This is broken. Fix it.”), and some (not all) of the links pointing to your site.

GSC does look back in time, so if your site has been up since 2018 without Google Search Console when you add it to your website, you’ll see the relevant historical information.

Get started here: https://search.google.com/search-console (it’s free).

And then in 1 month look in Google Search Console at the following report:

The Google Search Console -> Performance report. This report shows you the search queries that are bringing traffic to your site. I often look at that report for keyword ideas. (e.g., “Hey, we’re getting some traffic for Podcast Outreach Email, let’s write another few posts around that topic.”)


Alright, here’s your homework:

  • [ ] Add Google Analytics to your site ([analytics.google.com/])
  • [ ] Add Google Search Console to your site ([https://search.google.com/search-console])

Excelsior!

Kai

How do you build a simple one-pager site for your business?

As an indie consultant, there are a lot of points in business when you need a quick + simple + professional website. Three common ones:

  • You need a personal homepage
  • You have a new service offering you’re testing
  • You’re exploring a new market and testing new positioning

No matter what the unique trigger is, the need is universal: you want to throw up something simple that you can direct people to.

You could set up a Jamstack or deploy a site through GitHub or with an S3 bucket… but what if you’re searching for a simple, quick, no-code solution?

Can I tell you about Carrd?

Carrd: build one-page sites for pretty much anything

Carrd.co has the answer to your need for a simple, professional, quick single page site. You can use Carrd’s free plan and dozens of templates to get your website up and running.

Need a pro feature like an email signup form, Stripe payment widget, or Google Analytics? You’ll find what you need with Carrd’s pro features (and at $19 per year for a pro-Carrd account, that’s an incredible deal).

So, dear reader, go forth and create that one-page site. Test your service offering, explore that market, or get that new personal homepage up and running.

Excelsior!

Kai

[Reader Question] Start as a generalist or niche down?

A reader writes in with an excellent question:

Would you start as a generalist or focus on a specific type of consulting, and if one specific niche, how would you narrow it down?

I’ve got a lot of thoughts on this, and the fundamental answer is “The Riches are in the Niches.”

The more specific you can make your niche or market, the better. The more money you’ll make, the easier your marketing will be, etc.

That means you want to move away from niches like ‘Small Business’ and move towards niches that are targeted and specific. Like ‘Veterinary Clinics’ or ‘Accountants’ or ‘Direct To Consumer Apparel Stores on Shopify.’

When I’m evaluating a niche, I approach it with a few questions. The goal of asking + answering these questions is to get a small set of starting points for market research. (This helps you go from from ‘all possible markets/niches’ to ‘a small set of possibilities’).

Q1: What are niches, industries, or types of businesses (e.g., “business development for “) that you’ve worked with in the past independently or as part of a job?

Q2: What are niches, industries, or markets that you are interested in? Where do you spend your time? Got X years of reading about ____? (e.g., hobby and gaming stores, dentists)

Q3: What problems are interesting to you? What problems do you have the skills to solve? What problems do you want to explore and spend time with? (e.g., how do we sell more, more often to our best customers and clients?)

Then,

  • Make a shortlist (~2) of the niches/markets/industries from Q1 and Q2 that most interest you
  • Make a shortlist (~2) of the problems from Q3 that most interest you
  • Combine the niches (e.g., ‘dentists’) with the problems (e.g., ‘how do we sell more, more often to our best customers and clients’) so you have ~4 combinations
  • Start your market research. Search around online and see if you can find material that confirms that problem is something that industry/niche/market experiences and actively spends money to solve. (e.g., search on Google for service providers serving that niche and helping with that problem, search on YouTube for videos of conference talks for that niche about that problem).

Once you find an active niche + an actual problem, you’re ready to move into 1-on-1 market research conversations, but that’s a topic for another letter.

Excelsior!

Kai

Your recommended business reading for May

Two book recommendations for you today. Both will help you level up as a business owner and make more profit, especially in these interesting times.

Company of One by Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis’s book Company of One is an excellent read on Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing.

What if the real key to a richer and more fulfilling career was not to create and scale a new start-up, but rather, to be able to work for yourself, determine your own hours, and become a (highly profitable) and sustainable company of one? Suppose the better-and smarter-solution is simply to remain small? This book explains how to do just that.

Company of One on Kindle is $2 on US Amazon and $3 on CA Amazon.

Click through for source

The book is worth buying at any time, but with this crazy low price, you should snap it up immediately.

Here’s your link: https://www.amazon.com/Company-One-Staying-Small-Business/dp/1328972356

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine Hardcover by Mike Michalowicz

Profit First is a great book for working out profitability.

Conventional accounting uses the logical (albeit, flawed) formula: Sales – Expenses = Profit. The problem is, businesses are run by humans, and humans aren’t always logical.

Serial entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz has developed a behavioral approach to accounting to flip the formula: Sales – Profit = Expenses.

Just as the most effective weight loss strategy is to limit portions by using smaller plates, Michalowicz shows that by taking profit first and apportioning only what remains for expenses, entrepreneurs will transform their businesses from cash-eating monsters to profitable cash cows.

Profit First is $14.99 on US Amazon and very much worth the price.

Here’s your link: https://www.amazon.com/Profit-First-Transform-Cash-Eating-Money-Making-ebook/dp/B01HCGYTH4/

We read Profit First in Freelance Camp’s Book Club (https://freelance.camp) at the start of the year, and everyone enjoyed it.


By the way, if you’re looking to start selling profitable, paid discovery sessions in 2020, grab a copy of Quick Start Roadmapping Sessions and get started with everything you need: https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/

Excelsior!

Kai