Let’s put on our imagination caps for a moment and head back to the year 1996…
It’s Thursday. The week before your nephew’s birthday. (The nephew whose birthday you’ve forgotten for the last three years.)
You head to the local mega toy store to snag a gift.
When you arrive, you remember that your nephew loves power rangers. And loves pizza. (Maybe? You think? It’s hazy…)
But browsing the shelves, you don’t see that ‘Mighty Morphing Pizza Slinger’ that you know exists (and know that he would love). You see some power ranger toys. And you see some pizza-related toys. But none in the same box. Hmm.
So you wave down a clerk and explain the situation.
You can see what they carry. But it’s not quite what you need. You’d like the clerk to:
- Open up one of the Power Ranger toys
- Open up one of the Pizza-related toys
- Combine the parts in one box (for gift-wrapping ease) but leave out a few of the pieces that don’t make sense
- Seal the box up (so it doesn’t look awkward)
- Sell the result to you for the price of one toy
After all, they have the parts sitting right there. Why not make your life easier? You are — after all — the customer.
After listening to your request, the clerk kindly and politely says, “No.”
You see, we sell specific products here. You can buy a power ranger toy, you can buy a pizza-related toy, or you can buy both! But we can’t take our products off the shelves, customize them for you, or change your pricing. What you see is what we have available. Now, how can we help you?
Now, jump forward back to the year
How often do leads, prospects, and (sometimes!) clients ask you for precisely this sort of customization?
Maybe you sell a few standardized services or packages — productized services or not! — that you have defined and listed on your website for easy purchase. But leads show up who want you to customize your services for them. “Drop that, add this, nix the other thing, and make it available as a 2-for-1 on net-60 payment terms.”
As service providers, there can be a strong desire to meet these requests. After all, they have a situation, and they think you can help, so shouldn’t you get started helping them? Crack open those offerings, mix them, and get them something that (while awkward and a potentially ill-advised combination) helps them out with their situation?
Just like our fictional store has specific products available for sale (the packaged products on their shelves), you (most likely!) have defined products, offerings, and packages available for purchase.
Maybe yours are productized offers with a defined price, timeline, and scope. Perhaps they’re packages, defined offers, or initial service offerings that you’ve found work well for your clients, your market, and your skills.
When someone shows up and requests something custom, they’re saying, “Hey, I see what you have for sale in your store. But I’d like you to make me something special.”
Sure, sometimes that can be a peanut butter-and-chocolate moment that helps you launch a new offering or see a unique opportunity in the market.
But most of the time (99.95%), it’ll turn out to be an awkward jumble of an offering that hasn’t been thought through.
Just like a store is in the business of selling the products on its shelves — and not cracking them open and mixing them in a bespoke offering — I encourage you to follow that same approach with your service offerings.
Treat what you’re selling as defined ‘sealed in a box’ offerings (not a bunch of loose parts to be picked through and assembled like legos).
And if a lead shows up and insists on custom, bespoke options, then I have three paths for you to consider.
- Offer them a roadmapping session. Before you start to mix the parts from two different services, sit down and talk through what outcome they’re looking for, their goals, and what they already know. Then, based on that, recommend a made-to-fit project and quote for their unique situation. (https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/)
- Let them know that custom projects have custom pricing (that starts at $Xk). You can price custom projects high, making it easier to nudge people to your lower-priced standardized offerings. Sure, you can build them the custom offering of their dreams, but it’ll have a substantial price tag on it.
- Just tell them ‘No.’ If you aren’t in the business of building custom offerings, tell them that. “What you see is what we have for sale.”