Is Productized Consulting really a good fit for your business?

By Kai • Get daily marketing tips for consultants here


My colleague Jason Pelker raised some excellent points about Productized Consulting in his recent article. As a fan and proponent of the Productized Consulting methodology, I’m writing this article to offer a different view and give readers more information to think about when working on their businesses. Thanks for inspiring this article, Jason!

Edit, February 14th, 2016: Since I original posted this article, Jason has updated the original version of his article, as of February 14th, 2016. Jason updated this ~2 days after his original publication. While I believe Jason’s corrections look much better, his original article forms the basis for this article, and it believe it useful for the reader’s purposes to compare each. Here is a screenshot of his original article, as of February 13th, 2016.

What Is Productized Consulting?

What — exactly — is Productized Consulting? As far as I can tell, there isn’t a strict canonical definition of what Productized Consulting is and is not.

Lots of people have written and spoken about Productized Consulting:

These are a lot of smart people. If you have the time, I encourage you to read these articles and listen to these interviews. You’ll come out the better for having invested the time.

When I was interviewed on The Freelancer’s Show about Productized Consulting, there was answer I gave that stuck out:

So the attack I usually take when I think about a productized consulting offering is — one of the major benefits to the consultant is it eliminates the need for proposals, and that’s what originally drew me to create my own productized consulting offerings.

I wanted to step away from investing five, ten, fifteen hours in writing a proposal; negotiating it, waiting with the client to get other proposals; and go through that whole roller coaster ride. So I just wanted to set something up with a sales page so the client could read through it and say, “Hey, this sounds like exactly what I want to do,” and there’s a ‘Buy’ button or an ‘Apply Here’ button.

We’ll get started, and I was able to rescue that time from that proposal cycle. So that might be an interesting way to approach this, too — to see of the offerings you enjoy doing, which ones are pretty standard and which ones you have to go through for a procurement, to a proposal process with and would productized consulting help you eliminate that from your whole sales cycle.

My definition of Productized Consulting is this:

Productized Consulting is offering fixed-scope, flat-rate consulting offerings, displayed as online proposals — ‘sales pages,’ essentially — that present the buyer with the information about the service that you’re offering. Typically, this includes:

  • The Problem
  • The Solution
  • The Trigger
  • The Audience

And so on.

That is what I define a Productized Consulting engagement as.

  • Fixed-Scope, because you’re clearly defining the scope of what the engagement includes. Does my Website X-Ray (SEO Audit) include a plan for Outreach? Nope, but my Digital Outreach Plan does.
  • Flat-Rate, because I am clearly communicating what the current price of that service offering is, anchoring it against the value that my ideal client would receive from the service.

By offering a fixed-scope for the service, you’re clearly communicating to the client what to expect. (“I’ll do A, but not B or C”).

By offering a flat-rate — a public price — for the service, you’re clearly communicating to the client what the project will cost. Ideally, you’re anchoring this price against the potential value of the service.

If the client values the service above your price, it’s a no-brainer decision for them to buy.

If not, they won’t buy.

Productized Consulting is about four things:

Doubling Down On What You Do Well

If you enjoy providing a service, Productized Consulting lets you do that service more often.

If you want to get better at something, practice it. If you want to get really good at SEO, sell an SEO Website Audit. If you want to get really good at A/B testing, sell an A/B testing package.

Why? Because clients will now have direction on what you do and how you can help them. And that will make it easier for them to decide to work with you. And it will be easier for you to practice the skill of doing that work.

You gain experience delivering that service, shortening the time it takes you to fulfill the project

You gain a stack of testimonials all about the same type of project in the same industry, making you more attractive to clients

Looking at my business, I do six things:

  • Website X-Ray SEO Audits (And a smaller, tangential offering — Website X-Ray: Express)
  • Digital Outreach Plans
  • Traffic Powerup Outreach Engagements
  • Marketing Growth Workshops
  • Business Coaching for Marketing Consultants

That’s it. That’s what I offer. That’s what I’ve done for the last 18 months. Those six services. Full-stop.

I have become pretty good at fulfilling these services. I enjoy providing these services. People enjoy buying these services.

Adding Leverage To Your Business

When you charge hourly, daily, and weekly, you put yourself in the position of needing to account for the time you’re spending on a project.

One benefit — and risk — of productized consulting is that you’re charging on a project basis.

Before the project, you agree with the client on the value of the project, the price for the project, and what you’ll accomplish for them.

If it takes you one hour or one hundred hours, you’re delivering on the project for the client. The faster you’re able to deliver for the client, the higher your effective hourly rate. Your incentive is to complete the project — to spec — efficiently and quickly.

Productized Consulting lets you better leverage your time. And because you’re anchoring the price of the project against the value to the client, you’re able ‘win’ when it takes you less time than you anticipate to complete the project.

Likewise, as you get more testimonials, more case studies, and more happy clients, you can raise the rate for the project, without increasing the scope. If there’s enough demand for your service, raise the price.

The risk? You underestimate the time it will take you to complete the project. If it takes longer than you estimate to complete the project, you end up earning a lower effective hourly rate than you intended.

That’s the risk with any project where you’re accepting a flat fee for the work. I’ve had projects take longer than anticipated and, in the end, earn a lower effective hourly rate than I wanted.

I adjusted the scope of what I was offering, increased the rate, and made sure that I was able to deliver what I was selling in the time I was estimating it would take.

Pro Tip: Don’t jump into offering a fixed-rate, fixed-scope service without validating it first.

  • Do the project for a friend.
  • Test it by selling the project on a per-hour basis.

Validate the time it will take you to complete the project and discover the unknowns. Then, once you have that understanding, launch it as a productized service.

Eliminating Proposals

The major benefit to me from Productized Consulting? I don’t write proposals.

If someone wants to work with me, I have an initial phone call with them. After discussing their goals, their business, and their roadblocks, I suggest one of my off-the-shelf services that make the most sense for their needs and goals.

Then, they can read about the services I recommend, see the price, and make a buy/don’t-buy decision.

No proposal necessary.

I brought in over $125,000 in revenue in 2015 without writing a single proposal. 95% of my income was from Productized Consulting. 5% was from selling eBooks.

Here’s a screenshot from my Stripe account.

Productized Consulting wasn’t — and isn’t — the silver bullet that let me grow my consulting business to that level.

Productized Consulting is the silver bullet that has let me eliminate proposal writing from my business.

Clear Communication With Prospects

When you have Productized offerings, you make it easier for the buyer to decide if they want to work with you.

When I have a new prospect approach my business, this is how it goes:

  1. The prospect contacts me or is referred to me
  2. I respond back with a short email with some initial questions to determine if we’ll be a good fit (5 minutes: sending an email template)
  3. If the prospect responds, I review their answers and determine if I think we can work well together and if I can help their business (10 minutes: reading their response)
  4. If I believe I can help them, I schedule a call with the prospect to dive deeper into their business and learn about their goals, their roadblocks, and their needs — and learn how I can help. (5 minutes: sending an email)
  5. I get on a call with them to discuss their business, their goals, and how I can help. At the end of the call, I let them know if I can — or cannot — help them. (45 minutes: phone call)
  6. If I can help their business, I send them recommendations on which of my services makes the most sense for their goals. They can read about the services and then make a purchasing decision. (15 minutes: sending an email)
  7. The prospect makes a buy/don’t-buy decision.

So, for a prospect, if I believe I can help them, I’ve invested a total of 90 minutes to get them to the decision-making point.

When proposals were involved in my business, I’d tack on another 5-10 hours to write and customize a proposal, present it to the buyer, let them review it, negotiate the proposal with them, and then get to the buy/don’t-buy decision.

Productized Consulting has let me clearly communicate to a prospect what I do and what I don’t do. This makes it easier for a prospect to know if I’m the right person to work with them.

Aside: Because I position myself as helping people increase their traffic and build an audience, I often get requests to help with PPC campaigns or write email campaigns.

When that happens, I politely decline, send the prospect links to the services that I do offer, and invite them to see if the problems that the services solve match up with the problems they’re experiencing.

So, Is Productized Consulting A Good Fit For Your Business?

Depends. There are no best practices. There are no absolutes.

Joanna Wiebe shared with me in a conversation the idea that there are no ‘best’ practices, there are simply better practices that you can test for your business.

Don’t take my word as gospel here, people, I’m learning this just as you are. What I can tell you is from my direct testing is that Productized Consulting has helped me:

  • Leverage my time and increase my effective hourly rate
  • Better position and communicate my consulting offerings

And, from seeing colleagues and students implement Productized Consulting methodologies, I can tell you that I’ve seen Productized Consulting work best for consultants that:

  • Want to add leverage to their business
  • Want to eliminate proposal writing from their business
  • Want to clearly communicate the services they enjoy providing — and what’s included — to their customers

There are no additional benefits that productized consulting will bring to your business.

Those are it.

Productized Consulting is a sales tool.

  • Want more prospect? That’s a marketing problem.
  • Want to charge more? That’s a pricing problem.
  • Want to become known as the go-to person in your industry? That’s a positioning problem.
  • Want to get more referrals? That’s a communication problem.
  • Want to sell while you sleep, live the dream of passive income, and Make Money Online? That’s… a whole different business model that’ll take 5+ years of consistent hard work to get moving.

Etc., etc., etc.

Productized Consulting won’t help with any of that.

Productized Consulting will help you communicate your services to your clients, eliminate proposal writing from your business, and better leverage your time to earn a higher effective hourly rate.

In Which I Politely Disagree With Some Of The Points That My Colleague Has Made In His Article

I’ll be making general use of pull-quotes here and responding after the quote. You should read Jason’s article in full. Elements I select may appear out of context, so go read his article to see his full argument.

Cool?

Okay.

Selling High-Priced Services Doesn’t Scale

So, first off, I disagree with this sentence:

Jason: Selling High-Priced Services Doesn’t Scale

First, I ask you  why do you want to scale?

Nick Disabato and I tackled this in a recent episode of our podcast, Make Money Online: Episode 5:“Non-Horrible Business Right-Sizing”.

In it, we discuss what growth means to each of us. And how we want to scale our respective businesses. For us, growth does not mean growing a team, 3x-ing the number of clients we work with, or other common signs of success.

For us — and again, this is for us, not you and not Jason — we enjoy working with a small number of clients.

  • I work with 4-6 retainer clients on Traffic Powerup at a time
  • I work with 2-3 coaching students through my business coaching program at a time
  • I work with 2-4 one-off clients each month on stand-alone, non-recurring productized services

That’s all I want. That’s the slice of the pie I’m playing for. Y’all can have the rest.

Scaling, to me, means having more free time to do things that I enjoy.

  • Playing piano. I spend 1-2 hours/day playing Jazz Piano.
  • Working out. I train with a personal trainer on Olympic Lifting.
  • Dating. I’m actively dating in Eugene and looking for a partner for a long-term relationship.
  • Friends. I frequently see my core group of friends for dinner parties, gaming sessions, and hikes.
  • Biking. When it’s sunny, I bike 40-60 miles/week.

That’s what scaling my business means to me. Having the time and space to do things other than work in or on my business.

Selling high-priced / high-value services has let me scale my business and spend more time focused on Doing The Things That I Love.

Owning an agency is not something that I want. Having employees — aside from my wonderful assistant, Jessie — is not something that I want.

But, directly to Jason’s point, does selling high-priced services scale?

If we accept the argument that ‘selling high-priced services doesn’t scale,’ what does that imply?

That the way to scale is by selling low-priced services? That the way to scale is by not selling services, but selling time?

I disagree with both of these points. Selling high-priced consulting services is an effective way to scale your business: you take advantage of economies of scale as a consultant, leveraging your knowledge from project to project, and preventing you from needing to spend your time learning a new industry or new skill with every new engagement.

Jason: First, productized consulting opens itself up to competition in a way that’s much more dangerous than a well-positioning consultancy.

I agree with the first part of this statement: Productized Consulting opens itself up to competition.

You can read any of my sales pages and see what’s included. Hell, for the Website X-Ray SEO Audit, you can download a sample report and see exactly what the output of the project is like.

But let’s flash back to what my goals are:

  • 4-6 retainer clients at a time
  • 2-3 coaching students at a time
  • 2-4 one-off clients each month

There are a lot more than that number of prospects out there. I have a 6-month waiting list to work with me on my retainer offering — and a 6-week waiting period for my one-off projects.

If someone wants to copy what I’m doing and do it well, I will send you a stream of leads that will keep you busy for months.

Productized Consulting does open me up to more competition — but I’m not looking for 100% of the market. I’m looking for, gosh, 20 total clients in a year? Maybe? That number seems really high. It’s probably on the order of 10-15.

Is this method of consulting dangerous? I don’t think so. I’ve seen a number of copy-cat services pop-up that offer the same services that I do — literally, the same, down to the sales page — at a fraction of the cost.

And good for them.

When clients come to work with me, I position myself as a high-value partner with them on their projects.

If they want to work with someone who is charging a lower price, they can feel free.

Jason: Productized services do almost all their selling online. Consultants do almost all their selling offline.

I do all of my selling online because I like having a 100-mile wall between my clients and me. I had sold productized services locally before and disliked it because I do not like having local clients.

That’s my crazy idiosyncrasy. Not a limitation of Productized Consulting.

You can — and should! — sell productized consulting services to your local market.

I have a colleague who owns a law practice. He’s been adopting the idea of productized services and started offering fixed-scope, flat-rate services to his clients:

  • $X for an estate planning engagement
  • $X for incorporating a company

Etc.

My friend’s clients? They love it. They don’t need to worry about the clock always running.

My friend? My friend loves Productized Consulting. With Productized Consulting, he can clearly communicate what the service is and what the price is. And if my friend is more efficient, his effective hourly rate goes up.

There’s no on-line/off-line distinction necessary for Productized Consulting.

You can sell Productized Consulting services off-line. (Look at attorneys with fixed-price packages, accountants with fixed-price packages, IT companies with monthly retainers).

Jason: Consultants only share their proposals after carefully vetting their leads and discussing options. They also don’t leave any case studies, processes or other proprietary information lying around after the sale.

Jason: Once this information is presented, it’s then taken away (this finite sales decision time obviously helps customers choose quicker, as well).

…What?

Case Studies help you demonstrate your experience. Processes are just that: processes that you can follow to complete a project. To say that the value is in the process is akin to saying the value is in the ‘idea’ for a project or app or business. No, rather, the idea is in the execution.

And that’s what clients are paying for. Execution in the form of creating a strategy or implementing a strategy.

If someone wants to ‘Do It Themselves,’ they can be my guest. I publish my exact processes and methodologies on my site and in my books, The Outreach Blueprint and The Traffic Manual. Prospects can buy them, read them, and get started doing the work themselves.

Jason: Consultants protect their systems because they’re inherently valuable. Productized services, on the other hand, leave all their systems, benefits, offers and their pricing—online for the world to see (and steal).

I completely disagree. The value is not in the system. The value is in implementation, execution, defining the strategy, and being someone who the client can say ‘this is someone who can help me solve my problems’ about.

By publishing my systems, benefits, offers, and pricing online, I make it easier for clients to decide to work with me — or say ‘Hey, Kai isn’t the right consultant for me’ before we get too deep into a conversation.

If someone wants to take my productized consulting offerings, replicate them, and out-perform me, be my guest. The world needs more capable outreach consultants. I’d love it if someone set up shop.

The value isn’t in the secret black-magic voodoo processes that I use to get my clients onto podcasts or help them increase their traffic.

The value is in the client seeing those processes and saying “I don’t want to do this, this is a lot of work — can I hire you to implement this for me?”

Jason: To me, with productized services, you’re attempting to cast a wider net, and hoping not to have to build relationships and customize offers for each customers.

I mostly agree with this. Mostly.

Productized Services succeed when you have a very well defined positioning for your business in terms of the target audience that you’re looking to work with, the expensive problem that you solve, or the skill you’re providing.

So, while I’m casting a wide net online (reaching all the billions out there!), it’s also narrow net, focused on just consultants and product creators who want help growing an audience and attracting their dream buyers.

Regarding not building relationships? Jason couldn’t be more off-base. I build a relationship through my sales process (detailed above) with every single client I work with.

My business has made over $225,000 in the last two years. One sale for $250 came without the prospect reaching out to talk — and build a relationship — before paying me.

Let me repeat that: .111% of my revenue from consulting over the last two years has come from people who I have not built a relationship with. 99.889% of my revenue has come from prospects where I invested in building a relationship before the sales.

Productized Consulting eliminates the proposal. It does not eliminate the process of relationship building.

In terms of not customizing my offers for each customer? Hell freaking yes I agree!

Eliminating customization is the major benefit of Productized Consulting.

With Productized Consulting, I have made a repeatable process and, in the end, product out of my most frequently requested offerings. I don’t customize them. A prospect can buy them off the shelf or not.

(Maybe we should have called it ‘Process-Based Consulting’ instead of ‘Productized Consulting’)

Jason: The big tradeoff is that (a), like any product, once you’re in the public, it’s only a matter of time before someone reverse engineers you, and starts eating into your profit margin.

I welcome competitors. I’m not looking to be the next Facebook or Google or Amazon.

I’m looking to run a small, independent, boring business. Full-stop. I want to own the independent boring accountant’s office equivalent of a Digital Public Relations office.

If people want to take the processes I’ve published and replicate them, be my freaking guest. Hell, book a one-hour call with me or work with me as a coaching student and I’ll tell you exactly what to do.

Jason: And (b), because you’re not customizing offers to match customer’s ROI, you’re likely leaving (a lot) of money on the table. You’re also not having a proper closer conversation to make sure the buyer makes a decision.

I fully agree that when you offer a flat-rate service, you may be leaving money on the table. But let’s take a look at this. Does it really matter?

Here’s an example: I sell my Website X-Ray for $1,500 (as of February 12th, 2016). Would my latest client have paid $2,000? $3,000? $5,000?

Maybe!

Am I happy with the $1,500? Absolutely.

Are they happy with the $1,500? Absolutely.

By publishing my prices, my customers can make an ROI calculation themselves.

Maybe the person who paid $1,500 sees that as a 10x ROI for their business. Good for them! I’m happy about that!

If I’m leaving money on the table, I’m… surprisingly okay with that! I’m pricing my services (a) in line with the value I believe they deliver and (b) at a price that leaves me happy when I complete the work.

What more could I want? Sure, money might be left on the table but if:

  • I walk away from the engagement happy with what I made
  • My client walks away from the engagement happy with what they paid

Is it really a problem? Am I really leaving money on the table?

But What About Services That Have Successfully Productized

Jason has a pull-quote about Nick Disabato’s Draft Revise service:

and follows it up with:

I think the line about reputation brings up an interesting point: All the people I know who are doing well with public productized consulting seem to be “internet famous.”

Let me tackle this one head-on: Last year, at 29, I was blessed enough to have made $125,000 as a consultant.

I made $5,000 selling information products: my eBooks and courses.

The SUPER majority of my revenue came from being a consultant and selling productized consulting services.

I am not Internet Famous. I’m not even ‘D-list’ Internet Famous.

Who am I? I’m Kai Davis.

  • I’m 30 years old
  • I’m Jewish
  • I live in Eugene, Oregon
  • I play Dungeons and Dragons on the weekends with my friends from high school
  • I have — as of writing this article — 1,100 people on my mailing list

I am frantically figuring this shit out as I go.

By all means, I am happy and blessed and lucky and incredibly thankful to have achieved what I have achieved. But Internet Fame does not help you sell shit.

I speak at conferences and events because I hustle my tukas (that means butt in Yiddish) off to be invited to speak.

I appear on podcasts frequently because my main consulting offering is Public Relations and getting people on podcasts and podcasting is the main marketing channel for my business. I wrote a book about how consultants can use podcasting to generate leads.

But — straight up — I am not Internet Famous. And you don’t need to be Internet Famous to have productized consulting work for your business.

If the people who are practicing Productized Consulting appear to be Internet Famous, well, that’s an interesting thing to deconstruct. Could it be that:

  • They positioned their businesses well, appealing to a small, specific audience?
  • They launched services that directly solved the pains and problems that audience was experiencing and willing to pay money for?
  • A feedback loop occurred where people started seeking these consultants out because they developed a reputation for solving specific problems?
  • These consultants leveraged the reputation they developed with that audience to level up their marketing, speak at events, and gain opportunities to collaborate with people?
  • And that helped these consultants build up a small audience?

Could it be that the Internet Famous-ness that Jason is calling out is actually a byproduct of showing up and doing the goddamn work?

I made $125,000 in 2015 with Productized Consulting services. I’m not Internet Famous. I show up. I do the work. I make sure my clients are happy.

I behave like a professional and a business owner.

That’s what it takes. Not ‘Internet Fame.’

Jason: I’m curious what happens to their sales numbers in two years after their initial internet buzz of showcasing a “new” business model wears off.

Let me speak heresy for a moment: Productized Consulting is not a new business model. It’s a new name for project-based consulting work.

There is a zeitgeist around Productized Consulting, but this is a very old model.

There is nothing new about Productized Consulting.

It’s a name for a methodology based on already existing principles. Full-stop.

The ‘glamor’ of Productized Consulting only appears to consultants. If you say ‘Productized Consulting’ to a client they’ll look at you funny.

What do prospects and clients see of Productized Consulting?

  • Fixed-Scope: Clear communication of the scope and benefits of a project
  • Flat-Rate: The price, up front, and not hidden behind a proposal or delayed by negotiation on the scope.

That’s it. That’s what Productized Consulting looks like to a prospect. There’s no ‘buzz’ behind this ‘new’ business model.

  1. A prospect shows up on your website
  2. The prospect reads your service offerings
  3. The prospect gets in touch to ask a few questions
  4. The prospect buys or doesn’t buy

That is not a new business model.

Jason: For Nick, I’m thinking that if Draft Revise was such a hit, he’d now be scaling that operation; instead, I see him going in several difference directions, none of which are him doing one-on-one monthly A/B tests (because really, how many A/B tests does one SMB need?)

To quote my favorite movie, “that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

Nick has had a very successful run with Draft Revise. But if you follow him on his mailing list, you’ll see him write about how his interest is not in being the A/B-testing guy but in practicing the craft of Interaction Design. And all of his new offerings are in line with that goal.

Nick sees consistent demand for Draft Revise. Nick could chase that money if he wanted, but Nick does not want to chase that money.

Nick wants to run a small, independent, boring business. Nick wants time to work on his hobbies and see his friends. Nick doesn’t want to grow a team.

Nick is focusing on developing, launching, and testing other fixed-scope, flat-rate services that focus on the things he wants to do more.

Here’s a story: In 2013, I had an eBay business that was generating — in a bad month — $40,000 in revenue.

In December 2013, after one of the best grossing months ever, I shut that business down because that business was no longer what I wanted to be doing.

My interested had moved in a different direction, so I decided to focus on what I wanted to be doing.

I decided to be the master of my business, not a servant. It should be the same for you, dear reader. Don’t just chase after the money or success or ‘scaling’ your business. Focus on doing whatever makes you money that you enjoy doing.

Does It Churn?

Jason talks a bit about Brian Casel’s Audience Ops service. I don’t know that much about Brian’s business or business model, so I can’t speak to the points that Jason raises, except one:

Jason: I would think doubly so for a scaled service that doesn’t do much customer vetting (because the sales process is so short), and because AO publishes posts and emails at a clip that most writers couldn’t keep up with.

How can Jason know what level of customer vetting that Brian puts into his business? It’s hard to make this assessment from the outside.

One benefit of Productized Consulting is that the sales process is shortened… because you aren’t writing proposals.

From my experience, the quality of client I work with has gone up dramatically since I switched to a Productized Consulting model.

Why? I suspect it is because I get the prospect to the buy/don’t-buy decision a lot faster than before. I’ve cut the process down to ~90-minutes of time.

1,000 True Fans

Jason: Honestly, I’m just suspicious of any business that costs so much, but doesn’t need sales to power it. Is it an anomaly—a bubble—or does it really defy everything we know about business economics?

This has come up a few times in Jason’s article, the idea that a Productized Consulting service doesn’t need sales to power it.

For the reader, let me assure you, there is a lot of sales in Productized Consulting.

I have buy buttons on my website, but prospects reach out to me directly before they buy. Again, I’ve sold one service — for $250 — to a buyer who did not contact me before purchasing.

One sale.

For $250.

That’s it.

Every other sale has gone through a very traditional sales process.

  • The prospect contacts me
  • We discuss their needs
  • I propose solutions
  • They decide to buy or not

All Productized Consulting does is:

  • Eliminate proposal writing from the process
  • Communicate what the process and benefits are
  • Remove the ‘customization’ element

My bookshelf is covered in sales books. All I do is read about sales. Why? Because sales — turns out — is my job as a consultant.

Productized Consulting does not eliminate that. Productized Consulting streamlines a single part of the sales process by eliminating proposals. But you better believe that every single other part of the sales process is still there!

Jason: I recommend you (a) focus on one-to-one outbound lead gen, and (b) start writing for a small audience.

I agree with this. I think it’s valuable to focus on outbound lead gen and to write for a small audience. That’s how I built my business and my audience. That’s what I tell people to focus on.

Productized Consulting doesn’t argue against that.

Build It And They Won’t Come

Jason: Neither of those strategies include tossing up sales pages and waiting for customers to come, though.

Productized Consulting doesn’t advocate ‘tossing up sales pages and waiting for customers to come.’

Productized Consulting is about putting up a sales page and then pointing your prospects, leads, and existing clients at it.

  1. Put together a sales page
  2. Drive traffic (prospects, leads, past clients, paid traffic, guest traffic, email traffic, etc.) to the sales page

There’s no ‘waiting for customers to come.’ There’s driving customers to the sales page.

Jason: Productized consulting might be a good stepping stone—either to, or from, bigger engagements—but in order to get to the place you can even start thinking about client packages, you have to first do the work.

Yes. Absolutely. No arguments here.

Jason: Reapplication is one of your least valuable offers, and sadly, that’s the definition of productized services. I would never recommend it to consultants who are just starting out.

I completely disagree. Reapplication — doing the same service a second or third or tenth time — is a wonderful way to:

  • Get better at fulfilling the service
  • Demonstrate expertise and proficiency
  • Collect a mountain of case studies and testimonials
  • Become the go-to authority and expert in your industry on a topic or service or skill

Think about this, when you go to a Dentist, which would you rather hear?

  • “Huh, I’ve never seen anything like this before. We’ll have to investigate what to do, how to do it, and plan out what the surgery will look like. I can’t tell you what to expect or what it might cost yet until we get started.”
  • “Oh, I’ve dealt with this before. The process is X. I charge a flat rate of $Y. I’ve done ten like this in the last three months. I know exactly what to do.”

I much prefer the second. It speaks to experience. It speaks to expertise. It speaks to ability.

Services Aren’t Failures

Jason: I do think that doing rote tasks isn’t a good use of time, but I also don’t think there’s any shame in making money as a consultant.

Here, Jason makes the argument that lots of people make against Productized Consulting: “If I do the same thing again and again, it’s going to get boring.”

Sure! Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t.

I’ve sold dozens of Website X-Rays. I’ve worked with dozens of people on Traffic Powerup engagements.

Know what?

These engagements get more fun and easier to complete the more often I do them.

People who take Jason’s argument here are often — unintentionally — advocating for generalist positioning in their business. The arguments I’ve heard — and let me be clear, I’m not putting words in Jason’s mouth, this is what other people with a similar point of view have said to me — “If I’m productizing my services and focusing on a single audience, I’ll get bored.”

Maybe you will. From personal experience, you won’t and don’t. Your mileage may vary, but often people who focus on a single audience and productize their services discover that it’s taking them less time to do the work — and clients are happier with what they’re receiving.

Conclusion

Jason: For consultants that aren’t very good at telling clients “no”, or ones who have no experience doing paid marketing or sales for even their own agency, I see productized consulting as a huge time suck that could be better spent contacting new clients or building expertise through thought leadership.

If you, as a consultant, suck at telling your clients “no,” you’re going to have a bad time — the debate over productized consulting aside.

Scope Creep is something you’ll face in any engagement, be it a productized consulting engagement or an hourly engagement.

Someone buys you service and says “Hey, I want additional work!”?

Well, tell them no. Point to the sales page. Point to your contract. Explain how they bought “A” and if they want more than “A” it will cost extra.

If you suck at saying “no,” you’ll struggle no matter what type of consulting you practice or methodology you follow.

I don’t understand what Jason means by ‘Productized Consulting [is] a huge time suck.

You’re defining a service offering and then applying your sales and marketing mojo to that offering. What’s the time suck?

Jason: It’s fun to think of a future when we get to make money without having to work too hard, but that’s probably just a fantasy. Even product people work their butts off marketing.

Productized Consulting isn’t the dream of ‘people show up and give you money and you don’t have to work.’

You will work your butt off on sales and marketing. Nick does. Philip does. Einar does. Jane does. Mojca does. Brian does. Jonathan does. Kurt does. I do.

Any productized consultant you point to will tell you that they invest a huge percentage of their time, energy, and skill in sales and marketing.

Productized Consulting isn’t a ‘hack,’ it’s a way to eliminate proposal writing and customization from your sales process.

That’s it.

That’s what it is.

That’s all it is.

You still need to work. You still need to market. You still need to sell.


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