The small business resilience project: productising for profit
At a glance
Here’s a snapshot of the advice from our interviewees:
- Start by working out what complex knowledge, processes or expertise you can share.
- Map those popular, valuable services into a simple step-by-step process.
- Figure out whether particular product packages or subscription models might suit different customer segments, and market to them.
- Seek feedback and listen to your customers.
Productising involves arranging services into useful, easily understood and marketable packages. It can be an effective strategy for reaching new customer bases, scaling your business and creating new revenue streams. Additionally, in the wake of COVID, if you can complement your face-to-face services with contactless packages, it’s a powerful way of building resilience into your business so that your success is not dependent on one offering.
We spoke to three small business owners who share their experience of productising their services and offer advice for how to achieve the best result.
Get creative and be competitive
For Farrah Motley, founder of Brisbane-based boutique commercial law firm, Prosper Law, productising was always part of her business model.
“I have seen firsthand how ‘new’ style law firms have significantly expanded their digital footprints and market share because of their ability to productise legal services,” Farrah explains. “There is a significant amount of competition in the small law firm space in Australia, so I’ve really needed to pull out all the stops and increase my digital footprint.”
Farrah productised her legal services by adding a ‘legal templates’ shop to her website.
“Customers can purchase legal templates and receive a how-to guide and a free legal consultation with the template,” says Farrah. “I have also started offering general advice through Eventbrite and YouTube live seminars. People who wish to attend pay a fee and receive a private link to the live stream.”
As well as helping drive traffic to her website and provide a competitive edge, Farrah explains that productising her services has also opened up new customer bases.
“My target market wants personable, affordable and efficient legal services. By offering a legal template shop and free consultations on my website, I’m homing in on a customer base that the traditional (and expensive!) bricks-and-mortar law firms don’t have a viable service offering for.”
The challenge Farrah sees is the time involved in providing general advice in bulk, but the approach has added resilience to her business.
“I have to consider a much broader range of client-specific scenarios and ensure my template products cater to that,” she says. “But focusing on the online space has been advantageous during COVID and I don’t think it will revert back. In my view, the incentives to productise services hugely accelerated because of COVID.”
And Farrah’s tip for small business owners looking to productise their services? Ensure that any package also includes an opportunity to experience your services.
“Individual suppliers need to turn their mind to how they can differentiate themselves from the competitors,” Farrah says. “For me, it was offering a free consultation with each template.”
Tap into new markets and improve efficiencies
Nicole Sidoti, founder of graphic design business Popdot Media recently launched a new brand aimed at start-ups, Site Kite While Popdot Media creates custom designs for corporate and enterprise clients, Site Kite simplifies the service – offering a single product plus subscription.
Nicole says that as a result of narrowing in on what each market wants and delivering that, they are getting more business from both markets.
Why the new start up? “Previously we had a lot of overlap between audiences (startups through to corporates) which was never a great fit for anyone,” explains Nicole. “Productising services forced us to think harder about who the market is for each service and to properly brand each service to the market it fits best with.
The result? Nicole has seen significant improvements in efficiency and productivity on that start-up side of the business.
“We are spending less time hustling, more time doing,” she says. “There’s no more time spent doing lengthy proposals or quotes, our core offerings can be bought 24/7 from a completely digitised system with no need for a sales or administrative staff, our staff are completely released from the backwards and forwards of contract negotiations or pre-sale meetings, and because we have a clear framework in place for exactly what the product is for each service offering, we are doing better work, faster.”
Listen to the market and make your offering shareable
Productising her consultancy services has been years in the making for Arna Jade, founder of Docushop – an ecommerce business offering practical templates for sales and marketing, administration, policies and procedures, and more, grouped into bundles including ‘growth tools’, ‘culture improvement’ and ‘investment and pitching’.
Initially, Arna envisioned the documents as lead generation tools for her consulting businesses – she would offer them free as an introduction to her work. But demand soon showed the documents themselves could be the business.
Feedback in the early stages of the startup was crucial.
“A few months in, I approached Curtin University to become a partner and they asked me to act as mentor to their incubator program and trial it with that year’s cohort,” says Arna. “It was a great way of getting feedback and helped bring the concept of the document bundles to life.”
Arna now has a system that requires minimal time investment – so growth is simple to handle.
“I can sit and watch orders come through and not have to do anything to fulfil them. The most satisfying thing is getting an order, then a day later the same person comes back and orders a bunch more documents and templates. It has also meant that by the end of this year, I can completely scale out of my consultancy.”
One of the keys to success for Arna and Docushop has been listening closely to customers’ needs.
“We kept asking regulars what we were missing. When we filled those gaps, order sizes got bigger and repeat customers started to return time and time again.”
Arna suggests owners of service-based small businesses who are thinking of productising start by working out what complex knowledge, processes, or expertise they can share, and how they can make sharing it simple.
“I would suggest finding your most popular and valuable services and mapping them into a simple step by step process,” she says.
“Productising makes me excited for the possibilities my business didn’t have before,” says Arna. “The money-in-exchange-for-hours-worked model always scared me. When I worked in public practice accounting, they always talked about it being the more laborious and cumbersome business model as you are only ever paid for the hours you work, not the value you provide. This way, we always have a steady baseline in income without having to put many extra hours in. It’s a great safety net.”
Speak with one of our small business lending specialists about how a Prospa Small Business Loan could help you explore opportunities for productising your business.
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