What is productized consulting? It’s a business model that involves selling pre-defined scope consulting services to a specific target customer. This eliminates the need to create proposals and makes it possible for customers to repeatedly purchase the same item multiple times.
Working as a solo consultant or in a small consulting team is a tough, time-consuming job, so the idea of a “productized” consulting model is appealing to many looking to escape the treacherous roads of retainer agreement that go on forever with no upgrades in sight.
Productizing consulting services is especially valuable to small teams because of the predictable nature of what needs to be done rather than a stream of random feedback you don’t necessarily know how to tackle. It’s the opposite of working with a traditional retainer model.
But there are 2 key things to understand:
- How productized consulting works, and;
- Whether it’s worth it financially.
Here’s the quick answer to both…
The quick answer to productized consulting
Productized consulting is worth it when your consulting company is young, your team is small, or a combination of both. The more you progress in your consulting business, the more you will find long-term contracts and retainers a necessity rather than a nice-to-have.
However, the consulting business is known for its relatively low margins and high operating costs due to continuous manpower and technical skills required to carry out certain tasks.
When the charge rate doesn’t match the entire organization backing up the system and only takes the consultant’s skills into account, that’s a problem. You want to avoid that with your productized services as well since it will lead to project overload over time.
The way productized consulting works is by taking a piece of an existing process and turning into a fixed-price package. For productization to work, the price should be transparent and displayed openly either on your website, on social media, or wherever you sell.
Why productize parts of your bigger and more valuable process?
The main reason why you would want to do this is to help new prospects get started quickly without risking too much. Then, as they get used to how your company operates, you upsell them onto higher tiers until they end up having to request a custom solution.
That’s where your entire backend process will come into play, and where a custom proposal or contract with a yearly tie-in needs to be agreed upon.
The problem with most B2B consulting firms is that they focus solely on “big fish” contracts which makes the sales process 10x longer than it sometimes needs to be.
As a consulting firm, you will have done the hard work of building the process in the first place; now you can break it down into manageable “chunks” to sell separately as one-offs or for low contract-free recurring fees. This allows prospects to get their feet wet with your services.
What about the financials behind productized consulting?
For small consulting firms, the financials behind productizing parts of a process are a lot more reasonable than those of spending months talking with a prospect without ever seeing a cent, only to be blasted with an insane amount of money and workload all at once.
When you’re first starting out as a consultant, or when you decide to stay small on purpose, it’s much better to focus on small cash flow increases rather than huge wins. So, financially speaking, productized consulting is great for small firms who need that instant boost.
» BIG FISH APPROACH
- Spend months nurturing a single lead without ever knowing if they’ll convert into customers and, if they do, learn to manage huge investments and project workloads while keeping your team engaged and without overwhelming them.
» PRODUCTIZED CONSULTING
- Promote cash flow injections to learn about your financial structure and quickly adapt to changes rather than having to absorb huge amounts of funding all at once and find yourself at a loss months down the line because of the heavy workload.
When productizing your consulting services, you can give a final delivery back to your customers faster, more efficiently, and more reliably than with a retainer model.
However, you also have to consider your goals as a consulting firm. If you already have funding and are looking to expand your business significantly, the big fish approach may fit you best.
Instead, if you’re just starting out, don’t have as many funds in the bank, or need a quick cash injection to further your bootbusiness and services, productized consulting is for you.
How to leverage productized consulting in full
If the quick answer wasn’t enough, it means that you’re interested enough to perhaps try the productized model for your own consulting firm. So here’s a deeper explanation…
What productized consulting really is (& isn’t)
Productized consulting is not a get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it a quick-win but zero-effort approach to offering your consulting services. Its roots are firmly anchored in deep, knowledgeable, and valuable work for a specific target audience.
Understanding your target buyer is the most important part in the process of productizing your consulting services, and it comes with the burden of deciding which tradeoffs to make.
“Understanding your target buyer is the most important part in the process of productizing your consulting services.”
When you target a wider net of people rather than just a few at a time, you need to make compromises as to what will be offered within a certain package. And you will need to stay firm on your pricing position, otherwise you will be thrown around a lot from prospects…
Some common questions will be:
- “How does this fit specifically to how we do things?”
- “What can I expect from you guys before, upon, and after delivery?”
- “Is there any contract to sign? Why is the price so low?”
- “What if I need more out of the service that you offer?”
When prospects start asking questions like these, you have to take note. That’s because they are literally expressing their deepest concerns and objections vocally—which is very rare.
How to pitch your productized consulting services
With that feedback in hand, you will have to adjust your packages accordingly. Don’t expect the 1st version of your pricing to be the “final” one; finalized pricing is a myth, it doesn’t exist.
There’s always going to be something to tweak and, especially at the beginning, prospects will resist the idea of paying even a small amount upfront without discussing details personally.
That’s why you have to speak in benefits language, not feature list language.
Nobody cares about what that specific part of the process looks like and why you have to spend hours on it to ensure a qualitative outlook; all a prospect cares about is the outcome.
For a marketing agency, it will be generating +X leads per month via the Y marketing channel whereas for a web development firm it will be delivering a functioning, well-designed, and thoroughly-tested software module within Z weeks or months.
If you are able to explain this in a way that gives your prospects full view of the benefits they are getting from purchasing your package, they will go ahead and purchase it.
And they will do so again, and again, and again…
Launching your productized consulting service
One of the big barriers to launching a productized service is technology; to explain your packages concisely and in a way that allows for a streamlined purchase process, you need some sort of checkout flow attached to a landing page or entire website.
That’s not easy to achieve considering that while pre-defined payment options exist in the form of PayPal buttons or third-party integrations, they are almost never as ideal as they should be.
Customer experience is key in productizing your consulting business because it gives your prospects that immediate next step they need to feel “at home” and not like they were sold to in a meaningless way. That type of experience can only be achieved with a customer portal.
ManyRequests allows you to link your existing website or landing page to a backend portal where customers can manage their own invoices, “requests” (one-off or recurring orders) as well as contact you for any support or browse your help center.
It’s ok to run things via email as you’re first starting out your productized business but, over time, you will see that it becomes quite hard to manage the process manually. That’s where things like intake forms come in handy to help you relieve some of that onboarding workload.
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Originally published Jun 22 2021
Frequently asked questions
A productized service is a fixed-price “package” that your customers pay for in exchange for a set scope of work that’s pre-defined rather than evolving over time. Traditional consulting has long made use of the monthly retainer (a fixed amount per month) to mitigate the effects of scope creep—work that wasn’t necessarily planned but which customers ask for.
Although some things like marketing consulting cannot be truly productized (marketing is an ongoing effort), some parts of that process can, and that’s where productized consulting comes into play. To productize your consulting services, pick a part of your daily processes that you’d like to offer to your customers on a per-purchase basis and highlight its specific benefits. You can do this with a simple landing page and a checkout form integration.
The art of “packaging” or productizing your consulting services is all about striking the right balance between what you promise, the price that the customer has to pay, and the next steps after delivery. As a consultant, your goal will be to build long-term relationships with your customers, and productized services allow for that when customers have repeat needs for that specific consulting package. So, creating packages that have repeat value is also important.