8 Steps for Turning a Service into a Product
Does your dry-cleaning business differentiate itself through a higher level of service? If so, you are probably disproportionately impacted by the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Consumers are cutting back on services to avoid human contact and conserve cash, but we are still buying products that solve a specific problem. Businesses are buying products like Zoom and Slack for teleconferencing, and consumers are dropping services in favor of products. Italy was the first western democracy to experience the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, and it changed everything about daily life, right down to what people bought from Amazon. For example, in the week after the Italian government quarantined most of its citizens, there was a 236% increase in Italians buying sports gear, presumably to set up a home-based exercise routine instead of services like personal training. Instead of going out to enjoy the service at a great restaurant, we are buying more alcohol. According to a recent Nielsen survey, overall sales of spirits like tequila and vodka were up 75% from the same period last year. (I personally prefer bourbon for an Old Fashioned.)
Service Providers Are Pivoting to Provide A Product
Many businesses have reacted by turning their services into what appears to consumers as a tangible product:
- Los Angeles-based Guerrilla Tacos typically serves up a lively dining experience and has recently pivoted to offering a product called their “Emergency Taco Kit,” a take-out survival kit for the taco lover.
- Spiffy, a US-based mobile car wash service, has switched to offering its COVID-19 “Disinfect & Protect” product.
- U.K.-based Encore has pivoted from a talent booking service to offering their “Personalized Music Message” product, enabling you to commission an artist to create a customized video greeting for a loved one.
To take advantage of our gravitation towards buying products, service providers can take the following eight steps:
Step 1: Niche Down
The first step is to narrow your focus to a single customer type. Many people feel uncomfortable with this stage – in times like these when you need more customers, not less. It is counterintuitive, but the first critical move in turning your service into a product is niching down because services can be adapted and customized for a variety of customers. In contrast, products need to fit one type of buyer. Picking one niche also helps you design a great product and efficiently reach potential customers through things like Facebook groups set up to serve a specific target.
Niche down further than you are comfortable, then niche down some more.
- Demographics: (age, gender, income)
- Firmographics (company size, industry)
- Life stage (just married, retirement)
- Company life stage (start-up, mature, etc.)
- Psychographics (attitudes, aspirations)
Step 2: TVR-Rank Your Services
Once you have niched down more than feels comfortable, the next step in turning your service into a product is identifying the services you offer, which are Teachable to employees, Valuable to your customers who have a Recurring need for it.
Grab a whiteboard or blank piece of paper and make a list of all the services you offer the niche you picked in step 1. Then score each service on a scale of 1 to 10 on the degree to which you can teach employees to offer the service, how valuable it is to your niche, and how frequently they need to buy it.
Pick the service that scores the highest and move to Step 3 (you can always return to this step if you want to consider multiple products).
Step 3: Get Clear on Your Quarter Inch Hole
Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt was famous for saying, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Be clear about what problem your product solves for your niche. For example, “The Emergency Taco Kit” makes cooking at home fun for quarantined Angelinos, while the “Disinfect & Protect” product sanitizes cars for essential service providers who need to keep driving. You can promote patio cushion cleaning to get ready for warmer weather or wash dry fold subscriptions for busy families to take a chore off their list.
Step 4: Brand It
With a service, you are typically hiring a person. Still, with a product, you are selling a thing. Unlike people who have names, something like the “Emergency Taco Kit,” “Disinfect & Protect,” and the “Personalized Music Message” have brands. What could you name your brand of specialized service?
Step 5: List Your Ingredients
Service businesses customize their deliverables in a unique proposal for every prospect, but product companies list their ingredients. Pick up any package at a grocery store — whether it is a bottle of dishwasher detergent or a box of cereal — and you will see an itemized list of what is inside the box, which is why your offering needs to list what customers get when they buy. List your process or create an infographic showing what a customer receives when choosing your specialized service.
Step 6: Pre-Empt Objections
When selling a service, you have the luxury of hearing your prospect’s objections first-hand, and you can dynamically address them on-the-spot. When selling a product, you do not have the benefit of a person to overcome objections, so consider what potential objections customers might have and pre-empt them. When selling the “Disinfect & Protect” car cleaning product, Spiffy anticipated the four most common concerns customers raise and pre-empts each in their marketing material.
For example, Spiffy assures prospects that they have: • A money-back guarantee for people who are not sure • Insurance in case they damage your car • Trained technicians who know what they are doing • Environmentally friendly cleaning products so they do not damage the environment. Think of how you can pre-empt objections and address them right in your marketing.
Step 7: Price It
Services are quoted by the hour, day, or project and usually come at the end of a custom proposal. Products publish their price.
Step 8: Manufacture Scarcity
One of the benefits of a service business is that you always have sales leverage because your time is scarce. You cannot make more hours in the day, so customers know they need to act to get some of your time. With product businesses, you need to give people a reason to act today rather than tomorrow. This means you need to manufacture a reason to act through things like limited time offers, limited access products etc. Service providers have been walloped, but if you make your service look and feel more like a product, you may be able to take advantage of our society’s flight to tangible products in uncertain times.
Implement Your Service-based Subscription Model
Following the 8 steps for turning a service into a product, it’s time to get going and start creating a subscription model for your services that will add value to your company and gaurantee it’s success into the future.
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How Business Coaching Can Help
Service companies, trades, restoration companies, dry cleaning businesses, laundry businesses come to me for assistance in:
- Developing systems to create smoother operation, improving processes and removing bottlenecks
- Implementing team management practices including meetings, delegation and working with challenging communication issues
- Interpreting financial statements and using the information to make better decisions and become more profitable
- Sales and marketing help to get better clients and bigger projects
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