Productizing a Service Business?

Productizing a Service Business?

There’s this holy grail in the location independent entrepreneur movement. It’s developing a product. Something that sells over and over and over again after developing it once. This is where passive income can be realized.

Much like book writing used to be, once you’re published the money keeps rolling in for a couple years allowing you to write your next masterpiece as you see fit.

But a lot of us location independent entrepreneurs follow a path to get there. Typically we start our dreams working for the man. I wished I was smarter when I started out of college (shoot even before that) but I didn’t have the exposure to business that would have given me the insights I have today.

When we’re working for the man we start exploring how to break free, how to spread our wings. The ultimate goal even if we cannot state it is to have a product, to have “stable” revenue coming in while we take a week off to go scuba diving.

However something comes in there, almost devilish like that tempts us with the sweet candy of money. That devil? Service, also known as Consulting.

Service Business

There’s a lot of good that can be said about the service business/consulting gig. First you get to know your clients and customers really well, you get to make some really good money (remember that devilish candy?) and you get the benefits of running your own business while choosing your location.

The negatives of a service business are all too familiar to me currently.

  • Instead of one boss you have 14 bosses all who innately demand priority (It’s not their fault!)
  • Stop working, stop getting paid (You’re trading hours for dollars)
  • Reinventing the wheel every time
  • Convincing a new client to buy from you is akin to selling your body, it becomes soul crushing

productized service

Productize Your Service

So the next step, the natural progression is to develop a product from your service based business, aka productize your service. This solves a couple pain points, first the selling is much easier, it’s a system with a proven track record that they’re buying, not your mind/body. Second the productized service allows more outsourcing of the actual work so you can scuba dive.

Essentially without writing code or doing a CAD of your physical product you’re developing a product of someone elses time and selling that in a repeatable, predictable way.

I’ve tried this.

Developing the product offering was easy.

But I got the target wrong, or the product/market fit was wrong. See it here for yourself. It’s a sweet idea that has the potential for greatness. However it hasn’t sold well yet.

So do I develop another productized service?

Or do I skip that step and go right to a product?

I’ve been reading some insight into a rising star in the productized service business model about lifetime value of the client being increased by the utility of the product you offer. An example of productized service with high utility is website hosting. You just need it and you need it every month. Whereas website design you need infrequently and it’s a bit more of a luxury and commodity at the same time. Not a great space to play in when looking at the lifetime value of the client.

So what product or productized service can I develop?

Typically I’m like the cobbler who’s kids go shoeless. I can help others develop great product and productized service ideas, but it’s like I’m too close to the service in my own business to step back and see the product right in front of me. Real quick here’s my brain dump of issues/potentials based on the services Connex currently offers

Services to Productize

  • SEO
    • The market is flooded with service providers, tools, and productized services
    • Productized services have deservedly gotten a bad rap in this industry
    • To do SEO right it needs to be custom, I could not live with myself doing anything else
  • Social Media
    • Again a flooded market with service providers, tools and productized services
    • Again to do it right it needs to be custom, I could not live with myself doing anything less
  • Online Ads
    • Plenty of tools, great service providers and a couple of productized services.
    • Market still seems flooded
  • Email Marketing
    • Market is flooded with tools and service providers. I don’t know of many productized services here
    • This has potential. We offer a service where we increase open rates through segmentation and list reactivation
    • Content generation here is flooded
    • The tools all offer Conversion Rate Optimization functions.
  • Data Analysis
    • People have tried to develop a productized service here (visual.ly and Quill Engage are the two best ones) but the problem cannot be solved through a simple repeatable process
    • To be honest, helpful and thorough it’s more service than product.
    • Could sell weekly or monthly analysis reports, but it’s still a service
    • Hard to sell because there’s very little need for it. Businesses run well without looking at their online data all the time. Those that need to pay close attention (ecommerce) already do in house.
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
    • A lot of tools, some service providers but very few productized services.
    • Too custom, too much service based not enough product.

What about you? what productized service will you be developing or what would you be interested in buying?

 

 

Image Source
Travel as a Lifestyle from a Digital Nomad Family

Travel as a Lifestyle from a Digital Nomad Family

I gave up.

Or better stated I quit.

And this isn’t my first time quitting!

On one hand we are told never to give up, that persistence pays off. Shoot, Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd attempt at making a game.

Yet on the other hand we’re told to say no to things that distract from the priority, from the goal.

The really insidious things are those goals/priorities that we don’t know we’re signed up for.

I quit those things. Er, I quit two of those things.

  • Keeping up with the Jones’ and
  • The American Dream

Background

We have 4 kids, and we homeschool them. This effectively makes our family a location independent family.

I run a digital marketing strategy agency. I’ve been running that agency for 4 years since I quit the best job I ever had working with the great people at ddm. But the whole time I was building that agency I was working from my basement in Newaygo county. Quite literally from the woods of Michigan.

I was struggling with some of the decisions we had made, and frankly as an entrepreneur who loves to start things I was unable to keep up with some of the commitments we were making. For example, we committed to being a one car family and with 4 kids we drove a minivan.

Driving a minivan as a parent is no big deal. But using the minivan to meet with clients? I mean we were running a quarter million in annual revenue for four years why was I driving around in a minivan?

But I struggled with that, why do I need to keep up with the Jones’? Why do I need to feel bad when others show up to meetings in BMWs?

The dream for me is not to own a certain car. These things perish. And I know that if I work harder while my kids are young I could afford that BMW… but what am I sacrificing?

And then there was the farm, the weeds, the fencing needed to get a couple horses, the hay, the cows, the fruit trees we planted that didn’t get enough attention. We had a sweet little hobby farm but as a starter and not a finisher I was unable to keep up with it all.

And it was sucking the lifeblood out of me.

And doing damage to our family.

Selling it all

So we did what anyone with 4 kids would do.

We sold our house and 90% of our belongings.

We become homeless.

Yeah okay maybe not anyone with 4 kids.

But seriously, I espoused that stuff is not important, yet somehow I was stuck in the middle ground of having stuff and needing to maintain the stuff we had while not wanting more and better things.

If you say your stuff doesn’t own you… I challenge you to sell it all. Could you part with 90% of your stuff and life continue on as normal? The obvious answer is yes, but yet we don’t do it.

Why?

Because stuff brings us some strange level of comfort.

We left: Begin the Digital Nomad, Travel as a Lifestyle

After selling everything we had (and before some of it sold!) we left. We started out vagabonding in the Philippines and various other Southeast Asian countries.

For now we’re committed to 9 months of travel as a lifestyle. Of being homeless by choice.

From the woods in Michigan to the Beach in Bali.

We’re 1/3 of the way through our initial commitment. having visited and lived in 8 cities in 4 countries we’ve been on quite the journey so far.

and now I’m inviting you to join us.

Digital Nomad Famil: Kortmans at Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

Kortmans at Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

Join Us!

Here’s the simple ways to join us. Feel free to pick one or all of them :)

 

 

Saying No

Saying No

It happened again.

The great opportunity fell into my lap.

And I turned it down.

Letsatsi, the White lion. (Son of Temba)

White Lion Source

What is this great opportunity?

A job offer.

In 2013, 5 years after the economy took a nose dive, 3 years after I quit my job and 3 years after starting an SEO company. I turned down my 3rd job offer in as many years. When the unemployment situation in the US isn’t good at all, how can I be so prideful as to turn down a job, never mind three in three years?

Truth be told none of these were finalized, formalized offers, but all three were (and are) clients who loved what I brought to the team. They made overtures and asked if I was interested, after saying no initially in a cursory manner each one got serious and followed up to see. Essentially saying: “Are you sure?” And each time I’ve told them No.

The offers have been increasing in size, the first one’s base salary matched my previous salary with bonuses included. The second was higher than that and this third involved moving the decimal place,  a number I never thought I’d be offered.

Yet I still said no.

Money isn’t everything, and no it’s not just the rich who say that. To give a little context, since some reading this may think I’m rich. Or they might say, “whatever, that Kortman guy has a successful business, 4 kids, house, and takes trips when he needs/wants to.”  But in reality I’m making payments, paying off debt and we’re a one car family who cannot afford 99% of the trips we want to take.

It’s not just the rich who say “Money isn’t everything” It’s me too. A solidly middle class guy from a middle class family who married into a middle class family. No complaints here, just couching the statement that money isn’t everything.

So what in the world could have kept me from 3 different jobs all of which would have increased my income and economic status significantly at the time?

My Values.

I value working less. Shocker I know, a guy running two businesses who wanted to get into the funded startup world… wants to work less? Yup. I want to be really purposeful with my time and develop products that bring in revenue (read: income) when I’m not there.

I value working from home. Even when times at home are tough, working from home solves so many other issues. And has a ton of upside. Today my presence was expected by my 7 year old daughter at her mock performance in our house of “whatever came to her mind.” It was a great show! and while only 15 minutes long (could seem like an eternity) if I were working elsewhere I would have totally missed it. These are not moments you can manufacture, or turn on or off in a kid. Despite not having a great example, I’ve learned enough in the three years I’ve been working from home, that it’d have to be an offer of a million dollar salary to take me away from that.

I value living overseas. I’m currently in one of the more expensive countries to live in, and my heart is elsewhere, supporting people who are giving their lives to other people. I’m not sorry that my heart isn’t in the american dream. My heart is in living on less, traveling all the time (as a family, together) and sucking the marrow out of life. I don’t want two cars, a boat, an RV, a house, a cottage, and a mortgage on everything. And I don’t value “traveling more” I want living elsewhere as a core of our lives. I want my kids to have tasted french cheese in france, or to walk with Giraffes and wildebeasts in South Africa, or to get kicked by a kangaroo in Australia, or even to narrowly avoid a tsunami in Thailand (all of these are part of my story). I’d love for my kids to fall in love with an orphanage, a ministry, a mission and give everything they have passionately to live to see others’ lives improved through that organization. I do not value “settling down and raising a family” I value raising a family wherever God places us.

And this is why I wrote this post, to help me remember my values, to help me remember that saying no to something (job offers) is saying yes to these things.

Say No, Say yes to Values

Connex enables these values. I’m able to work fewer hours (currently less than 40) from home, and travel when I want to. What kind of money would cause me to give up these things?

And if you want to help me continue to say know consider donating to a client of mine by Joining Best Friends