Updated: Mar 24, 2021
If you’re a service provider, it can be difficult to separate the service from the provider. Your customers might demand you, which means you can’t scale your business beyond the number of hours you’re willing to work.
In the absence of a point of differentiation, offering generic services leads consumers to evaluate the people doing the work. Referring to your service in a generic way e.g. “graphic design services”, or “lawn care services”, means you’re lumping yourself in with the other providers of the same service. A quick scan of your LinkedIn profile will reveal that you are likely an expert in your industry which means prospective customers will often demand you, rather than your underlings.
The secret to overcoming this dilemma is to “productize” your service. This involves marketing your service as is if it were a thing. When people start buying the thing, rather than the people providing it, you can grow well beyond the hours in your day.
Proctor & Gamble is the granddaddy of product marketing, so grab a tube of Crest toothpaste and follow their process for productizing your service:
1. Name it
Crest is the brand name and it is always written in the same font. Having a consistent name avoids the generic, commoditized category label of "toothpaste." Do you have a catchy name for your service?
2. Write instructions for use
Crest gives customers instructions for best teeth cleaning results. If you want your service to feel more like a product, include instructions for getting the most out of your service.
3. Provide a caution
The Crest bottle tells you that the product is “harmful if swallowed." Provide a caution label or a set of "terms and conditions" to explain things to avoid when using your service.
4. Barcode it
The barcode includes pricing information. Publishing a price and being consistent will make your service seem more like a product.
5. Copyright it
P&G includes a very small symbol on its bottle to make it clear the company is protecting its ideas. Do you Trademark the terms you use to describe your service?
Productizing your service is the first step to separating your service from its provider and the key to getting your service company to run without you.