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Four steps to developing a profitable product set as a freelance consultant

Four steps to developing a profitable product set as a freelance consultant
Chris Goodfellow
Chris Goodfellow
Staff writer
Enterprise Nation
 

Posted: Fri 13th Aug 2021

Getting products to resonate with customers is a game changer. Refining your offer helps set expectations, improves your marketing strategy and paves the way for future business.

Based on a number of insightful conversations with Enterprise Nation advisers, we’ve come up with a four-step plan to develop a winning product set. 

1. Start with client conversations

Client feedback is invaluable because it allows you to build exactly what people need and waste less time experimenting. 

There are two main approaches, both of which are important.

Ongoing conversations

Using surveys, asking for reviews and tagging open questions about what people need onto existing conversations can help you get more feedback from existing clients.

Collating that information and setting yourself a timetable to make changes ensures you keep moving forward.

Getting feedback on a new offering

This normally means having about half a dozen conversations to find out more about a specific challenge you want to help customers with. 

Don’t start by talking about what you do because it biases their answers; you want to learn about their challenges and what help they need. When you have found out as much as you can, you can get feedback on your idea.

This exercise is doubly important if you’re just starting out.

2. Look at what your competitors are doing

Knowing what options potential customers have provides context for decisions about pricing, your unique selling point (USP), marketing and even what products you develop. 

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, try searching for services and see what you find. 

Compiling research on three to five key competitors is usually enough to get a sense of what customers want. For each company you identify, look at:

  • The products available

  • How much they charge

  • The key benefits or USP

  • Marketing strategy

3. Building a complementary product set

The key to building a complementary product set is developing a series of products that naturally build on each other.

Enterprise Nation adviser My Sales Mentor provides an excellent example of a successful product ladder. Potential clients can access free learning resources initially. From there, they can join courses of 10-plus people to learn business basics such as winning clients. This leads nicely into a 12-week group course on business strategy.

Next, clients can graduate into smaller workshops of fewer than five people which offer more direct mentoring and focus on higher level business problems. These workshops are more expensive as the groups are smaller and the knowledge is more advanced.

As clients grow their business, they can graduate into the highest cost service, which is a programme of one-to-one mentoring. 

“To build a really profitable product ladder, you need to solve a client's initial problem and have solutions to their future problems,” said Rachael Howourth, business coach at My Sales Mentor.

“Your products should meet clients where they’re at and develop as they develop. You naturally take them through your suite of services by always giving clients somewhere to graduate to.”

4. Think about marketing and upselling

The products you create set the tone for your marketing by identifying the hooks that are going to make people want to find out more. They can provide opportunities for upselling, too. 

If you’re selling to several different types of customers, it may be necessary to adapt products to meet each persona. For example, a marketing consultant might offer an online course for small business owners, and workshops and a consultancy offering for larger companies.

Getting someone to sign up for a long-term commitment is difficult. Potential clients want to be sure they like the way you work and get a clear sense of the value you provide. That is another reason to offer one-off sessions or workshops alongside retainers – and why discovery calls really help. 

“It’s about hooking people in with that smaller offer for great value and then building people up from there,” said Sonja Leason, managing director of Love Mondays.

“You’ve got to make sure the first step on the value ladder or the first product in your ecosystem leads onto the next. It is possible to reverse engineer it. Start with your core product and go from there.”

 
Chris Goodfellow
Chris Goodfellow
Staff writer
Enterprise Nation
 
Chris has over a decade of experience writing about small businesses and startups. He runs content agency Inkwell, which works closely with Enterprise Nation. You can find him on Twitter at @CPGoodfellow.
 

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