Have you heard of the idea of a 'productized service'?
First, imagine you run a consultancy or agency to serve the many differing needs of your customers. Whilst you offer a focus on your service or expertise, often the clients end up requesting many different things. The requests for custom offerings and the constant back and forth is what usually increases costs of projects.
The idea of a productized service is to take these services, cherry-pick certain aspects of them, and create a streamlined process for your customers to sign up for you to deliver on.
Productized services, in theory, can be more predictable to manage and have the potential to scale. This is usually achieved through a focus on creating a strict process and cutting out wasteful unnecessities.
An example of a productized service
I'll drop some useful productized service links references at the end of this post, but for now, here is one example.
DesignJoy is an unlimited design subscription service.
There is a clear offering, process and price for their productized service. In this case, it's still a single person who is managing this whole business and they have made $400k in total, with around $300k of that in the past year.
They provide an outline of their process.
And they are clear on their pricing.
What they offer is what you get. There is no room for customization. You sign up and cancel when you like, no questions asked.
What would a productized service look like for community builders?
Well, you may or may not know, but I look at everything in the world and think how or if it could apply to community building. This is how my mind works, I’m always up in those community clouds. ☁️
This is actually a pretty useful and dare I say common strategy in business: Look to see what other industries are doing and see if there are bits that you can apply to your world. It's not copying, it's more taking inspiration from others. We cannot live life without taking inspiration from others.
So when I see productized services. I ask myself what would a productized service for community builders look like.
It's a bit of a tough one to wrap my head around as community builders don't deliver specific tangible things like designers do. The more I've thought about this the more I feel that a productized service should evolve around the idea of lurking.
Lurk as a Service
When approaching any business it is important to think about the problems you are trying to solve.
When I think of community building, common things that people seem to struggle with are things like:
- how do I start one?
- how can I build momentum?
- what does a community look like?
- how do I grow it?
- how can I create engagement?
- how can I create value?
- how can I write better?
All of these types of things are just so different from a graphic design service where someone requests a design request and you deliver it.
And the thing with community is that it is hard to help it grow meaningfully without having context and understanding of the community as a whole. You need to show up, be present, and start to have a feel for what is going on. To do this, lurking needs to happen.
You lurk. You study. You brainstorm ideas. Yet in Lurk as a Service you don't necessarily engage, you help the owners decide how to engage and grow. You are there to guide them in making the best possible decisions. To point out what is obvious to you and what they may not be aware of.
In a practical sense, Lurk as a Service could do these things
Now, I'm no expert on productized services. Though with my work at Indie Hackers I do see many people succeeding (and failing) to get them off the ground. I love trying to learn from what they do and apply to my own niche.
If I were to start a Lurk as a Service business, I would think about offering these kinds of things:
- Feedback on their community: you lurk on their community and give feedback to help them improve. This does not necessarily mean just their forum, but also their emails, their social media or anywhere that people may be talking about them. Part of this is feedback on what they are doing, however there is also the part to give feedback on the things they aren't doing.
- Package stuff up: what can you package up and deliver as a weekly or monthly promise? If you know the industry well enough, you could combine it with your knowledge of the community and maybe do packages of 10 conversations starters per month. This could be expanded to community-focused newsletters and social posts. These are important for community building yet often pushed to the side as not being important.
- Niche down on an industry: I don't know about you, but there are industries that I can't get excited about. I need to be excited about my work, have my knowledge and network work to my advantage. The best way to do this would be to niche down into industries you love and aspire to serve. For me this would be startups, indie hackers, business, tech, education, and unschooling.
- Niche down with tools: are you an expert on Discourse? Discord? Slack? Mightynetworks? Circle? How can you help people get the most out of these tools for their community?
- Set up and maintain a news radar for them: if you know your industry then it will be easier to help people set up a news type radar to help them and you keep on top of all the things they should be talking about. I refer to this as studying your people.
- Unlimited questions: have a space (in something like Slack) where they your customers can ask you questions and you promise a response within 48 hours.
- Review of metrics: get access to the data they have, help them make sense of it, and help set some goals.
- Review of their policies: This is perhaps my least favorite thing with community building. Depending on how important policies and code of conducts are for the community you are serving, maybe this could be a fixed and one off fee.
As with all business activities, there is no guarantee of success. Much of these things require experimentation with offerings, pricing, processes, and how you find your customers.
I write about this because I feel there is a need. There's an explosion in communities being created, yet most people have no idea what they are doing. Sometimes making it up and learning on your own works, most often it doesn't.
Also, often hiring a full-time person is more than what they need and then a typical consulting engagement quickly becomes expensive. A productized service could be the ideal starter package to help people get their communities off the ground.
- What is a productized service?
- Productized and Scale community/course.
- Productize Podcast
- Productized Services group on Indie Hackers
- Productized Startups, their Facebook group and course.
- Build once, Sell Twice — The Productization Playbook - Visualize Value
What do you think?
What kind of things can you think of that would make sense to productized from a community building perspective?