You know what you do. You know you do it well. However, potential clients might not know that and your marketing kit might not convey an adequate understanding of what, exactly, it is that you do. The key to effective packaging lies in definition, which must state what something is. You cannot define your service, your brand, or anything else by stating what it is not.
John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing states that “packaging is all about how you package concepts and principles in ways that define your core difference, methodology and brand.” That packaging must consider the brand, which entails development of a point of view. Speak to your clients and listen to their feedback: they’ll tell you whether your brand stands out and why. If they use your service despite the brand, then you’ve got bigger problems that can be fixed in a blog.
The packaging of your brand and the service(s) you provide “breaks down into a series of named and branded deliverables,” says Jantsch. It “keeps the level of consulting consistent in a way that it can be duplicated in the hands of others.”
Once you’ve define what it is you do and how it is you do it, then you must develop processes and tools that guide the execution of effort so that employees can duplicate that excellence without micromanagement. A sure way to fluster your staff and build resentment is to stand over their shoulders and monitor every little thing they do.
The concept of packaging services to support and enhance a company’s brand isn’t new. CRC Press published a book on the topic in 1996. The image surrounding the brand and the service may be considered a “silent salesman,” that first glance that determines attraction. Susan LaPlante-Dube echoes that sentiment: “Services – you can’t see them, you can’t touch them and you can’t take them out of the box for a demonstration. Yet all of this is what you must do in order to sell them.” The abstract objective of turning your service into a physical product is to make the intangible tangible.
Although turning what you do into a commodity may go against current wisdom, think of it this way: Repackaging your service as a tangible product makes it easier for customers to understand and buy. Be aware, however, that it’s likely your company isn’t the only one offering that service, so you must distinguish your service as the preferred option. Distinguishing characteristics may include location, ease of use, customer service, price, flexibility, business niche, and so forth.
For instance, if you operate a landscaping company, then you won’t be promoting your business to potential customers 500 miles away. You may market your company as using all-natural, ecologically friendly, sustainably sourced fertilizer. You might cite client testimonials: “This company turned our dry, barren lot into a luxurious paradise!” You might promote expertise in xeriscaping to reduce any need for irrigation and the use of indigenous species to avoid planting foreign and possibly invasive species.
Listing a menu of standard services with costs attached also helps potential customers calculate whether your service will fit into their budgets. Be sure to specify what’s included in the cost and feel free to establish service levels: lower service levels at lower costs and vice versa. For instance, a personal chef might state that cooking and freezing three meals with certain, commonly available ingredients in sufficient quantity to feed four people costs X dollars. Accommodating special dietary restrictions may add to the cost. For instance, Salted Chef in Dayton, Ohio offers a table for pricing. The table states that the chef will procure the necessary ingredients for meal preparation, but at an added cost of $25 for shopping.
Before packaging your service, however, determine whether packaging makes sense. First, understand your market. According to David Hofferberth, “You must have a compelling answer to the question “Why should we package this service?” Too often firms begin packaging services to correct internal problems. Instead, focus should be on the market and the pervasive business problem the service solves.” The packaging you decide upon—assuming you decide to proceed with this effort—should focus outward: what will best serve the client base? That outward focus–supplemented by feedback from your existing clients–will inform the process that guides the effort to define and package whatever it is that you do so that you can sell and deliver that service with predictable and consistent results.
As children we learned the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated. In business, however, we see winners and losers and those that win don’t appear to play by the rules. Read articles on systemically poor treatment of workers by such commercial juggernauts as Walmart, Amazon, Enron, McDonald’s, and more. These companies received scathing press for treating the callous treatment of their employees, yet they remain potent and influential in the realm of commerce.
So it seems that nice guys (or gals) finish last.
CBS concurs. In their article “Want to Be Successful? Don’t Play by the Rules,” the subjectivity of societal rules affects how we see others and ourselves. However, self-limiting rules–those which we impose upon ourselves–says the article have unintended consequences. Such rules, opines the writer, are more about trying to exert control over one’s world; they don’t concern ethics, morals, or conviction. Breaking those self-imposed rules frees one to achieve success.
Beyond those self-limiting constraints we impose upon ourselves, how often do we fail to recognize that the perceived rules and assumptions by which we live are more subjective than we thought? An article on thinkbusinessgrowth.com relates the switching on of the proverbial light bulb in a graduate classroom experiment. The result? Students discovered that the rules by which billionaires play are flexible. Such rules may impose the same limitations as self-imposed rules, such as not asking for assistance unless the problem is serious and that independence is the truest sign of strength.
Liberarianism.org points to examples in sports where the common abrogation of rules occurs to prevent easy scores by opposing teams, to extend games, or to reduce the margin of winning by opposing teams. Like sports, many consider business a game with rules that govern transactions and guide ethical behavior. Deliberately unfair play gives undue advantage; however, those who use the rules to their best advantage without breaking them, says the author, are the most successful.
We can’t escape the morality of rules, legal, societal, or self-imposed. Marketing entrepreneur Tori Kyes observes that “if you read anyone who’s ever been successful’s memoir, you’ll find two common denominators: 1. They failed, at some point in their life. Probably a lot. 2. They didn’t do it the way everyone else did.” Kyes follows that statement with the example of a friend whose plan to launch a product contained three major flaws. The first, that person didn’t believe in his project unless someone else believed in it enough to dedicate a significant chunk of time, expertise, and effort into marketing it. The second, reliance upon an expert dumps one’s fate into the hands of others who may not have a vested interest in one’s success. The third, this friend held the conviction that effective marketing followed the One True Way, when, says Kyes, “you can do it any damn way you please.”
Doing it “any damn way you please” doesn’t mean shooting from the hip and taking a scattershot approach. It means analyzing what needs to be done and then figuring out the best way for your business to accomplish that within the available budget. That means–you guessed it–developing a process for implementation. That process should guide the effort and be adjusted as setbacks occur (and they will) and as successes follow through. It means taking calculated risks and investing cold hard cash in the success of your business.
So, what are the rules?
The objective of every business, besides making a healthy profit, is growth. Almost every business owner or executive entertains ambitions of world domination, admitted or not. Some leaders find themselves positions for beautiful serendipity: the world discovers their product or service and demand for it explodes. The business, perforce, grows because it must. That’s all very well and good, but most business growth doesn’t happen that way. Most business growth occurs through deliberate intention and effort.
Growth itself can cause problems. Rapid growth that outstrips management’s ability to… er… manage it can cause a business to crash and burn. Likewise, failure to intentionally grow the business can starve it of needed revenue, especially if income relies heavily upon one or two clients and one of those all-important clients transfers it business elsewhere or discontinues operation. Rather than bumble around or fall victim to unprecedented good fortune, business leaders must learn to manage growth.
And that means developing processes.
The beauty of process is that it affords your business the capability and infrastructure to grow with the increase in work and all the administrative hassles that attend increased income and personnel management. Writing on the subject, William Bakhos notes that some businesses are inherently more difficult to scale up than others: for instance, a sole practitioner. For such a business, “You are your product, brand and service all rolled into one. If you are your business, then there is a point where you run out of scalable options since you cannot create more hours in the day.”
Business growth requires planning, which poses its own problem. As Bakhos notes, “small business owners typically don’t have the luxury of sitting back and planning a thorough expansion strategy with members of the board. Most are working 12 hour days, multi-tasking and trying to keep costs low while also wanting to grow their business in a sustainable way.”
Developing a process for scaling business growth in a manner that can be managed and sustained requires identifying what you (and your team) spend most of your time doing. What are you working on? How much time do you spend on administrative tasks? Sales tasks? Marketing? Human resources management? Are you actually doing the work your business exists to do, or do you have a different, more indirect role? An analysis of time spent doing what will help you understand what needs more attention and what needs to be streamlined so you have the time to do what you should be doing.
If you find yourself spending too much time performing tasks that don’t align with your role in the company, then offloading the misaligned workload onto a colleague so you can focus on what you’re supposed to be doing isn’t necessarily the correct answer. That colleague may already be devoting the “proper” amount of time (and effort) to his or her assigned role and not have the capacity to undertake the added workload. Even a basic analysis such as that will identify whether more personnel should be hired to accommodate the workload in any particular area of the company. Just as important, shifting your misaligned workload to someone unprepared or unsuited to the work will also fail.
Once analysis of who’s doing what and why and whether they should be doing it is complete, be sure to identify those areas of the business that actually exist. This differs from merely defining titles and roles and expecting those roles to fit the actual jobs. Be clear and honest. For instance, don’t assign “receptionist” to an employee if everyone is responsible for answering the phone. This analysis of service will help you define the core operations of your business, which could be campaign management, reporting, marketing, client relationships, production, project management, etc. You may find that some projects require work that overlaps sectors, which then requires that multiple people from those various sectors–not a single person–be pulled into completing those projects. Further process development will then codify and streamline which person from which department does what and when to keep the progress rolling in an efficient and timely manner that also maintains the desired standard of quality.
Finally, determine the action needed. This may entail automation of routine tasks or the exploitation of software to manage activity or enable personnel perform their work more accurately and with less drudgery. Adoption of a robust process will help to ensure the appropriate assignment of resources to the correct people.
The development of feasible processes differs for every business; but no business sustains growth without them.