Turn Services into Packages to Outsell the Competition

Published July 12, 2015

The rise in demand for highly customized services, illustrated by companies like Handy and Seamless, has paralleled the growth of social media and put the onus on businesses to engage in personalized marketing. The gear oil that actually makes personalization work is being able to tell customers exactly what they will get and what it will cost. That ability to be specific on “packaging” (you get x contents for y price, or z price by bundling with other items) is a major advantage of product-based businesses like amazon.com, but it has resulted in unenviable challenges. Aggregator sites like Kayak and apps like GasBuddy help us weigh convenience and price, largely taking the conversation away from individual brands.

The fundamental concern for service-based businesses is that each project is different and requires some variance in price and components. The vogue of productizing service offerings alleviates some of the natural envy toward product brands that can quickly adapt to the widening range of consumer demand, but that presents its own hurdles. How do service providers who are used to writing individual estimates for every job package their offerings to attract more clients without losing the inherent flexibility each job depends on?

For companies that want to sell more of their services by offering them in easily digestible packages, the only limitations are of creativity. To ensure you do it right:

Break Down the Parts to Show Highest Value

If you’re providing multiple components, don’t just summarize them as a single thing. The principle of economy applies in reverse with packaging. If a wedding plan or media bundle has 11 parts, enumerate them. If a thing can be seven items instead of one, do that. Always show the highest value by enumerating the parts. The chapters in a book or stages in a learning experience have INDIVIDUAL value. Even when you’re just providing multiple formats of an item or options in a service, elaborate and enumerate the value. You can enhance the perceived value by indicating possible uses or applications of all the variants in your package, or by explaining the benefit for each part: “Video shot from three cameras at three angles, with two sound sources, to deliver a cut worth watching.”

 Exceed the Value of the Total

Just like the window sticker on a new car, you can break out the specific pricing for each component. If the package is $1,100, it might actually include six or seven items at $233 apiece, with a clear savings in bundling them. Just be aware, you may be asked to break out those items at their specified value, so price accordingly and keep your a la carte or ad hoc offerings separate. If you’re selling work that requires a lot of drafts, proofs, or other preliminary versions that aren’t the final deliverable, break those out, enumerate, and show the value in the process. You can also break down the estimated hours that go into something. Remember, most people have no idea what really goes into all your work; this is your chance to put values to it, and even limit the hours of involvement: “artfully assembled, hand-frosted, painstakingly decorated, carefully boxed…”

 Packages are the Antithesis of Generic Information

A lot of package and pricing pages are merely functional, treating the copy as an afterthought. If the pricing page is a landing page (the first page people see), don’t surround the details with generic headlines like “It’s time for a new car” or “Act now to get your very own toaster.” Consider effectively ‘reversing’ the presentation by emphasizing components rather than what they are components of. For a software bundle, instead of focusing on the value of the bundle, consider framing the story around one or two of the best apps in the bundle. Start with what we can DO with it or, better yet, the problem we’re having that it solves. If you’re a bookkeeping service, the lead-in might read: “Rushing to reconcile at tax time is like trying to get healthy AFTER your get cancer. three options for financial fitness…”

 Reward Buying Signals By Maintaining the Flow

If the pricing page is secondary, meaning it’s a click-off of a home page or main website, don’t impose additional barriers to the sale. Too often, the lead-in copy for secondary pages is dense and daunting. Who wants to click on your pricing page, only to get a reading assignment? “We’re really glad you’ve decided to buy our stuff. Here are several long-winded reasons why we’re glad…” Avoid redundancy and repetition. Your selling copy goes where the button was. Once they’ve clicked, you’re just clarifying which color they want – red or blue. “Great decision! Now pick from three simple options…”

 Preferring Sustainable Over Static Presentation

Pricing is likely to change more frequently than we foresee. So will the components of a package, the number of packages, and the information we want included. If you have a choice between updating a landing page or giving a prospective client a printed flyer or e-mail attachment, go for the landing page. Once you’ve handed out a static listing, it can be copied, redistributed, and have a shelf life of virtually forever. Remember, a price sheet is a legal document so, at minimum, include the proper disclaimers about pricing and packaging being subject to change, or the time frame for which pricing applies, and a date for the document version. If you don’t want to add pricing to your website, you can still create a dynamic document (that you can change at will), by just dropping it into Dropbox or Google Drive and sharing the link. You then retain the ability to update critical information.

 Get Market Insights By Leaving the Box Unfinished

It pays to include a headline like, “Have more questions? Ask!” Not offering to think outside the ‘box’ can make prospects think, if they want it differently, they have to go away empty-handed. What you miss out on is “Well, what I REALLY want is x,” which could be even more profitable. When you leave open the door for prospects to tell you what they’re after, that’s critical (and free) business intelligence, and can help continually validate or refine your packages. You can also include an unspecified component in each package offering, such as “Installation Support Up to 4-hrs” without specifying what happens when that is exceeded. Address it as needed. The flexibility you need as a service company isn’t a hindrance to well-formed package offerings; it’s part of the package.

 Don’t Be the Generic Packager

It’s become a cliché’ to point out annoying airline rewards levels (gold, silver, platinum) and awkward Starbucks sizes (tall is small and venti is confusing). Then there are “unlimited” cell phone packages that aren’t actually unlimited. We have to be better than this. If your packages sound like gasoline grades (Starter, Basic, Professional) or you’ve gone trademark happy by putting your brand name on each one (VitaDawn Basic, VitaDawn Plus), it means you didn’t know what to call them. The package name isn’t fluff; it’s a summary of value. It’s OK to think about packages in terms of where they fit in your business model or on your grid of service offerings, but then actually name them for how clients benefit. Great packages aren’t actually named for what you get, but for their inspirational significance. It’s not even what the package (or your company) is going to do for the client; it’s what does the client WANT out of it? Freely express what the client hopes to achieve (“Day of Breathing Easy,” “Serenity Weekend,” “Rekindle the Week”), as though we weren’t considering its sales value. Consider that extra bit of creative thought that went into MailChimp’s packages (“Entrepreneur”, “Growing Business”, “High Volume Sender”), a karate studio with package names like “Little Ninja,” or Wufoo’s “Carpe Diem” package!

 Pair Packages With Expertise to Tie In Your Authority

If your packages includes consulting, upsell rather than downplay that. A dentist might spend 15-minutes looking at your tooth and charge a shocking amount, but maybe it cost him $275,000 to get the degree, took 10 years to earn, while eating ramen, and is still being paid back. Your time is valuable, so spell it out. Most of us want a human to get us at least part of the way. No doubt, you can jump in any car on the lot and drive away (after paying), but no one likes to get two miles down the road and realize they can’t find the air conditioner button or the hazard light. It’s a great way to add value and actually flesh out package differences, as well. We might rather be in a group dance class that comes with “three hours of private coaching included.” Relative newcomer, Nimble has a sharp offering of only one package, based on “unlimited” everything, but the moment you decide to invest different levels of value and expertise, that’s the basis for your good, better, best approach.

Any business can package its offerings, whether services or products. The potential for increased sales and referrals is immense because, once you can say exactly what you’ll do for what price, it becomes easier for OTHER people to be your sales force. That drives social media referrals, personal and colleague referrals, and word- of-mouth in general. The logic of packaging has only to be paired with the emotional sensitivity of how an audience responds to both sides of the presentation. The value each party brings to the exchange is the central topic, and it’s a dialogue rather than monologue.

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1 Comment

  1. James Oliver on November 20, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Great work… will surely implement it in the business.

About The Author

Daniel DiGriz headshot
Daniel DiGriz is a marketing strategist and the external chief marketing officer for a number of companies and organizations. He has a Masters Degree in Education and a background in digital publishing, B2B sales, and corporate training for Fortune 500 brands. He is the author of The Blogging Playbook for Small Business and All Marketing is Dead. Daniel owns MadPipe, which provides marketing consulting and leadership to small businesses, and bills himself as the world's first "thought leadership coach."