Offering a service can be the easiest way to start a new business, but many business owners who focus on services first find their businesses evolving. An alternative path evolution can take is offering a product.
While a product usually takes more work at the beginning, it can be a logical choice for many companies. Products can help increase the prices of services that a given company offers, create an easier entry point for prospective customers, or even generate an entirely independent income stream. The following 10 business owners developed products from their services for a whole host of different reasons.
1. Live comedy act into CDs/DVDs
Dan Nainan has taken numerous turns in his career, but his roots are as an engineer with Intel. He took a comedy class, got into stand up, and since then sold thousands of CDs and DVDs.
2. RFID installation to a social media product
ODIN provides services and, now, products centered around RFIDs. Patrick Sweeny explains their transition: "ODIN handled health care and asset tracking projects until a special client wanted some social media in the mix. The result is a software and hardware solution available off the shelf."
3. Marketing services to a how-to manual
Suzanne Meyer is the founder of the Welcome Committee and has taken her expertise as a word-of-mouth marketer from service to product. She specializes in local clients and used to get many requests for franchises. Meyer chose to create a product (a "how to" instructional guide and blueprint) for marketers interested in offering similar services, rather than franchising.
4. Consulting into downloads
Meredith Keller has transformed her expertise as a coach and consultant for small businesses at Smaller Box into a product that she can sell. Her consulting rates were not always in reach for all potential clients, but Keller produced a series of downloadable files on the subject areas she regularly gets asked about.
5. Professional organizing to a self-guided organization program
Jessica Chapman’s organizing abilities aren’t just available as a service. She developed a self-guided training program that can help her target market get organized on their own.
6. Social media consulting to Facebook apps
As the co-owner of a social media marketing firm, Movement Strategy, Jason Mitchell has helped create products that make it easier for his clients to manage campaigns and for his company to implement ideas. Where the company previously focused on custom social media solutions, they’ve put together specific Facebook applications they can sell, including the popular Facebook Picture Upload Contest Application.
7. Web design into software
Matt Certo’s company, WebSolvers, started out as a Web design firm. Since then, the company has developed to self-service software applications that help his clients, without requiring the company to work more hours.
8. Business consultant into a membership site
Kerri Salls is known as a consultant, but that isn’t all she does. She has transformed the program she offers to clients into a membership site, Goal Achiever's Club, available for a monthly fee.
9. Travel marketing to DIY guides
Andy Hayes has built a reputation and a business by being "that travel guy"—and he’s built products to match up with his services, too. He offers DIY guides for travel marketing that offer his knowledge to companies that want to do the work themselves.
10. E-book consulting to e-book templates
Kelly Kingman’s e-book expertise helped her work with clients, but also gave her the opportunity to build Ebook Evolution, a product that includes templates, guides and all the other tools someone needs to create an ebook. She partnered with another service provider, Pamela Wilson, to get the job done.
If your business is service oriented, take a close look at your offerings. Is there something you do that can be turned into a thing people might buy? You may not end up with game-changing products such as those noted here, but the exercise will at least give you a new perspective on your business. And it might help you create an intriguing value-ad or maketing giveaway that results in more demand for the services you provide.