How can you package and sell services online in a way that leverages the precious resource of time but offers tremendous value to customers and doesn't compromise service quality?
Begin with these steps:
- Define your professional niche (or, in some cases, a niche within a niche).
- Identify and convey very specific customer needs.
- Develop and package services that fulfill these needs.
- Reach customers in your narrowly defined target audience.
- Convince prospects to pay for your online services.
This last step is a challenge, particularly in a cyber-world full of free resources. Elements critical to success are effectiveness in constructing services relevant to the customer, along with strengths in positioning yourself or your company as an expert in your field.
Online services — training programs, business presentations, reference materials, etc. — may be packaged as videos, podcasts, eBooks, documents (PDF, Word, Excel), PowerPoint presentations, webinars, MP3 downloads, images, and more.
Fees for online services can be structured in many ways, including:
- One-time fee
- Recurring monthly charge
- Annual membership or subscription
- Series of payments for large expenses
- Add-on fees (one-time or recurring) for premium services
Here are examples of ways to create, package, and sell services online from highly focused businesses, large and small:
Active.com is a well-known destination for endurance athletes. The company offers fee-based, registration online for athletic events, such as 5Ks, marathons, and long-distance cycling rides. Event organizers make arrangements with Active.com to offer online registration and publicize the availability of this service to their participants. To use the service, athletes create an account and pay a transaction fee for event registration in addition to the event charge; or athletes may pay an annual fee to become members in exchange for discounts on registrations.
Initially, event brochures or websites drove customers to online registration; now, customers are just as likely to visit Active.com for the purpose of finding events and completing registration. The company's fee-based service offerings include downloadable training plans for specific types of events, geared to varying performance and experience levels.
Cyclo-CLUB serves the cycling sub-niche within the niche of endurance athletes. This company offers cycling-specific workout, training, and nutrition resources. The target audience is the non-professional cyclist who wants to improve performance without sacrificing time reserved for work and family commitments.
Email campaigns dispense bite-sized pieces of wisdom that resonate with very specific needs of cyclists (e.g., better climbing endurance) and point prospects to free podcasts as well as the paid membership site. Customers can sign up for a membership, paid monthly and auto-renewed until cancelled. Resources are delivered via on-demand video, audio recordings, eBooks, downloadable documents, etc. on topics, such as strength-building exercises, on-the-road techniques, and nutrition recommendations.
The club experience can be customized by accessing resources according to plans outlined in an introductory guide as well as participating in private forums, where members can solicit and share advice with other members.
Career Management Alliance
Career Management Alliance is an organization of career-services professionals, started by thought leaders in the careers field and now owned by Kennedy Information. Professionals pay an annual fee for access to the website, which connects members with career-related articles, a private discussion forum, expert advice, and other resources; topics may cover recruiting trends in a recession or methods of applying for Federal jobs.
The organization also offers specialized training (webinars or interactive seminars) for additional charges. Initial sessions are delivered live by expert presenters and allow audience interaction; recorded versions are then made available on demand. These services require connecting with presenters through traditional land lines or VoIP for live talks; and are combined with slide presentations and handouts.
Resume Writing Academy
Resume Writing Academy serves the résumé-writer niche within the career-services field, which includes job search strategists and career coaches. The company is run by credentialed experts who are active speakers, authors, and trainers in the realm of résumé writing.
The company sells online services of distinct value to résumé writers, such as training sessions on preparing résumés for certain types of customers (e.g., banking professionals or C-level executives) presented in webinar format. Services include reference materials, such as sample résumés, job descriptions, and terminology pertinent to certain industries and position types.
Dreaming up, developing, and packaging online services can take tremendous effort. But the return on your time investment can be significant, allowing your business to grow without adding payroll dollars or requiring you to work extra hours. But, just as important: your customers can save tremendous amounts of time by receiving highly specialized services — knowledge, understanding, insights, techniques, solutions to unique problems — that might take them weeks, months, even years to discover otherwise. Some may be wary of paying for online services rather than face-to-face, personalized ones; but those who get results from your services will gladly exchange money for time.
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