#179: Bundling and Productizing as an Antidote to Commoditization

It’s no secret that content marketing has reached mainstream status.

It’s hard to find businesses that don’t use some form of content marketing. That’s a big shift from even five years ago.

But as its popularity has grown, the fees for content marketing projects have suffered.

Upwork and other job platforms have gotten better and more popular. You even have AI (artificial intelligence) technology entering the writing fray.

As a result, competing on unit pricing (i.e. price per blog post, per word, per hour) is a losing game. It’s simply not profitable.

Does that mean that we need to start looking for a new way to make a living? Is content writing doomed?

Not at all! What it DOES mean is that we need to be smarter about how we approach our businesses. We need to be more strategic about our positioning and smarter about how we market ourselves. And we need to rethink what we offer — and how we present it.

This is a big topic. We’re not going to unpack the whole thing today.

But I’d like to address one element of the solution here: bundling and productizing some of your service offerings.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

The Power of Bundling

What do I mean by bundling? I mean rather than offering simple, discrete services (i.e. a blog post, article, case study, brochure, etc.), you offer a bundle of these pieces and related services.

(“Productizing” your services is a related concept that I’ll explain in a minute.)

Clients can sometimes view discrete services as more transactional than bundled (or packaged) services. They see these services as a necessary evil that needs to get done. It fosters a mentality of “We need to get some blog posts written up. Who can do it cheap and fast?”

Bundling is different.

Think about McDonalds’ meal combos. If all you order is two cheeseburgers and an ice water, McDonalds loses money.

But when you order a combo with soft drink, side and burger (and supersize them!) the profit margin goes way up.

Other examples:

  • Highland Fine Wine: Monthly six packs. “The best six bottles of red wine we could find for $75.”
  • Stars & Strikes activity center: Bundle of bowling + laser tag + arcade. “Sure, give me that! I don’t want to think too hard about it….”
  • Luxury hotel: Couples romantic escape. Deluxe room + couple’s massage + breakfast + bottle of champagne + valet parking. “The evening is taken care of.”

Productizing is a particular flavor of bundling.

With productizing, you take something you do a lot, clarify it and put strong parameters around the scope of work. You then offer it as a fixed fee to everyone with clear, no-nonsense pricing.

An Example

A white paper package (that’s also productized) might include:

  • A five- to seven-page white paper
  • Corresponding landing page
  • Email campaign to promote it
  • Social media copy
  • Slide deck summarizing key points OR a one-page white paper summary for the sales team.
  • Price: $7k.

Note that you’re not only bundling these services, you’re also getting very specific about the scope of the project (what it includes and doesn’t include).

This approach of bundling and productizing works because it puts the client’s attention on the outcome rather than the unit price for each of the deliverables.

Another way to think about it: It puts the focus on the experience rather than the deliverables.

Put the focus on the client experience — rather than deliverables — to avoid commoditization.

Let’s talk about the previous examples in terms of experiences.

  • Highland Fine Wine: You get to go on an exciting wine adventure around the world and try wines you’d never find on your own.
  • Stars & Strikes: Your child will have a great time — and you won’t have to make difficult choices.
  • Luxury hotel: Everything’s taken care of for you — and you’re now the hero to your spouse!

How does this work in a writing business?

You emphasize that the client won’t have to worry about all the moving parts and pieces.

Clients are already overwhelmed with their roles and responsibilities. Your bundle takes care of the “problem” for them, and you’ll offer new ideas they hadn’t thought of before.

How to Get Started With Bundling and Productizing

1. Think about what you offer today

Ask yourself what sits on top of (or beside) YOUR piece of the project.

For example, say you mostly write blog posts. Some items you can bundle with it are:

  • Editorial calendar
  • Strategy
  • List of topic ideas
  • Social media
  • Repurposed content
  • Longer format assets (by stitching together existing content).

2. What different tiers could you offer?

Consider offering more than one “flavor” of service. Could you create package tiers or a premium package?

If you offer three tiers, clients will often choose the middle one.

3. Ask your peers what they’re offering

Do some brainstorming with some fellow writers to see what ideas you can come up with.

4. Ask your clients what would help them

Find out what your clients struggle with. Get feedback from them on some of your ideas (with trying to sell them).

5. Start small

You don’t need to restructure all your services. Start with something simple and see how it goes.

Bundling your services doesn’t mean you have to restructure all your service offerings. Start small.

6. Try it!

You won’t know what will work for you until you try it. Do some rapid prototyping and learn as you go.

So start thinking about bundling your services. It’s a great way to avoid commoditization and continue up the value ladder.


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