7 Reasons You NEED To Productize Your Agency

April 7th , 2022

Running an agency service doesn’t have to be like herding cats.

seo agency herding cats

We both know the feeling  —  as soon as you get something done, 2 more things pop up.

There’s just not enough hours in the day to move your business forward. You’re stuck working non stop only to stay stationary.

The traditional delivery system is dying, fast

In this post, I’m going to show you:

  • Why the “traditional” method of delivering agency services is holding your business back
  • How to build a “productized” SEO service that reduces the amount of work required, while still delivering better results for clients
  • A look into our agency’s (WEBRIS) productized service, SEO Sprints™, that’s taken our revenue from $25k/mo to $150k/mo.

It’s not just our agency that’s experiencing huge results, we’ve taught this system to others who are reaping the benefits as well:

 

Introducing…Productized services

Let’s define a productized service in 2 ways:

  1. From a client’s perspective, a productized service offers a hyper targeted, specialized “done for you” solution with a simple value proposition, packaged at a set price, time period and pre defined scope.
  2. From the agency’s perspective, (you), a productized service is one that runs systematized processes, simplified labor inputs, automation solutions and continues to produce and grow with or without your direct involvement.

For context, think Ford’s Model T or McDonalds operational model.

mconalds assembly line

 

7 Reasons to Productize Your Agency Service

Let’s face it, the way most agencies, freelancers, and consultants deliver services is broken.

We might not want to admit it, but this is an unacknowledged industry-wide truth.

Traditional agency business models aren’t working. Not for agency owners, not for employees, and not for clients.

Here’s 7 reasons why the traditional model is broken, and why a productized model is the way forward.

 

1. Long-term contracts are industry standard, but they make your life harder

Creating a proposal for 12 months of work is a ridiculous amount of work. Scoping out a proposal of that length can take days if not weeks to put together.

This is a silent killer that NO agency is talking about.

These types of proposals means your sales person has to be a skilled SEO consultant AND a good sales person.

No offense – but most skilled SEO pros are not what I would call a “people person”.

Finding someone who can do both is like finding a unicorn.

In other words, these people don’t exist. So you get stuck doing sales yourself, buried in proposals to your eyeballs while the other high importance items just continue to burn in the back.

Life in a traditional SEO agency

 

🏆 Productized services are short term and don’t require custom proposals

When you move to a productized service model, you don’t need to spend 2 weeks rushing together a proposal.

Our agency uses the same template, over and over, with no customization and we close almost 65% of our deals.

Why?

Because our proposals are geared towards solving a specific problem, with a defined start and end.

The prospect doesn’t need to see 100 pages of analysis – they just want to see …

  • A summary demonstrating we understand what the problem is
  • A plan of attack of how we will solve their problem
  • How long it will take to solve the problem
  • How much it will cost to solve the problem
  • Expected results from their investment

Since it’s a productize service, we’re solving the same problem over and over again.

Our clients come to us because they want more customers from Google search.

They don’t want a ton of spreadsheets, reports and deliverables. They just want more customers – that’s it.

Even better, when you offer a productized service, your margins are better. You’re no longer doing out of scope work to try and keep the client happy, you’re simply running the same process over and over again.

productized seo service
A look at our agency’s proposal template for our Productized service, SEO Sprints. Every proposal is the same with 0 customization needed.

 

2. Your long term contract is also eroding your margins…

Your #1 job as an agency owner (or one of them, anyway!) is to keep clients happy.

When you operate on a long term monthly retainer, you constantly have to “sing for your supper.”

You’re expected to produce deliverables monthly, whether the campaign needs them or not.

This means you’re constantly doing custom work that’s outside of scope, that kills your processes and erodes margins.

Because if you don’t, clients ask…

“We’re paying $4k a month … what are we getting for that? What have you done for us lately?” 

Overworked agency founders say yes to every change of scope, all to keep a tight grip on clients and revenue flowing in.

Delivering custom SEO work is exhausting, unpredictable, and impossible to develop processes around and scale.

Most of you refuse to give up 12 month contracts out of fear. You think that long term deal is a security blanket, but it’s really a weighted vest drowning your revenue.

 

🏆 Productized SEO has a defined start and end, no need more ongoing deliverables

Delivering the same SEO services for clients, using a productized model, streamlines service delivery.

Costs go down. Client comms are simpler. Clients are happier. Staff are more satisfied (less likely to go elsewhere), they know what they’re doing every day. Work is easier to deliver, and results improve.

Noticeably for agency owners, headaches reduce. Life gets easier.

 

3. The traditional SEO model forces you to scale through people

Whether in-house or contractors, your talent is your agency’s greatest strength (and weakness).

The problem is, people are wildcards – unpredictable, emotional and demanding.

Scaling through people stinks.

People are expensive. Staff need benefits, healthcare, pensions, and perks. In theory, a happy team ensures clients are happy. In reality, that’s very difficult to achieve for most agencies, especially smaller ones.

 

🏆 Productized services scale through processes

Instead of hiring for dozens of roles, productizing SEO services simplifies staffing requirements.

At WEBRIS, we have two core roles for delivering productized SEO services. As client volumes and workloads increase, we hire more people to service those clients until they hit capacity. Rinse and repeat.

With productized SEO services, training is simpler. Especially when staff are delivering the same services, solving the same problems, for the same types of clients.

Instead of a mixed multi-skilled team, you’ve got a highly-effective staff of specialized SEO professionals.

 

4. Margins are lousy, overhead is underestimated

Most traditional SEO agencies have offices.

Some agencies have gone fully remote since the pandemic. But not all. Agencies wanting staff back at desks boast about their “cool” offices on Instagram, TikTok,  YouTube, and LinkedIn.

If you can’t trust staff to work effectively unless they’re desk-bound 9 till 5, you’ve hired the wrong staff, or have inefficient and ad-hoc processes. Or both.

But let’s face it, offices are expensive. You’ve got to pass that fixed cost onto clients.

Alongside office overheads, you’ve got to pay for loads of other expenses. All of this eats away at those already shrinking profits from monthly retainers.

Adding to this stress, as a founder, you’re still stuck doing client work. Especially when clients ask for custom work. These tasks demand your attention and time because you can’t train staff to do something new every month for every client.

Custom work, expensive overheads, and the constant need to keep clients happy makes SEO agency owners feel trapped. Running fast but getting no further forward.

Ask yourself, is your agency below or around 6 figures?

Do you have staff and an office?

Chances are, you’re making less than you made in a previous job, while being overloaded with risk, stress, and countless headaches. 

You aren’t getting the rewards — the money you want to make — because the traditional SEO business model is broken.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice my wife and I travel a lot. All of this is made possible through SEO Sprints.

 

🏆 Productized SEO founders can finally escape operations 

If you’ve been running an agency for a while, getting out of client work is probably more of a dream than a fixed goal . . . next year, maybe the year after.

With a productized approach to SEO, you can finally escape operations. Stop doing client work yourself.

Pull yourself out of working IN the business, and start work ON the business. Give yourself the mental space, processes, systems, and team to focus on the Big Rocks.

Aim for specific revenue goals. Bigger profits. Become an attractive acquisition target.

  • Want to hit $50K MRR?
  • Want to hit $1M ARR?
  • Want to exit for 7 figures?

Previously unreachable goals are more achievable with a productized SEO business model.

 

5. Inconsistent results force you to work harder to keep clients happy, and you’re always afraid of losing them  

Getting results as a traditional SEO agency is really hard. Why is this?

Every SEO agency needs to reinvent the wheel for every new client. Constantly trying to keep them satisfied.

When your results are inconsistent, clients feel like they’re wasting money, and they cancel the contract. Even after working so hard to pull in that $4k monthly retainer, it could vanish before Q3.

In many ways, this isn’t your fault. If every client needs different tactics, services, and strategies, then you can’t solve specific problems with specialized tools and processes.

Your team won’t be focused or efficient when there’s a fire sale every day. This shows in the results clients get.

Our agency WEBRIS has hundreds of client case studies due to the direct impact of our SEO Sprint system.

 

🏆 Productized SEO services produce better results more consistently 

When you do the same thing over and over, you naturally get better at it.

Imagine a basketball pro also practicing football, running, and swimming. They might be world-class at basketball, but they will never achieve pro status in numerous other sports.

Practice makes perfect.

Focus on one or two areas of SEO. Solving specific problems for specific clients. Positioning is as valuable as re-configuring to offer productized services, especially in SEO.

When you productize SEO services — and go niche with agency positioning — results improve.

You can charge more. And that’s fine, because clients will benefit from more consistent and noticeable results.

 

6. The constant need to find new SEO “hacks” 

SEO’s are forever trying to figure out the latest hacks to boost their service offering.

Hunting down supposedly insightful threads on Twitter. Waiting for the Gods of Google to enlighten us mere mortal SEO’s with a game-changing comment.

Now look – there’s nothing wrong with perfecting your craft.

However, the SEO industry tends to take it to entirely new level that’s flat out unnecessary.

Google’s algorithm hasn’t changed much over the years, you don’t need to spend 10 hours / week on SEO Twitter scouring for the latest hacks that don’t exist.

This results is a ton of wasted energy fighting with other SEOs on Twitter over an answer that doesn’t matter.

 

🏆 Focus on what matters…process, people, automation

When you productize your service, the focus becomes getting results for clients.

Results come through improvement of processes, not addition of unnecessary trends that you saw in a FB Group.

Once you realize this, then you can start to truly automate your business.

Automation is only possible once you’ve got a repeatable, scalable approach to delivering SEO services. You don’t need to keep chasing knowledge, insight, and hacks.

Delivering productized SEO services is the easiest route to true automation.

 

7. Late payments and crappy cashflow make everything harder 

Late payments, juggling finances, and crappy cashflow are constant headaches for SEO agency owners.

You’ve got staff to pay.

Offices costs to cover.

Software subscriptions, accountants, lawyers, overheads, expenses, and a thousand other things.

One client paying late could seriously impact cashflow.

Spoiler alert: Clients always pay late.

When cashflow is unpredictable, EVERYTHING else is harder to deal with. It’s the main reason SEO’s do extra work to keep clients happy. You can’t afford to lose them.

  • Even after all those costs are covered, how much profit is left?
  • Have you been able to pay yourself comfortably for all of that work and stress?

Probably not. You got into business to make money. Don’t apologize for that. Profit is not a dirty word. Money makes all of the hard work worth it.

 

🏆 Productized SEO improves cashflow and increases profits 

Cashflow causes so much stress for agency owners, especially when clients pay late.

With the productized services approach at WEBRIS — SEO Sprints™ — we get the money upfront. That’s one headache gone.

Cash flow is never a problem when you productize.

 

How do I “Productize” my agency? 

At the core of every agency, time/skills are sold for money.

Service businesses are notoriously difficult to run, and even harder to scale.

When agency owners come to us, they want scalable processes, but they don’t know how to start.

Productizing services means stripping everything back to one or two core offerings.

  1. Simplify. Don’t try and do everything for everyone. Say no to websites, design, social, PPC, PR . . .
  2. Standardize. Scale through processes and systems. Gradually start to automate processes.

Deliver exceptional SEO — with a productized model — for the same types of clients (buyer personas), repeatedly and consistently solving almost identical problems.

When you implement the productized SEO model, clients will be happier. You will make more money. In my next post, I will show you HOW to transform your SEO agency into a fully productized agency. 

 

Should you “Productize” your SEO agency? 

If you keep selling SEO services the traditional way, your business could die. Or it could kill you.

Stress kills. Everyone knows how much stress is involved in running a business. One mental health survey found that 62% of business owners felt depressed once a week, and 52% said stress impacts their concentration. Chances are, those numbers are low.

Is this a surprise to anyone running an SEO agency?

No, not really.

Consider what could happen if you keep running your SEO agency the traditional way?

You might never get out of operations, and finally escape client work.

You are never going to scale. Never start making serious money.

Isn’t it time you had less stress and more money?

 

Are you ready to become a productized SEO agency? 

We can help you do that. Book a time to talk to a growth advisor about how we can work 1 on 1 to grow your agency.

Ryan Stewart

I build, grow and sell digital agencies. Most recently, WEBRIS, a 7 figure SEO agency.

April 7th , 2022

2 Comments

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  • Dennis McMahonsays

    Thank you for this article, productizing our offering is something I’ve considered for a long time, and I know it’s necessary to scale, however I’m nervous about scaling back our services. I have a full service marketing agency and it seems that the *full service* part may be our greatest vulnerability/barrier to productizing our service.

    HMU when you’re in Colorado and I’ll take you rafting in exchange for guidance 🙂 Thanks, Ryan!

    • You dont have to pull back on anything to productize, just look to reduce redundancies and combine.

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