How 4 savvy service-based businesses pivoted when physically meeting wasn’t possible.

Oct 29 2020 | Alice Wong, PayPal Editorial Staff

Even the most creative masterminds will see some limitations to what you can provide over a video call, but that hasn't stopped savvy service-based companies from seeking alternative revenue streams.
Putting their product thinking caps on, these four companies found new ways to serve their customers by turning their intangible services into tangible products they can sell online.

Let's dive into the three-step process that got them started.


1. Identify what your client usually gets from your service.

Why do clients usually hire you? Is it because they want a toned, slimmer body? A resume that will stand out? More organized closets? The goal here is to focus on the 'what' your customer wants, not the 'how.' For example, if you typically work as an on-site personal chef, people likely want nutritious meals cooked by someone else. If you're a hairstylist, your clients want to look their best. And if you're a personal trainer, your customers are probably seeking improved health and a trimmer physique.


2. Break down that service into its parts.

What are the various steps in your process? You may go through anywhere from four to 20 different steps in providing your service, whether you're designing homes, sprucing up cars, or advising CEOs on corporate acquisition targets. By documenting these, you'll be able to think about how you can start to package them.


3. Brainstorm alternative delivery formats.

Look closely at what you're selling and consider how else you could deliver the same results using a different process. Can you package some of the materials you use into a kit? Can you create videos to provide step-by-step instruction? A personal chef could sell already-prepared meals with delivery services. Hairstylists could provide a bundle of haircare items and personalized video instruction on how to use them. Personal trainers could combine video calls and meal and workout plans to help their clients keep fit.

Service-turned-product ideas from real businesses.

As you slice and dice your current services and consider how else you should package them, here are some of the service-turned product ideas small businesses have come up with.

1. A consulting firm offers online courses.

Stephanie Schwab headshot

Stephanie Schwab, who provides marketing coaching and consulting services to small businesses, discovered during the nationwide lockdown her
service-based clients needed coaching on how to move online. And they wanted guidance "as quickly as possible," she says. Schwab, who has been teaching at the university level and offering one-to-one coaching for years, "realized that I could package up my own knowledge into a product." Her course, Switch!, helps people create products in their own businesses.

2. A shaman sells boxed kits.

Janine Bolon Shaman

Janine Bolon is a shaman and psychic who was working with clients one-on-one. But after forced isolation, many "opened up to the possibility that we did not have to be in person for them to be able to receive the benefit of my services online," she says. Instead, she mailed them the "tools" they needed in a box and relied on video conferencing to connect live. Her "Women's Retreat in a Box" contained, among other things, a smudge kit for creating a sacred space, a hand-beaded fan, a rattle used for various songs and prayers, and a T-shirt.


3. A tattoo artist pivots to subscription services.

The Good Work Club

Lee Tengum of TheGoodWorkClub helps families build products that generate recurring revenue. One client looking for guidance was a tattoo artist. Tengum helped her transition from providing one-on-one, in-person services to a monthly subscription consisting of custom tattoo designs that clients can take to any tattoo artist. "In just a few months, she's making as much as she was before, however, she is only working a few hours a day now, whereas before she was tattooing for 8 hrs+," says Tengum.

As a result, the tattoo artist is considering closing her brick-and-mortar location. This model makes it possible to serve many more customers with an equal amount of, or even less, effort. So while the money is roughly the same at this point, her hourly rate has more than tripled and she's decreased her overhead.


4. A photographer gives advice virtually.

Amber McCue pivoted her photography business to include The Virtual Photoshoot, where clients receive a phone consultation, real-time guidance on lighting and posing, virtual photos, and editing – all from the comfort of their homes or offices. McCue uses her professional photographer's eye to instruct clients from afar on how to get the best brand photography, social media shots, or even family portraits or boudoir images. She then edits the photos and delivers them to clients for their use.

Finding creative opportunities even at a distance.

If there's one upside to self-isolation, it's that it's revealed a wealth of opportunities to serve clients from afar. With a dose of inspiration from these five businesses – and, of course, your creative thinking – you can turn services that used to be face-to-face into packaged products that serve an even larger market.


More recommended resources.
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Shifting a brick-and-mortar business online: Strategies from popular NYC bakery Sweetly Brooklyn.
From offline to online overnight: 7 lessons from a high-end design studio.
 
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