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Services vs. courses: Is your offer easy to sell, or easy to deliver?

Recently I was talking with a coach friend who had an idea of a new offer she wanted to create. She was really excited about creating the new program, but she struggled with the launch plan.

“I feel like I’ve got these great offers,” she confessed to me, “but I’m so tired of marketing them. It’s like all my energy goes into the selling, and it’s exhausting. I love showing up for the conversations, but convincing people to join is like pulling teeth!”

“Wellllll …” I said slowly, knowing that I wasn’t answering her question. “What if you just sold 2 one-to-one coaching slots to cover your cash flow while you figure out the new offer? Those are easy for you to sell with a few emails to previous clients, and will give you the time to do customer research about the offer without the pressure of the time crunch!”

She paused, then gave an audible sigh of relief. Later that day, she shared that she’d re-engaged two 1:1 clients.

It’s ok to offer 1:1 services.

The digital marketing world has made us feel that 1:1 services are bad. “Services are unscalable & unsustainable!” they say. “Client work leads to burnout!” they say.

Instead, if we want to feel like we have “advanced businesses,” we’re pushed to build fancy funnels to drive people into passive products & leveraged offers.

“Make money while you sleep!” they say. “Just buy my course to learn how!” they say.

The digital marketing gurus want you to build really complicated marketing systems, because they profit off the complications … and if you don’t have fancy funnels like them, you might feel like you’re failing at business, because you aren’t following their business model.

But it doesn’t have to be exclusively one or the other.

Services trade time for money. Funnels trade intimacy for volume.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either business model, they’re just two ends of the spectrum. If you’re 100% services, you develop deep relationships with a few clients. If you’re 0% services, you have simpler relationships with many customers.

And you can have a suite of offers across the continuum. I have 4 different levels of service in my value ladder: done-for-you (100% service), done-with-you (productized consulting service), group coaching (course/membership hybrid) and self-study (0% service digital products).

When you’re planning your offers: Where do you want it to be easy?

Services are easy to sell, but harder to deliver.

I can sell a $10K package in a 20-minute phone call, but it’s more time-consuming and complex to render those services.

My service clients usually come from word of mouth referrals. Here’s the process:

  1. The client books a discovery call,
  2. I write a short proposal (usually in a Google doc). They pick an option.
  3. I send a contract & invoice.
  4. We’re ready to start.

People can go from complete strangers to perfect clients in less than a week … but then we spend weeks or months together building custom marketing solutions.

Courses & digital products are easy to deliver, but harder to sell.

I can sell a hundred $100 products without any individual calls, but those sales can require huge lead gen and complicated funnels.

Typically we use a live launch event to educate people about why they need these products, so here’s that process:

  1. Choose some sort of marketing event (webinar? challenge? video series? For simplicity’s sake, let’s go with a webinar)
  2. Choose a webinar date. Set up my webinar software, registration page, and corresponding email marketing tags.
  3. Promote the webinar on social media & email for about a week. Hopefully get a few hundred people signed up for the webinar.
  4. Update my slides and run the webinar. Expect 30-40% of people to attend the webinar for some time, sticking around for 50-60% of the training.
  5. Send the replay plus 3-4 follow-up emails plus social media announcements.
  6. Expect 3-5% of the people who registered to buy … so if I can get 300 people to sign up, I’ll probably make about 8-15 sales.

The simplest version of this process takes about 10 days; more complicated launches (like my 30-day challenge) can take a whole quarter to plan, promote, implement, and sell into the next tier offer.

This kind of launch is lather/rinse/repeat every 3-4 months … and between those launches, I have to attract new people into my audience so that I’m not promoting the same thing to the same people every few months. That lead gen might include paid ads (like Facebook list building ads) or content marketing (videos & blogs), plus nurturing my existing audience so that they don’t feel like I’m only talking to them when I’m selling.

Once people JOIN the programs, the delivery is easier than my done-for-you services. I already have the coaching calls on the calendar, so adding more people to those group calls doesn’t make more work for me! But the SELLING process requires a whole lot more time & effort.

What about evergreen funnels? Aren’t those easy to sell & deliver?

Well … no, not really.

Don’t get me wrong, evergreen funnels — meaning that people can sign up for your email list and buy something from you any time — are awesome. I love my evergreen webinar funnel.

BUT the conversion rate on evergreen funnels is much lower than live launches. If a live launch converts 3-5%, expect an evergreen funnel to convert 1-2% … so you have to tons of new people to find you all the time in order to keep filling the top of the funnel.

Also, evergreen funnels shouldn’t be “set it and forget it.” Once you have it set up, it takes time to evaluate where people are getting stuck, which parts of the offer aren’t converting, and trying out new messaging and strategies to make more sales.

I use my evergreen funnel during quieter times of year, then turn it off during marketing events and live launches since those convert better. So it’ can be part of a solution, but if you want it to be the only solution, you’re going to have to spend a LOT of time growing your audience.

What’s easiest for YOU? How do you want to engage?

Don’t let someone else’s rules about what you “should” do (and their lack of explanation about what their business actually looks like, and how profitable it is) determine how you work with your customers.

Decide how many clients you want to juggle, how deeply you want to engage in their businesses, how much time you want to spend growing your audience, and how quickly you need the cash … and then make a decision about your offers based on what you want your life to look like (not just what some guru is trying to sell you into).

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