How To Sell Professional Services Online
When you look at the evolution of the way business is conducted online selling goods or products online is leaps and bounds ahead of being able to sell services online.
eCommerce of course, was immediately made possible by Amazon and eBay who saw very early on the opportunity to sell products online. But what about services?
Amazon and Google seem like they are attempting to solve this problem and yet early programs have fallen short. The challenge with services is that delivering value is contingent on the performance of people while working in the face of the customer. While with manufacturing the product is assembled long before the customer considers a purchase.
This makes quality assurance difficult for service providers and it makes pricing especially challenging.
In order to put together a price for a service it requires detailed intake and understanding of the consumer needs. That isn’t always easy to productize or put together a standardized price.
However, productizing your services is the buzz phrase of the day for service providers and advancements in the tech tools as well as the adoption by service providers is paving the way for services to be sold like eCommerce.
So, how do you build a website that can sell services online?
At Periodic, we have been hard at work for the last 5 years pouring into the research and development to create a platform to sell experiences and services. Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way that make it possible for our customers to build a site that allows you to offer your services online.
Scheduling Is The Linchpin
Selling services online is really about selling your time online. You cannot divorce the service from the time of a worker or consultant. But time is tricky. Some things take longer, other things don’t take as much time. Without good time management, the service provider will be stuck in their ability to scale their business.
For some service, you can just keep increasing your prices if you max out of time. But for most, you max out in what the market can bear which means you’ll be tapped out of resources to make more money, unless you figure out a way to hire more people or save yourself time.
In terms of trying to create an eCommerce-like experience for services, you have to be able to display your services, the costs and the time of service.
Today, most people live and die by their Google or Outlook calendar. That is an improvement from 10 years ago when most service providers still had a paper calendar or a white board with all the tasks they need to accomplish.
To build an online store for your services, you first need a system that can read the availability of your online calendar and the calendars of your individual employees. Without that ability, people would just start scheduling services without your business knowing whether you could fulfill the appointments or not.
Then, when thinking about scale it’s important for the company that has dozens if not hundreds of schedules to manage to have a system that can handle more than a one to one booking scenario.
Early scheduling products on the market like Calendly and Acuity are pretty smooth about their one to one booking capabilities. They are simple to use and straight-forward. But as I have talked with many people leaving Calendly and Acuity, they all reach a breaking point of scalability and customizability.
Scalability Is Essential
You can’t grow a service business without being able to charge more money or expand your workforce. Yet we know that finding good workers is incredibly difficult in today’s market. So how can you do both?
Part of what makes service work unappealing is that it’s work. However, with the emergence of gig economy apps like Grub Hub, Instacart, and Uber service workers are finding new found freedom in being able to get their tasks delivered via technology and working on their own terms.
Local businesses and even regional service providers can’t offer that same flexibility because deliverability becomes a huge problem. If you don’t have enough workers in your system to do the work at will, then you won’t be able to fulfill orders as they come in. But somehow the gig economy apps have cracked that code? How?
The technology makes taking gigs easy.
But can this same idea be applied to things like professional services and experiences?
As we work with our clients to build their own gig service marketplaces in niche categories like mulch delivery, acting coaching, and music touring, at Periodic, we see a bright future for the service economy as aspiring individuals adopt tools tailored to their industry to help them do the things that they love.
Our customers are onboarding hundreds of service providers to their service booking websites and are booking thousands of reservations through our system.
Because we are working directly with category specific marketplaces the nuances of service deliverability feel bespoke while being built on our existing framework.
Contrasting this idea to Amazon trying to sell services, they are taking the approach of putting a little search magnifying glass over a wide variety of services which is just adapting their eCommerce solution to services, while we are going directly to brands and building a solution custom fit for their service. The difference is staggering because brand matters in services.
Brand For The Win
Too many service providers don’t understand how important their brand is. But its far more important than they think. Often you hear that a service brand isn’t going to ever have the power of McDonalds or Coke or Walmart but they don’t have to.
The big brands are everywhere and naturally they need to be known everywhere. But service providers are generally local. So they only need to be known locally. That is a much easier hill to climb than you’d think. It’s cost effective, it’s fast, and it’s powerful.
Brand is what separates services providers from each other. Let’s take financial services for example. At a base line, the financial advisor has to perform well and make people money and protect their assets. Those are the table stakes. But the reason you choose one financial advisor over the other isn’t because of the results. The results are a given when making the decision. So the client isn’t choosing between retiring with $1m or $10m. They are choosing between two advisors that are both going to get them to $10m.
So what is the deciding factor?
Seth Godin says that, “Brand is what people believe about you before you walk into the room.” Brand is what people think before they’ve met the service provider.
Love it or hate it, the look of your building, your zoom background, the way you dress, your website, and your reviews all contribute to how people are going to make decisions. It’s not just a charming personality.
At scale, all of those things are even more important because the individual brands of the service providers almost become a commodity when they are not aided by a company brand that is intentional about everything piece of the customer experience.
Creating an Amazon like eCommerce experience for a provider can’t work because if the service is commoditized then getting the work becomes a race to the bottom and the service provider can’t grow their income and they can’t scale because they can’t pay their people well.
Service eCommerce must be category specific climbing one vertical at a time with a unique brand and value proposition otherwise the margins will be too slim to make it an equitable venture. Not only this but it has to have the specific functionality to conform to the workflows and nuances of different types of services.
Tech That Calculates Price
This last piece of being able to sell your services online is the cornerstone to making this work. There is a reason that not a lot of companies have cracked the code and it’s because it’s really hard.
You’re dealing with many different schedules and availabilities, you have added communication needs, and there is so much variability in pricing.
For businesses and industries that deal with providing custom quotes, there are a handful of estimating softwares. I speak directly with many service providers about their estimating practices and finding an estimating software that can do what you need it to do is one of their top frustrations. It’s not easy. There are a lot of nuances. It’s not just selling a single unit.
But so far, most technology platforms haven’t developed far enough to even make it usable for the sales rep yet alone turning it customer facing and making it publicly available to the the consumer.
But again, Periodic is up for the challenge. The way that we’ve approached it with our customers is to work directly with them one on one to design a custom form interface that asks the questions needed to produce a price.
Then through the use of “value functions” we’ve designed form calculators to take the input provided by the customer and to convert that input into money and quantifiable hours that can be placed on a calendar in real-time.
Let me say this another way. We can sell any service online. No matter how complex.
The reason we are able to do this is because we take a different approach to Software as a Service. Most software platforms bank on a high volume of users with as little customer attention as possible. This allows them, for the most part, to keep their subscription prices low. We do it differently.
We provide a highly customizable software and you get a team of booking site designers and experts to help you maximize the return on investment and to have a platform that conforms to the nuances of how you run your service business.
This is what allows you to execute and scale your vertical.
We are helping service and experience providers launch multi-location operations in different cities and states all over the world. It’s an exciting time for us at Periodic.
From booking rock and roll tours, acting coaching, yard services, learning how to drive a boat or a race car, to scheduling locations for Hollywood movies, we are on a mission to disrupt the service economy by enabling service providers to sell their services online all the way from marketing through to order fulfillment.
Torlando Hakes, is the author of the book Sprint and host of such podcasts as The CTA Podcast, and The PaintED Show. Torlando is open to meeting new friends and building a community of like-minded peers. You can jump on his calendar for a 1–1 anytime for advice, to share networks, for podcast interviews, and for help getting more bookings.
This article is syndicated from the Periodic Knowledge Base, which is a repository of articles and videos created for Marketing Agencies who are certified Periodic Agency Partners. As Agency Partners, they have a license to sell the Periodic white label booking platform to their clients helping them increase conversions through their website. Advanced features such as complex booking, dynamic forms, and automated email/text messages add to their agency tech stack and help them set themselves apart from other agencies and get better results for their clients.
Check out the Periodic Agency Partner Program at Periodic.is to set yourself apart from the competition, book more appointments for your clients, and retain them for longer.
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