As a one-woman shop, I know how frustrating it can be to develop your service packages. When you have so many aspects of running your business that are constantly vying for your attention, it’s easy to bundle up your offerings and call it a day.
But, as time passes, you find that you’re not bringing in as many clients as you’d hoped. So you tweak your offerings or your prices, trying to find that sweet spot.
This is the trial-and-error method of packaging services that so many solopreneur use — and it’s time to put an end to it. I’ve got some (good) news for you: There’s a better way.
In user experience design (UX), there’s a process for developing a viable product that I’ve found useful for developing packaged services as well. UX isn’t just for start-ups and techy people; it’s a set of practical processes for how to best serve your users (and turn browsers into buyers).
The product/package development process consists of five steps:
- Customer validation
- Problem validation
- Concept validation
- Experience validation
- Technical validation
That’s a lot of validation. Let’s break down each step.
1. Customer validation
It starts with an idea. You have an idea about a problem that your target client has and an idea about who that target client is. During the customer validation phase, you make sure that both the target client and the problem exist. This can be done by what UX designers term “contextual observation,” but I like to think of it as “listen-only mode”.
When you’re in listen-only mode, that means you’re visiting relevant Facebook groups, Twitter chats, or forums to listen for what problems your target audience is facing. I say “listen-only” because you’re not there to self-promote, network, or even answer questions. At this point, you’re just observing that the problem exists for a certain person or group of people.
2. Product validation
Once you’ve validated that your expected problem exists for your target customer, it’s time for the product validation stage. The title of this one can be a little misleading, because you’re not actually introducing a solution to the problem yet (no, this is not when you beta test).
What you’re looking for in this stage is to learn the extent of your target client’s problem and her willingness to solve it. What products or services is she currently using to solve this problem? If she hasn’t purchased any solutions, what other means is she using to alleviate that pain? A couple of UX tools you can use at this stage are diary studies and customer interviews.
Diary studies are pretty cool, because you’re able to get the first-person language of your client during the moments when they’re experiencing the problem. During a diary study, you gather a small group of participants and ask them to write briefly about what they’re experiencing at certain defined times (these can be scheduled times or triggered by certain events, such as “write a few sentences in your journal whenever you get stuck when working on your website”). The participants should do this for 5-7 days and you could collect the responses digitally (in a Google doc or form) to make it easier for you to analyze.
Customer interviews are self-explanatory, but not to be confused by surveys. It’s best to speak face-to-face, via Skype, or over the phone. When you interview customers, here are some good questions to ask:
- “Tell me about a time when you experience [your problem]?”
- “Why was it hard?”
- “How did you solve it?”
Remember, you can always ask “why?” to get deeper into the reasons behind their responses.
3. Concept validation
Now that you’ve got a thorough understanding of your target client, her problem, and the current solution she’s using, it’s time for concept validation. In this third stage of product development, you generate your conceptual solution (your service package). It’s important that you don’t let yourself get bogged down in all the details right now, because you’re only testing the concept.
To determine viability of your package concept, you essentially pre-launch it. Set up a landing page for your service and start directing traffic to it (this can be through social media campaigns, webinars, or targeted advertisements). Basically, you want to make sure that your service package is going to sell before you get into all the nitty-gritty of designing it.
4. Experience validation
The fourth step in the process is experience validation, which means that, after you sell your service package, you continue to make adjustments based on client feedback. This can be gathered in client surveys, emails, or from informal conversations. At this stage, you know that you have a viable package, but you can continue to improve it by making minor tweaks to better suit your clients’ needs.
5. Technical validation
The final stage, technical validation, isn’t as relevant in this case, but should still be considered. It’s more about making sure that all the bugs are worked out of your process and no tech glitches get in the way. Go through your own “run-of-show,” from the moment a potential client finds out about your service to the actual purchase, to the service itself, and the final sign off on the work. The idea is to test all your systems throughout the process to ensure a seamless client experience.
Using UX principles to design your service packages
The UX industry likes to put technical terms on everything, but it’s more than just jargon; it’s really an intuitive process of gathering relevant data and developing a solution in a way that limits your risk of failure. The idea is not simply to create a service package based on what you can do, but based on what problem you can solve for the person you most want to work with.
Which is something we all want to do as service-based solopreneurs, am I right?
PS — A foolproof method for beta testing your packages and a free preview of Hey, Nice Package!