I don’t know about you, but one of the most agonizing things for me about running a generalist web agency was the scoping and proposal process.
What I want to talk to you about today is an approach that specialists can easily utilize to make discovery, scoping, and proposals easier and actually profitable.
As a disclaimer, this is not my idea. It’s one of my key takeaways from Pia Silva’s book Badass Your Brand.
I mentioned this idea in last week’s video and I know it sparked some interest, so I wanted to go a little more in-depth about how I’m applying this concept in my specialized business.
How Scoping and Proposals Usually Go
The client calls you and says “I need a new website.”
So you review their current site, hop on a 45-minute phone call, talk about options, get the go ahead to come up with a proposal, spend an hour on a custom proposal, send it, follow up, ask how it’s going, wonder if they heard from you, and then find out they sent your plan and proposal to another freelancer who undercut your rate.
Or, even if you ultimately get the project, you’ve spent 2-3 hours doing free consulting with no guarantee of being paid for your expertise (which is one of the most valuable things you have to offer).
The Lead Product: How Scoping Could Go
Imagine instead that you don’t offer proposals for free but instead start every project with a paid “lead product.”
A lead product is a small project that helps you provide valuable insights at low risk to the client, while scoping out a larger project.
As Pia says:
“Rather than giving away your knowledge in hope of winning a client, a Lead Product lets you take time to figure out what their real problems are, hash out a plan to solve them, and present it all for a nominal, upfront fee.”
For a website designer, a lead product might be a website plan that lays out a creative brief, target market outline, ideas for improvement to their current website, new website site architecture, suggested call to action, and technology plan.
For me, since all of my niche services revolve around SEO, my lead product is my SEO Roadmap. It’s an in-depth dive into the client’s website and online presence to identify SEO issues, determine what they’re currently ranking for, and make suggestions for how they can make immediate improvements to rank better. At the end, I propose how we can continue to work together with additional services.
In both of these cases, the client is served with great information and value they can act on immediately, whether they sign on for additional work or not.
These projects also give the consultant a deep look into the current situation and allow for better scoping out a final solution.
And… they aren’t done for free.
Lead Products for Specialists
If you’d like to learn more about lead products and what makes them work, I highly recommend you read Pia’s article on Forbes or her Badass Your Brand book.
But I want to touch on why I think this concept is inherently easier as a specialist.
If you are specializing in a certain type of client, you have a much clearer idea of what their problems are. You can craft a lead product that addresses that client’s specific concerns and provides value they really want.
You also are in a unique position to say “This is how we always start our projects. We have worked with multiple businesses like yours, and this is the best way to really identify what you need and make immediate improvements.”
An Example of My Lead Product At Work
Just yesterday, I was chatting with a wedding photographer who was interested in some SEO help.
She said to me “You know, I just want to make sure we’re doing blog posts right. Even if you could just come in for an hour and teach us what we need to know about SEO for blog posts, that would be great.”
Old Sara might have jumped at this. I could feel myself wanting to say yes, to give the client what she wanted.
But I also know that on-page SEO for blog posts is only one part of their SEO success. Allowing them to just focus there is not serving them in the best way.
So I steered back to my lead product and said, “I’d love to help. We start every SEO project with the SEO Roadmap, which will dive deeper into your site and also give you a 30-minute consultation where we can talk about best practices for optimizing blog posts.”
I was proud of the ability to do this, because it allowed me to show that I have a proven process and to take the lead in the relationship. It’s been very empowering.
Have you ever considered offering a lead product? What do you think this would look like for what you do? I’d love to hear in the comments.