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Make Your Projects More Predictable: How to Productize Web Development Services

Oct 21, 2020

Find out how the productized service model can help you identify and exploit your niche.


Does your agency specialize in a few things it does particularly well? Or do your projects span a broad range of sizes, budgets, and technologies?

If your average project sounds more like the latter, your work may be more unpredictable and stressful than it needs to be. Having to switch gears for every project is difficult, and it makes finding new clients harder than it needs to be.

It’s normal for a new agency to take on any project it can get its hands on. You have to pay the bills, and you don’t have an audience of people who know you for what you do best. You may not even know what you do best, yet.

But in time, you begin to identify the work you can do faster, better, and at a lower cost than other developers. Once you identify what that work is, you have taken the first step towards productizing your services and expanding your business in a major way.

What Are Productized Services?

When you sell a productized service, you are essentially selling a bundle of services that go together. At the same time, you are limiting your services specifically to that particular bundle. You are telling your customers exactly what they are going to get as a result of your services.

This is very different then what most service providers do. Instead of saying, “customers can hire my services for x dollars per hour”, you are saying, “it usually takes me x hours to complete this set of tasks. Customers can hire me to complete these tasks for the corresponding price.”

This approach allows web developers to work on simpler, less stressful projects. You have already done the work of communicating the scope of your work. This makes your projects far more resilient against scope creep.

At the same time, it transforms your workday into a set of repeatable processes. This opens the door to automation, which in turn allows for scalable growth. The better you get at performing your small set of productized services, the less it costs you to complete each project overall.

Why Productized Web Development Services Make Sense?

A generic work-for-hire web developer can easily find themselves working many different jobs. One customer may need a highly customized eCommerce solution, while another asks for a well-organized digital asset management system.

You will have to adopt an entirely different approach to solve each of these customers’ problems. You will face unexpected challenges. You may have to learn how to work with new software, development frameworks, or programming languages.

Each of those problems will take time, energy, and resources to solve. They will cut into your profits, and if you’re not careful, make you miss important deadlines.

But as a specialized web developer, you can turn eCommerce customization into a productized service. That way, the time, energy, and resources you spend solving problems retain value over time. The problem remains solved for future customers who purchase the same productized service.

Example: Magecart Security Patching for eCommerce

Let’s say have a lot of experience working using Magento to create e-commerce websites, you will know more about how to solve problems specific to the Magento platform. You can categorize some of your most popular customization requests as productized services.

When cybercriminals start targeting Magento users with malicious JavaScript executables, your customers will all come to you asking for help securing their systems. Now, you have a dozen different versions of the same basic problem – formjacking vulnerabilities specific to a single eCommerce platform.

If you already have experience deploying a client-side protection service, you will be able to offer it as a product to your customers. In practice, you will be repeating the same deployment service for all of your customers, in a predictable, automated way.

This example relies on you limiting your clients to the Magento platform, and marketing yourself as a Magento expert. When customers come asking about competing platforms like WooCommerce or PrestaShop, you gently direct them to an agency that specializes in those things (or outsource the project to one that does!)

Otherwise, you may find yourself in the position of having to deploy client-side protection solutions to several different platforms.

Your Magento customers will need a Magento-specific solution. Your WooCommerce customers will need a different one, and your PrestaShop users will need something else entirely. Each of these approaches will come with different challenges and obstacles that you will need to solve.

All of your customers will be fighting each other for your attention, and you will be completely overwhelmed. In the meantime, one of your customers may suffer a formjacking data breach and blame you for not acting fast enough. Not good!

Productized services eliminate these risks by narrowing down the services and technologies you use. If you simply sell an “e-commerce security product” that is compatible with the systems you are already familiar with, you can bypass all of these problems and reinforce the value of your brand at the same time.

The more you sell this e-commerce security product to your customers, the better you will understand the intricacies of using the specific tools you choose to work with. You will identify ever-better ways to deploy client-side protection to Magento, and gradually develop a reputation for niche expertise in that particular field.

The Goal: Standardized Processes and Automated Fulfillment

Productized services allow web developers to standardize processes and deliver consistent, uniform results. This generates long-lasting value that becomes part of their brand identity – and one of the main things that customers come to them for.

At the same time, productized services are incredibly automation-friendly. Once you start performing a strictly-defined series of steps to produce value for customers, you can start to engineer new, faster ways to achieve those steps. Since you are no longer stuck performing dozens of unrelated tasks for customers, you can focus on the few things you do particularly well.

Standardizing your processes and reducing the costs of customer fulfillment allow you to leverage a competitive advantage in your niche. Whatever it is you specialize in, you are able to do it faster, better, and cheaper than almost anyone else – and your customers know it.

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After building my web agency JD Softtech in both Boston and Ahmedabad, India, I wanted to find a way to help other agencies.

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