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Productized services (final issue) 🔮

Christian⚡️
Christian⚡️
Hello friends! This is the last issue of No-Code Startup Ideas in its current form. I’m going to be pausing all member subscriptions, taking a break for the holidays, and brainstorming what to do next with this newsletter.
I think it can become something great, but I’m not sure if I have the bandwidth to make it happen. If you want to help (lol, NCSI DAO?) or have some ideas, just hit reply.
Even if you just reply with a few words about the value you’ve gotten from this project so far, I’d be grateful.
Productize a service 🔮
For this one, we’re going to look at a classic bootstrapped business model that has some unexpected complexity under the hood: Productized Services.
Productized services are great because they can start generating revenue quickly, with very little setup. But as we’ll learn, there are plenty of challenges involved.
This is inspired by a couple of bootstrappers whose stories I’ve learned a lot from over the years: Alex West and Brian Casel.
Both built productized service businesses without coding, got them to $5k+ MRR, and have been super open about the process the whole way. They took two completely different approaches that we’ll explore today.
Alex is building Cyberleads, a subscription service that gives you a spreadsheet of 1,000+ fresh leads at companies who’ve just raised funding, each month. This is essentially productized sales research.
Brian built AudienceOps (then sold it), a subscription service to produce marketing content for your startup. AudienceOps productized content marketing.
I’ll wager you can productize any type of service. The key is to pick something that meets the following criteria:
  • You have insight into the customer problem or domain
  • You can identify a repeatable process that is capable of being automated or outsourced
  • You see a straightforward path to getting customers
Hit all three, and you have an excellent productized service candidate. The best part is, it can be super quick to start generating revenue.
In this issue, we’ll dive into how Alex and Brian did it, look at some of the pros and cons of this type of business, and explore some opportunities to start a productized service right now.
If you’re looking for more inspiration to get the juices flowing, here you go:
As you can see, there are tons of opportunities to productize services. Already thinking of something you could productize? Awesome, let’s jump in.

JTBD (Jobs To Be Done)
The best productized services take a repeated chore and transform it into an affordable, turnkey solution.
In fact, because you’re focused 100% on doing that chore for them, you should be able to do it better and more cheaply since you can exploit economies of scale.
I.e., the more customers you get for your service, the more you can invest in producing the service at very high quality across all your customers (much higher quality than they could achieve if they did it solo). And your cost per customer should decrease since you can share resources across customers (achieving a much lower cost than they could solo).
For Alex and Cyberleads, their customers are agencies and SaaS companies looking to sell to venture-backed startups. Their repeated chore is:
  • Finding emails and phone numbers of hundreds of prospective clients who have just raised money.
This is the first step in the outbound sales process: Who are you going to reach out to?
Of course, once the salespeople have their list, they can focus on sending emails and interacting with prospective clients. But producing that list is time-consuming! Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just buy a fresh list every month? That’s Cyberleads.
-
AudienceOps‘s customers are typically founders of SaaS companies who want to grow through SEO and content marketing. So what’s their repeated chore?
  • Actually writing the blog posts, tracking their performance, and making sure they are moving the important metrics (traffic, sales).
These companies know their blog needs to generate traffic, but it’s a heavy lift to create your very own professional-grade content marketing operation when you’re already trying to develop software, do customer support, manage your team, and all the other things that go into growing a business. Sure would be nice if you could spin up a pro content team in a matter of days (cough, AudienceOps)!
You get the picture.
The takeaway: Find a repeated chore your customer needs done and specialize in it, so you can do it with higher quality and lower cost than they could on their own.
Why now
Some business opportunities are time-sensitive. But the idea of a “productized service” is what I’d call an evergreen market need. There are always going to be plenty of repeated chores that companies need done.
Once you figure out the repeated chore you’re doing for your customer, and a pathway to doing it repeatably with economies of scale, AND a pathway to get customers, you’re golden. It’s never too late to start.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t drawbacks to the model. You will hit a limit to the amount you can scale, since you’re fundamentally scaling people and human processes. Very few things have (theoretically) unlimited scaling ability: software, maybe writing. But human processes are not in that category – there is a limit to scaling.
That said, the inherent scaling limit in the type of business you choose might be much higher than your personal income goal. If you max out at $10 million in revenue per year, is that so bad? Not immense in silicon valley terms, but absolutely life changing for most people.
If anything, the proliferation of no-code tools has created better conditions than ever for starting a business like this. Between Zapier, Asana, Airtable, Notion, Bubble, and others, you can automate many more parts of a service business much more easily than ever before. And with Upwork and Fiverr, you can find the talent you need within a couple of hours.
Now, all that’s left is to use Webflow, WordPress, Softr, or Carrd to make your website. Then you can jump on Twitter and LinkedIn to go get your first clients!
Pricing and revenue
Okay, here’s where we get into the good part. Let’s start with Cyberleads.
At $149/mo for the standard tier, Cyberleads is not cheap - but potentially very cheap if you’re thinking of replicating the work yourself. The other tiers are $199/mo (premium) and $249/mo (business).
Now Alex is making over $5k/mo with Cyberleads. How many customers is that? If every customer were on the middle plan ($199/mo), it would take 26 customers to hit $5k/mo. Only 26 customers!! Could you imagine hustling your way to that? I could… (more on this later).
Alex West 🚀
My progress over the years:

Year 1: $0/month
Year 2: $100/month
Year 3: $200/month
Year 4: $2,500/month
Year 5: $6,000/month

If you feel like you are progressing slowly, don't worry. Your progress won't be linear.

Most people (and almost myself) give up in year 1 or 2. https://t.co/IJzObK7swS
Now let’s hop over to AudienceOps.
They also have 3 tiers:
  • Light, $850/mo
  • Light+, $850/mo plus $1,000 one-time fee to write a lead magnet
  • Standard, $1,700/mo plus the $1,000 fee for the lead magnet
Brian’s a bit more stingy with the numbers, but to keep it simple let’s say you got 10 clients on the light plan and 5 clients on the standard plan. That’s $17k/mo not including the one-time fees - which would add another $5k. Not bad at all!
Now let’s take it up a notch: To hit $100k/mo with this pricing, you’d need 70 customers on the light plan and 25 customers on standard (for example). With some good systems, this seems possible.
Costs
These businesses clearly have a substantial cost base (you have to hire writers!), more so than a SaaS business for example (where if you build it yourself, your only costs are for hosting).
This is where it becomes so important to build up processes and find good people you can hire. Let’s take Cyberleads as an example.
Alex might be able to do all the work himself for this one. He just has to produce a single excel sheet with 1,000+ rows each month.
However, there are plenty of opportunities to build process and outsource.
  1. He could hire someone on Upwork for $300 to produce a list of all the startups who have raised money this month, by looking through TechCrunch, Crunchbase, etc.
  2. He could hire another person for $200 to produce a list of the LinkedIn URLs of co-founders of those startups.
  3. Then he could plug those URLs into a tool like Phantombuster to get a list of email addresses.
If he can process-ize much of the work, he’s left with less profit but more time to work on sales and growth (or more time to chill out & post on twitter).
In the case of AudienceOps, the main challenge to scaling would be finding good writers. Brian says he was able to automate away almost all his own work, down to only a couple hours a week, both through automating process and hiring people.
Building the no-code MVP
Since these are productized services, not pure products, your main focus should be on designing the customer’s experience (think: website, payments, ongoing updates…) and building out processes that ensure you’re delivering an awesome service.
Step 1: Identify the process.
Once you have your repeated chore and target customer figured out, I’d use a tool like Figma or Miro to actually visualize the steps required. The more specific you can be, the better. To take Cyberleads as an example, here are the steps needed to take to get this job done:
  • Make a list of startups who announced fundraises in the last month, including name, website, company LinkedIn URL, and funding announcement link
  • Go through each company’s LinkedIn to make a list of the founders & top execs at each startup. Make a list of their LinkedIn profiles.
  • For each LinkedIn profile, find an email and/or phone number.
You get the idea. This should give you ideas for where you can outsource and/or automate (be sure to note this in your visualization!).
Step 2: Find the pathway to the customer.
Now would be the time to reach out to anyone you know who might fit your target customer profile. Your goal: Customer development (not selling!!).
Ask them about whether they have this problem, how they complete this repeated chore, and if they’d be willing to talk to you about it. Mention you’re working on a solution, but you don’t have to pitch it. Get on the phone and be sure to listen more than you speak.
If it feels right, ask them whether they’d consider using a service like the one you’re creating. Ask what evidence they’d need to see before paying for it. Figure out any fears they have about hiring out for this service. (The answers to those last two are what go on your website.)
Step 3: Build the website.
Yes, people need to be able to pay through the website. This is very doable with most major website builders today – WordPress, Webflow, Carrd, etc.
You’ll notice that both Cyberleads and AudienceOps function with just a single landing page. (AudienceOps has a few more pages now, but not many.) The lesson: No need to get too fancy with the website. Use the same sections these two websites have. Focus on the value and the proof. Make it easy to pay or talk to you.
Now go get building! 🚀
Hope that helps you get your head around the productized services ideas you might be kicking around. If you want some help refining the customer or repeated chore you’re targeting, don’t hesitate to hit reply.
Thanks for an awesome year, everybody. I hope you’ll take some time off to rest, relax, reflect, and recharge. Here’s to an epic 2022.
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Christian⚡️
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Christian⚡️
Christian⚡️ @christpetron

*So long, and thanks for all the fish!*
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