BONUS: Why We Chose Productized Services For YellowHouse.Media

Aug 13, 2020 | Business Models, Growth, Podcast

In This Episode:

  • Why Sean and Tara McMullin chose to “productize” their full-service podcast production offer at YellowHouse.Media… and what productized services actually are
  • What’s included in the package they offer–and why they don’t often custom or a la carte services
  • How the productized service model allowed them to quickly create a small group coaching program to increase their capacity and serve more clients

Hey! It’s Tara McMullin and this is a special BONUS episode of What Works—the show that takes you behind the scenes of how small business owners take decisive action on building a stronger business.

This is the second episode of a bonus series on how I’ve approached creating and delivering value through the products and services I’ve offered over the years.

In the first bonus episode, I shared how my most recent offer, a live program called The Commitment Blueprint, started as a personal life change, grew into a free webinar, and then transformed—TWICE—into a paid product.

In this episode, I’m going to give you a closer look at my other company, YellowHouse.Media, and share how and why we’ve taken on the productized service model—including what that means for how we serve our clients, run our operations, and build for the future.

Plus, I’ll share how the same principles that apply to YellowHouse also apply to What Works and how we continue to develop The What Works Network to support small business owners as they build stronger businesses.

Now, in the last regular episode I spoke with India Jackson, the founder of brand visibility agency Flaunt Your Fire. India described what clients come to Flaunt Your Fire looking to achieve and how the agency helps them achieve those results.

She also shared that she tailors each client engagement to the goals of that client using both master services list and a really strong idea of what the agency’s yes, no, and maybe projects are.

This bespoke service model is typically how people approach building a service-based business.

The client tells you want they need, you figure out how to make that happen and put a price on it. Each engagement looks different and might include a different mix of services.

And this model works.

But it’s not the only way to build a service-based business.

A few years ago, I started to notice that the most successful people I was working with in our community and mastermind groups were running a different kind of service-based business.

They were running productized service businesses.

(And in case you’re wondering, yes, most of the time these productized service businesses were out-earning the digital product businesses. So don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make money in client services.)

I was intrigued by the model and operations behind these successful productized service businesses… but, more than that, I was intrigued by how happy these business owners were!

They were focused. They were working hard. They were ambitious. And, they had really strong boundaries and containers for their work.

So last year, when my husband Sean and I were starting to look at what was going to be next for his career, it didn’t take me long to realize that we were sitting on what could be a hugely successful productized service business.

Sean had been helping me produce the What Works podcast for about a year and he’d even done some freelancing for other podcasters, as well as working in a mastermind group with me. But he wanted to better define the work he was doing and step into a bigger role.

And I was ready to try my hand at something new. So I got to thinking…

I had long noticed that most podcasters didn’t have a clear content strategy.

They had no idea how their podcast was actually helping them achieve their business goals. Most were just doing it for the love of it.

They were also spending a ton of time project managing their piecemeal podcast production. They were wrangling an editor, a virtual assistant, and, often, a graphic designer, too.

I knew we were in a unique position to solve this problem—because we had solved it for ourselves.

We had a clear content strategy as well as an efficient system for producing high-quality episodes. Plus, we knew how the show was supporting our business at What Works.

Sean and I both knew we could replicate how we were producing the What Works podcast for other podcasters and help them create standout shows in much less time.

With that in mind, we started to put together our package, spinning off our podcast production operation at What Works into a separate company called YellowHouse.Media.

The package took form in 3 parts: development, production, and distribution.

Development includes all the consulting and strategy that goes into either launching a new show or refining an existing show. Plus, it includes ongoing consultation & development to make sure the show is getting better over time, supporting the growth of the business, and meeting any new needs.

Production includes actually making sure the show gets made: coordinating guests, proofing scripts, editing audio, and just generally putting it all together.

Distribution is the stuff that happens on the backend to make sure you can listen to the show—and that you know it exists. It includes creating marketing assets, writing show notes, adding episodes to the client’s website, and more.

Once we knew what all the package would include, we were able to price it out.

We calculated our pricing based on the estimated wages we could hire team members to do different pieces of the package—instead of assuming we’d do all the work ourselves. We made sure we could hand a client off to team members completely and still earn a profit on that client’s engagement.

At this point, I want to come back to this idea of a productized service business.

What is a productized service business?

Well, it’s one where the service is systematized and replicable across all clients. Each client gets hands-on, done for you service… but the backend of how that service is delivered is the same for every client.

For us, that meant replicating the systems we use with What Works to build out how we would work with each client.

It also meant that we decided early on that our service would be all or nothing. We wouldn’t work a la carte and we wouldn’t put together custom proposals.

And I’ll admit, I tried a couple of times to put together something custom. I even sent them off to the potential clients! None of these engagements closed—thank goodness—and I think that’s because the a very real part of the value we offer is the whole package and the efficiency (and effectiveness) it brings with it.

So let me repeat: we basically do the same things, in the same way for every full-service podcast client we have. And we have no other clients other than our full-service podcast production clients.

And while that lack of customization might make it seem like there’s less value in what we offer…

…that couldn’t be further from the truth.

When a new client starts with us, we have a roadmap they’ll go through. We can tell them what every step of the process is going to look like. We can even tell them what each step is going to feel like!

Then, week after week, their lives are so much easier because everything is systematized and predictable.

They get a show that is completely custom to them and we make that happen in exactly the same way we do for each of our clients.

This is a huge win for everyone. And it’s what is now allowing our team to grow, too.

The system we use to develop, produce, and execute each show has been refined and documented. While each show has its own little quirks, the core process is the same. That means that as we bring on new production coordinators, production assistants, and editors, we can train them on that process and plug them into creating value with us really quickly!

One more thing on the benefits of creating value via productized services…

…and that’s products.

Many productized service businesses choose to remain service-based businesses. And there are tons of good reasons for that.

Of course, since I’ve been building digital products since 2010, I wanted to see what it would be like to transfer our value creation from our service into a digital product.

As you might have already seen coming, because our systems are well-documented and transferable from show-to-show, the product—in essence—had already been developed.

I just had to repackage the systems into a container that someone could use on their own.

Currently, we’re offering that through our Standout Podcast Club, which we’re starting again in just a couple of weeks. I work with a small group of podcasters and guide them through the same systems we use with our clients—but they do all the work and then go off on their own to actually produce the show.

In my decade of creating digital products… the Standout Podcast Club has been the easiest product to “build” and deliver.

And, it immediately got great results and created a great experience for our first participants. It was a joy and not nearly as stressful as literally every other offer I’ve ever developed!

I know that building it straight from our productized service is the whole reason it worked that way.

Okay, before I finish out this bonus episode, I also promised to share how this concept of knowing exactly what you do and exactly what you don’t do applies to how we run What Works, too.

When I decided to focus on The What Works Network as the core of my business, I was also making a big decision about what I do and what I don’t do.

And what I do and what I don’t do at The What Works Network is very different from what I did or didn’t do before.

Before, I was a coach and a business strategist. I ran a coaching program and I taught classes on small business. While I always incorporated collaborative and non-dogmatic values into how we delivered the work, I was the one people looked to for answers.

Focusing on a collaborative, non-dogmatic small business support community meant giving up being the one with the answers. That was a huge relief (most people don’t have as many answers as we’d like them to have!) and it was also a huge problem.

Finding what works for you by collaborating and connecting with others takes work. And even if its the most effective way to develop your chops as an entrepreneur and build a strong business (which I firmly believe that it is), it’s a lot to ask of people.

Plus, it’s really hard to write catchy copy or create viral blog pots on that premise!

So while our members love The What Works Network and people get great results when they’re actively engaged in our community, it’s been tough going.

There were so many times when I thought to myself that it would be easier if I was just willing to put the coach or teacher hat back on again. It would be easier to get people involved. It would be easier to get people to buy. It would be easier to grow.

But it’s not how I wanted to create value.

I didn’t want to fall back on coaching or teaching to create value. We developed The What Works Network the way it is on purpose, eyes wide open. I knew what we wanted to do to create value and I knew what we didn’t want to do to create value.

Of course, 2020 gave us a new perspective.

In the midst of all the chaos and uncertainty, we could start to see some new opportunities for how we created value.

We could see that people did really want the collaborative, non-dogmatic culture we had worked so hard to create. And they also wanted leadership and structure.

This was a huge breakthrough.

I still didn’t want to be a coach or a teacher. I definitely didn’t want to be a guru.

But a leader? Yes, please. I always want to be a leader.

And providing structure? Well, that’s right in my wheelhouse.

So we’ve made some changes inside The What Works Network this month. We’ve rolled out a fresh structure for our programming. We’ve created new opportunities for working together. We’ve built a planning kit that helps our members bring consistency and organization to how they work on building stronger businesses.

And we’re really excited about how its already unfolding.

If you’re interested in joining us at The What Works Network, be sure to go to — we’ll be opening the doors to new members really soon and it will be the last chance to join at our current pricing.

In the final episode of this special bonus series, I’ll share how what we do at The What Works Network today is really an extension of the work I’ve been doing to support small business owners for over a decade. You’ll hear how the offer has changed, gotten repackaged, and delivered in new ways—but contains the same essence of what it always did.

Til next time, keep doing what works.

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Host of What Works

Tara is a podcaster, small business community leader, strategist, and speaker. She’s been helping small business owners build stronger businesses for over a decade.  

Tara McMullin, What Works Weekly Newsletter

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