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E32: Products VS Services For Scaling Impact

by Sean Boyce

When should you offer a product OR a service to best scale impact?

On this episode I discuss:
  • Pros and cons of services
  • Pros and cons of products
  • How do leverage the strengths of each
  • How to make them work together
  • How to get started
If you’d like to learn how to scale impact at your nonprofit by more than double in less than half the time, sign up for my free 5 day email course – https://nxtstep.io/impact/

Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, Sean here and today what I want to talk to you about is leveraging the strengths of both products and services in order to scale impact. 

Now, I talk a lot about software and technology, but I don’t want to underscore the importance of leveraging a service appropriately. That can also help you scale impact. Now, if you consider products and services, they have their respective strengths and weaknesses and what I want to talk about today is what each of those are and when it is appropriate to use the right one, in order for you to most effectively scale impact, because it’s really not all one or the other. It’s like anything that offers two primary options in a market. Oftentimes, one is going to be more appropriate than the other. I think the tricky thing to figure out is when to use each. So that’s what I want to talk about. 

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People have a tendency to glorify the products that they can build, especially with software and tech, because they get very excited about their scalability potential and if you’ve ever built a service based business or run a service oriented nonprofit, that probably sounds very attractive to you because you know just how much effort, time, capital is required to run a service based business. However, on the other side, the attractive thing about software products and leveraging technology is they paint this picture of a world where you don’t have to do all of that work, and you have to spend all of that money, but you can still get great results, potentially infinitely scalable results and that’s a that is true to an extent, but it oftentimes doesn’t play out like that much like a lot of things that we get excited about in theory vs practice, the reality is often different. 

I want to talk about the pros and cons of each so that you can think through which one is appropriate for the problem that you want to solve. Now, let’s start with services, and we’re talking about services, they’re great if the process isn’t completely well understood, and very, very consistent. So if you need some flexibility in the execution of whatever it is you’d like to offer, services are going to be a more appropriate approach to that because there it’s much more cost effective to be able to change or modify a service on the fly. That’s why they’re great for leveraging upfront when you don’t know exactly the steps that can be repeated at scale with very little if any deviation, that will still be delivering a consistent experience from start to finish, or whoever you’re creating it for. So that’s where you want to leverage the strengths of a service. And you can offer service just like a product and you can bring in revenue to provide value. You can do all the kinds of things you can with a product, but it gives you the ability to start beginning what is that discovery effort to test what you might ultimately build into a product. 

So lets talk about the pros and cons of the product approach. Now like I’ve already mentioned, products can be a lot more scalable, but they’re very rigid and inflexible. When you build or invest in software or technology, it’s actually quite difficult in order to change how they work from where you start. And people don’t really take that into consideration when they’re thinking through building software or technology products. So if you don’t have a very consistent experience that has already been tested, and that you know will continue to be successful at scale, then you’re not ready for a product. But once you have accomplished that, and one of the best ways to test that is by starting with the service. Now you can start leveraging the real strengths and power that a product can provide for you by investing more in software and technology to scale that solution even further. 

So that’s also how I want you to think of where to start and how to move forward from it in order to reach more people and scale impact. Ideally, in most instances, especially if you’re starting with something new. I want you to start with a service leverage its strengths to really refine the process, measure the impact of the whole experience. Then you can leverage the product strengths in order to reach more success at scale.