A product ladder is a smart strategic way to grow your bookkeeping practice, and so I would love to show you exactly what it is, and how you can use it in order to thrive.
So first off, I am wondering if you have heard of a product ladder before. Even though the concept of a product ladder might be new to you, it's actually not a new marketing strategy, which is awesome because it is simple and it is proven. You can get started using a product ladder in your practice really quickly, which is what I'd like to show you today.
So, I would not recommend Googling product ladder because it goes by many different names, including ascending transaction model, ascension model, value ladder, and lots of different things. Plus, what you find on Google is going to be really general, whereas what I'm going to share with you is going to be specifically built for bookkeepers, which I expand on in my book, The Strategic Bookkeeper.
A product ladder has four rungs on the ladder and is absolutely ascending – from step one up to step four.
Step one is content.
And I heard recently from one of the mentors that I follow, he framed up step one as your platforms as well. It's the content that you offer up on various platforms in order to allow people to find out about you online.
And it is valuable content, okay? I like to think of step one as your content, but also, think of that first rung on your product ladder as your platforms' as well, a literal platform. Like imagine, somebody gave you a platform and they said, "okay, please get on that platform", and you've got an audience in front of you.
What would you talk to the audience about something that you know,
that they'll get VALUE from? That is step one.
And honestly, you don't know the mountain of value you are standing on. Primarily, bookkeepers just do not. They've got far more skill and confidence, and I promise you, you're standing on a mountain of value. So, step one is your content, put it out there on your platforms!
Step two is what I call your welcome line.
So, these are low cost or no cost ways for your prospective clients to get a feel for your value and try you before they buy you. All right?
An example of some welcome lines that I use in my practice is we have a nice little e-book called the 7 Deadly Cash Flow Sins, which if you join my program, is a done-for-you step two asset that we co-author with you. But basically, it's a little e-book. Right? Somebody can read that and they can improve their cash flow and they think, wow! This girl can really help me. And another one is simply a county file health check. So, that's just a couple of examples.
Step three is your product ladder.
You've all got that – that's your core products and services. Step three is simply the bookkeeping and the whatever else you have on the menu to solve problems. All right?
I could say sell as well, but I like to say solve problems. I definitely believe as bookkeepers, we are solvers more than we are sellers. (But, it's still important to get comfortable with sales and marketing lingo!)
So, step three is those core products and services. Maybe if you haven't heard of product ladder before, the step one and the step two, the way that I've framed them up might be new to you and you might think, oh yeah, I'll do a file health check now. Great, you've got a step two welcome line! This is just about educating so you can pull it all together, and maybe use it a bit more strategically.
Step four, drum roll please: Succession products.
Absolutely love them. Succession, meaning what's next.
What's next on the menu that will serve and solve problems for your existing VIP clients – these wonderful people that pay you on a regular basis to help them do better in their business. Because that's what bookkeeping is, to help people do better in business.
Succession products are ultimately things that you should really have on the menu for existing clients, and it is really important for when prospective clients come to you as well for you to be able to
sell them what they WANT
rather than try and sell them what they NEED.
That's a concept that I've talked about before, but if you're hearing it for the first time, it can be quite game changing. If you try and constantly sell what people need, you'll lose them. You need to give people what they want. So, when they first come to you, what they want is a bookkeeping done. But then as you start to work with them, you might be able to help them see, or you definitely will be able to help them see that to really get results, they might like to work with you on investigating the numbers, or maybe you've got some other secret skills like recruiting or setting up software, or anything else that's really going to deepen the results that you can get for them.
Now, product ladders are all around you. You are moving through them all the time as you browse in shops and as you shop online. Okay? And I'd love you to start noticing them now when I tell you some examples. Here's one: I decided to buy myself a cruiser bike. I wanted a pretty good one. I did my research online, and eventually, I found a reputable bike store. So, that was step one. They're platforms. Right? They're a website, they're social media, that kind of thing. So, I went through step one of their product ladder, I found them online. Now, their content was really useful because I was able to build no lack in trust by seeing their reputation, like their Google reviews. And seeing that they look like an established company, they had a professional online presence, all these kind of things. You can read more on this on the The Strategic Bookkeeper, where I talk about attraction and profile. But step one – the content that I found on their various platforms.
So from there, I was able to see that this bike store had some really nice cruisers. They look like good quality. They fitted my budget – and that was step two on the ladder. These were actually welcome lines because they were a little lower cost, still really great value like any welcome line. So I thought, you know what? That looks like the bike for me. I'll go into the store and I'll get it. Again, step two on the product ladder. And so I went into the store and I told the assistant about the bike I was looking for, and he showed it to me. Then he told me about a bike that was twice as expensive, but was he assured me 10 times as good. Okay? Step three on the product ladder, he's leading me into more of their core products.
After I bought the bike, he made sure I was on the mailing list and that I booked a service. Ta-da! He actually began to engage me in what will be my succession products, going back to the store, getting a service, anything like that, what's next on the menu for someone who's already a client.
So, your favorite stores are using product ladders every day to attract and convert you. All right? This is not a bad thing. It's not a sleazy thing. If you're able to find and buy what you want and get value from, it's a great thing. That bike, that upgrade of that bike from that lovely assistant who used the VALUE approach – meaning,
if I give you VALUE in order to try and genuinely help you in business,
or in this case, life, then you'll probably either buy something off me,
or you'll tell everyone how awesome I was.
Cue, word of mouth marketing. Right? So, sales and marketing has a bad rep with bookkeepers. They don't like it, and often, they think it's icky, it's yucky, but it doesn't have to be. Sales and marketing, you could give it the meaning. As I say, we are more solvers than we are sellers, and that's exactly what this young man in this bike shop did. He was seeking to SOLVE my problem, which is I don't have a bike and I need a bike. And he quickly, through just listening to me, could see that I wanted a decent bike that was going to allow me to have hours and hours of joy riding next to the beach here on the Gold Coast. So, hopefully from that example, you can see how simply a product ladder works, and that it works in every kind of business.
So now, let's look at how to make them work in your bookkeeping practice. If you've got my book or you're picking up my book (because as mentioned, this blog and my podcast is a companion to the book), I start to reference product ladder in the attraction chapter because that's where the benefits of product ladder begin.
Good strategic content and welcome lines being steps one and two on the product ladder are designed to help you ATTRACT and convert more clients. So, your content helps them verify you and starts to build the know, like, and trust factor, which is like what I mentioned earlier, exactly what I did with the bike store. The know, like, and trust, three massive keys on anyone deciding to do business with you, and you can build that online easily. All right? So, you've got a profile around your qualifications, your skills and experience, you might be registered with certain professional bodies, et cetera, et cetera. All of this is actually outlined in my book. And, there's a resource within the resource, which is the attraction playbook. It's going to give you a checklist for those items that will allow your market to build know, like and trust with you easily. Right? So, I've done it step by step for you.
Now, your welcome lines go one step further. So, someone finds you online. You're up there on your platform saying here's me and here's all about me. The next step is, okay, well, I'll take up one of your welcome lines. All right? So, then your prospective clients can go a bit deeper, get a bit more value. Ideal welcome lines include, as I mentioned earlier, e-books, which ideally would be a how-to guide. So if you do the exercise around your market's problems, then you can come up with ways to create a nice how-to guide, which is ultimately a bit like a long blog turned into just a little electronic book that they can grab online, you could create an audio file with that. The sky's the limit.
The other ones are the diagnostic tools – a way to diagnose problems, and file health checks and various forms of consultations. Okay? So, results calls, strategy sessions, free consultations, these are all really great welcome lines that you can attach a small fee to, or you can also give away for free. There's no real wrong or right, there, it does depend on a lot of factors. Okay? So, how busy you are, we're always going to regulate capacity with price and a lot of other factors. It's interesting to know that research shows that your prospective clients will digest, on average, seven hours of your content, including welcome lines... So, that can be step one and step two... Over four platforms in 11 different forms before they actually decide to do business with you.
So when I first learned that, I was really surprised. But since then, I've made an effort to observe it. I've observed prospective clients who've told me, they've followed me for a year on social media before reaching out. So now, post-pandemic, more than ever, content is king. Okay? And we say engagement is queen. Now, if you are thinking of joining my transformation program, please know, a lot of this will be done for you. You get the e-book and we do the diagnostic tools and we give you all the consultations you should and could be using, and more really robust intellectual property around your health checks. So rather than race off and do it yourself, if you are thinking of joining, just make sure that you check the program out thoroughly rather than invest the time, energy, money in doing it yourself, if you're just going to end up with it all done beautifully for you.
So now, let's move on to how you can take action. I do recommend that you use a pen and paper to sketch up your product ladder. If today's read is the first time you've ever heard of product ladder, more important than ever that you go through a process of really just wrapping your head around this. Use a pen and paper, and you can literally draw a ladder so that the concept sinks in. All right? So next, absolutely use my book. Use it as the how-to guide, because that's going to take this subject deeper and walk you through all of it.
Now in terms of quick wins, let's start with welcome lines.
So, the easiest one for all bookkeepers is a file health check. I think of welcome lines as me saying, "Rebecca, would you like to come through the door?", welcoming them through the door for some cheese and crackers. And then step three is the main course. Right? I think of the product ladder like that.
The great thing about a health check is it's completely in line with what you do as a bookkeeper, with your core services. So when people first come to you or they're online and they're looking for you, think about the problems that they're having. They're either doing their own bookkeeping and they hate it, or they're making mistakes they probably don't even know about, or somebody else has let them down. They're feeling like they're behind on the bookkeeping, they're in the dark about their numbers, they're struggling to understand it all. Their gut feel is they should really be across all this stuff, and they're not. They're starting to get a really good correct gut feel that if they're across their numbers and they were actually strategic about their numbers, they would be able to do better in business. So all of these things that they're thinking, and they're thinking, I think maybe I need one of these professional bookkeepers to help me out.
Well, a file health check is the first logical place to start, and it's actually tapping into those problems because you're saying, well, you're feeling in the dark, I'm going to give you CLARITY. A file health check is definitely one of the most powerful welcome lines that you could ever offer up. If you're not offering that now, you need to do it. You can price it anywhere between zero and a $100. I would recommend that you always have it. Ours, at the time of writing, is $99 plus GST. Now, the other thing about a welcome line is you're not going to make any profit out of that. I don't care if it takes you an hour and you're telling me, well, my rate is whatever – a profitable VIP client is paying you monthly over the year. Anything is a one-off. Even if you charge a $1,000 for 10 hours of catch up, if they never do anything else with you, really, how much did you make out of that?
Your core products are about serving clients over the long term,
anything else is more of a welcome line.
I actually even think of my primary catch up services as welcome lines because I'm still welcoming them in. When they become a progress bookkeeping client, an ongoing bookkeeping client, then, hey, we're into core products.
This is all just education and food for thought for you. All right? So you start to get more strategic about exactly what you're doing and how you're serving people.
So in terms of action, that's definitely where I'd recommend you start: the file health check. But I just want to give you a couple more tips. My hot tip here is that to take your bookkeeper hat off a bit and try and put your sales and marketing hat on, somewhat. And the reason for that is that the gap that exists between the client and you in terms of knowledge is so big. And I've seen bookkeepers go into too much detail in it when they do a health check, and they start going all through the file and the issues. I recommend that you keep the detail brief and that you really keep it more high level, and that way, you can tailor it. So, let's say, I said, "okay, on a scale of one to 10, one being a perfect file, 10 being, oh my goodness! Brace yourself, your file is a three, and the main areas are that there's some items that sit unreconciled on the bank statement, et cetera, et cetera."
And that way, you can ask, do you have any other questions about that section of your file? What you'll find is that business owners on the whole are more... They're not so detail orientated, you are detail orientated. Start with the end in mind.
The end game with a file health check is to allow them to feel your VALUE,
so that they say, "you know what? I'd like you to actually help me".
Because the file health check is not where you'll help them the most – it's the best starting place. We start with a file health check every single time. In fact, when we finish a catch up, we internally do a file health check. They're critical, they're so important and they're very high value, but it's not where you'll get the biggest results.
So, start with the end in mind. And the end game is, "okay, we've assessed your file. Do you want us to help you?" That's just about it. Please don't spend more than 10 minutes maximum on the bookkeeping detail, keep it very high level, very summary, and then answer detail for the detail orientated people. Very occasionally, I've had clients with the health debrief that are more savvy, say, oh, can you tell me about this, that, and the other thing? Can you explain the out of balance in the payroll? And I'm like, hell yeah, I love this stuff. But on the whole, people want to know how... On a scale of one to 10, how good or bad is my file? And then what exactly do I need to do to get it in shape? They want to see your menu so they understand the journey.
They want to understand the customer journey
and how you're going to move them from pain to prize,
more than they want to know about the transactional stuff.
It's an art, practice, practice, practice, but you really need to learn to speak client. All right? And you do need to have your sales and marketing hat on in this process, which as I've mentioned before, is not icky. This is about solving problems and about helping people choose you over your competitors because if they don't choose you, they're going to go somewhere else.