One area my agency clients get most excited about is the idea of a services catalog. That is a listing of everything they do, how long it takes them to do it, and what they charge clients to deliver each of those services.
Agencies I’m working with want to see our catalog, they want to build their own, they want me to look at theirs, and once they have one they all tell me that they wish they had done this years ago.
So, I thought I would share some best practices around the creation and maintenance of a services catalog for your agency. Here we go.
First, let me start by saying, you’ll need this if you have plans to scale your agency. If growing your shop isn’t a top priority, then creating a services catalog, while helpful, might not be at the top of my list for you.
But if you want to grow, and grow quickly and if you’re doing a lot of hiring and adding in a lot of processes to help your team be efficient, then this is going to be a critical piece of the puzzle.
What Is A Services Catalog?
This seems like a solid place to start. Your services catalog is a listing of everything you do in the agency, how long it takes you to do it, what it costs you to do it and what you charge your clients for doing it.
It’s usually a spreadsheet because it has some calculations in it.
For example, if we’re listing an email marketing campaign, it might have 10 hours associated with that tactic, and a cost of $1,000 (10 hours x $100 an hour). You’ll then multiply the cost by some multiplier to cover your Gross Profit margins.
For this example, let’s say 2X. Now your $1,000 cost is translated into a $2,000 charge to clients.
At Square 2, we have another column that’s called Value Pricing where we adjust the marked-up number based on the value in the market.
If an email campaign is worth $3,000 an email to our clients, then our services catalog would reflect the $3,000 cost too.
That value-based pricing number is optional, but we like it to make sure we’re charging enough and we’re at the top of the pricing scale.
By the way, that value pricing adds significantly to the bottom line of your agency. Don’t roll past it too quickly.
Start Small And Grow It
Sometimes this seems like a monumental task. Do you want me to capture everything we do at the agency and put it into a spreadsheet? That’s not what I’m suggesting.
What I am suggesting is that you start capturing everything you do and start with those things you do frequently. Put those into your services catalog and then add to it incrementally over time.
There are some things that you do every day, for every client. These include things like email marketing campaigns, blog writing, or landing page optimization.
Start with the most common services and use those to create your services catalog initially.
Then over time, add services that are less common or new services you’re providing.
For example, you might not do a video for every client every month, but when you get a video project, add it to your catalog.
This will help you keep the project manageable, focus it on the top services you deliver frequently, and give you a methodology for adding to your catalog over time.
Assign It To Someone For Constant Updating
This shouldn’t be your task to create the catalog or maintain it. You should assign it to someone on your team.
A few likely candidates could be your project manager, one of your consultants, or account managers, or if you have a Director of Client Services, he/she might be the best and most likely candidate for this assignment.
The person best suited for this would be intimate with all the work in the shop. You’d want that person to think about everything you do, including the generic account services items. Everything should be included in the services catalog.
Done Is Better Than Perfect
Since I recommended taking a longer-term perspective on this project and building it out over time, you’re going to have to accept that done is going to be better than perfect.
Since this is an internal document. No clients should ever see your services catalog. Even if they ask to see it, it should never be shared.
I would recommend that your consultants or account managers never even mention its existence to clients or prospects. You’d never share your financials, so there is no need to share this either.
Since it's 100% internal, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be pretty and it doesn’t have to be complete.
Just having a services catalog, maintaining it, and expanding it over time is going to give you a new perspective on what you do, how long it takes you to do it, and what you’re charging clients.
You’ll Need Time Tracking Data
In order to build your services catalog, you’ll need time-tracking data from your team. You’ll need to know how long it takes to do everything inside the agency. You should already be tracking time. If you’re not, you should start.
As agency owners, all we have to sell is time. You should have a handle on how long everything takes.
Once you get this data, simply assign it to every project in the catalog. Make sure you take into consideration everyone’s time who touches the project.
Back to our email marketing campaign example. It’s the copywriter, it’s the designer, it’s the HubSpot person who builds the email, it’s the project manager who manages the project and it’s the consultant who works with the client on the details of the email campaign.
You want to grab ALL those hours to see exactly what it's costing you, what you should charge, and then make sure you charge this all the time.
Use It As A Baseline, Not A Bible
I think it's important to point out that once you have your services catalog, you use it as a guide, not as the end-all and be-all for pricing.
When you get a client with more complex requirements, I’d start with your stated pricing and charge a complexity factor.
When you get a client who seems like they’re going to be extra persnickety, I’d add on an extra charge.
When you get a client who you’ve been working with for three years, you might be able to lower the charge a bit because it’s so easy and the projects flow so quickly through the shop.
I’d also suggest you wrap a system around the catalog. When you’re first using this, perhaps all pricing should be finalized and approved by you.
As you get into it more and you’re comfortable that other people know how to use the catalog, then perhaps you don’t have to review and approve all the pricing.
The services catalog should become that go-to document that helps your agency price properly, maintain gross and net profit margins, and allows you to share that information across your client services organization, as it grows.
Done correctly, it can be one of the more important tools that help you grow.
I regularly cover topics like this in my one-on-one and group coaching sessions. I'm happy to share information and documents like this with agency owners during these sessions and its ability to fast forward, skip the pot holes, and accelerate their agency growth keeps me working with fellow agency owners.
Start Today Tip – This is something that could get started quickly. In just a few days you could have a services catalog in play. Then over time, add to it, optimize the data, adjust the pricing and grow it out as you deliver more and more services to your clients. Eventually, it can become that important client services and operations document that ensures you don’t underprice. As you build it out, it should represent 90% of what you do for your clients on a regular basis. The other 10% can be handled outside the catalog until those services become standard operating deliverables for the agency. It will help everyone get on and stay on the same page. It should help you grow profitably and efficiently.