Building your service proposition framework

By Dom Moorhouse

Following on the series of business planning related blog posts (including ‘What a good business plan looks like?’ and ‘Developing a Business Planning Process’) this post looks at a key element of your plan: your company’s service proposition framework.

Another crucial area of pre-consideration when putting your business plan together is the services you plan to offer. As your successful firm grows and develops, so your service propositions will, inevitably, grow and adapt also. This is less, therefore, about defining a static offering but more about the initial foundation suite on which your company’s core, early marketing messages are based.

The skill in this regard is to address the question through the eyes of your potential clients; to have real proximity and empathy with the client requirement you meet, the anxiety you help salve, in the context of their situation, constraints and language. Language is really important. You have to be able to communicate your services in a form that is meaningful to them.

The other key skill here is that of structural design and formatting. Probably, you have the potential to offer an array of services but do you package this as one holistic offering or a set of twenty, modular items? This is worth some thought. I would encourage you to provide some decomposition as this, clearly, increases both the choice a client has and the chance of a connection moment (when they see/read/hear about your services and it really resonates with their situation). Too much breakdown and you risk confusing your audience; they might not be able to ‘see the wood for the trees’. ‘What exactly do these guys and girls stand for?’, they will ask. Similarly, if the development of your services becomes too wide, and you are perceived as offering ‘all things to all people’ you will quickly lose your audience. Clients value specialism. In some instances, as scale demands, the big client might seek the big firm that can offer the one-stop shop set of services across the globe. The market is very wary, however, of the small start-up that seeks to project an over-blown, bland, generalist statement of this ilk. By structure, I also mean that your services are best presented within an overall narrative or framework – which makes sense to your potential client base. For example, you provide a number of services mapped to the start-to-finish lifecycle of a typical client situation (e.g. diagnosis, solution development, solution build, capability development/handover etc); alternatively, they might be mapped to different industry sectors (e.g. accountancy support for veterinary practices, accountancy support for dentists etc) or just represent a coherent set of related skills (e.g. brand strategy, brand development, web design/build and digital marketing).

So, in summary, this section of your plan should put forward a digestible, relevant set of services within a rational, easily communicable framework. A good way of presenting the specific service modules is to capture for each:

  • The typical client anxiety/need you are addressing.
  • The actual service proposition that addresses this.
  • Potential resources/tools/IP used in the service.
  • Description of what a typical service intervention might look like.
  • The benefits for a client who experiences this service.

This is a large area. We haven’t touched on the related aspects of your service delivery model (how you take such services to market) or pricing (let’s leave all that for a future blog). Notwithstanding, if you can draw out a clear view of your initial presentation of services – captured in your plan – you will be far ahead of many start-ups.