By Andrew Neitlich

The relief of selling products instead of services

By Andrew Neitlich

I’ve got a couple of businesses that sell products, tangible products (see, for instance, my collaboration with my wife at www.momsonedge.com). I have to say that marketing products is so much easier than marketing services.

For instance, my wife sent out some samples of our products to some local stores. One out of 5 stores placed an order. That’s a 20% response rate!!!! I’ve never gotten a 20% response rate marketing services. I have an IT services firm as a client who did get 20% — but only when she followed up a series of mailings (not just one) with phone calls and in person visits.

Products are tangible. Prospects can see and touch them and try them out at little or no risk.


The same is not at all true for services — even if you have a great portfolio.

So what does one conclude from this?

First, wherever possible, try to create products! Don’t rely only on a service-based model. For instance, my latest site (not yet live, but you can check it out in early form at www.boxingfitnessinstitute.com) offers some real products, including a certification program with a real certificate, boxing equipment etc.

Second, you have to be more persistent and patient selling services — at least to new prospects who don’t know and trust you yet. It takes time for people to get that “tangible” sense of who you are and what you can do. You have to show true value, back up your claims with proof, and follow up a few times (at least) to continue to build credibility.

Personally, I enjoy consulting, but also enjoy waking up every morning to find out that I sold products while I was sleeping!

  • Moms on Edge has a fantastic product line; wow, some really original stuff you’ve created. We may have to scoop up some of those items for our Christmas list.

  • aneitlich

    Thanks. Not to step into Chris Beasley’s space, but I really find that creating proprietary products rather than finding existing products is a good strategy. With http://www.alibaba.com, it’s easy to source custom stuff and there are some great designers out there who can help get things designed. It doesn’t cost a lot these days, and can set you apart vs. a generic product line.

    Maybe that’s a subject of a next blog?

  • Anonymously

    Maybe that’s a subject of a next blog?

    Yes that would be nice Andrew – I had been wondering about your approach… ;)


  • Xavius

    Do you have to buy directly from the sellers on alibaba.com, then sell the product. Or can you set up a web-site and have single orders sent directly to the maker?

  • aneitlich


    That’s up to the vendors you find. But on alibaba most have minimum order quantities and need you to take on inventory, at least in my experience.

    I’ve negotiated these vendors down from min order quantity to as few as 100, without much increase in price. (But only with success sometimes).


  • I couldn’t agree more! After 5+ years of barely surviving in the web design industry struggling for the next client, we eventually turned to ecommerce and have never looked back!

    There has not been a single moment that I miss the countless meetings, 2 hour emails, reviews, revisions, and then finally the delayed payment. Clients (service) vs customers (retail products) is a no-brainer for us; customer’s win every time.

  • So far, I’ve found selling services to bring me higher profits with far less work. But I know because of simple leverage products can bring in far more revenue when done right.

  • fuk

    You don’t know how much I agree with you. When I try to make products for clients it end up somthing they hate so I find it easier to sell them pre made items. Nice said man!

  • Ulchie

    Selling services can be limiting. You only have so many hours in the day, unless you hire more GOOD designers, which can sometimes be hard. Selling products on the other hand, you can sell a million products or one product, but the upside potential is much higher. You just need regular joe’s to help you ship the items. A little easier to find help like that. :)

  • Agree and disagree…

    In terms of physical services I’d have to agree, “countless meetings, 2 hour emails, reviews, revisions, and then finally the delayed payment.” is probably one of the best descriptions of life in a nutshell for consulting services I’ve read in a while.

    Where I disagree is with digital services delivered entirely online; hosting, tracking, autoresponders, email management etc. have huge advantages over physical products and services. Digital products; software, ebooks etc. enjoy some of those advantages also, but unlike the services, they don’t get recurring billing.

    If there’s anyway to incorporate a digital service in your model, I’d recommend it; sell once – get paid monthly is definately worth considering.

    My 2 cents,

  • bryan_spearman

    The American giant, Walmart has done this in a brick and mortar fashion- “Sam’s Club” You pay an annual fee to come in a shop. The products are all in bulk and super cheap.

    Is this being done online?

  • Xavius

    I know chapters-indigo (Canada’s big online book store) has a yearly membership fee if you want a small discount on everything.

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