Our summers are incredibly short here in Maine, so we take every opportunity to visit the local ice cream stand and head to the rocky coast to see the views. We have our favorite haunts, and there’s one thing they all share — a whole list of options to choose from!
First you start with the type of ice cream: from soft serve to housemade traditional ice cream to sherbets and sorbets and dairy-free options. Then you get to choose from several sizes, a small kid-sized cup to a large bowl with several scoops of different flavors. Oh, and you can’t forget to add rainbow sprinkles (my kid) or Oreos (me).
What’s the point of all these options? To give you the chance to get a completely customized dessert.
Do your clients have the same experience with your business? Are you giving them the chance to choose from several offers that come in different “sizes” and “flavors”?
Just like the ice cream shop, you need to meet various clients where they are. Some customers might be ready to commit to a triple-scoop waffle cone sundae — and others just want to try a kiddie cup of vanilla.
If you want to attract clients on both ends of the spectrum (and in the middle), you need to offer a range of products and services. In other words, you need a product ascension model.
What’s a product ascension model?
Think about the products and services you offer. Do you have a smaller “starter” product for new customers and a “premium” service for clients who need more custom services or more support? If your products and services only serve one type of client, you’re losing the chance to bring in “starter” clients and encourage them to stay with you as their needs grow and change.
It’s not just about cost
The ascension model is often associated with cost — offering products that range from free to expensive. But price isn’t the only aspect to consider. It’s also about meeting customers at various points in their journey. Beginners need something that’s accessible, and long-term customers need higher-level options they can grow into.
In my business, I have four different options:
- DIY templates: These affordable, self-serve resources are for people who need to organize their business operations but don’t need customized support. They’re also affordable options for VAs who want to better support their clients.
- Membership: Inside my monthly membership, clients get access to me for personalized advice that they implement themselves. It’s high-level advice without the cost of expert implementation.
- Strategy sessions: This option gives customers on-demand support — perfect for those who need help handling an immediate issue but aren’t ready for ongoing operations support.
- Strategic partner services: This top-tier offer is for business owners who need ongoing operations and strategy support to make their long-term vision a reality.
You might already have an “offer ladder” like this in your business. But if you don’t, I’d encourage you to create one. Here’s how to incorporate the product ascension model into your business.
How to design your “offer ladder”
Start by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. What sort of support do they need when they first struggle with whatever your area of expertise is? And what do they need to have in place before they’re ready to “graduate” to the next offer?
Think about an art collector. They might start out as a hobbyist, gathering prints of well-known works. But as they become more knowledgeable, they develop the skills to source and curate original artwork. An art collector at this level has moved beyond “Art 101” resources and needs high-level, customized support.
In your business, you probably want a lower-priced “starter” offer that focuses on basic concepts (i.e. the “DIY” version of your support). Then, your higher-priced options might center on advanced coaching or exclusive services (like 1:1 support).
As your customers move up the ladder, you need to provide them with more value that addresses their unique needs, rather than just generalized support). The higher up the “ladder” (and the more expensive) an offer is, the more tailored it should be to the customer.
How to move clients up your offer ladder
As you create your ladder, don’t just focus on the different “levels” of customers you see. Think about how you can get existing clients to move up the ladder. You need to give them a clear path to follow and a place to go — that’s how you keep loyal long-term customers.
Start with a “basic” offer that’s accessible to a broad variety of clients. Then, offer progressively comprehensive products after that. Each level up the ladder should solve a specific problem and introduce the customer to the next opportunity for growth.
Make sure you price your different offers correctly. Understand your client base — what they’re looking for and what’s typical for your industry. For example, don’t offer a “basics of modern calligraphy” course for $2,000. That price doesn’t match the target audience: beginners looking to learn the hobby. So before you finalize your ascension model, make sure every offer is a good match for the target audience.
Your ascension model will change over time
Finally, remember that the market is always changing. Your offer ladder will need to evolve over time to adapt to new customers and competition. Pay attention and be adaptable. If you refuse to adjust your offers when necessary, you’ll lose relevance in your industry.
Developing an effective, sustainable ascension model requires a deep understanding of your target audience and excellent strategic planning. If you’re looking for a partner to help you create a ladder and keep it relevant in your market, I’m here to help.
As your COO, I’ll help you grow your business in a way that’s sustainable, so you can live a balanced, fulfilled life. If that’s the kind of support you want, let’s talk!