How to correctly scale a service business

December 31, 2023

Scaling. Growth.

^ big topics in the service business space, as we all pursue the dream of earning more for less time working.

We’ve seen the advice about the how, usually stuff like…

  • launch a course
  • create a group program
  • develop digital products
  • run ads
  • hire a team to replace you

But what happens when you do one (or more) of these and… you’re still stuck with the same old time-money dilemma?

I interviewed premium brand strategist, Megan Vaughan, about this because she’s helped her clients (and herself) actually, sustainably get the growth they want.

It turns out that “scaling” may not be the golden ticket it’s made out to be, especially not via blindly leaping in to the tactics listed above.

Here’s our conversation, edited and condensed for clarity — link at the end to listen to the full, raw interview that’s more like a podcast!


What is the biggest misconception that service based businesses have around scaling?

The biggest misconception centers around trying to scale when not ready and doing things out of order. Many believe they need to scale to get their time back or to make their offers scalable. However, often they aren’t ready as their sales and messaging aren’t predictable. They might still be changing the offer or struggling to articulate it. Scaling should come when there’s too much demand and they become the bottleneck, but many try to scale to solve a different problem such as lack of revenue.

Can you think of an example where someone jumped into a scaling strategy before they were ready?

Yes, some of my clients have started repurposing content or bring on VAs and copywriters before understanding which of their content actually converts people. They might also prematurely invest in website enhancements without having their messaging and positioning dialed in. They need to first identify which content attracts, nurtures, and converts their audience before scaling or repurposing it.

Why do many service based companies adopt these premature scaling strategies?

It’s often due to industry norms and guru advice targeted at larger or more established businesses. Service providers might see high-profile figures promoting certain scaling strategies and attempt to adopt them too early. Also, there’s a lack of understanding about what they should be focusing on at their particular stage of business.

What is the right solution for these businesses, then?

The right solution is to work on messaging and positioning, and getting more conversations with their target audience to validate their offer. Once they find their offer is validated, working well, and they have become the bottleneck due to high demand, that’s when they should consider scaling strategies.

Can you elaborate more on the external proof indicating that foundational messaging and positioning are solid enough to consider scaling? What are the signs that it is time to scale?

The signs include constant demand, raising prices due to demand, being recommended or referred by people they don’t personally know, and effective content that generates inquiries.

When demand is established, what’s the initial scaling strategy for most service-based business owners?

The first step should be having a website as it’s a positioning tool that reassures clients of your legitimacy, especially when referrals are a major client source. Once positioning and offer are solid, thinking about selling strategies, like having a salesperson or optimizing the website to guide clients through their decision process is key.

So, it’s like using the website as a one-to-many sales tool to replace one-on-one interactions?

Exactly. Having a website ready and working as a sales tool is a scaling strategy. When you can send a Google Doc to someone and they’re ready to proceed, it’s a sign that you’re ready for a sales page or the website.

There’s a notion of using scaling strategies to test offers and messaging through A/B testing, especially in online ads. What are your thoughts on this?

A/B testing is useful but it varies by business. For service providers, it might be more about talking to the audience, adjusting messaging based on feedback, and evaluating its effectiveness over a period of 60 to 90 days rather than investing heavily in ads initially.

So, it’s a more subjective and messy form of testing. Do you track the effectiveness of different pieces of content and advise clients to do the same?

Yes, tracking everything including engagement rates, the quality of engagement, and the reactions to various pieces of content is crucial. Understanding what resonates with the audience requires constant communication and questioning to refine messaging and positioning.

I think it also gives you more qualitative data.

Yeah, it helps shed light on what you’re doing differently and what’s resonating with your audience and if this person is not ideal, you can pinpoint exactly where in your content you attracted them and adjust that so you don’t attract people like that.

Can you share an overview of the how of what you do? What does it look like to do foundational messaging and positioning and branding? What is that?

With any good consultant or coach, you have to figure out what’s working already, audit where your position, how you’re positioning yourself, what’s working, what isn’t. Address the goals of where do you want to go from there and then craft a plan to get there. A lot of it is really leaning into their expertise and owning what problem they want to solve. It’s about bridging the gap between, “This is my brand, this is how I position myself,” and actually doing it in your marketing.

Often, I think people do have a messaging and positioning problem. But do you ever come across somebody, you work with them, and then it turns out it’s more a product-market fit problem?

It’s very rare. It’s almost never an offer problem. It’s almost always just how you’re positioning the offer. So yes, there could be a product audience mismatch, but the offer is never the thing that really needs to change. If other people are selling what you do, it’s not the offer.

Is there anything that I haven’t touched on that you think might be interesting to add to this convo?

Just go talk to your audience, please go talk to your clients, go talk to your target market. Clarity comes from action and the less you assume, the better off you’ll be.


🎧 Listen to the full, unedited 25-minute interview with Megan, like an exclusive podcast ➡️ Click here to listen.


About Megan: Megan works with service providers and industry experts to build a scalable brand that grows their audience, generates quality conversations and leads, and positions them as the go-to in their niche.

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