How to create a successful signature service

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Have you ever thought about having a signature service?

Something that you become known for, and clients start lining up to book with you?

If you haven’t thought about it before, you sure will be after listening to this episode with the incredible Melissa Burkheimer!

As you’ll discover in the interview, Melissa actually stumbled into creating a signature service, and now she’s worked with HUGE names and become known for her offering.

If you’re curious about creating your own signature service, you will LOVE this episode with Melissa. Listen in or check out the transcript to learn all about how a signature service can work for you!

Visit Melissa: | The Design Business Show | @MelissaBurkheimer | @TheDesignBusinessShow


Erin Flynn: Hey everyone. Welcome back. Today I am here with Melissa Burkheimer.

Melissa Burkheimer is an Iowa girl who helps digital entrepreneurs transform successful launches into record-breaking blockbusters using iconic design + launch strategies that convert.

She’s worked on dozens of 6 and 7-figure launches as a designer, strategist, and manager, and has created The New Era of Launch Design, a signature methodology she teaches exclusively inside Conversion Design School™, a virtual program she launched in 2019. 

When  she’s not designing sales pages or interviewing industry experts on her award-winning podcast, The Design Business Show, you can find her lounging in her pool, listening to 90’s Mariah Carey hits, or making a plan for her plans.

Thank you for being here, Melissa.

Melissa Burkheimer: Thank you so much for having me, Erin. It is a pleasure.

Erin Flynn: So I’m really psyched because you are someone who does signature services like none other. You are always the first person that I point to as an example of a signature service, because you are so well known for being a sales page designer. How did that even come about?

Melissa Burkheimer: Oh, that’s really sweet of you to say. I didn’t know that people knew me for that. I mean, some people do, but I mean, I started out my business like anyone, just wanting to get paid to be creative. And in 2012, 2013, I invested in a lot of courses. B-School was one of them. I took a program with Amy Porterfield, and I was just really fascinated with how people have of stature were marketing online. And so one of the programs I took with Amy Porterfield was in 2013, was her FB marketing profit lab because that’s what she was teaching. And so she actually had liked my Facebook page. This was again, back in 2013, and I took a picture of that because I thought that that was really cool. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, look at, Amy Porterfield likes my page.”

Melissa Burkheimer: And so someone who I didn’t know liked the picture. And so I sent this person a friend request, not thinking anything of it. And then six months later, I mean, this was also around the time I was finishing B-School. So fast forward to November 2013, just a few years into my business, the same person posted that they needed a graphic designer. You know, those posts that we see all the time. So I said, “Oh, I’m a graphic designer.” And there were two available gigs when I raised my hand. So we connected, and I got one of the two available gigs. The other gig was for some product design for a friend of his who was starting a skincare line, but I did not get that gig. But that first gig was a sales page for Amy Porterfield. I didn’t know that that was the gig.

Melissa Burkheimer: And so from there, he gave me multiple projects. I worked with him for a couple of months on a few different sales pages and designs, and I was more managing his designers than actually producing the work. And then a couple months later word got around to someone, because my question was, my challenge in my business was I had all these great local clients and they were great. I was only paid for work when they needed it, but they still paid me on time and they were really great to work with. And so I was like, “Well, do I continue doing this?” I didn’t even know that sales page design was a thing. And so that was a question I had posed to a mentor on a hot seat call and that mentor’s response was, “I wanted to hire you.”

Melissa Burkheimer: So from there, it just snowballed into, I’m doing sales pages, I’m doing landing pages, I’m doing membership sites, I’m doing all kinds of projects that are design related in the launch sphere. And I don’t even have a sales page for this service. So that was how it originated. I basically was doing a good job providing designs that helped my clients get a lot of results. And I did what I did when I said I was going to do it, which is something unfortunately that a lot of service providers don’t do. So, that’s kind of how it happened.

Erin Flynn: Oh, that’s so cool. So I didn’t realize that you actually did not intend to go that route. I thought you had sat down and said, “I’m going to do sales page design.”

Melissa Burkheimer: I mean, did you know what a sales page? I didn’t know what a sales page was.

Erin Flynn: In 2013? No, probably not.

Melissa Burkheimer: No. I mean, but I was really fascinated. I was just really fascinated with how they were marketing themselves. And the sales page back then, when I looked, a lot of people were using optimized press. They were ugly, but they worked. And so a lot of the language they would use would remind me of infomercials. I watched a lot of infomercials with my mom, like for jewelry, growing up. She never bought anything, but she was always watching them. And so it reminded me of an infomercial, but it was on a long webpage. So that’s actually how I explain web sales pages today to people who don’t know what they are. So, no, I didn’t have a plan to do that, but after a couple of years of doing it, I realized that more of my clients were coming back to me for multiple sales pages. They weren’t really interested in a website because they were still trying to figure out the business model that worked for them.

Melissa Burkheimer: So in a lot of the early days of those types of clients, I was serving, because back then, there weren’t that many thought leaders and I was serving a lot of them. You know what I mean?

Erin Flynn: That’s so cool. And now, I mean, I know that you’ve worked with multiple six and seven figure people doing their launches and things like that. And so it’s really fascinating because I think that we do think that if we’re doing a service, especially a signature service, we have to know straight upfront, it’s going to be X, Y, and Z, and it’s going to have all of these things, but you developed it over time with these people as this was a growing thing.

Melissa Burkheimer: Yeah. And I mean, frankly, I didn’t have a sales page for my sales page design service until 2016. And what happened every single time was that I brought in something to make the process better. In 2016 when I was doing it, I did a few projects where I brought the copy and the development in house, because I’m a designer who doesn’t know how to code. And I can do basic HTML inside WordPress, and I can Google anything, but it’s just not a good use of my time. I’m better at the big picture, making sure all the details are happening, making sure that the design is actually flowing with the launch strategy, making sure it matches the funnel, even if I’m not designing the rest of the funnel. So I just, every single time I did a sales page, I made the project process better.

Melissa Burkheimer: I now have an editor, for example, that I bring in to edit the copy before I ever get started. The editor also makes sure that all of the copy makes it from the document to the PSD, because we’re not just talking a few hundred words. We’re talking, like the last sales page did was 7,000 words with bold text and commas and different sections. So you want to make sure that, and amongst all the changes that are happening, you want to make sure it’s all there. So I’ve got these really specific checkpoints that it just helps me make the process easier for both myself and the client, if that makes sense.

Erin Flynn: Yeah. So, my next question had been, what changes have you made through your service throughout the years? So you already touched on that. So you’ve basically iterated until you’ve gotten a good process and you’ve brought in some of it. What else have you done?

Melissa Burkheimer: So there’s been so many things. So I have a really great inquiry form that’s actually on my sales page and I really encourage people to go look at it. And actually just made a few changes to it last week, based on an experience I had with a client who came and said that they want multiple sales pages, which is a direction I actually want to take in my business, is working with clients who need more than one. So I have positioned my sales page with the first FAQ question. And now it says, “I want to work with you. How can I hire you?” And the answer says, “Most of the clients I work with book multiple projects at a time.” Sorry, I’m slipping my words here. So that’s one change that I’ve made.

Melissa Burkheimer: And another change that I’ve made is that I basically make sure that the developer or the copywriter and anyone else on the sales page team, we have those dates locked in before we’ve even done a contract with anyone because I am basically relying on other people, whether it be the client’s team or the outside parties that are going to develop. So I make sure that I’m really wringing in that process as the lead director or project manager, whatever you want to call it, to make sure that the entire project goes smoothly. I just had someone say, “Well, can’t my team in India develop this page?” And my answer was, “You can do whatever you want with it, but basically I can’t guarantee the results. So I don’t know if it’s best if we move forward.”

Melissa Burkheimer: So I have just gotten really specific with the type of client that I work with. I’ve gotten very specific about how I want the project to go, who I want to work with and what happens during the entire experience, because I’m not someone who’s looking to design 10 sales pages this month. I don’t do any more than one or two at a time. And that’s because most of the time my clients come back to me for more than one page. And it’s been like that since the beginning. So every time I do a page, I find a checkpoint that needs to be added. Another one I’ve added is when we first start the development, because again, I’m designing and then I have a third party doing the development. We look at the developed page to check the sizing and the spacing because when you’re looking at it in the preview app on your Mac computer or on your phone, it’s going to look different than it does on desktop or mobile.

Melissa Burkheimer: So, we’re making sure that the sizing and the spacing of the first few sections is actually preferred, the way that it should look based on the client’s side and on my side, because I’ve had projects where we’ve had to go through and the sizing and the spacing was too big or it was too small. So we had to go through and reprogram entire page, and that’s a nightmare. So I’m just looking for different things to make the process shorter and more seamless and much more high end than it was the last time.

Erin Flynn: I love that. So two juicy tidbits I want to make sure the listeners get out of that is the FAQ that already sets people up for continuing to work with you and having that right on the sales page. I think that is just something so simple that anybody can add right now to whatever service they’re basically offering, just to set that up for future. And then the second thing being processes and systems are always being refined. I mean, you’ve been doing this for years now, but it’s something that you still are finding things to adjust and make smoother. And so it’s not just you set your systems once and forget about it unfortunately.

Melissa Burkheimer: No. No. And what happened with the FAQ question, and I actually updated the questions on my inquiry form, which have been in place for a few years. But what had happened was I made the mistake because this person came to me via referral. And then the process was I sent them to the sales page I had for sales page design because it’s very detailed about how I work with people. Because some people don’t want to hire someone to develop and design their sales page. They want it to all be the same person. Well, I’m still involved in the same process, or I’ve had people come to me and say, “Oh my gosh, I love my sales page. But the mobile looks like crap, and 80% of my users are mobile.” And I’m like, “Well, there’s not even a question here because you get a custom mobile design, and I look at the mobile design with a developer that I know, like, and trust, who I know is going to make your page look good.” Could your team in India do this? Maybe, but I can’t guarantee that.

Melissa Burkheimer: So for me, this is looking at it on both sides, the client side and on my side. And with this specific proposal, I had sent them a quote for three different projects, which is what they said they wanted. And then they came back and changed the project scope of what they originally asked for. But then they just wanted one scope. So I should have been more specific in my proposal to say, “These prices are good, should you book all three with me because that’s what you asked for.” And you know what it’s like when you do one project with another person, it’s easier and it’s the same thing on the client’s end, it’s easier. And I didn’t give them an expiration date or anything. I just said, “Here’s the proposal. Here you go.” You know what I mean? So again, that was a mistake that I made, just because I needed the experience.

Melissa Burkheimer: So that one lesson taught me, okay, these are the parameters I need to have on my sales pages for the new type of work that I want to attract. And I’m someone who can make a decision and usually those things will show up, but that project literally showed up the next day, but it needed to teach me the lesson. So we didn’t actually get that project because the scope had changed so much. They said they might want me to do two of the three, but who knows at this point, if that makes sense.

Erin Flynn: Yeah. And I think that was so good. We’re still learning. We’ve been doing business for a long time. We’re still learning. We’re still gathering information. We’re making those adjustments. And so for people listening, I think it’s really important to understand, again, these are not perfect things from the get go. We still are making mistakes. So things that I’m sure that we know is an expiration date on a proposal. I’m sure that that’s something that you’ve had on proposals before and you probably just spaced it this time.

Melissa Burkheimer: Actually no, I never have, because 90% of the people who come to me via referral or they’re an old client, they say yes.

Erin Flynn: Ah, got you.

Melissa Burkheimer: So, no, it’s never really been something I’ve had to do. And I’ve had people change their mind or say, my prices are too high, they’re going to go with someone else, but come back to me a year later. And that’s actually happened multiple times, and I’m fine with that. I am fine with giving an … I want to get on the phone with anyone who can take the time to fill out my really detailed inquiry form because those are my people. They value the details. And if they can’t answer the questions on my inquiry form, we probably won’t work well together.

Erin Flynn: That’s really good. Inquiry forms are also fantastic. That’s maybe something we should talk about another time because that’s at least a 20 minute conversation.

Melissa Burkheimer: Oh, for sure. Yeah.

Erin Flynn: They’re so, so good at screening clients and getting people who are the right fit.

Melissa Burkheimer: Yes.

Erin Flynn: You make enough money to support the lifestyle that you want. And it sounds like what you’ve done with your service.

Melissa Burkheimer: Yeah. And there’s also times too, like I’ve played with a lot of mentorship offers for designers in the last few years. And I go back to, what is the easiest thing for me to do? What is the easiest thing for me to sell? Which it doesn’t even feel like a sale. It just feels like a conversation, like is this going to work or not? This is business for grown-ups. And what brings me the most joy? And so there’s a different kind of joy that I get from working with mentorship students than I do with sales pages. But when I look at where the most of my profit comes from, it’s from sales pages. So I don’t know that it’s a service that I’ll ever stop doing, but I’m never actively out there even marketing this. It’s fully word of mouth. I maybe have spent like $50 just testing Facebook ads a few years ago, but it didn’t work.

Melissa Burkheimer: So I just look at the space that I have in my business when I’m not doing a sales page to really let me know that I’m on the right track when I’m creating a new offer or something else that I want to focus on.

Erin Flynn: I love that. I think having that signature service that basically gives you the freedom to experiment with other things is such a cool also way to look at things. If you have this core offering basically, you can then say, “Okay, if I make enough money with this, I can now go test out a product or a mentorship or coaching,” or whatever it is that is that shiny object that you think you might really enjoy. And maybe you do really enjoy it. Maybe one day somebody listening that replaces their signature service and becomes their new thing, but otherwise it’s just a great way to be able to experiment in your business and have that creative play without sacrificing your bread and butter income, which is paying for the lifestyle that you want.

Melissa Burkheimer: Yes, for sure. For sure.

Erin Flynn: Awesome. So what would you say then is the biggest … Would that be the biggest benefit to having a signature service or are there other benefits that you think are also huge?

Melissa Burkheimer: I mean, I think there’s a ton of benefits. If I’m creating anything new, I have to come up with a new proposal. I have to come up with a new … I have to start over. And it’s not saying I couldn’t do that. I had a friend come to me earlier this year, she’s writing a book, and I’ve done some book cover designs for her clients, just as a fun thing, creative outlet, like you said. And she wanted some Instagram templates and some PDF templates. Well, I ended up bringing in another designer to actually help me with the PDF designs because I don’t do a lot of them, so mine are okay, but they just don’t look that good. I think another benefit is just streamlining and being smooth. I know exactly how long it’s going to take. I know that for these two weeks of the month I’ll be designing, so I’m not going to do anything else. But I know that when I’m developing, I can take on another project. And so I can create these really specific flows and sprints inside my calendar.

Melissa Burkheimer: Another thing is too, I can refer someone who’s going to be better for something else then that would be me. You know what I mean? I just think in the last 48 hours, I’ve referred three different designers to projects that people have came to me and asking if I knew somebody or asking if I would want to do it. And so, I also look at when I’m creating a course, where I have the biggest blocks on content specifically are the things that I’m not actively doing in my business, if that makes sense. So I might have the knowledge, but I don’t have the knowing, if that makes sense.

Erin Flynn: Yeah, totally. Awesome. So, I love all of those benefits. Again, we could talk about things for hours, like the systematizing and all of that. But what I would love for you to tell us about now is your conversion design school, because you obviously know a lot about conversions and all of that stuff. So please share so that we can learn more about how you do that.

Melissa Burkheimer: Yeah. I’ll just say that a lot of people for years have been like, “Please create a course about how to make a sales page. Please.” And my answer was like, “No.” And I refused. And the reason was is because a sales page isn’t something that just will magically fix your sales problems. A sales page with the right audience, the right offer, the right messaging, the right copy, a good mobile experience, and all of these other factors, that’s the level the clients have to be at that if they want to work with me on a custom sales page. So, I was always like, “How can I create something to show people how to design this?”

Melissa Burkheimer: So a year or so ago, I was on the Get Back to Design podcast with our mutual friend, Kristen Miller and Corey Woodward or Woodard, I think. And that interview ended up being all about conversion design. So, six or so months later, I hired a couple of mentors and I’ve launched this course a couple of times. I’m getting ready to relaunch it again here in about a month. And I’ve refined it. I have cut things out. I’ve added things. I’ve done it live. I’ve done it as a study alone course with coaching calls. And it’s really a program where I show expert entrepreneurs how to incorporate design as a part of their strategy as they’re launching.

Melissa Burkheimer: Back in 2015, 2016, I was also a launch manager for a pretty well known person in the online industry. So I was behind the scenes of what it takes to get the sale. How do you do a launch debrief? How long are you planning this launch? How many people are on your team? So I was in charge of managing all that and doing the sales pages. So it’s basically a combination of how do you launch a product and how do you sell it using design? What kind of strategy is there? What kind of metrics should you be looking for? What kind of colors should I be using? What are the conversion design principles and how is that different, how is design different in a launch than it is if you’re doing just a brochure or something like that?

Melissa Burkheimer: So I’m teaching what I’m calling my new methodology called the new era of launch design, where we go through your offer, your messaging, your customer journey, your sales strategy, and then the design that you’re going to use in the launch. And then I give you the strategic ways you can do that with, of course, a bunch of bonuses, because I can’t just do that. So that’s the new thing I’m doing, and it’s been really gratifying. It’s been really challenging. I have grown a lot as a person. And I think that what people don’t understand about launching a program is that it’s a lot more difficult than having a signature service.

Erin Flynn: Oh, yes, it is. I’ve done both and it is so much harder.

Melissa Burkheimer: It’s not as profitable at first. I know that this offer will be profitable. It’s trickier to sell because you have to invest, especially if you’re new to launching. If you already have a course or product you’ve launched, it gets different and it gets easier every time you do it, but it takes practice. Marie Forleo didn’t have $10 million in sales of B-School the first year. It took 10 years to get there, I think, or something like that. So the goal here is for really to just empower designers and give design a voice that I don’t believe it has because there’s a million courses about how to create a course, how to launch a course, how to write the emails for the course, how to make your website. But who’s talking about design? I can only find a couple of people, and they are SAS companies.

Erin Flynn: Yeah. I can’t think of anything, at least off the top of my head, that teaches design for launching specifically. There’s generic design courses like crazy, but absolutely nothing in terms of launching.

Melissa Burkheimer: Yeah. And there are templates. I have some. I have a lot of process maps, but I don’t specifically offer design templates. I’m showing you examples with the strategy and how it’s actually used by my clients and by myself in business.

Erin Flynn: Oh, that’s so cool. So, we’re recording this in early May. When is that open again?

Melissa Burkheimer: That opens on June 2nd, 2020 through the 12th, and then it will probably open again sometime in the fall of 2020. Those dates have not been set yet.

Erin Flynn: Okay, awesome. Where can we find and follow you online if we want to just learn more about you and check out your stuff?

Melissa Burkheimer: Yeah. I mean, the best place to do is go to, which is my website, and the social media place I am looking to connect with people, I love direct messages, is Instagram. I’m over there @MelissaBurkheimer. And you could also check out my podcast, which is called The Design Business Show. Erin’s been a two time guest. She was actually the first guest interview episode that went live and that’s over at and @TheDesignBusinessShow on Instagram.

Erin Flynn: Awesome. I’ll make sure all of those links are in the show notes. Right now, we’ll wrap up. I’m going to have to have you back for like six other conversations because this was a good one.

Melissa Burkheimer: Oh, I imagine. You’re so sweet.

Erin Flynn: Thank you so much for joining us. And I will see everyone in the next episode.

Melissa Burkheimer: All right. Well, thank you for having me. Bye.

Erin Flynn: Bye.