If you’ve been following the self funded startup space for any period of time you’ve seen the shift from a pure software or SAAS offering to a surge in the number of high quality Productize Services businesses. One of the most prolific writers on the topic is Brian Casel at Casjam.com, and he has a ton of useful information on his site about how to set up a productized services business based on an existing skill set or service that you offer. Brian comes from a web development background and really knows his stuff when it comes to scaling out a productized services business.
If you’re just starting out you can also check out this fantastic post by Bryan Harris at VideoFruit.com about how to come up with a productized services business even when you don’t have a refined skill to offer. This article was the genesis for me creating PodcastMotor. Although I already had experience creating, editing, and doing post-production work on podcasts I hadn’t considered that it would be a worthy service for others.
Either way you arrive here, let’s assume you’ve got a productized services business up and running and have a few initial customers. Those first customers will surely come from your existing network of connections, former clients, and other one-on-one relationships that are tough to scale up.
So now you’re faced with a business that is making money quickly (the biggest advantage of a productized services business), but now have to learn how to create an effective marketing plan for your business (the one drawback of getting a business off the ground quickly without really having time to discover who your ideal customer is).
Building a Comprehensive Marketing Plan
With some fantastic reference tomes out there such as Traction by Gabriel Weinberg, which I highly recommend, I would like to pare it down to marketing approaches that might be more aptly suited for online productized services businesses. Let’s start by breaking these approaches down to inbound and outbound marketing efforts.
Inbound marketing is generally considered to be anything that brings visitors to your website. This includes content marketing, search engine optimization, search engine marketing (paid acquisition), and referrals. This is an avenue that I like once you’ve established exactly who your ideal customer is, how you can reach them effectively, and what their lifetime value is. For early stage companies this is not something that they should hang their hat on. It just takes too long to bear fruit. Instead they should focus on building our a base of content around which visitors can come to their site. But this won’t directly result in paying customers in the short term.
Outbound Marketing (i.e. “Sales”)
If inbound acquisition is what we refer to as Marketing then Outbound is what we’ll call Sales.
This is where a real business has to hustle to create awareness, craft their value proposition, understand the customers needs, and get those first few customers.
As a new business nobody is going to land on your site from a blog post and buy your product or service. Instead you’ve got to actually talk to them, relay the value you bring to their business and close the deal.
Sales is not, and shouldn’t be slimy or looked down upon. In my opinion it is one of the most noble professions. If you’re selling something of true worth to a company then you are a true asset to the company and their overall business objectives. If you understand that relationship and craft your discussions with customers accordingly you’ll be wildly successful in getting that initial traction that every startup is looking for.
So if you’re a new company looking to build out a comprehensive marketing plan make sure you focus on both inbound and outbound marketing and sales. Outbound sales will get you those first few customers, and inbound content creation and marketing will bring the traffic that will allow you to spin up to scale over the long term.
Here is a question for you: What has been the most successful medium you’ve chosen to get initial traction with your business? Leave a comment below and let’s continue the discussion.