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7 ways to grow your early B2B media startup

Transeo Startups This WaYWhat's the magic ingredient for growing a B2B media company or any other B2B company for that matter? If your small business is offering services to other small businesses, or if you’re focusing on servicing the bigger fish, these seven strategies for growth might just do the trick.

Depending on your service or product offering, B2B niche and target market, sales growth in your first 24 months is going to take a lot more than hard work. Generally you won’t have the credibility needed to generate substantial inbound opportunities to sustain growth. What can make the difference is in developing strategies that will help you navigate the path ahead and avoid the pitfalls that many B2B startups face.

Getting Started

The first thing that’s pretty easy to determine is what issues you’re resolving, the challenge you’re overcoming or the problems you’re eliminating or rectifying for your prospects, otherwise you’re not really going into business. An initial strategy used by most B2B startups to assess the validity of a market place service, is to create a Minimal Economical Viable Offer (MEVO) or Minimal Buyable Product (MBP). By creating the least expensive prototype or service offering that a potential customer could and or would buy to test to see if the MEVO works.

Next step, is to market test this service offering to your target market, and determine how effective the MEVO is. In many cases the MEVO will change multiple times and it's common that many B2B companies actually get a start from a referral or having the inside running with a company they’ve worked at or done some work for, in some capacity. If your business idea is solving a serious problem, then it won't be very hard to get a hearing with the decision makers, alternatively if you’re not curing a major headache for a prospect, then you’re really going to have to develop a clear point of difference.

Its the People

People build companies, they don’t build themselves, and there hasn't been a successful company created that buyers simply lined up to buy from, it takes great people building on the initial strategy. When you’re creating a new business idea, or improving an existing one, after you’ve got the basis of what you’re selling, or servicing, your idea’s have to move to the people and the areas they’ll focus on to deliver on the service, all to maintain initial start-up growth.

Most small or startup B2B companies struggle with process and sales growth initially. The telling factor is how you’ll overcome the challenges of delivering customer service without compromising growth. Our media company started in 2014 and has been built on a foundation of training, certifications and a steady dose of trial and error, with our quality people.

We’re constantly in a state of flux and when one area of the business isn't quite functioning how we’d like it to, we adapt and offer our people the chance to learn new things, we switch things up. We agree that flexibility by wearing multiple hats initially while in a startup is not only necessary, it’s a requirement in building strong leadership roles for the future. Assess the problems you might encounter along the early journey, then as they arise develop training backed solutions that can measured to effect consistent change in improved results moving ahead.

Minimum Economical Viable Offer (MEVO)

The Minimum Economical Viable Offer or MEVO is something I first heard about from talented entrepreneur Josh Kaufman, author of the number one best selling book - the Personal MBA. When applied to our business, we recently created a Content Marketing service to position our business as an producer, manager and facilitator of media services over just simply only creating the media. Having capabilities in all of these areas is rare, as generally you work with marketing companies or design agencies to design and create media products like digital media, but rarely can those same companies deliver and sell the media they created. Put another way, someone designs it and someone else then manages the assets and placements of those assets and someone else sells it.

This past month we created a MEVO for a Blog Service which included the content generation, the digital asset creation, the loading and managing of the media to specific platforms and the engagement tactics to increase the blogs subscriber base. One thing is pretty clear when you first try and create an MEVO, what it is today, is not what it will be next week, or say next month. MEVOs change about us much as a women does on a Friday night before a hot date.

The point being when you create your first MEVO, it will most likely go through a number of changes or iterations as they like to call them in the US, before it actually becomes a buyable product. This likely means that your early adopters are buying into a service that hasn't quite been perfected yet, but so long as you have the right customer service mechanisms, combined with a strategy that works with new customers on the progressive changes, and there will be changes, then customers will stick with you if the service is improving and helping their business.

Money Back Guarantee

The credibility factor for start-ups is likely to be the largest hurdle they have to jump initially when competing against established businesses, or even more so when chasing the big fish. Companies make decision based on different factors and reasons when choosing a B2B provider. Some of those reasons being past performance of a provider, references, the overall value of the offer, the perceived ability to achieve the specific needs and the alignment of similar ideologies, that’s just to name a few.

What if your business is only starting out, you likely have very little or no credibility, even though your offering may clearly be appealing in both perceived ability and likely price (just a side note - if you are the most expensive price, with no credibility, you’ll never win the business). In Australia we built our early businesses across the country on a handshake. Many successful partnerships and business arrangements were commenced by two people seeing eye to eye and agreeing that a job was to be done for an agreed price. Today’s business world is much different and highly legal, but the same principles can apply.

You have to back yourself in business, and you have to provide more value than what was initially perceived to make a long term difference. Your ability to deliver a proposed strategy or set of deliverable KPIs obviously determines the success of the service and relationship. Assuming you are in business to be successful and profitable, aren’t we all, then offering a Money Back Guarantee is clearly the only real credible and tangible offer a business reviewing competing offers can assess as a clear point of difference in your favour. If the buyer believes in your strategy, or your solution to the problem, and your service looks good on paper, but lacks the past experience or testimonial support, then on face value the Money Back Guarantee becomes a clear tipping point in the buyer's decision making process.

Put in a money back guarantee up for the trial period, or for a set period of time initially as you commence services and build the much needed credibility by actioning your proposed services. This makes the buyer feel comfortable that by going with your offering, if by chance you fall short, they can recover their money and go on with a different solution, possibly only costing them some of their time. A 100% no questions, refund at any time policy is by far the most effective tool you can use to grow your startup.

Keep Costs Down

You have to spend money to make money, that’s an old statement, and one that still applies in any business environment today. Probably the largest most unaddressed problem in B2B startups is funding and how they manage growth in the early stages. Outsourcing is clearly one answer to managing growing companies and keeping costs down initially as they work through the MEVOs and construction of internal processes to handle a growing customer base.

Without outsourcing and offshoring our business we wouldn't exist and it goes to show further that investing in training and certifications for our people early and has played a significant role and difference in the success of our business.One thing we’ve learned is to apply the 20/20/60 rule. 20% of the time if you get it wrong it will take 20% of your time to fix it, giving you 60% of your time to improve it. Get the first 20% right and you’ll keep the costs of fixing things down, meaning you’ll be improving your value proposition and creating greater gross profit margins. Iterations, mistakes and going back to the drawing board can cost more and place the business in a vulnerable position. Keep your costs down, manage your early stage seed capital efficiently and prepare for your iterations while outsourcing all non-core functions immediately.

Invest in Technology

Today’s B2Bs companies are sophisticated and fast moving. Technology advancements offer businesses both the greatest advantage to leveraging faster more efficient methods to work challenges. Choosing technologies is complex and can be costly if the wrong technologies are selected. Here’s where it pays to get the best advice. In the marketplace today, there are seemingly 1000s of technology choices for small to medium businesses, from software and operating systems, computer technologies and devices, platforms to manage client data, social media tools, accounting systems, online business platforms and more complex eCommerce or logistic and stock tracking services --- most media driven companies require six (6) main technology platforms:

  • Website Platforms
  • Marketing Platforms 
  • Social Media Platforms 
  • Sales or CRM Platforms 
  • Cloud Hosting Solutions and 
  • Accounting Systems

How you manage your technology choices in these 6 areas will determine how you meet your customer services needs and ultimately how efficient and effective you are as business. Before you choose any technology bring in someone who understands the platforms you’re looking at and can match them to the way in which you want to operate your business. Be prepared for steep learning curves and significant downtimes addressing areas you simply hadn't thought of when you developed your internal workflow systems. Before you leap, make sure to look around and run with the services with the highest possible support in both live phone, and online forum, you’ll need help and you’ll want them to be available.

Sell to Existing Customers

Customer acquisition costs account initially for a significant portion of the sales and marketing budget, running into the thousands initially as you gear up, then coming down to a more manageable figure as the business grows, but still significantly high compared to selling to existing customers. If your annual services fees are say $18000 for a B2B service then a big chunk of those first year fees are allocated to acquiring the customer for the first time, in our estimation in social media marketing and content marketing services acquisition costs range from $2500-$3500 per customer or as much as 25% of a medium priced service. It makes sense then that based on increased acquisition costs selling more to existing customers costs less. Existing customers have already evaluated your business and purchased because they believe you’ll be delivering on your proposed service offerings. Or possibly taken your money back guarantee offer and evaluated you to a trusted service provider.

If your MEVO is delivering your Trade Monthly Revenues (TMR) then considering the cost of new customer acquisition versus new product development is likely well worth consideration, and interestingly is best planned during your early service development models. Plan ahead to sell the next product or service during a certain point in the initial service period. Once a customer is familiar with working with you, they are more likely to buy another product or service from your business, if it provides extra or even equal value to the current services they buy.

Go ahead and ask a current customer if they would consider buying something else from you, you’ll be surprised how receptive they can be.

Ask for a Referral

While selling to existing customers offers you opportunities to expand and grow your own business, new customers offer you additional ways to grow new revenues and open new doors for potential future customers. As mentioned earlier new customer acquisition costs can be high and buying cycles long, making it relatively slow initially to capture your TMR or reach profitability. Asking a current client for a referral is clearly a strategy that many companies fail to act on.

At what point in time should you ask for a referral? Right after the time the same customer is willing to offer you a testimonial for a job well done. Plan to include a testimonial request in your service offerings and pin-point an event, or milestone that will action this next step testimonial request. Craft the outline of the testimonial for the customer to save time, and suggest that if they like you’ll craft the testimonial based on the objectives achieved. Don’t be surprised when they say yes, so craft the testimonial to fit and reflect well on the milestones and successes achieved, and include the company, person and or both in the highest possible positive way in this testimonial.

Strike while the iron's hot! After your customer endorses your testimonial, connect with them again to say thanks and ask them if they know anyone else that might benefit from the service or problems you’ve solved. If you don't ask, they’ll never offer, so be sure to ask for a referral.

Create a Video

Growing any new business or service wouldn't be complete without mentioning marketing. With marketing channels ever being expanded these days to include social media, budgets can run tight across the marketing channels. That is if you have a marketing department! Marketing budgets are usually the first to go with any company, when either times are tough, economies are down, or you’re getting started, due to the fact that there isn't a budget to start with.

Make this decision clear, when you’re building your media assets, build in a video program. Over the years the powerpoint presentations, the brochures and the lengthy meetings, all to still walk away not entirely sure of what a business does, leaves you to wonder, what marketing options really work? In 90-150 seconds you can clearly position a point of view, showcase the features and display the benefits of your value proposition, all with no interruptions. This media source can be used across multiple marketing channels and will clearly be your most cost effective marketing tool you will invest in.

Inspiring Insights

Do you have an inspiring new business venture story, or an alternate method that our readers would enjoy learning about? Would be great to hear from you in our comments section below.

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About the Author

 

Adam-Mole

About Adam Mole

Adam is the proprietor of start up BPO company Transeo and has been working with offshore and outsourcing services for more than 20 years. Adam is passionate about small business. He likes to write about his experiences in sales and startup business ventures. In his spare time you'll find him on one of Sydney's south coast beaches surfing and smiling. Email Adam at adam.mole@transeo.com.au and follow Adam on Twitter @adam_transeo.

 


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