In today’s article, I’m going to tell you the exact process that I took all the way back in high school when I was selling digital marketing services. I had over 10 clients paying me every single year for these services by using this exact tactic.
We are gonna dig into exactly what the tactic was, who I was targeting and why I think it worked. And then we are gonna talk about exactly what I would do differently today if I were to scale up this sort of approach again.
Nowadays, I lead growth and marketing at a B2B startup, but all the way back in the early days, when I was still in school, I used to sell digital marketing services to small and medium size businesses. And it’s a great side hustle in the case where you’re really trying to apply some of the SEO skills that you’re learning into the real world.
The exact approach I did selling digital marketing services
So what exactly was my approach to selling digital marketing services? And it really came down to one simple principle: giving value first before asking for any exchange of money.
And what I mean by that is, what I would do is I would create three to five page websites for small, medium size businesses in my local area that didn’t have very good websites. And then what I would do is I would pull in some key information from either their business directory listing or just their existing terrible website and then spruce it up and show them exactly what the kind proof of concept would look like. Then from there, all it would take is I would reach out to anywhere from 10 to 25 different business owners with these proofs of concepts and then essentially ask if they’d be interested in meeting with me.
There’s a reason why this worked really, really well. And it comes down to that key concept that I just told you about of giving value first. Instead of being like every other digital marketing agency out there in which they’re cold emailing these owners, asking if they want a new website and things like that, I was giving them all the value upfront. I was showing them exactly what their website was going to look like if they chose to work with me. And then from there, obviously we could customize things to their liking and really spruce it up even further, but it got my foot in the door with these potential clients.
So pretty much my tactic was simple. Every single week or so I would go ahead and identify 10 to 25 different prospects that were in my local area that could potentially be good fits for this sort of work. In other words, I thought that they might be able to benefit from an updated website in order to generate more leads for their business.
And then from there, I would design these respective websites. It would be really simple. And then I would go ahead and reach out to these business owners either via phone plus email, or just mainly through email.
When it came to these websites, they really were kept simple. In which the three page websites were simply homepage, about page and services page. And then the five page websites were typically homepage, about page, services, as well as pricing and testimonials. This approach was always really effective because what I was doing was I was essentially productizing my service from the get go.
As opposed to a lot of other digital marketing agencies that might be creating custom proposals for their clients. I was telling them upfront exactly what I was providing them. I was providing them with either a three-page website or a five-page website, as well as website hosting for the year and general maintenance.
In terms of what I was doing at that time, I was charging between 500 and a thousand dollars per engagement. And the reason why I was super affordable was because I was frankly, still a student back then. And I didn’t really need to charge super exorbitant fees because I did not really resonate with the audience or target customer that I was trying to sell to.
How did this simple tactic help me get clients?
This simple tactic got me up to about 10 or so regular clients every single year, in which what I would do is I would charge them a retainer fee every year for renewing their domain, as well as maintaining their hosting. But to be honest, maintaining a website, once it’s set up is not very hard and it might require an hour or two every month or so to add a testimonial to the testimonials page that the customer recently got, but it really wasn’t that strenuous of work.
My first customers really came from friends and family in which I had some family friends that ran some small businesses. And so I did some work for free for them first. And the reason why I was just in order to build up a list of testimonials.
Once, I got two or three testimonials of this sort of work, I then posted those testimonials on to my website and then started to do more cold outreach. At that point in time, I would typically go through local community groups, Facebook groups as well as business directories to see whether or not different businesses had websites. And over time, I started to develop a process for myself in which I would know who would make a really good prospect and who might not necessarily make a great prospect.
At that point in time, I had a lot of clients that were acupuncture offices in my local area because those sorts of business owners didn’t typically have websites or great intake flows for prospective customers to their business.
What I would do differently
So now that you know the approach to this overall side hustle, I want to tell you about what I would modify if I were to take the same tactic today.
The first thing that I would do is I would scale with virtual assistance as opposed to doing all the work myself. Back in that point in time in my life, I didn’t know about the power of virtual assistance. And so one of the first things that I would do in taking this sort of approach is think about how I can modularize the key actions that it takes for me to generate business.
That means, for example, having a virtual assistant, that would be a prospector for the businesses that would be good fits, and another virtual assistant to potentially mock up the staging environments for these three or five-page websites of these businesses. And then a third virtual assistant to potentially prep the email campaigns for these respective outreach efforts.
By cutting it up in this sort of way, I would be able to scale a lot faster and reach out to more than just the 10 to 25 businesses that I was reaching out to at that time.
The other thing I would do differently
And then the other thing I would’ve done is I would’ve thought about how to upsell further to the business owners that did become customers. I went over in a recent article, how to upsell to your customers, but essentially what I would’ve thought about is what else do these business owners need?
Do they need, for example, need to install a bot on their websites in order to answer commonly asked questions from their prospects or to install a scheduler so that they can get more leads for their business?
I know having visited some acupuncture websites recently that having a scheduler has been a great way for these sorts of businesses to generate even more leads because people are able to just immediately book an in-office visit with you as opposed to having to go back and forth via email.
The first thing is that it’s really not that hard to make money with digital marketing services. It’s really just a matter of thinking about how you can create value for the other person. If, for example, you wanted to start a social media marketing agency, what I would recommend you do is actually create some mockups for example of the work that you would do for the prospective business that you’re reaching out to.
Instead of going door-knocking with no value to give upfront, you really just have to reverse the value chain and give value upfront to the potential person that you’re trying to sell to. By doing so, you’re effectively creating a free trial for them in which what they’re able to do is they’re able to see what you’re all about and whether or not your work product is something that they want to engage with. And that naturally leads me to the overarching takeaway here which is to give value upfront.
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