Finally. I know what I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. It’s a new company called, Audience Ops.
Here in this post, I’ll share the mission behind Audience Ops and my plan to get it off the ground. For more on my thought process leading up to this (and 3 business ideas I decided not to go with), tune into today’s episode of the podcast.
Here we go…
Audience Ops is a content marketing service that helps online businesses dramatically grow their audience, educate their customers, and earn more sales. We do that through deep customer research, educational email campaigns, and blog publishing.
It will be delivered as a productized service, by me and a small team of talented writers and educators. I’m currently speaking to candidates to join me on the Audience Ops team (Interested? Apply here).
I was inspired by Jesse Mecham’s talk at MicroConf Vegas last month, where he spoke about the importance of taking a stance in the mission behind your company. His company, YNAB, sells software that helps you create a budget. But it’s built around a certain budgeting methodology they call the “4 rules”, which Jesse & co believe to be the best way to budget.
This got me thinking about the core belief that’s driving the mission behind Audience Ops. Here it is:
Content marketing isn’t about tactics. It’s about building assets.
Most companies are missing a huge opportunity because they’re focused too heavily on tactics like word counts, keyword stuffing, and click-bait. They’d see much better results if they focused on these two crucial elements:
Customer research and email.
If a company wants their blog to be read by people who have a high likelihood of becoming customers, then they have to get inside their minds and figure out what’s worthy of their attention. Only deep customer research, up-front and ongoing, for the purpose of building content assets will get you there.
Once a potential customer resonates with something a company publishes on their blog, it’s critical that they come back again. There’s nothing worse than a fly-by visitor who was actually highly qualified for the product, but forgot the URL and is never to be seen again.
The best (and still underused!) way eliminate fly-by visitors is email. It’s the only channel where you have your reader’s undivided attention and the ability to re-connect at will. Companies that earn their invite to their customer’s inbox and deliver on their promise of good, helpful, actionable content find themselves miles ahead of their competition.
The investment is in truly knowing the customer and growing the email list. The return comes in the form of sustainable traffic (more return visitors, more organic and referral traffic), more qualified leads (content that resonates with your target customers funnels more of them into your list), and sales (education leads to trust leads to sale leads to referral). Taken together, it all adds up to an asset—your audience—and that gives your company an unfair advantage in your space.
That’s my stance when it comes to content marketing, and that’s what Audience Ops will be built on.
No surprise here. I decided to launch a productized service business. Here are my reasons for going this route:
I’m not a developer. If I chose to build a software business, I’d need to hire a full-time developer or find a CTO to partner with. I decided I wasn’t in a position to do this right now.
I’m able to get this thing off the ground and running very quickly. I launched audienceops.com only a week ago. Based on the way my conversations are going, I expect first revenue to come in by end of this month.
By delivering this as a productized service, I know I’m
solving crushing a pain that some businesses have, which is they know they want to invest in growing their audience, but don’t have the funds, time, or skill-sets to do it in-house.
The whole point of moving from one business to the next is to apply the lessons you learned from the last one to correct and improve the way you do things. With this in mind, here are a few ways I’m approaching Audience Ops differently than I have in the past:
In years past, I would deliver the service myself for a while and eventually begin to delegate and remove myself from the process. It took me 3+ years to remove myself from the day-to-day operations of Restaurant Engine.
This time I’ll move much faster. From day 1, I’m designing this business to be highly systematized and streamlined. I’m also bringing in better writers than myself to handle the creative work while I focus on building this as a scalable business.
Launching Audience Ops means I’m getting back into consulting in a big way. This time around, a big difference is my focus on an ideal client.
When I did web design consulting (before Restaurant Engine), I worked for any client that came my way with the right budget. This time, I’m being much more lazer-focused in terms of who we serve and more importantly, why.
It’s still early so understanding who the ideal client truly is is still work-in-progress. But here’s what I know so far:
I’m certainly not new to delegating and handing responsibility over to my teammates. But this time around, I want to get even better here.
In the past, my approach to delegating has been to do it myself for a while, hammer out a standard repeatable process, then find someone to take my place. This works well for most operational things within a service.
But I need to get better at delegating before I even try doing something myself. There are plenty of things that someone else would be much better at doing than I would. My goal is to do a better job of identifying these things, and look to bring someone in before I invest time and energy into hacking away at it myself.
With the launch of Audience Ops, this will be my fifth type of business model that I’ve done. Historically, my businesses looked like this:
So I’m getting back into a consulting model, which in the past brought two main problems for me: 1) Income wasn’t steady. Lots of feast and famine. And 2) Client work brought a lot of headaches. Here’s how I’m solving these two problems this time:
Regarding income stability… I’m attacking this by going with the retainer-based consulting model. Recurring revenue means no more feast and famine. But I also learned in my years working in SaaS that selling a subscription is much harder than selling a one-time purchase. Luckily, at this higher price point, it only takes a small number of customers to have a very healthy business, unlike a SaaS which can take years to reach the hundreds required to make it viable.
By the way, the prices you might see on the website today are far from “set in stone”. As of this writing, they’re introductory prices and will likely raise in the near future. I’m also not sure whether we’ll continue to publish pricing or move that conversation further into the sales process.
Now about those client “headaches”… By productizing what we do, we’ll limit the amount of headache traditionally associated with consulting. That usually comes from a mix of working with the wrong clients (not knowing who your ideal client is), and projects that go off the rails (because nothing is standardized).
Now let me share a brief sequence of very first steps I took to move Audience Ops from “idea” to an actual thing…
These steps took a total of 3 weeks. Not bad!
…Is plans tend to change.
I’ve made somewhat of an effort to avoid blogging about things I will do and try and focus on teaching from experience. This post is, of course, an exception since I’m laying out my future plans here.
Publishing about the future is hard, because I realize how easily plans might change as new information comes to light. It’s entirely possible that I’ll look like a fool if the plans I publish don’t pan out (it wouldn’t be the first time).
But that’s also why I’m doing it. To give myself that added pressure of learning things the hard way… In public.
Here we go!