This is the second day of my journey of building a service business.
In day one's post I talked about what inspired me, project evaluation for the business idea and branding.
Writing this has been immensely helpful to clear up my head and get unstuck. And it also has let me connect with people that are having similar struggles, get feedback, and suggestions. All of this motivates me even more to keep writing.
Selecting a niche
This is the hardest part for me! This is the main cause for many of my failed projects: I just couldn't do something for enough time to see if it was going to work or not.
B2B customer acquisition and lead generation is a huge topic. There are so many things involved in the process: webinars, influencer marketing, cold outreach, ads… The limit for what you can do to acquire B2B customers is your creativity.
I believe that constraints are key to success, specially at the beginning of a business. Picking a niche will let me 1) know who my competitors are and know in what they suck at, and 2) use my limited resources in an efficient way.
I would like to focus on providing sales operations services to leverage my work experience in the area. I did sales process design, GTM strategy, forecasting, budgeting, reporting/analytics, CRM management, among other things in a tech company.
So, I identified a list of sales operations tasks in job boards and competitors' sites. They asked for jobs around research, list building, lead generation, email management, CRM management, reporting/analytics and other support/enablement tasks. You can check the full list in this Airtable.
Outsourcing should be the step companies take before trying to automate. There's a moment in growing companies when they can't yet afford to automate but they need to free time to scale as quickly as possible.
When customers encounter a product they have never seen before, they will look for contextual clues to help them figure out what it is, who it’s for and why they should care. -April Dunford, Obviously Awesome
I want to position the service in a context that my customers will understand. Whether I want it or not, they'll put my service in a certain category and compare it with the services other stakeholders are offering in the same category.
If I position as an outsourcing company I should be comparing myself with VA companies that usually charge per hour. Instead, agencies or service providers charge either a monthly retainer or per outcome (eg. per lead, although this is less common).
Companies often have a pretty clear understanding of what the process looks like when they look for and hire a VA. They want to delegate a process that they're already doing themselves. Instead, when they look for an agency or service provider they often look for some type of expertise. They're expecting to hire someone that knows a better way of doing things.
I'll go for "sales operations outsourcing" for now.
Things to validate
These are questions I'll leave for future me to answer (poor future me, her to-do list is way too long!):
- Are there companies that are willing to pay for this type of service? When I search the term 'sales operation services' in Google I don't get too many results. I see this as a bad signal, because if there's people that needs this service there would already be a lot of companies offering it. Maybe they still don't know they need this. For example, there might be a Sales Manager that's looking to hire a virtual assistant to free-up his team from irrelevant and repetitive work. Or maybe not.
- Are the prices for sales operations much lower than for full lead generation/outreach services? This would mess with the project evaluation I did in day one.
- Should I offer cold email/DM outreach services? This has a huge demand. Maybe I should wait until I can hire a specialist that sets email campaigns for several clients (to get economies of scale). Also, if I offer this I would have to change my positioning. Maybe I could partner with another agency to provide some type of outreach if enough people ask me for this. I could also target outreach companies as my first clients.
I know I'm overthinking this. This is the moment I would usually get confused and stop. Not this time.
To get unstuck and keep moving forward I will:
- Define the SalesOps services I can provide using the tasks list I already built.
- Make a list of pain points outlined in competitors websites and job boards.
- Make an offer based on the former.
I can validate this offer with potential customers later by making some calls and ask them if it resonates with them. They are the ones that have to tell me if this makes sense. I don't want to rule out this is a bad idea too soon. In Steve Blank's terms, I have to "get out of the building" and learn about the customer's needs firsthand.
To end this post, I'll leave you with one more quote from April Dunford's Obviously Awesome:
Many companies have weak positioning precisely because they don’t clearly understand their true competitive alternatives in the minds of customers.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.