1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Mark Colgan. I’ve got 12 years of experience in the B2B SaaS space, focused on sales and marketing roles, and started my career in sales and in recruitment. I then pivoted into marketing about 5 years later, where I’ve been usually the first digital marketer in B2B SaaS companies that I developed my skills, building out a lot of the MarTech systems and CRM implementations.
In 2017, I took a year’s break and went traveling from South America to Southeast Asia, but did a couple of freelance projects whilst I was away. That gave me the confidence and then planted the seed in my mind that I could work remotely and not have to work from an office in the future. That was a really important moment for me.
When I returned to the UK, I set up my own consulting company where I mainly helped B2B SaaS companies with their marketing automation, and just making sure that they selected the right tech stack and integrated it effectively — and that often resulted in me doing the implementation, and then they optimised it to get the best out of it and the return on investment.
I met David Henzel about a year and a half ago. He owns a number of businesses, one of which he asked me to come on board to run the sales and marketing and I’ve done that for the last year. We’ve grown the business and I spotted an opportunity to utilize and leverage my skills of cold email outreach rather than pitch a product or service — instead, pitching people and secure them interviews on podcasts within their target audience.
Now, if I go back to the very first job I had, I was representing individuals and selling them into roles. I really get to tap into a lot of the training and skills I acquired over a decade ago, and then utilize those skills for securing interviews for people on podcasts.
I’ve been a big podcast fan for years! I’ve listened to podcasts before they were even apps like Pocket Casts. I see it as a huge opportunity at the moment, especially with the Coronavirus and the impact that’s had on the industry. It’s also an incredible way to get in front of a targeted audience. I think the mistake that a lot of people make is that they tend to only target the bigger and more established podcasts with have huge downloads, whereas I’ve seen really good results — in terms of revenue — generated from smaller podcasts with a very well defined niche audience.
For the first 4 months of this year, I managed to book 30 interviews for myself, David and GQ, one of the other co-founders. I knew that my processes worked and knew that my system would work. In fact, we generated around 37% of net new revenue from podcasts, so we knew it was a good strategy. I proved that it worked for myself, and now I’m in the very early stages of building out this process so that we can offer the stuff that I do for other people.
Right now we are making a small amount of revenue, around $2,000 per month, and that’s with a couple of friends and family that trusted us enough to pay a slightly discounted rate for the service that we’re operating right now. We have six customers signed up. But again, a lot of them are friends and family that resulted in us reaching out to our network to see if anybody would be interested.
Our current pricing is $849 per month. That secures a guarantee of four interviews booked per month now, though not every interview will go live in that same month. We’re seeing a really high success rate from outreach, to meeting, to interview scheduled, because we really personalize the message based on the value that our customers can give to the podcast audience. I think that’s the key.
There are some lean expenses. We have a project manager and it’s just myself and her working at the moment. But, we are actively hiring a booking agent who will manage the day-to-day and the actual outreach for our customers. In terms of expenses and margins, a conservative expense would be around 25% of revenue, relieving 75% in net profit.
2. How do you attract and retain your customers?
My background is in sales and marketing and I love this stuff. I mentioned before that we got our first users just from speaking to our network, but one of the ways that one of the channels that we’ll be leveraging is content. I honed my skill on content creation over the years.
One of the things that I like to do is forget about SEO at the very beginning. Because it takes a bit more time to see the compound impact of SEO, I definitely believe in it — but it’s not the quickest way to attract new customers. What we’re doing at the moment is we’re creating content that solves the problems that our customers have, one of which is utilising podcasts for lead generation. Another one is for building out relationships with podcasts themselves. How do they promote their podcast? And how do they encourage their interview guests to promote the podcast so we will be creating content which will then be used in our outbound email campaigns?
I fall back to it every time because it’s the easiest way to build a repeatable and scalable sales process and have that Predictable Revenue coming through.
In terms of customer retention, things I’ve learned from TaskDrive is that onboarding and the first experience that they have with the brand is extremely important. From a psychological point of view, if they have a negative experience, or it doesn’t go quite as to their expectations, it’s extremely hard to convince them that we are a trustworthy and credible business.
Over-communicating, under-promising, and over-delivering when it comes to the onboarding and throughout the engagement is key.
There are a number of things that we’ll be communicating with our customers that they have no idea about, but we will add them into their engagement with us to surprise and delight them.
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
I think one of the biggest challenges is getting comfortable building as you’re flying. In an ideal world, you’ll have your team ready, they’ll be trained, all the processes will be documented and tested. But it’s simply not the case when you’re beginning.
Another challenge that I have is that a lot of this content and context is in my head. I have to make sure that I remove any sort of confirmation bias when creating processes, and I usually do that by asking myself: Could a six year old do this process?
Everything has to be broken down into such simple steps, even though you’re employing small. Even with people who are very capable there needs to be no room for any guesswork in the processes that need to be followed. And for any of those processes which require some critical thinking and creativity, there needs to be frameworks and guidelines around how they should approach that to maintain the status tone of voice that we’re looking for.
The speaker podcasts, in this case, it’s the email outreach: making sure that it’s personalized — not waffling on or pitching too much — and other challenges and obstacles. I think it just comes back to balancing that supply and demand. Onboarding is such an important process. I wouldn’t want to be in a position where we have too many customers for us to serve, although it’s a nice problem to have. I want to make sure that we are able to fulfill their requirements.
Another mistake that I’ve made in the past is making sure that you qualify out people as much as you qualify in: if somebody might not be a fit from a demographic, or from a stage of their journey, don’t be afraid of saying no and rejecting them as a client. Personally, I always like to point people in the right direction. Pretty much 100% of the time my gut feeling has been right; when I know that someone’s going to be a nightmare client they’ve turned out to be. So don’t be afraid of saying no, even if it’s your only deal or first customer. When you’re starting out and don’t have too much revenue, you’ll want to say yes to everything.
4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?
I think the first thing is maybe my habits and my own skill set. I’m addicted to sales marketing. And I have taken the approach to always learn by doing. I don’t read books and listen to podcasts if it’s solving a problem I don’t yet have. So I have a very good ability to focus intensely on just the one main problem or challenge that’s facing me at the moment.
I feel I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so maybe that’s why that comes a bit more naturally to me. But having that ability to focus just on one key challenge is really essential. I often joke with my co founders and team that you have to hit everything with the simple stick and don’t overthink things. Sometimes we think too far ahead and get bogged down in material when we really don’t need to.
I’m a huge fan of a number of different blogs and books. Podcasts are probably my main vehicle of how I learn. I listen to podcasts when I’m cooking, when I’m walking anywhere, when I’m at the gym, when I’m showering. It’s such a great rich format to listen to. Because it’s using the stories that people tell, it’s a lot easier to retain, digest, and interpret rather than reading a 4000 word guide on something. I tend to look at the challenges that I have all the things I’m trying to solve and then look to solve them by sourcing the content directly.
Good decisions that I took in terms of hiring: at the moment, I have a project manager who I’ve worked with in the past, she knows me and how I like to operate. She knows that I’m extremely particular with the detail and that helps knowing that somebody understands that and can also uphold that level of quality. Another great decision is implementing this business with the EOS system from Gina Whitman’s traction book.
In terms of habits, I take time to block everything. My life is run by my calendar. It took me a little while to personally get over that it felt very weird to put in things like dinner with friends or lunch with your partner. My calendar even says some stuff like shower, eat, just because it’s so packed, but I managed to really increase my productivity by having everything planned. I also block out time where it doesn’t actually say what I have to do, but it is just free time for me to do something. I’m doing a lot of work at the moment myself personally on meditation and journaling, which has been a bit of a struggle to get started with myself, but I know that I just need to persist with that until I then start to see the benefits of that.
Also, a word of advice: get glasses that block out blue light. It’s been a real game changer for me.
5. What is your advice for those that are starting productized services?
I can’t stress this enough: any established business should always be speaking to people and connecting to new individuals. I hired a salesperson and her quota of new sales for the first month was ZERO because I wanted her to have as many conversations with our ideal customers as possible. I wanted her to understand what challenges they face on a day to day, what things are working, what things aren’t working, what strategies have they tried, what tactics are they using — because all of this information needs to be absorbed by you and your company so that you can communicate more effectively, and really resonate with your audience.
When starting a productized service, the landing page doesn’t need to be perfect. The focus should be on perfecting the processes and refining our operations, rather than being worried about padding on the website, all the colours used and things like that. I would make sure to just throw up a landing page, articulate the content.
Just remember, everything is a constant evolution. You want to be changing your content on a regular basis, the more conversations you have with customers and hear how they describe the challenges that they face and how they’re overcoming them.
I think one mistake I see others making is not having social proof on the website. It makes sense to record a video, perhaps of you talking through what the process is once people sign up — I’ve actually got that on my to-do list to do with Speak on Podcasts.
6. What are your plans for the future?
Right now I’m focusing on perfecting the processes: making sure that somebody external can come in that hasn’t worked with me before, but can actually deliver the work, ensuring that we are planning ahead. We pitch for people to appear on podcasts and will essentially be reaching back out to the same podcast if we have another customer that falls within the same category.
Any podcast host wants their guests to come on and promote the show/interview because it helps increase their own brand awareness and potentially bring in more subscribers for that podcast. So we’re going to do everything we can to assist our customers in promoting that podcast, even though that’s not part of the service that we’re offering. I want to get us to start thinking about helping our customers be more successful and how we can help potential referral partners be more successful and get a great referral.
7. Where can we learn more about you?
My question for the community is: what’s people’s perceptions on podcasts? What do they think the future is for podcasting? Do they listen to podcasts themselves? I would love to start a discussion around the topic of podcasts.