1. Hello! Who are you, and what is your business?
My name is Michael Greenberg, and my business is CallForContent.com.
We’re a podcasting agency, and most of our services are productized. I also offer virtual staffing through a 2nd agency called South Africa Talent. We’ve started to put out role-based productized offerings.
When I started Call For Content, I really just wanted a business that I could operate. I was a consultant at the time, but wanted to be the owner. I wanted to start honing my ability to build a team, manage a process, and do so effectively and repeated. I started with B2B content marketing
I began with podcasts for B2B content marketing for a few key reasons.
- As a consultant, I had podcasting clients who had been successful with their podcast-based businesses, so I was familiar with the model.
- I saw an opportunity with lowering costs in automated transcription for podcasts to be repurposed at a more effective rate in comparison to any other form of content.
These days, Call For Content is broken into two businesses: White Label and agency services. White Label makes up 80% of the steady business. The agency services have a lot more project work, which is not counted in our MRR. The agency service maintains about $70,000-$80,000 a year, whereas the White Label services earn considerably more because we have a few larger-scale channel partners there.
White Label has lower profit margins, but we have less hands-on involvement as well, which makes those deals worthwhile. They pay my cost of living and fund the startup and development of the productized agency services that we now offer.
Our business model is on the White Label side is piece rate with a minimum volume. We take a deposit and then offer a cross-section of our services designed for a particular client base of the agency partner. For those who are pushing regular podcast production, we offer a per-episode-pricing mode.
White Label, channel partners, and referral partnerships are what I focus on. That’s where we bring in our higher dollars. We also have a podcaster relations team, should a show ask us to help with their growth.
When it comes to how we grow the business, the most important thing that I can attribute to our revenue is the amount of time we spend on outreach. The business was built to design content for positioning people as authorities, which means that in many cases it is designed to help close leads and generate relationships. We have inbound lead gen strategies, but I built Call For Content on a sales first approach.
The lowest margin contract we have stands at about 10%, while the highest margin is at 90% with some of our heavy consultative services. I have a staff who are now under the South Africa Talent banner. Call For Content formerly had a staff of about four full-time members and several other contractors. We’ve just moved those assets over to South Africa Talent and Call For Content now rents them back full time, which has allowed us to do some fun things in the process.
2. How do you attract and retain customers?
I obtained my first clients by sponsored inMail LinkedIn ads and my second batch of clients by referral. I use sponsored in-mail ads to run a market research funnel. A few of those people converted and ultimately became my first clients. The marketing techniques that I’ve used have been a combination of ads and outreach via LinkedIn and email with a little bit of AdWords. I’ve also appeared on several dozen podcasts, given a few webinars, and published a number of in-depth playbooks.
In terms of marketing, we use a combination of content marketing and outbound techniques. Most of the content marketing we’ve traditionally done has been to position ourselves for outbound. Just this past year we have gone into doing inbound marketing and SEO to start building a long-term funnel. We’ve also used both channel partnerships and referral partnerships heavily throughout the business, and that has been one key to our success, with the size of White Label being the primary example.
Some lessons I’ve learned on customer retention is that I prefer to work with customers who have remote businesses, or who are working remotely themselves. A lot of times – if they are used to working in an office – they don’t feel like I’m doing as much for them. I found that my customers need constant reminding of the strategy we provide, because the work that we do and get paid for is largely the work of a pair of hands. Anyone can go out and pitch somebody if they’re really a good guest, and that means we’re not special in that regard.
We produce a lot of uninteresting shows, but what they do well is produce ROI. When it comes to customer retention I like to remind my clients of the strategy we give them because that’s really what they hire us for. The productized services we offer are designed to help with different strategies. They slot right in to take over entire parts of the marketing process.
The way I’ve been talking about the model recently is “Chipotle for Podcasting.”
You go down the service line: “So you’re working with podcasts today? Are you looking for content creation efficiency, or are you looking for lead generation?”
You move down the line, “Would you like promotion? What kind? What content do we repurpose after that?”
You can get a podcast produced. We can help you grow that show, or we can help you build a PR presence for yourself and help improve your email list. We offer you all of the core materials to get started, to help you check these boxes without being overwhelmed by decisions or management.
That’s something that has been very helpful for Call For Content in sales. We have pre-packaged audits and research that they can purchase, and then we can sell them a recurring package. This allows us, as well as the client, an opportunity to try and work with each other. If everyone is satisfied, we get to keep working together on a recurring basis. Even if it doesn’t work out in the end, we get to shake hands and walk away. The client leaves with solid research and a strategy, and we retain the satisfaction of knowing we provided a great service. The vetting of the customers makes a big difference to our retention.
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
The biggest obstacle I had was that people didn’t know what podcasting was and they didn’t trust that it was worthwhile, even though they weren’t familiar with the concept. Several years ago I overcame that obstacle with pure math. I have one B2B lead generation system based on interviewing your target market. If you have a certain deal size, it will convert, provided you can get me a list of that is qualified to the point half be sales qualified leads. That helped a lot, and we still offer that.
I did change my central business point, which was originally B2B content marketing. In its place, we adjusted our concentration to turning it into a Podcasting Agency. We have since then started offering services like getting people guest spots on podcasts, as well as helping podcasts grow. Whereas, compared to the past, we only used to concentrate on B2B for lead generation.
The biggest mistake I’ve made was not realizing when my side business became my full-time business. I started it as a hobby and a playground, and then let six months go by before noticing that I’m not really doing anything, it felt like it was working, but I wasn’t making enough money, and I realised that I needed to change the business at that point.
The business model I operated on originally was a much lower margin, because I was less involved. I had to restructure the company in order to build a higher margin business that I could maintain. So when I built South Africa Talent, I made sure from the start that I could build it to a sizable living margin fairly quickly.
4. What has been helpful to help you grow your business?
AppSumo has been really helpful. We’ve used a lot of their deals, especially for email outreach programs. I started focusing my hiring around South Africa, which made a big difference. They have enough of a developed internet culture, and a strong culture of native English speakers, which made the hiring process easier. This turned into South Africa Talent a little farther down the line.
When it comes to habits, skills, and abilities, I think in systems, and I build my business as a system. I have an agency management dashboard that I build for each company and use that to help manage it. That makes a huge difference. I recently split Call For Content White Label from the primary agency business, because I saw the White Label business decaying. I wanted to be able to make that a cash grab without running into any chance of it funding the agency, as it did in the early days. That was a big decision, but it forced me to rethink a lot, and make changes to the agency that were necessary in order for it to grow I don’t think I was particularly good at marketing, however, I think I used outreach effectively, and I think people undervalue outreach early on when accompanied by a good piece of content.
Appearing on podcasts was a big part of my strategy. That’s worked quite well for me. I used Meg Cumby for most of my testimonials and I think she does a great job with them, which has made a difference. Kai Davis also coached me in the early days, especially with some of the market research, which was awesome. I hired somebody early on who was skilled in agency life, who had about eight years under her belt and was going solo. I paid a hefty price of $50 an hour to have her on my team part-time. Having that skilled pair of hands made things a lot easier. I didn’t have to explain everything, and I had somebody that I could have just to do the job that I needed done.
5. What is your advice for those who are starting productized services?
The single biggest lesson I learned was: never operate the service yourself. Be informed on how to do it, but never do it for clients. You don’t want to rebuild every time it goes to production. You should do it for clients five times and then remove yourself from the equation.
If you can’t sell it to people cold, and you can only sell it to referrals, it’s not a worthwhile product unless it’s a very high ticket, approximately $15,000+. It’s more difficult to build a successful business of size that way.
I think a lot of people spend too much time on a website. In my opinion, you don’t need much of a website, you just need to explain to people what you’re going to do for them, and why it’s beneficial. A deck is good enough. Another thing to remember is that it’s still a service, your customers have to feel valued.
6. What are your plans for the future?
So, I’m really looking at productized performance-based services as my next big thing. We’ve brought on new sales staff and we’re going after more podcast production with Call For Content on the agency side. We’re trying to boost our average client size from about $15,000 to $20,000 a year, up to ~$40,000 yearly. And if that isn’t reached, then we’re really going to be looking at volume. I’ll have to consider what else I can do with it, because it’s difficult to scale a business like this above the 1MM mark..
I’m significantly more focused on South Africa Talent. I’m interested in pay-per-performance models for virtual assistants, marketing and other roles. We’re rolling out performance-based guest placement for B2B, and I think we’re going to continue to roll-out more performance-based positions because they make sense for us. We can make higher wages, and attain higher results. It allows us to provide results to our clients that match up with their expectations, taking into consideration what their budgets allow instead of our current one size fits most approach.
I’m going to achieve this the same way I always have, one day at a time; but I’m going to focus on inbound first this time. I’ve got some more funds, so I want to avoid being dependent on sales and outbound to keep my engine running. I’m taking SEO into account with my new business, and building a team in-house to help with that. We’re also bringing writers in-house, which has traditionally been an outside role for us.