In late 2008, Krista Neher was flying high. She’d recently launched Boot Camp Digital, a social media marketing company in Cincinnati, Ohio, and already had an impressive docket of clients. Even so, she wanted more.
“After my first year, I looked at my business model and reevaluated my game plan; I wanted more revenue streams,” she says.
As it stood, the only way for her to grow her business was to hire more people—something Neher didn’t want to do. “I wanted to figure out a scalable way to make more money, because there are only so many billable hours in a day,” she says.
Her solution was genius: to develop products highlighting her expertise. She was already administering one-on-one social media trainings, so why not record a session and sell it 1,000 times?
“We launched our social media DVD program in March; you can now buy training videos on our website,” she says.
Neher also began offering two-day social media boot camps at her office. “We built a training facility and now I will get 30 people for a two-day seminar—the price is much better than a billable hour,” she says.
How can other small business owners develop profit-generating products?
First, look at your business model, Neher suggests. Define your objective: what does success look like to you? “Think of creative ways to create a more scalable business model—how can you change your one-on-one interactions to one-on-100 situations?” she asks. For example, if you are a restaurant owner, offer bartending classes, she suggests.
While inspecting your business model, consider changing the way and location in which you sell. Neher recently came across a coffee shop that started selling at a local farmers market on the weekends. “They found that they were making 80 percent of their revenue from two days at a farmers market and only spending 20 percent of their costs,” she says.
How is this possible? At the farmers market, the coffee shop sustained almost zero overhead and saved what money would have been spent on infrastructure in a shop during off-peak hours. Plus, they were only at the market when it was busiest, she notes.
Back at Boot Camp Digital, Neher also came up with scalable marketing ideas to boost her bottom line. Instead of attending a slew of networking events, she joined her local Chamber of Commerce and posted training classes on its calendar. “It cost us $10 and that listing consistently gives us five new people per class,” she says.
Neher didn’t stop there. She hooked up with as many local calendar listings as she could find. In addition, she built an e-mail list, worked on search engine optimization and perfected her website.
The result? “This year I will double my revenue from last year,” she says.
Over in Santa Monica, California, Jeffrey Stewart is beaming with delight. As co-founder and CEO of Creative Capital Group, a digital agency, his company is up 300 percent in revenue this year over last year.
How is this possible?
First, over the past 12 months, Stewart and his co-founder, Michael Abraham, rounded up a group of senior executives they’d known as mentors and developed a strategic advisory team. Now, they speak to that team on a weekly basis. They discuss challenges facing the company and look to the team for advice.
“Working with these individuals has opened doors to people we would never have had access to, and we’ve been able to form alliances with those companies,” says Stewart.
How can small business owners develop their own strategic advisory firm?
Look into your immediate network, advises Stewart. Also, tap into your local SCORE office, and volunteer with charitable organizations—you never know whom you’ll meet.
Second, Stewart and his team focused on their core clients. “We take the extra time to know their business and try to become more than a vendor—a strategic advisor,” he says.
Success here comes down to time management. “It is all about investing your time where your money is; if you are spending the same amount of time on all of your clients, you are diluting your energy towards your best clients,” he says.
Third, Stewart’s company developed strategic alliances with non-competing businesses. To do this, he suggests entrepreneurs analyze businesses that target like-customers. Approach them and propose an alliance based on reciprocal leads.
“Some of our largest clients have come out of strategic alliances, and as we grow these alliances, we are getting more of the clients we really want,” Stewart says