I'm not trained to do this myself, and I don't have the time. I want to pay a commission to someone to do it for me. Let's assume I'm right that this is a great product that will sell. How do I find, and vet, a legitimate marketing company or expert who will pursue this?
One approach would be to
(1) Create a website from which your product can be purchased and downloaded;
(2) Enable easy social sharing from the website so that happy customers multiply at no cost to you;
(3) Market that site through PPC campaigns, targeting relevant search verticals.
Basically, you'd be paying a commission to Google and Bing in exchange fore eyeballs on your site. Whether those impressions convert to sales depends on your presentation and (of course) the product itself.
Conceivably, you might do all this yourself. But you might prefer to pay
(1) A branding consultant / namer / domain broker to select and obtain the ideal domain name to use,
(2) A web designer to build the site,
(3) An SEM specialist to manage your AdWords and Bing campaigns,
(4) A copy writer to craft your landing page sales pitch, improving your sales funnel and boosting conversion rates,
(5) A content writer to produce additional articles,
(6) An SEO to work on whatever it is they do this month.
It isn't strictly necessary to pay for these services, if you're willing to teach yourself. You might accelerate that process and avoid expensive mistakes if you schedule a few short Clarity.fm calls with relevant experts.
That's the approach I would use – building a site that functions like a store and advertising online through SEM. This way you can test the viability of your product without having to hire sales staff.
Yes, you could try marketing through other channels such as local gatherings of college-bound students or via phone, email, radio, TV, mail, etc. But online you can access a broad range of potential customers with less initial investment in planning, staffing, and infrastructure.
So it's a test case. If your product can't sell online in this way, then it may not be worth expanding with those other strategies. Furthermore, this online approach scales very well. If you're profitable while spending X on PPC, then you might grow those profits simply by reinvesting and raising that advertising budget.
I offer professional services for #1 (names / domains) and #4 (sales pitch) above, if you're interested. To some extent, I know my way around #3 (SEM); but I don't manage campaigns for clients - only suggest tactics for those who run their own campaigns. Plenty of Clarity.fm experts could run an SEM campaign for you quite well if you'd like to outsource that marketing.
I've been in the college-bound space for decades, first as a parent going through the process twice and then as co-founder of College Confidential, the busiest website in that space (40 million pageviews last month). That business was sold to a large international firm in 2008, though I consult for the firm and remain engaged with the community.
That business was one product of my entrepreneurial focus on direct marketing and digital marketing.
Before answering your question directly, I'd offer a bit of experience-based advice. I've seen many apparently great business ideas in the college space fail because of a surprising unwillingness of most students/parents to pay for helpful tools.
I'm at a loss as to why families confronting one of their most important decisions and an expense that will run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars would balk at spending modest amounts of money to get a better outcome.
To be certain, students who are candidates for ultra-selective schools and whose families have substantial resources will pay for things like test prep and occasionally advising services, but this group is quite small compared to the entire population of college-bound students.
I could list a series of companies that offered a paid product for this market and either failed or succeeded only after converting to a free model monetized in some other way.
Another megatrend to be wary of is the likely disruption of traditional higher ed by a variety of forces: unsustainable tuition levels, questionable ROI for a 4-year diploma in many fields, the rise of credible online higher ed options, probable closure of many colleges, etc. If your product can ride these waves, so much the better. If it's focused on the traditional system and process, watch out.
Enough doom and gloom... let's talk about your product and how to market it.
Assuming that the product and price point will indeed create revenue if it can get in front of families, I'll throw out a few ways you could proceed.
I assume that you don't want to do this as a solopreneur, creating your brand, website, outreach plan, etc. The skills involved are the full range of digital marketing activities, and even coordinating the work of others (website creation, search engine optimization, paid ads, content marketing, influencer outreach, etc.) takes both time and expertise.
One approach would be to find a co-founder that has both the time and skill that would bring the plan to fruition. This is a bit of a unicorn hunt, but there are websites and local meetups (in cities with entrepreneurial cultures) that bring co-founders together. The revenue potential would have to be high enough for a talented person to commit to it. They would need to see a short path to revenue (so they can be paid) as well as an exit strategy.
Another would be to find a company successfully selling in the space and work a deal to market your product. For the reasons I mentioned above, this may be difficult.
A third variation would be to partner with a company that has relationships with high schools, guidance counselors, etc. I'd expect they wouldn't be interested in marketing an inexpensive add-on as a standalone item. But, they might consider some kind of outright purchase or royalty deal if bundling it into their offering added value for their customers.
An approach that might work for this situation is crowdfunding, e.g., Kickstarter or Indiegogo. You could offer the product, test the waters, and let customers fund its production. If the interest is too low to be viable, you'll have spent some money (to create a credible campaign) but the damage will be limited. This could be combined with a "find a co-founder" approach if you aren't comfortable creating the campaign yourself. Designing a successful crowdfunding effort is as demanding as launching a business. Today, building demand with social media, establishing relationships with influencers, creating a great video, etc. are table stakes, not frills.
It's hard to be more specific without knowing more about the product. Physical products are different from digital products. One-time purchases are different from subscription models. A product that appeals to Ivy aspirants is quite different than one designed for students focused on in-state public institutions.
Good luck with your product! I can assure you, knowing you are helping families through the confusing and difficult college process is a reward in and of itself.
I'd be happy to talk with you if you want to explore any of these ideas in more detail.
You may have a tough time finding a marketer who's willing to work for commission, so I'd recommend giving some consideration to your overall budget for this project before you begin your search.
That said, some places to look for marketing help:
- GrowthGeeks.com (best if you have a specific marketing task that needs doing)
- Elance.com or odesk.com (popular freelance websites - you'll likely have to do some digging to find freelancers with a lot of experience - don't just go for the cheap options)
- Ask for recommendations from friends/coworkers on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. ("Can anyone recommend a good contract marketer?")
- There are plenty of marketing agencies out there but this option will likely require a hefty budget.
A good fit for this job is someone who:
- Has experience with a lot of (ideally all) online marketing channels. Ask about projects they've done that have focused on: email marketing, social media, content creation, etc.
- Can recommend some initial ideas right off the bat. Ask them what would be the first few tactics they'd implement if they were tasked with marketing your product, and why.
- Understands metrics and the important role they play in a good marketing strategy. Ask what metrics they would measure and what goals they would set for each.
- Has had success with other clients. Ask to see examples of their work with other clients.
Hope this helps - let me know if you'd like to discuss any further. Best of luck!
To start - congratulations on actually creating a product. Many people have "great ideas" but not many put the effort in to manifest those ideas.
What it sounds like you have discovered is that having a product (even a great one) is only one piece of having a successful business.
If you aren't making sales - and doing do profitably - then you definitely do not have a business.
Here are some suggestions:
1. If you are literally unable to learn to market and or execute a marketing system - then you may have to re-consider your statement "I want to pay a commission to someone to do it for me".
The reason I say that is you are possibly overvaluing your product. And by that I don't mean the value of the product to the market place... I mean the value of it to YOU.
Sure - you created it. And likely you are excited by it and passionate about it. But until and unless you can sell it - all you have is a finished product in your own hands. That's definitely something to feel good about.
Unfortunately how you feel about it means nothing with regards to making money. What matters is how a person who will give you money for it feels.
What effective marketing does in a sound business model is connect that buyer with your product in a way whereby they give you money for it and you make a profit. And it does that over and over again.
If you are still with me... If I haven't pissed you off (and I certainly don't mean to) - then perhaps you will consider these options:
(a) Find someone already successfully selling to your marketplace and make them an irresistible offer. Offer them the chance to sell your product to their customers and give them a huge portion of the profits. You'll have to do the math to see if this makes sense.
(b) Find someone who loves your product AND knows how to market and give them the huge portion of the profits to market it for you.
2. Make the time to learn how to market. It's one of the KEYS to success in business. All business. And therefore it's an invaluable skill. Once you learn how to market you can not only sell your own products (and design them better so the marketplace comes to you to buy them) but you are in a position to be the person others come to for help in marketing THEIR products... Then YOU become the person who gets the huge portion of profits.
Lastly - regarding vetting a company or expert - my advice is: Put them in a position to (1) make most of the money if (2) they can prove their ability to sell your product. If they reject your offer and require a big up-front fee - run like hell.
If these suggestions make sense - let's set up a call to discuss the details.
In any case I wish you the best of luck.
You're actually hitting on a special niche that I'very been working on.
As it has already been mentioned, there are a lot folks with the expertise and experience who have either marketing and sold their own product or do if for others for a fee. Their models are fine, but they don't help people like yourself.
I propose that you look at this from an investor's point of view. What is the market (size and description ) and what is the product (What is unique/value prop)?
If there is value there, I suggest instead of a commission proposal, you make an equity play. Give partial ownership (or at least revenue share) to someone who is willing to create the remarketing engine for you.
If your content/product shows promise, and you've done your homework (building email list and Web site), you should be able to find someone willing to risk their time/effort for you.
Like me. :)
You should reconsider your needs. If you're making this product, no one besides yourself can market it and sell it better than you. After you get 10 paying customers can you recruit or vet the right sales person.