Agency Advantage 49: Brian Casel on How to Profitably Launch a Product as an Agency

Agency Advantage 49: Brian Casel on How to Profitably Launch a Product as an Agency

In this episode of Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, I’m talking with Brian Casel (Twitter) of Audience Ops.

Audience Ops helps businesses grow their audience, email list, and customer-base with done-for-you content marketing. From creating lead magnets to email marketing automation, to writing the blogs themselves, they do it all.

Brian was on the 3rd episode of this podcast which has the esteemed honor of being the most listened to interview of this show. He understands like no other how to systematize a business so you can remove yourself from the day-to-day and work on the business rather than in it and with what he has been working on recently, I knew I had to get him back on the show.

Brian has built his productized service business up to $50k in MRR and is preparing to launch their first SaaS product, the Audience Ops Calendar. While we talk about the new systems he is putting in place, I didn’t waste this opportunity to rehash material he has already covered. So if you are interested in how he was able to build a web design company that only took 4 hours a month to run, then check out episode number 3.

How to profitably launch a product as an agency with @CasJam (PODCAST) Click To Tweet

But if you’re like many agency owners and you’ve caught the product itch and are thinking about releasing a product of your own, then this is the episode for you. And whether or not you are looking to build a product, Brian also shares the number one profit-crushing mistake that agency owners make.

Download a full transcript of the interview with Brian: Get it right here.

Key Takeaways

Why Brian is expanding into products [13:30 – 16:00]

Brian has never viewed Audience Ops as a traditional content marketing agency. He sees the business more as a very focused product company whose goal is to help his clients improve their content marketing. Currently, he does that primarily through his done-for-you content marketing service and WordPress plugins, but if a more traditional software product helps his audience achieve their goals, he is going to pursue it.

The fact of the matter is, that whether or not you are offering products or services, there is going to be a significant portion of the market that is looking for something different than what you are offering. Many prospects want to improve their content marketing but aren’t willing to pay $2,000 a month to do so, while others don’t want to bother building a team out themselves and would rather have somebody do it for them. Giving your prospects options at different price points makes it much easier to serve a larger portion of them.

Making progress, profitably [16:00 – 20:00]

Many service businesses want to expand into products, but struggle to do so because any time spent on a new product is time that isn’t spent servicing their clients. To overcome this, Brian has done 3 things:

  1. Set aside cash from the profitable service business to bring on a new team to develop the product
  2. The product is something they will use to deliver their services to clients more efficiently
  3. By building a product related to their services, they are able to leverage the audience they have already built

When done this way, Audience Ops is able to continue running their profitable service business while taking a chance on something new. Even if it isn’t a commercial success, they will still benefit from the development of the new product.

As an agency looking to get into products, fight the urge to build something completely unrelated to what you offer now.

Yeah, exactly. We’re guessing what many agency owners are thinking when they hear us describe it that way is, “How do I come up with a software product or even a training product that’s related to my service when my service is all over the place?”

That’s where it comes back to going the productized service route which is what Brian’s team has done from day one. They’ve settled on not serving everyone and anyone, just really focusing on one target customer and focusing on one specific problem or ongoing problem that they have and designing the best possible solution even though it’s a manually delivered service. “We designed that as our best recommendation for running a content marketing block for your company and that’s been the productized service. It was very

“We designed that as our best recommendation for running a content marketing block for your company and that’s been the productized service. It was very fast to get up and running when we initially launched it, it’s been at this price point it’s been easier to grow, grow the team, grow profit and be able the expand from there and really look to the byproduct of that process that we’ve been doing.”

Productize even if you never plan on selling a product [20:00 – 23:00]

Even if you never plan to get into products or training, following the productized service model makes it easy to hire people and put specific rules, systems, and processes in place. If you are a typical agency trying to tackle dozens of different projects at once, you’ll need to hire much more experienced people and you will have to constantly be putting out all the fires that come up along the way.

This not only eats into your overhead, but it’s going to be really hard to build your agency in a way that lets you walk away. Not even in terms of selling the agency, but even just mentally. If you are the glue that’s holding everything together, it is nearly impossible to even take a vacation.

Regardless of your product aspirations, always be thinking about ways you can standardize your services so that you are building an agency that can operate without you.

Transcript:

Andy: Brian, thanks for coming on the show today.
Brian: Hey Andy, thanks for having me on. Back again for a second [crosstalk 00:00:05]
Andy: Yeah, exactly. No So I had you back on the show in December, and at that point you had built up a lot of the processes that would let you scale audience ops, but right at that point you were also getting ready to launch your first product, and I know, following along with your story, a ton has changed since then, so can you tell us what has changed since last December?
[00:00:30]

Brian:

Yeah, so that was last December, so almost a year ago now.
Andy: Yeah.
Brian:

[00:01:00]

[00:01:30]

Like, ten months ago, so yeah, I think that first … Well, so audience ops, for those who aren’t familiar, we’re a content marketing company, and since the beginning, which was like early 2015 when we launched this, or when I launched this, we’ve been doing this productized service. It’s a done for you content service where we basically manage and produce the blogs for our clients who are mostly software companies and some digital agencies and what not. And then I think when we were speaking in December last year, that first side product, if you will, was going to be was going to be our first WordPress plugin, called the Content Upgrades plugin and yeah that launched and we’ve since launched two little WordPress plugins, so we have the content upgrades plugin which is like an email opt-in tool to put on your blog posts and a landing pages plugin which makes it easy to just fire up a quick landing page on a WordPress site. So those are kind of side projects for us, although we do use them in our service for our clients, that’s essentially why we built them in the first place. But they haven’t really been a significant part of our business like revenue wise, they’re just more like tools and we kind of just release them as little low price plugin products.
[00:02:00]

[00:02:30]

But you know our service, our productized service has been growing steadily throughout the past year throughout the past year and right now we’re just beginning to build a very big software product, it’ll be a SaaS product. Which we’re calling Audience Ops calendar and essentially it’s an editorial calendar tool with some automation built in and some team delegation built in as well as some content analytics and performance metrics built into the calendar. So that’s something that we’re just beginning now and we have a couple of beta customers on it who’ve prepaid for access and everything, and the developer is working on it and I’m doing a lot of the design so here we are in late 2016 and we’re hoping to have a private beta by the end of this year. And then we’re looking to launch this to the public in early 2017 so that’ll be like the next big product and big iteration for Audience Ops.
But our service will continue to grow for the foreseeable future as well.
Andy:

[00:03:00]

Right, so it’s not like you’re just ditching the services and going alone, you’re just shifting focus a little bit but the service at this point, I mean, you can tell me to edit this out, but you said the number in your own podcast. You said you guys recently hit 50K MRR, right?
Brian: Yeah.. Yep that’s right.
Andy: Yeah and so, but at this point, how much of your time is spent managing the service compared to managing the new software project?
Brian:

[00:03:30]

[00:04:00]

[00:04:30]

Yeah so, right now I’d say most of my time and focus is spent on new product. I’m not a developer, so I’m not coding it but I do a lot of the design work and planning for it as well as all the validation and customer development for that, right now I’m kind of focus on building out the marketing plan as we gear up to launch it next year so all of my time and energy is really focused on this new product, as far as the service side of things, that’s essentially up and running without me working in the day-to-day, I mean I still, probably like twenty percent of my time is spent on that and so what I still do there are a few sales calls a week for that and like working with my team and coaching my team a little bit on how to handle certain situations, And I kind of tinker with our systems and processes and things but a lot of those have been in place for quite a while now and I even have like team members on the team who, like we have a team manager and her, part of her role is to help improve our processes and help onboard new employees and that sort of stuff.
So a lot of the day-to-day work and managing the team and growing the team has been basically systematized, and I still do the sales but then once a new client signs on I basically hand them over to one of the managers and then we have a whole process for onboarding a new client and kind of serving them from week-to-week so.
Andy: How big is your team right now?
[00:05:00]

Brian:

[00:05:30]

Ah let’s see.. So I think in total we’re about twenty people and there are different types of employees within that number so as of today there are four full-time salary employees in the US and they’re all writers. In addition to that we’ve got another five or six people who are like Part-time but they’re every day part-time so those are like project managers, a freelance writer or two and then we have a group of assistants who are based in the Philippines, there’s four of them and we have a designer who is based in Spain. He does a lot of the graphics for the work we do. And then a little bit separately but I consider them part of the team, we have two developers, one developer works on our wordpress plugins and the other developer I’m working directly with on this new SaaS product.
[00:06:00]

Andy:

Interesting, and while I sit and listen to this right now, is that in the first interview with you.. You really dive into the set of processes that allow team to not entirely self manage themselves but really to run without a lot of your involvement. And so I won’t rehash all that now but one thing I did want to ask you about though is listening to your podcast recently, you mention that one of the big changes you made on the service side was improving your onboarding to combat churn, can we talk about about that a little bit?
[00:06:30]

Brian:

[00:07:00]

[00:07:30]

Uh yeah, So we’ve been making some improvements to the onboarding for quite a while now. Like probably going back to about a year ago, and what we found, and I think this applies to really any product, even software but especially productized services too, I think it’s so important to focus on onboarding because even when your customers pay up front like they do with us, those first four weeks or so are really critical to make sure that the customer’s experience is like as perfect as it can be. And so we really wanna set the expectations but also really just kind of nurture them and guide them along and keep reinforcing that we’re on top of it and we’re delivering exactly what you purchased from us, and we’re delivering on that expectation so that means going above and beyond in terms of communication, like one thing that we changed a few months back was, now the manager just sends an automatic Friday email for the first four or five Fridays of a client’s engagement with us. It’s just a Friday email that says “Hey, here’s what we’ve got from you so far, here’s what we’re working on this week, here’s what’s coming up next week in your onboarding process, here are a few items we still need from you if there are any.”
[00:08:00] And just to give you that heads up, and there are other emails that come through during that first fours weeks like here’s the first draft of your email course lead magnet or here’s the outline, or here’s your first editorial calendar. But, those first day emails just help to reinforce, we’re making forward motion and we’re still on … we also include in that email that we’re still on track to publish your first article on this date and you know just to keep them informed.
Andy:

[00:08:30]

Because the on boarding, a lot of that is setting the foundation for what will be be their content plan. It’ll be the email course, it’ll be be the content counter. All those things where you’re doing work but they don’t always see it.
Brian:

[00:09:00]

Yeah exactly, exactly. That was actually the problem before we did this, like once they get up and running by the second month, they’re seeing activity from us every single week, like we’re sending them a new article every week and we’re sending a newsletter for them every week and we’re doing social posts so they’re seeing that activity but for the first four weeks we’re doing a lot of like background research and planning the editorial calendar and we’re drafting the very first pieces of content and so there’s like a two or three week period there where you know they don’t, we’re not necessarily sending any work to them but we are doing a lot of work in the background. And so we wanted to just keep them informed of like “here’s what we worked on last week, here’s what we’re doing next week. We’re still track to meet these milestones as we laid out and if there’s anything that might be holding us up here’s what we need from you.”
[00:09:30]

Andy:

[00:10:00]

Yeah because one other question I had was that, if you look at a lot of recommendations for free trials or for the onboarding period in traditional software products, a lot of kind of the patio eleven style thing is emphasize the value providing, compare it to the cost and all that to make it just a “no brainer” but for you guys, when it’s with content marketing a lot of times it’s going to be harder to get those hard metrics. So do you have any sort of reporting you regularly give your clients, or do they even want to see an ROI? Or what are their goals when they come to you?
Brian:

[00:10:30]

Yeah I mean, yeah sure they definitely aim to see an ROI and we do provide a monthly report which we start sending around the second month, once we start publishing articles and that report kind of recaps the previous month’s articles which ones performed the best, we show them traffic, email open.. Like on the newsletters that we send, the email open rates, the click rates.. that sort of thing and then we also include information about what’s coming up in the pipeline, like your next batch of topics so that they can be aware of those. So yeah we keep them informed that way.
Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative) but you know like, are you plugging into their analytics to go the next step towards conversions or [crosstalk 00:10:45] you stick on earlier in the funnel?
Brian:

[00:11:00]

[00:11:30]

[00:12:00]

We do connect to their Google analytics and we do include some of that data in their report, part of this new SaaS software we’re building right now will basically replace all that and we’ll have our own reporting build into that and it’ll be a little bit better, like we’ll be able to report on things that are a little bit difficult for us to report on right now, like we’ll be able to. You can kinda get this from Google analytics now but it’s a total pain and sometimes it just doesn’t work and it’s like grabbing the number of visits to an individual article, an individual blog article and then to compare that across all of your blog articles so you can see over time which ones are performing best, also tracking conversions and setting up conversions goals.. And then again these are thing you can set up in like a Google analytics but to track them on a individual blog post basis for all of your posts going out every week all year long, that’s just an insanely cumbersome thing to do in any analytics tools and so we’re designing our calendar tool to make that really easy, and It hints that’s one of the important things of combining performance metrics and content marketing planning within a calendar setting.
Which is kinda what we’ve been wanting to do for our clients so now we’re kind of building it ourselves.
Andy:

[00:12:30]

Well that’s interesting, it’s funny it made me think of back in MicroConf a few years ago where Keaton was talking about coming up with his metrics and he was like how many people here knew that in Google analytics that you can set up funnels, a few people raised their hands but not a ton because I didn’t even know you can even do that there and he was like how many have actually done it and like nobody had, there’s so much that you can theoretically do with Google analytics or even better, platforms but actually doing it is actually way too cumbersome you’re never going to do it and then you just don’t even look at the metrics sense so I think simplifying things gathered into one kind of unified place makes a lot of sense.
Brian:
[00:13:00]
Yeah absolutely and I think just, I know this going on in a tangent [crosstalk 00:12:49], but something like Google analytics is intended to be use for any and every type of business and type of situation and scenario and that just makes it so insanely, like it’s that cumbersome to use, which outs a lot of these smaller SaaS softwares at an advantage, like the one we’re building because we’re building it for a specific use case. For planning and measuring a content marketing plan.
Andy: Yes, it’s purpose built.
Brian: Yeah exactly.
Andy:

[00:13:30]

I want to ask though, because this is something where so many agency I talk to, they’re like this is what we do but we really want to get into products, we have this idea we’re devoting some time to, we’re doing this. It seems like every agency on earth has come idea for a SaaS product because they’re tired of seeing themselves as sort of selling it time for money and this and that. But for whatever reason, what is your motivation for getting into products? I’m sure it deeper than that but I guess my figure question is, doesn’t this distract you from selling the higher dollar higher margin service that you’re offering right now?
[00:14:00]

Brian:

Yeah good question, I mean I think when I started Audience Ops in the first place, I never intended for it to become like a consulting agency and some may look at it like product as consulting or whatever, but I definitely think of it more like a product company even the service side of what we do is a product in itself, it’s very focused.. You know it’s kind of like a recurring monthly service where we essentially do one thing for you, it’s made up of a number of things but we essentially run your blog the best way that we know how.
[00:14:30]

[00:15:00]

So that’s kind of like the service product that we offer and that’s been growing and it’s been profitable and we can keep growing it but I think now the larger goal for me is to expand Audience Ops with a line of different products. And that includes software tools, right now we’re expanding a lot of our free training but maybe somewhere down the road we’ll do some sort of like paid training products. But, essentially we’re content marketing company, we should be offering product that are done for you services, software products, training materials and training resources all aimed at helping you do better content marketing. Like that’s essentially what our mission is.

[00:15:30]

But yeah, It think it’s important to start expanding and diversifying the product line and I think the software products easily leads into the service side of it and even visa versa like some people don’t want the complete done for you service but they do want our system and methodology and the tools to automate a lot of what we do and kind of do it the way that we do it and that’s where our software tool will come in.
Andy: So you almost see the products, the real like pure software products as kinda filling in a product ladder for your overall content marketing company.
[00:16:00]

Brian:

[00:16:30]

Exactly and the other thing, I wrote an article about this like, I don’t know, almost a year ago now called making progress profitably and so many consulting agencies struggle to get into product because they’re so focused on the service and that kind of eats up their time and resources and it’s hard to devote time to other things , I mean we’re basically leveraging and the byproducts of our product type service to launch this new software product and that has to… For one thing we’re leveraging the cash flow and profits of the product had service is profitable and there’s enough profit left over and I’ve been saving that in like a business savings account to reinvest and self fund the launch of a software product, so that’s one but it’s also like the whole idea of this software product came out of our service.
[00:17:00]

[00:17:30]

You know we’re essentially designing and building this thing to match exactly our processes that we’ve been doing manually and kind of stringing together a bunch of disjointed software tools and it’s not as efficient, you know we’re basically building one calendar tool and so that whole idea came out of it and then number three would be the fact that I’ve established Audience Ops as a content marketing company almost two years ago and we have this credibility in the fact that we’ve been doing content marketing, it works and we have a certain methodology to it, so we’ve build this brand, we’ve built an audience so that puts in a much better position to launch a content marketing tool whereas if we were a nobody and nobody knew about us and we’re just kind of building something out of nowhere, you know it would just be an uphill battle to get that out there.
Andy:

[00:18:00]

[00:18:30]

And it’s, I like how you mentioned it’s almost like a byproduct because it’s not as though this is some random idea that has nothing to do with your business, it literally came from making your business more efficient and it ties in directly with directly what you’re doing and one thing leads to the other and I think that’s where a lot of agencies fall into a trap where they, or even the other way around, a lot of software companies start offering services on either side if it doesn’t directly tie into the other business it can be a real distraction, but if it makes sense in the overall picture of what you’re working on it really can just accelerate what you have already done.
Brian:

[00:19:00]

[00:19:30]

Yeah, exactly. And I think what I’m guessing many agency owners are thinking when they hear you describe it that way is, how do I came up with a software product or even a training product that’s related to my service when my service is all over the place and that’s where it comes back to going the productized service route which is what we have done from day one. You know not serving everyone and anyone, just really focusing on one target customer and focusing on one specific problem or ongoing problem that they have and we designed the best possible solution even though it’s a manually delivered service, we designed that as our best recommendation for running a content marketing block for your company and that’s been the productized service. It was very past to get up and running when we initially launched it, it’s been at this price point it’s been easier to grow, grow the team, grow profit and be able the expand from there and really look to the byproduct of that process that we’ve been doing. So yeah.
Andy:
[00:20:00]
Yeah, no I mean that makes perfect sense. It’s something where it’s like, even if you’re an agency that’s not looking to get into products, the same mindset makes sense, not trying to do anything and everything because it’s going to distract you, it’s going to be hard building systems to become more efficient if you’re doing whatever comes up, you to kind of, you can argue how narrow you to go but the more repeatedly you’re able to do a task for a specific type of person, the better you can get at delivering that task the more efficient you’re going to get the better your margins are going to be, the easier it is to sale just all of that.
Brian:

[00:20:30]

[00:21:00]

[00:21:30]

Yes, absolutely. That’s why, I mean I love the productized service model even if you’re, if you never plan to get into other products, software and training and you want to just focus on the service, doing a focused Productized service is, it’s really beneficial because it, make it so much easier to hire people and put specific roles and systems and processes whereas if you’re a typical agency, most agencies struggle with profit margins because they do so many different projects that go over budget, over time and that also require a lot of overhead. You’ll need to hire much more experienced, more skilled people. Not that the people working on a product has service aren’t skilled and talented, they are but they’re very specialized. Whereas when you’re putting out fires and doing all sorts of different projects, you need the kind of like the best of the best to do that and you need more and more of them and it just, just becomes kind of a growing headache over time.
Andy: Right, when you have that sort of disjointed offering where you’re doing doing anything and everything for everybody, it’s going to be really hard to build it in a way that let’s you walk away. Not even as in a sale but even just mentally be able to take a week off if you’re the glue that’s holding everything together, it’s not even a real business at that point.
[00:22:00]

Brian:

[00:22:30]

Yeah that’s exactly right. And yeah I think we talked about it on our last episode but you know just methodically removing yourself step-by-step, first just from the delivery of the service and then maybe the onboarding of clients, maybe removing yourself from the sales process, just recently I removed myself from the hiring process for writers. That use to be something that I use to be something that I spent a lot of time on, like reviewing applications and doing interviews and now we have a team manager who basically does the interviewing and recommends like two top candidates and I’ll just do the final interview and then they come on board so it, just removing myself from every piece of it.
Andy: And I’m curious, as you’ve been able to remove yourself more and more from the day-to-day of the service business and devote yourself more to the software, what have been some of your bigger challenges of releasing this now what is going to be a full fledged SaaS compared to the plugins?
Brian:

[00:23:00]

[00:23:30]

[00:24:00]

Yeah it’s hard to flip back and forth sometimes, although you know it’s all within Audience Ops, It’s all the same company so that makes it a little bit easier, I mean if I look back on years past when I was working on bootstrapping a business and then still doing separate client work on the side, that was much more difficult to flip back and forth. But yeah I think that, because obviously I want to be spending most of my time on the new product but I mean I still enjoy working with the team and our processes for the service side of things too. What’s been most difficult.. I guess just.. You know what, one thing that is very difficult for me is I’m sure like most founders, I like most founders.. I like to move very fast and the great thing about a product as service is that you can move very very fast, you can go from idea to launching it to paying customers and actually delivering the service within 30-days even quicker.. I mean we did that within 30-days so that’s really exciting and you get to make progress really quickly but as everybody knows. With software it is just much much slower.

[00:24:30]

And right now we’re only about almost one month into the development of this thing and I’m already saying like wow.. We’re behind, we’re behind schedule and I’m just trying to do anything I can to move it along but you know I’m learning that and we have our runway that we’re self-funding this thing, that we have the service side up and running so that’s kind of sustaining this whole model as we go through the development process but you know I would like to move much faster.
Andy: Was it intentional for you to start with something smaller like the wordpress plugins before tackling this bigger projecT?
Brian:
[00:25:00]

[00:25:30]

[00:26:00]

Not necessarily, it wasn’t necessarily intentional. I think it just kind of worked out that way, I had done SaaS products before Audience Ops, I had a business called restaurant engine. And I had works on various other software things, so I’m not completely new at this but I think that the word press plugins just came along very early on in Audience Ops because those were specific things we actually needed to implement for our clients like the contents upgrade and I just couldn’t find a good solution to do that at scale and the wordpress plugin just made it much easier. So, yeah and I mean I guess it was also kind of dipping into marketing and selling a small software product without it being the main thing that we’re sell at audience Ops, so the whole concept for this SaaS tool that we’re building now, like I wasn’t really sure when or what that would be.. If I’m look back to the beginning of this year.. I was kind of planning on doing a training product some point this year instead of a SaaS but then I made the decision to just go straight to doing a SaaS and just not doing a training product but we’re going to be increasing the number of free training resources that we do though the blog.
Andy: Yeah, I’m sure people, we’ve talked enough about it that I’m sure people have an idea of what the new calendar product is, but what’s sort of the elevator pitch for what the audience ops calendar is, what it will do and how will it help people?
[00:26:30]

Brian:

[00:27:00]

[00:27:30]

[00:28:00]

Yeah sure, so it’s over at audienceops.com/calendar if you want to take a look at it, that’s just our landing page, our coming soon page if you will. You know we’re billing it as a smarter marketing calendar and it’s essentially designed for planning a editorial content calendar, it’s specifically positioned as a really good tool if you’re doing any sort of recurring content so weekly blog posts, weekly podcasts, social media stuff, monthly webinars, quarterly white papers, anything that’s happening on a recurring basis. This tool helps you manage and it helps you manage the process and the check lists that go into producing every podcast episode or every blog article and then you may have multiple people on your team like a writer and a virtual assistant, a content strategist or a designer and you can basically setup template checklists so that writing of the draft is always assigned to the writer and setting it up in WordPress is always a always assigned to the virtual assistant and creating the features image is always assigned to the designer and those check lists are automated through your calendar on that recurring schedule so as you have articles lined up in your weekly schedule, those tasks are just automatically delegated to each team member and then even if you move an article around, like if your drag it from one date to another date the associated tasks are also reschedules according to when that article is supposed to publish.
So it kind of works back from the publish date of every article and it assigns tasks to the team automatically.
Andy:

[00:28:30]

That’s really cool because right now we do that using Trello and like you can keep track of it, you can move things around but like there aren’t templates there aren’t the checklists we have to basically setup everything pretty much from scratch for each new post and it is better than not having a system but hearing you describe what this can do it just had my eyes lit up like oh my god that would be so much easier.
Brian:

[00:29:00]

[00:29:30]

Yeah, we do use Trello right now, you knew we don’t have our own tool ready to use yet, Trello works well enough, I’m a big fan of Trello but yeah for an editorial calendar it’s not ideal because. So Trello has it’s calendar view, right? But that’s only based on the single due date of each card on Trello whereas if you’re planning a blog article, say you’re planning a blog article to publish on Thursday November the 3rd or whatever it is, you have other due dates that lead up to that like the draft is due two weeks earlier and then the editing is due a few days after that and then you have to set it up in wordpress and the featured image and like all these different milestone dates are related to when it’s published so the concept is that we’re working back from the publish date. And then automating all of that on a recurring schedule, but then the other big piece of the tool is measuring performance, measuring metrics of individual blog articles so you can go back through your calendar archives and see individual stats on each individual published article from the amount traffic that article received to the number of conversions that it lead to.
[00:30:00]

[00:30:30]

Number of social shares, and it’ll also automate some, there are all these related tasks that go along with planning your calendar so planning out social media promotion so you can automate a queue of tweets and facebook posts to go out with every article but you can also automate some email outreach [crosstalk 00:30:09], so for example let’s say we’re doing this like right now you’re interviewing me on this podcast, right? I don’t know when it’s going to publish, maybe two or three weeks from now so when it publishes you probably want to shoot as email to me or whoever your guest is to say hey you’re, the episode that we did is now live, here’s the link. So with our tool you can automate that so at the time that you upload the episode, you can pre-write the email to the person and have that automatically send out to the person when the thing publishes.
Andy: Really?
Brian:

[00:31:00]

So you could do that sort of thing with influence or outreach as well, let’s say you have like five or ten people you want to email about new article once it goes live, at the time you’re editing and uploading that article, you can pre-write those email messages and have them automatically send out to the people when the date comes so you don’t to kinda remind yourself to go email people basically.
Andy:

[00:31:30]

Yeah because right now, I’ll just use like boomerang to, for the email scheduling this interview with you, Once I schedule it I’ll have a reminder setup to send it to me either the week before if it’s far in advance to the day of just like hey url’s live here it is and so and so, I do all that manually with a little bit of help but hearing you describe this is kind of blowing my mind right now.
Brian: Yeah I meant he whole idea is to automate and pre-schedule as much as we can so all you really need to do it produce the content and then the tool and the calendar and the automation takes care of all the related tasks that go along with producing a piece of content. So that essentially what we’re trying to do.
Andy: Wow.. and I cannot wait to see this.. So I’m curious, what is your launch plan for this? I know it’s in like a small private beta now, what are the next steps?
[00:32:00]

Brian:

[00:32:30]

Yeah so, we have now fourteen people who’ve actually prepaid and they’re in this private beta group. And they’ll be the very first people to use it and i’m hoping, again we’re moving kinda slow, but I’m hoping to have a very stripped down beta version of this by December of this year, that might be a little big aggressive but.. Probably launching it to the public will be sometime around February or March 2017. And I think the tool maybe be like eighty percent feature complete a that point and we’ll be adding features throughout next year, but yeah you know that essentially, so we’re about one month into it, I’m hoping to have it launched to the public like within five or six months from now.
Andy: [inaudible 00:32:51] I’m hoping so too because I’m definitely going to be sending [inaudible 00:32:51] you an email about this pretty soon.
Brian: Very cool.
[00:33:00]

Andy:

But no, So to start wrapping things up, You’ve managed to cram a ton of stuff into this thirty minutes but to wrap things up I’d like just ask some quick questions, sort of he [inaudible 00:33:03] your answers don’t need to be quick, whatever you want to respond is fine, however you want to interpret it, it’s fine, don’t worry about it. So, the first one is what do you spend too much time on?
Brian: Oh good question, what do I spend too much time on?
Andy: It can be business, it can be life, it can be whatever.
[00:33:30]

Brian:

[00:34:00]

I think sometimes I get a little bit, I like the read articles, I don’t like to read article or watch twitter anything like that like during the work day, but I do love to do it early in the morning when I’m drinking my Coffee and sometimes I get a little bit carried away with that and it takes me too long to actually get into work, break away from the RSS and the newsfeeds, but yeah that’s one and I guess just in general I don’t like to spend a lot of time like doing email and like the administrative stuff that’s just not very productive so what I’ve been doing for years now is that I try to, I know this is supposed to be rapid fire but, I try to do a lot of creative work early in the morning and save a lot of the email and administrative work for like the afternoons like at the end of the day when my brain is basically fried anyway so.
Andy:
[00:34:30]
Um that’s smart and no no no, in rapid fire for me asking but take as much time as you need to respond don’t worry about it. And so the next one, I’m really curious about this one because you’re someone who has systematized so many thing, so what is it currently that you think you don’t spend enough time doing?
Brian:

[00:35:00]

[00:35:30]

Um hum.. I think marketing can sometimes be tough to, I’m sure most founders are thinking like they’re not spending enough time on marketing, they’re spending too much time on their product or their service. I’m trying to, like right now as we’re developing this new product, I’ve already spent many hours designing it and working directly with the developers and we do have paid beta customers and that’s a good start. Now I’m trying to break myself away from the product work and really sink myself more into the marketing stuff like planning webinars, working with our content team, doing more podcasts like this one. I’m trying to spend more of my time doing that because that’s really my primary responsibility here with Audience Ops, The team is in place to do the production work but it’s really on my shoulders to get it out there and get the marketing engine going so.
Andy: Interesting, so the next one is what are you hoping to accomplish in the next month? And you’ve already said you’re hoping to launch by December but kind of going with the trend of the marketing stuff, what are you going to be doing to get ready for the launch?
Brian:
[00:36:00]
Yeah that’s a good question, and so I’m planning a series of webinars like education educational workshops, kind of teaching our methodology and kind of our way of doing things so I’d like to do the the first one of those sometime in late probably November and the hopefully do a second run of that webinar in December.
Andy: Nice and then what are your long term plans for Audience Ops? Like how do you see this all coming together a few years down the road?
Brian:
[00:36:30]

[00:37:00]

Yeah so the long term plan right now is to just continue to grow the service side of it, that’s just been growing steadily all year long, I expect it to keep growing and then in 2017 we will make the shift to having this calendar product out and that’ll kind of become our primary product and we’ll continue to promote both of those and just ultimately grow to a point where we are a content marketing company and we have a service arm, we’ve got a software arm and some training resources thrown in there and kind of grow that. I guess for me personally I’m always looking especially now that I have two young kids, I’m always trying to build a business in a way that allows me the free time to, you know take short working days and really take the weekends off and take complete days like weekdays off when I need to, I wouldn’t call it like a lifestyle business where it’s completely on autopilot and I check in like three times a year.
[00:37:30] It’s nothing like that, for sure I’m working full time on this thing and I enjoy doing that, I like working on this business but now my priorities are different than they were maybe fiverr or ten years ago so you know I try to keep a pretty eased work week and keep the afternoons and nights pretty light.
Andy:

[00:38:00]

Nice and I think that’s what a lot of people are really trying to get to, it is half that they enjoy their work, they enjoy their time but they want to be able to have the freedom to at least, if they need to take a break, if they need to step away they’re able to and seems like you’ve done a great job building up a real business that lets you do that. So I’m excited to see how everything comes together.
Brian: Yep.
Andy: Brian so I was telling you earlier that your first interview was a, is a most downloaded episode on the show but I’m thinking this one might give it a run for it’s money, this was a really fun chat so I wanted to say thanks, thanks for coming on today, I really appreciate it but before I say goodbye I want to ask, where can listeners go to learn more about you, about your businesses, about… Where should I send them?
Brian:

[00:38:30]

Uh sure so, you know my main company that we’ve been talking about is AudienceOps.com and I have a personal blog over at casjam.com and over there I talk and write about productized services and some free training courses there, my main course productizes over there and then the other thing I do every other week is I get on a podcast with my friend Jordan Gal and we host a podcast called boost wrapped web where we basically just rant and talk about what’s going on behind the scenes.
[00:39:00]

Andy:

Nice so I got all that linked up again in the show notes, and Brian I just want to say thanks again for coming on the show.
Brian: Yeah thanks for having me on Andy.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in done-for-you content marketing, head to AudienceOps.com. If you are looking for a content calendar to make managing your own content marketing easier, check out the Audience Ops Calendar. And to stay up to date on whatever new project Brian is working on, follow his personal blog at CasJam.com or listen to the Bootstrapped Web Podcast.

Resources mentioned:

Making Progress, Profitably
Agency Advantage 3 – Brian Casel on Scaling Your Agency with Productized Consulting
MicroConf

Has your agency thought of creating a product? How does it fit into the work you currently do? Share your story in the comments below.