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.

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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.

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.