CEO of Clever Zebo, a team of hands-on digital marketing pros. Search engine marketer. Conversion optimization specialist. Loves rock 'n roll, snowboarding and really tall trees.
You're right, they could be showing signs of financial trouble -- or they could just be busy / lazy / inattentive to your invoices, which happens often enough in accounts payable departments.
I don't think this alone is enough to warrant cutting ties with a client, but there are a few things you can do.
1. Amend your agreement to charge % interest on invoices after some grace period. This will incentivize on-time payment.
2. Amend your agreement with them to require a personal guaranty, i.e. if the company doesn't pay, the signer is personally liable for the sum owed. I've been told this is an easy judgment to win in court, which means you hopefully won't have to go to court.
3. Let them know that after 21 days you will cease services until their balance is paid.
4. Have an earnest chat with the head of the company. S/he will pass the message along to accounting.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you've tried any of these avenues...
You can reach this audience by uploading the email list to various ad platforms, too.
For example, you can create a lookalike audience on Facebook or Twitter by uploading your 200k list. Some percentage of those 200k will "match" a FB or Twitter user, and the platform(s) will look for users with similar demographics to target via advertising. We've seen this be very effective for certain clients, if you have some ad budget to play with.
Otherwise, cold email outreach may be effective for appointment setting, but you don't want to use MailChimp. We love MailChimp -- but for this type of project you really need to simulate the sending of one-off emails in order to get deliverability to a good place. Look into Yesware, Tout and similar tools. Write a *really* compelling message. Be humble and genuine. You might lock in a demo rate / reply rate of 1-5% if you do well.
Companies often outsource to prove out a concept and then hire in-house once it's clear that skillset will yield steady revenue.
For example, clients often hire me and my team to create and manage digital marketing campaigns for a 3-6 month period, and once we prove out a consistent framework for generating revenue through specific marketing platforms, i.e. we demonstrate that if they spend $10k/month on advertising, they generate $25k in returns, the business can now justify an in-house specialist to manage this stuff.
Some companies still prefer to outsource at that point too, because buying an employee comes with additional costs: they need a desk and a computer, health insurance and benefits, etc. Contractors and agencies are a simple relationship where the cost is no more than face value and they can cut the cord with 30-day notice if something changes in the business, without having to worry about somebody putting food on the table for their family.
Honestly, it depends on the quality/depth of service you're looking for and how extensive your AdWords program is.
I've written this up in detail on Quora: https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-a-good-Adwords-consultant-cost/answer/Igor-Belogolovsky-1
But I'll give you the highlights:
- You can probably get someone mediocre for a few hundred bucks a month, but it may not be much better than optimizing on your own
- You can hire a variety of skilled agencies or hourly consultants for a few grand a month
- If you want top talent and have a significant budget, expect to pay as much as $5k to $30k per month
As you insinuate in your question, the direction you go on this decision depends on whether you want to build a huge user base, or a highly qualified and more tailored user community.
You might consider "having your cake and eating it too" -- at one SaaS startup where I ran marketing, the conversion and traffic numbers were huge and the funnel was everything. But we asked for a lot of info up front, which trimmed the total potential universe of buyers. I advocated for breaking down the barriers to getting started with the software -- minimizing the fields needed to just an email address, so they could save their progress -- and allowing the user to see how the software works.
Once you make it easy for users to sign up and then demonstrate value, you'll establish trust, and they will be willing to give you the data you want.
So my suggestion is, consider a two-pronged data gathering / onboarding strategy (some marketers call this progressive profiling). Make it stupidly easy to get in and see how awesome the app is, but hold back a few choice features or capabilities and require incrementally more action(s) of the user to unlock those features.
Just another path you can consider. Good luck!
With more info about the business you're creating, I could provide a more specific answer, but in general the process might be something like this:
1. Identify the entire universe of potential customers
- Are they all in one type of business, or in several potential segments?
- Do you need to do some testing and have 1-on-1 conversations with people in those segments to understand which ones are the most realistic / lucrative / desirable potential B2B customers?
- Who are the specific humans within the segment(s) / companies you've identified, who would be responsible for buying the product or service you're offering?
- What is that person's title or position? What seniority levels (above or beneath them) could be important in influencing the decision to buy what your company does?
2. Decide on a multi-pronged plan of attack to bring your message to this specific audience
- Put together several versions of a short, compelling written pitch for why a B2B decision maker should care what your company is doing
- Warm introductions via email or social media are great if you have access to that
- If not, cold email outreach works really well, as long as the messaging is truly compelling and you don't land in spam folders (hire a consultant if you need to; this is critical)
- If you have a little bit of advertising budget, you can amplify your message to the people who read your emails via display remarketing (I recommend AdWords or another CPC network; don't pay CPMs for early-stage remarketing)
- You can reach your target audience in places like LinkedIn Groups, Quora.com, Twitter... wherever they hang out and talk shop
Drop me a note anytime with specific questions. This should get you started.
No matter how you slice it, you'll be taking a risk. What's tough about this transition is that -- although you can do the math and attempt to project your income in both scenarios -- what you cannot quantify is how much your startup will benefit from the free mindspace you will have when you're no longer spending most of your day in a full-time job.
That part is a bit of a "leap of faith."
When I was considering quitting my comfortable Director of Marketing role to dedicate my days to what has now become my digital agency of 6+ years, a mentor of mine plotted out a simple graph for me. Time on the X-axis, income on the Y-axis, and 2 lines: the first one representing how income level would grow if I stayed in a traditional career, being promoted every so often, steadily growing, etc. The second line reflected my income as an entrepreneur. In the first few years, that line sucked. But pretty soon, with hard work and a little luck, it might grow sharply, and there could come a point where it intersected and grew far beyond what the "safe and steady" line could offer.
As it turns out, that's exactly what happened in my life -- and it didn't take all that long in the end.
This is obviously different for everyone and there are no guarantees, but I'm sharing this because I found it to be a useful way to look at the risk vs. reward of leaving stable employment to focus 100% on growing something new and fragile.
Freelancer.com has this feature, and 99designs is the quintessential example of the "contest entry" model you're describing.
I think of it less as an either-or scenario and more like:
- How much time, effort and/or money does it make sense to invest in each?
- What quality and size of prospective new client will each avenue bring?
PPC is going to be more of a fleeting 1-for-1 investment, i.e. its effects won't outlast the money you spend on it. SEO is the opposite -- it could have lasting rewards -- but it could also be fruitless, in that Google can take away your hard-earning ranking with a flick of the wrist. So nothing is for sure in terms of SEO; success isn't guaranteed.
In my experience, neither PPC nor organic search make for excellent lead sources for an online services business as commoditized as web design. You're better off with more guerrilla-marketing-style tactics.