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Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #75
Turning your competition into your competitive advantage
One of the cool things about entrepreneurship is that we’re constantly surrounded by great examples. After all, I’d argue anything we use in the world that’s human made is, in some respects, a byproduct of entrepreneurial action and decision making. As a result, just by going about our daily lives, we can learn how to become better entrepreneurs.
You’ll see what I mean when you read through this issue’s featured article. It’s a story about how to deal with competitors based on one brick-and-mortar retailer’s strategy for taking on Amazon.
Also in this issue, I absolutely LOVE the Q&A. Well, I love the question. It’s about building predictable revenue marketing strategies for B2C companies. I hope I give a decent answer. You be the judge. Or, better yet, share your strategies so I can learn from all of you!
Rather than fearing the company that’s trying to defeat you, what if you could turn it into an integral part of your business model?
What's your favorite book about entrepreneurship? Here's a story about one of mine, the reason I assign it to my entrepreneurship students, and why I don't even care whether they (or you) actually read it.
Office Hours Q&A
In B2C, are there any predictable & scalable customer acquisition "inbound" strategies?
I have come across many books and articles on how to set up predictable, scalable customer acquisition for outbound marketing.
For inbound marketing (that targets B2C), are there any predictable, scalable customer acquisition strategies successfully used by startups?
For example, I plan an edtech startup that targets learners who want to learn new tech skills like cloud technologies. I can go with blog posts and youtube videos that get posted on a daily/weekly schedule as part of my inbound marketing strategy. But I'm not seeing any possibility for predictability in this inbound marketing strategy using blog posts/Youtube videos. It appears to be just a random, unpredictable way of customer acquisition.
I'm not sure if this customer acquisition strategy can even be considered an option for "predictable & scalable growth" by the VC's!!
So, without a predictable inbound marketing strategy for customer acquisition, I'm confused how operating expenses can even be planned for the future and how to get VC's interested (if going for funding).
For B2C inbound marketing, is "predictable & scalable growth" even possible? If yes, any suggestions please?
This is a great question. Seriously… a GREAT question.
One of the “cornerstone” books in the SaaS, B2B world (where most of my experience comes from) is called Predictable Revenue. It’s basically about the strategy Salesforce used to gain its initial traction, and it’s become the playbook for modern SaaS companies. The process is primarily focused on building large prospecting lists and working through those lists using email sequences and/or cold calls, carefully tracking the conversion metrics, and trying to identify a sequence that converts customers in a predictable, scalable way. It’s a great approach for B2B sales. What’s the equivalent for B2C?
I’m not sure I have a perfect answer for you, but I have a couple thoughts to hopefully get you at least pointed in the right direction.
First, I’m going to disagree with your premise that content marketing can’t be a predictable source of lead gen. Experienced content marketers know how to create and disseminate consistently high quality content in ways that produce predictable results. What you need to understand about content marketing is that it’s a loooooooooooong process. I’m guessing the reason you might not think it’s predictable or scalable is because you’ve only dabbled in it for a few weeks or months. But a successful content marketing strategy takes years. As a result, identifying the predictable trend lines takes a while. It’s certainly a much slower process than a B2B emailing strategy.
For example, I’ve been writing articles on Medium for a couple years, and those articles create signups for this newsletter that you’re reading right now. After two years, I can definitely see a clear growth pattern, but I couldn’t have seen that growth pattern in the first couple months of content creation. In other words, you can create replicable, scalable growth using content marketing, but you’ll need to commit to a longer time frame in order to recognize the pattern.
The second thing I’d point you toward -- especially for B2C marketing -- is online advertising. To be clear, you shouldn’t spend a penny on advertising until you understand what your customer acquisition funnel looks like. However, once you do understand your customer acquisition funnel, paid advertising is an effective way to scale.
If I were launching a B2C company, I’d begin by optimizing the heck out of the buying process. My goal would be to make it as smooth and frictionless as possible. In order to initially get people into my buying process as I perfect it, I’d use any sort of hacky, non-scalable lead gen strategies I could think of. Depending on the product, that might include spamming Facebook groups, trying to get newspapers to write about my company/product, and even standing on street corners passing out flyers. Seriously… anything. The goal would just be to get people into my purchasing funnel so I could work on making that funnel as smooth as possible.
Once I felt like I had a smooth buying process, that’s when I’d begin testing Facebook ads. At first I’d spend small amounts of money on each ad as I tested the right messaging. My goal would be to find the best messaging for getting people into my funnel. Ultimately, of course, I’d be looking for a cost per click (CPC) that balances with revenues. Once I found the right formula, I’d ramp up my advertising spend and -- voila -- scalable B2C customer acquisition.
Granted, all of that sounds wayyyyyyyy easier than it actually is. The process would take months. Maybe even years. But… well… nobody ever said entrepreneurship was easy. Or rather, nobody who’s actually telling you the truth.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!