How a Copywriting Agency Increased Recurring Revenue By 7-Fold
… and never had to worry about feast or famine again.
Cha-Ching! Isn’t that the dream, guys?
First, I want you to meet Jean Tang. Jean had run a successful copywriting business called MarketSmiths for several years, and was earning just under $1 million in annual revenue. She had three employees and some freelancers to help tackle the workload. Not too shabby, right?
Jean was tired of working with agencies that white labeled her services, passing off her work as their own. Sure, her revenue was increasing – slowly, painfully – but she was tired of hustling, week after grueling week, always stuck on the feast or famine rollercoaster.
Jean came to ScaleTime because she wanted 1 thing: to optimize her systems
Table of Contents: For those of you who love to skim
- ScaleTime Diagnosis
- The Scaling Bottleneck
- Identify your most successful service offering
- See where your money is coming from
- Identify the biggest pain points your clients have AFTER solving their initial problem
- Create your offering
- Set your monthly revenue goal
- Simple template
The ScaleTime Diagnosis
- Client Relationship Manager – Jean was a hustler and she (wisely) kept all that juicy lead-generation info in a spreadsheet, along with a record of all her closed deals and client info. She needed a Client Relationship Manager to be able to keep track of all her deal flow and know how much money she had in the pipeline.
- Project Manager – MarketSmiths are obsessed with quality. Jean created a 3-point quality checklist for writing all content that her staff of 35 used to make sure that each piece was on point. Jean needed a project manager to have workflows that easily tracked where employees were when she was out of the office.
- Jean had a bunch of Google docs packed with processes, instructions, and best practices to ensure she could delegate tasks and train new people quickly. She needed the team regularly update them.
- Jean had a group of good people, working on the company’s secret sauce: content. But she was still the one and only sales person.
The Scaling Bottleneck
After all the assessment we realized pricing and capacity were keeping Jean from scaling
Like many of our digital agency clients, we realized her pricing model was off. Jean took on a lot of project work. And she was damn proud of it because that’s what generated her biggest revenue margins.
It was tough to burst her bubble seeing how proud she was. But we were there to help, and sometimes that calls for tough truths. Projects were not her most efficient source of revenue. Once you calculated the hours that it took for her employees to produce certain articles and factored in the time and effort Jean had to expend to create proposals and onboard each client, it became clear that Jean was reinventing the wheel every time she brought on a new customer instead of just driving the car.
It was the project work that had Jean feeling like she was treading water – and her staff feeling too exhausted to actually spend time on activities that would grow the business. Delivering the product was too exhausting already.
So how did we solve this doozy of a dilemma? We had Jean follow these 5 simple steps:
Step 1: Identify your most successful service offering
Ask yourself what currently makes you the most money. Stop wasting time and energy tinkering with unproven offerings. That will cost you. This simple truth is the key to quickly bettering your business. Jean had been extremely proud that it was website copy that generated the most profit margin, but she eventually realized what it was costing her.
She described her epiphany in this Forbes column:
[Juliana from ScaleTime] leaned forward. “I get that you close like a mo’ fo’. Sounds like you have to. But what you’re telling me is that’s a good thing?”
But in that instant, I suddenly realized how exhausted this had left me as MarketSmiths’ sole salesperson—and how depleted it may have left my staff.
“Imagine if you could cover your overhead with recurring business volume,” [Juliana] said. I thought about every sleepless night I’ve ever had—and became a believer.”
Step 2: See where your money is coming from
It is important to understand where sales originate because, when you do, you’ll start to see patterns. Those patterns eventually become your sales funnel. To uncover this, ask yourself questions like these and dig like hell for the answers:
• How much am I making from referrals?
• How much am I making from networking?
• How much am I making from white labeling?
• How much am I making from organic traffic?
Jean realized that many leads were coming from agencies. Yet they weren’t really quality leads that produced good revenue for the company. They weren’t even the relationships that she wanted to create. She wanted less white labeling, not more. So she streamlined the sales process by weeding out clients that were white labeling her in favor of selling recurring services to her existing clients. She was only able to do this because she had a huge list of clients. Genius!
Setting your priorities looks like this (I know this might be hard to read. Access the nicer template version here):
Step 3: Identify the biggest pain points your clients have AFTER solving their initial problem
This is the one thing most people don’t even know they should think about; it’s a little tricky like that (and that’s why we love it). You’re already solving a problem for your client, but that doesn’t mean all of their pain is gone. Focus on what’s still there after you solve the initial problem and pick the pain point that is most lucrative for your business.
Jean figured out that after writing copy for her client’s websites, which was a foundational service that just got them a site on the web, those same clients still needed to drive traffic to their site. (The whole point of creating a site, right?) And what drove more traffic to her client’s websites? That’s right! More content. So, Jean focused on upselling ongoing blog writing services to the companies that came to her for website copy.
Now THAT’S how you address a pain point (and get yourself some sweet MRR).
Step 4: Create your offering
Again, it comes back to asking the right questions. Like these babies:
• How long does it take to solve the problem?
• How long does it make sense to offer a service?
• Are you dealing with a 3- or 12-month cycle?
Find a monthly service offering, determine the cost per month, and then test that sucker ‘til you find your sweet spot.
We knew that it took 6 months of blogging to really create inbound traffic results for a business. Thus, the offering Jean created centered around a monthly package of blogs for a total of 6 months.
While you don’t want to waste time on product offerings you’re not sure of, once you know you’re addressing a real pain point, you definitely want to experiment a little here ‘til you find what works best. TEST THE MARKET.
ScaleTime Reminder: The offering you create has to work for your clients. Check in often to see where they’re at. Is it working for them? If not, there won’t be any recurring revenue.
Step 5: Set your monthly revenue goal
So, how much money do you want to make from this service every month? When in doubt, set your monthly breakeven point as your target. Pick the target, go to the existing list of clients, and just start selling—like the coffee-swilling closers in Glengarry Glen Ross.
Jean took the client list she built over years of hustling and identified how many people she needed to start selling.
And guess what else? Jean hit her goal within 12 weeks of working with us.
Give it to me straight: What Happened?
The result: Jean got off the feast and famine roller coaster for good
MarketSmiths’ employees were being paid by recurring revenue from Jean’s new blog offering. Woot-woot! And Jean no longer wondered how much she was going to make next month or how close to payroll she was going cut it. Sayonara, stress!
Free Time: Forbes Column
Jean fell in love with her business again. She was able to delegate the review process to her #2, who she likes calling her ‘lieutenant.’ She now has the bandwidth to grow the business and concentrate on things she loves, like her Forbes column. Which, by the way, helps to grow her business, too. (Such a smart cookie).
Delegate to scale
MarketSmiths made their first sales hire after creating a sales process, which took a huge, time-sucking weight off of Jean’s shoulders while fostering the continued growth of her business.
If you are struggling through the feast and famine cycle, I encourage you to explore the answers to these questions:
ScaleTime Questions to Remove Feast and Famine
- Do you know your revenue for next month?
- What is currently my most successful offering?
- Where is my revenue coming from?
- How long does it take to see results from your offering?
- What is the single biggest problem my clients have after I solve their initial one?
- What will I price my offer? How long will it take to deliver?
- Which clients will see immediate benefit from this offer?