We were lucky. At the beginning of 2022, we already have 35 customers that came from our previous business model (the agency that served only the nutraceuticals industry), so this provides us with good revenue to sustain our growth into the new model.
To be honest, this new service isn’t something that needs to reach Product/Market fit. Here is why:
Let’s say that you are a professional working from home/remotely and all of the sudden, you start thinking that you need a website.
Great! There are so many options out there, ranging from doing it on your own (Wix, Go Daddy etc) or finding a freelancer, an agency or your nephew to do it for you.
In the first case, you will need to pay anywhere between 1,500 to 10,000 Euros for a custom website. If your nephew is doing it, maybe nothing.
But this is where we come in. A product/Market fit is the concept of when/before you launch a product or service, you need to find enough people wanting to buy it.
So wanting to build a website is the primary thing that everyone does, when starting a business. It is something you must have.
And then what do you absolutely need to have? Marketing.
Nothing sort of extraordinary up to now apart from the fact that we do not just build you a website, we also provide a CRM, a custom-written newsletter, and paid ads. And our motto is, “website and marketing, without lifting a finger”.
So we are already addressing the primary needs of a startup, a professional, a freelancer or a work-from-home person (or a professional or a freelancer)
The big difference for us is that we do not sell you a website.
Getting a website from Centis kills two birds with one stone – and in our case, instead of paying to get a perfect bullet-like stone, we give it to you at an extremely low cost.
So, anyway, here are we are. January 2022, and we still rely on our past clients.
Truth be told we haven’t:
- Put any ad out there to advertise
- Haven’t contacted anyone to spread the word out
- The only thing we did is posting content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
This obviously is not enough to bring us any kind of traffic or sales (ok, maybe a click or two). Simply because we never put any effort in growing our social media, except LinkedIn and we are doing it now.
As we sit on the safety net of nearly €90,000 in monthly revenue from past clients, we look a whole lot different than we did in December 2021.
Our short-term goals are different.
Our day-to-day priorities are different.
And most importantly, our challenges are different than they’d ever been.
The 3 Biggest Challenges We Are Currently Facing In Growing Centis
When starting and scaling a startup – any kind of startup (and Centis is starting up on a different market(s)), you will face the same challenges as we will:
1. Finding your business voice.
When starting out, especially in a new territory that you are unfamiliar with, the tone of your business voice plays a huge role in attracting the customers you want to work with.
At the former Centis, we HAD to be extremely serious, all our content was using scientific and marketing works to appeal to C-level executives who were used to nothing else.
This time it is different. This time we offer web design as well as marketing. Not many branding or web design agencies do that because most web designers finished an art school somewhere and know how to create beautiful websites, but have no clue how to market them. So here is our first advantage.
However, the customer doesn’t really care. Most customers say “oh you can create a website. What is the cost?” And then the freelancers or agencies fight to lower their price, or if they do not care, they just provide a quote and they are done with it.
So here is the question: How can we differentiate in a sea of freelancers and agencies that offer the same product?
We have found the answer, and the answer is: using humour and sarcasm.
What does this even mean?
So, let me explain. So you try to find an agency that sells website design, and you end up looking at hundreds of websites that say the same phrases:
I do not know about you, but I am not sure how these agencies differentiate based on this copy. Yes, some may offer 3,7, 20 free revisions, which is again a cost measure. Or someone may promise that they are available on weekends. I do not know to me, this doesn’t sound like different.
What we have found is that when you either lead with humour or direct-response copywriting (which cannot be applied in our case) you have the maximum results. First, you communicate that you are fun to work with. Second, humour sticks. Jokes stick. So when we promote, we will need to use humour and sarcasm that really resonates, probably with the pain that people face when dealing with agencies.
The problem however remains: will humour resonate? Will humour be of the right language? And how this humour will appeal to customers across Europe? It’s not the United States where everyone talks English. Here you have to take under consideration the ethnicity of each target group you are addressing and make sure that a joke does not offend someone.
2. Promoting and scaling is costly.
When you work remotely, your costs are nothing more than the cost of web hosting, subscription to software that you use, and of course your utilities and the employees or contractors you have to pay to produce.
As our business model expanded, we had to:
- Invest in infrastructure so that each site we build and host is fast
- Invest in website development tools
- Invest in manpower
- Invest in promotion (ads, press releases, outreach)
Every expense gets bigger:
- Servers and the infrastructure to support them
- Analytics and marketing apps that price based on traffic or subscribers
- Back-end software that prices based on the actions of our customers
As we grow, it gets more and more expensive.
If we had to rely on this model to bring us our first customers, then we would be doomed, if we didn’t have at least 10,000 Euros each month to pay our bills.
That’s why promoting the products and testing what works and what doesn’t via conversion optimisation is our focus for the next six months; these aren’t mental marketing exercises that we do so we can blog about them. They’re going to mean the difference between life and death.
3. When You Grow Everything Else Does
As you grow, people will feel the urge to provide good and valuable feedback. Clearly, this is something we didn’t have at the old Centis, as we were bound with NDAs and we couldn’t publicise our work.
Having a network of thrilled customers is incredibly valuable, as they can promote your work and reach more people.
However, we do not live in a bubble. When you grow, your problems grow too. We are investing early in site architecture and security and we are making sure that every plugin we use for our core product matches with each other – or it will result in slowing down our customer’s websites and bit back at the #$%^”.
A critical issue to one website may affect everything else, so this needs to be pre-addressed.
In your situation, growth means you now serve more people than you could and can’t serve them all within the day. Or if you do, you do a sloppy job and then the customer leaves a bad review on Yelp or TrustPilot.
The most important thing to remember out of the entire post comes from the phrase of my favourite book, Freakonomics: Assume Nothing, Question Everything
Simply because you need to grow, doesn’t mean that you have to assume that everything will work out just fine, no. You have to prepare for what’s coming and that is – unhappy customers, mostly with your service. So, find your voice, promote it at the lowest cost possible and prepare for a disaster before it comes.