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This post details the five steps I took that enabled me to transition a productized service into an authority site with affiliate monthly recurring income. Hopefully others will find this content useful to make a similar transition in order to start generating wealth from online entrepreneurship.
I’ve been involved in online business for over 7 years. My first goal after leaving the 9-5 was to become location independent. I achieved this through learning a skill (SEO) and then learning how to sell that to local clients on monthly retainers and captured the principles I learned to achieve this in my book Coffee Shop Entrepreneurs.
I then started building productized services after hearing the concept on a Tropical MBA podcast back in January 2014. I first built out traffic packages for the ski niche where I was the one doing all of the work. I then moved onto the marketing niche where I bought the domain funnelengine.com to offer done for you sales funnel packages in clickfunnels in 2015.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016 and I was in the process of selling a small ecommerce store I had created, my first Four Hour Work Week attempt which was in a niche that wasn’t big enough to fully support myself. I was also listening to the audio book of Built To Sell which made me realize that in order to sell my main online business Funnel Engine I needed to automate the business the best I could.
I employed a VA for admin and a funnel specialist to build out the funnels and deal with customers. I set up integrations so that new customers billed in clickfunnels would get a new trello card and a notification in slack for the team to build out their funnel. I created Standard Operating Procedures for customer onboarding and funnel fulfillment and the business was almost fully automated, only requiring an hour or so of my attention a week.
However, as Thomas Smale from FE International stated on my Freedom Flipping Podcast, services businesses are always a tough sell (even with a process driven team) and are no-where near as attractive as a more passive content site that requires less expertise. And you limit the online business buyer pool to a minority of people who would consider purchasing which keeps valuations low.
A productized service business is great at generating instant cashflow and over time can be run without much owner involvement but they are unlikely to trigger liquidation events.
As such I decided to pivot the business into something that is highly valued by investors – recurring affiliate income – and here are the 5 steps I would recommend to be able to turn your service business into an asset that can be sold.
The Five Steps To Transform From Services To Affiliate
Step 1 – Build a service business around software
A good way to ensure you have a pre built and prepaying customer base is to offer a service on top of a popular or growing software business. This Software With A Service (SWAS) concept first got coined on this episode of the Tropical MBA podcast with Mat Newton. People in the Dynamite Circle (a community I’m a member of) have built done for you businesses on top of software platforms such as Drip helping people set up their first campaigns and automations.
What’s ideal is to choose a software platform which has a profitable affiliate program so that you get up front cash from the service along with monthly affiliate commissions for setting customers up on the software. This is a way to add a MRR component to your biz and gives you the option to focus on that component down the line.
With Funnel Engine I was one of the first to offer a sales funnel setup on top of clickfunnels. Anyone purchasing a funnel would need to set up their own clickfunnels account (for which I would supply the link) and I would receive 40% monthly commissions for the lifetime of the customer.
Step 2 – Refocus the homepage around an offer
Previously Funnel Engine was a one page site where the homepage set out the service offering including pricing table. When my intention for the business changed from selling services to earning software commissions the homepage needed to become the ultimate lead generating machine, converting the maximum number of visitors into leads. This was achieved with a simple squeeze page and testing the most attractive offer to get people to optin and start using the software you are promoting. For Funnel Engine this was ‘Download 9 FREE Sales Funnel Templates And 5 Copy Script Templates for Your Funnels‘.
Next, your post optin thank you page needs to tell people the thing they opted in for will be delivered to their inbox within the next 5-10 minutes and in the meantime click a call to action (CTA). For Funnel Engine the CTA was to sign up for the clickfunnels webinar.
You need to get the maximum number of people seeing the most profitable offer and then follow up with them through email funnels.
Step 3 – Build your back end funnels
In order to create a valuable asset, you need a fully automated marketing funnel from lead capture through to sending people to affiliate offers on landing pages where you will get paid. With Funnel Engine I built a 9 part welcome series which educates people about how to set up their first sales funnel and sends people to different offers on the clickfunnels site which helps them to do so.
I also created a 5 part content course series (Drip style) which teaches people how to use content to fuel their funnel which then leads into the main email funnel.
Step 4 – Know Your Keywords & Invest In Content
Now that you have a main optin page and back end funnels that convert, you need to generate traffic to your site through creating authoritative content which brings in the maximum number of visitors from organic search.
You need to do extensive keyword research into your niche so that you can build out an Authority Site that can end up ranking for all the keywords.
Creating content without first understanding the main traffic keyword the post is designed to rank for (and the 10 or so longer tail keywords) is a waste of money. That’s why the best content marketing software, such as CoSpot, are designed around uploading your keywords and choosing which keywords you are targeting for every piece of content.
And the game is no longer about creating hundreds of 600 word posts each targeting a keyword. Rather, structuring bigger pages of 1200+ words that become the definitive resource on the subject are far easier to rank and to spread internal link juice to. A fewer number of comprehensive pages become more authoritative (both in the eyes of your visitors and Google in terms of page authority metrics) and naturally get linked to more often. Less can really be more.
Step 5 – Automate everything and minimize expenditure
Online businesses in 2017 currently sell for between 20-30x monthly net profit multiples. In order to maximize the asset value of your online business you need to minimize expenditure. If your business is valued at say 25x then every $40 you can save per month adds an additional $1k to the sale price. Also the more you automate the business, through processes and software, the higher the multiple it attracts as the less work or attention is required of the owner (and less can go wrong). You need to work out on a process by process basis whether it costs less to fulfil via a VA manually or to pay for a recurring software subscription to do it automatically.
The five steps above enable funnelengine.com to be acquired through FE International by a leading Angel Investor firm for their own portfolio (Thanks @Blackstonevg). Real money and expertise are now entering the online space, attracted by a number of attributes:
- These assets are location independent for both staff and the owner
- Web properties can generate far greater passive income than traditional businesses
- As online assets are a relatively new asset class, annual multiples are relatively low in the range of 2-4x
Content sites (and even productized services such as WP Curve being recently acquired by GoDaddy) are becoming more mainstream and private funds are now entering the space.