First, a confession for anyone following. Technically I’m on day #29. I’ve missed two days recently. My Write Every Day Project now has a couple holes in it.) My schedule was impossible to put the finishing touches on a post this past weekend. Yesterday, I updated a feature on my website that threw me for a loop, that I needed to investigate before I could post again.
I read an article the other day about revenue streams. The author said there were three—and only three—ways to make money online.
The three ways to make money online were:
- Sell ads.
- Sell products.
- Sell services.
I am not making this up. The article dove into these three ways. Now, in the author’s defense, his goal was to purposely narrow his readers’ thinking so they could start digging into taking action. It was geared towards readers who are just getting started. I assume.
Numerous revenue streams are possible online
When I talk to small business owners who are desperate to grow their companies, I find they’re often limited in their thinking as far as how they could pull in revenue.
I do this for a living. I do that for a living. I charge when I do it.
They don’t give much though to future or entirely new revenue streams with the same knowledge or expertise they already have.
That’s why I’m such an advocate for personal marketing platforms. (Yes, I used that new term again.) Situations where you’re not as limited by a menu of products or services. You’re only limited by your creativity.
Whether your company sells products or services, it doesn’t matter: you’re solving problems. Bottom line. If you provide digital products to do that, you could just as easily start putting on local, in-person workshops as another route to revenue. You could provide consultation in a one-to-one way as well, whether in-person or via Skype. Depending on your industry’s size, maybe you could even do train-the-trainer style seminars.
On the other hand, if you provide one-to-one professional services of some sort, then packaging the expertise behind those services into a digital product (that takes it’s shape in any number of finished products) is a real route to new revenue streams.
Let’s take a look at two very ‘analog’ examples
1. Pipeline contractors
I know a group of guys who are pipeline contractors. They provide pipeline installation services, installing and replacing sewer and water lines, replacing septic tanks, that sort of thing. Large-scale residential and commercial projects. Massive projects we’re talking here. They don’t come to your house to mess around with your toilet bowl. Not that kind of ‘residential,’ this is a pure B2B company.
I can’t fathom what goes into that work.
But I do know this: It requires expertise that 99% of the population can’t comprehend. We’d all be in a stupor of thought if tasked with planning out one of their projects.
I love businesses like this. They’re not flashy. They’re a necessary part of society. It’s good, honest, ditch-digging, blue-collar business.
This kind of expertise has always been rolled into a precision service that is subject to bids, or RFPs (request for proposal), or long-standing industry relationships and brass-knuckle selling. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
These pipeline contractors know more about what they do than the companies that hire them. That’s an opportunity to teach. They know about the raw materials that go into the projects, and the equipment required to complete a project. There are reasons why they choose the materials and equipment they do.
This industry knowledge could be put to use as part of a personal marketing platform. The company’s founder or other executives could very well teach these industry smarts in the form of:
- A published book on the topic of pipeline project planning
- Downloadable guides with insider secrets
- Checklists for contractors to create more comprehensive RFPs*
- Case studies of projects that went well, and why they did
- Interviews with other general contractors about their projects
- Educational webinars on how to plan projects of this nature
- Online courses on safety precautions to be mindful of
*Seriously, there’s a $79 textbook and a $6 Kindle book on writing more effective RFPs on Amazon.
Teaching an industry how to do it’s thing is an opportunity to seize leadership in that industry.
The two co-founders of the company I’m talking about are already known in the industry. But they’re only monetizing that when they win new projects.
Now, of course, you could provide any of these deliverables for free, too. But by turning them into your own digital products, you are the expert now. And you can translate that expertise into revenue and new customers for your core business.
When you become the leader, you rise above RFPs, and you can bring in revenue in more ways than that one. Maybe you think a single project is a $5 million deal vs. the $5,000 or $10,000 per year you can earn through these more creative angles I just mentioned. But it’s the $5-10 million deal that you win next year because you’re now an industry household name. Small revenue leads to big revenue.
2. Landscape architect
Doesn’t have to be a landscape architect here. Could be a driveway paver installer. Or a patio cover installer. The home improvement market is and will probably always be starving for ideas and how-to experts.
I recently had a huge patio installed in my backyard with pavers. We added an 800-square-foot patio in the backyard, along with a 75-foot paver walkway that leads around the side to the gate that opens to my front yard. It’s been a long time coming. My problem for the longest time was envisioning what that patio would look like. Should I go pavers, or should I go with concrete? If pavers, what would the design look like? What total square footage and layout should I commit to given my budget?
Putting the patio in was just the first step. I knew just around the corner I’d be looking at which plants and trees would work best in my backyard, with our climate, and my layout.
The Home Depot has always done a good job with their free, in-store educational sessions. I also learned while going through this process that Armstrong Nursery could send an expert to my home to ask me questions, walk my backyard, give some suggestions on the spot, then come back with a custom design and plan for my backyard that I could then run with. The cost? $399. If I then chose to purchase my plants and trees through Armstrong and spent more than $500 (or something like that), they would put $150 of my $399 towards my purchases.
While I didn’t go with Armstrong’s offer, I do think it’s smart. Additional revenue that utilizes their expertise (which would otherwise go dormant), and leads to more potential revenue in the form of product sales.
Anyone of these folks I mentioned could do this on their own, though: the landscape architect, the driveway paver installer, the patio cover company CEO. Any of them, though maybe with a little outsourcing or collaboration, could provide:
- Design services
- Downloadable checklists on
- A visual ebook on the types of pavers that exist and how they compare to concrete
- An online product selection tool with conditional recommendations based on user input
- A Home Depot-like course for DIYers…but online
- An ebook on plant selection, along with the pros and cons
As mentioned with the first example, any of these could of course be offered for free as lead generators by your company. That’s the obvious route.
But if you were to offer them as part of your own personal marketing platform, you’re pulling in a little extra revenue while also establishing yourself—as CEO or leader of a local company—as the go-to guru in your local market. There’s a PR bump from that (which is a whole other angle on personal marketing platforms the public relations opportunities. Did you see Gary Vaynerchuk offering his insights on ESPN recently?)
I’m not sure you’ll ever see the majority of small business owners start and manage their own personal marketing platform. But the savvy ones will dip their toes into it for PR purposes. And the ones who are highly entrepreneurial will see the additional revenue opportunities.
Ask Nathan Latka about this. He’s the former founder of Heyo. While running that company, he pushed the Nathan Latka personal brand more and more, even detailing how he went about selling the company with his podcast, The Top.
The Top wasn’t a Heyo-branded endeavor. It was all Nathan. It went from idea, to launched podcast, to sponsored podcast. Currently, Nathan appears to be desperately trying to find ways to spend and invest the money he made selling Heyo. Conversation for another day.
The point here is that there is a) A bigger reputation to be gained by building your own personal marketing platform and personal brand, and b) New revenue streams to be explored.
What do you think about this? Hit me up in the comments or via Twitter.