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Customer Acquisition for IT Services Business?

rynor

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Hey Fastlaners,

I need some help/advice/constructive feedback. Yesterday I had a meeting with a "mentor" who suggested to completely redesign my business offerings and change my target market. His vision for my business was completely different than mine, which is fine, but now now I'm left with more questions than answers.

Backstory: I started a residential IT services business about a month ago (late Feb) with a focus on bringing technical support to consumers rather than businesses. My current focus is completely B2C, no B2B. I'm trying to fill a need people have for in-home and remote tech support for their personal devices, home network, etc. Think Geek Squad, but way more affordable. I'm also trying to make it a streamlined system so that I can set up a franchiser/franchisee situation and it can scale in the long-term.

Problems: Not enough exposure and awareness. Put bluntly, I have no customers. I've reached out to people I know, released a handful of Facebook ads, set up Google AdWords, done both on-page and some off-page SEO, set up my Google and Yelp Business pages, and posted on Angie's List, Craigslist, Manta, MerchantCircle, Nextdoor, Patch, LinkedIn, etc. I've sent out dozens of quotes on Thumbtack and reached out to people on Craigslist as well. In addition, I combed through the WhitePages and set up a SlyBroadcast campaign with 200 local numbers which yielded no results so far. I also plan to post up flyers in high foot traffic areas around town.

Clearly, I am missing something or can't see the forest for the trees. Before, I was just telling customers what I could do for them. After reading multiple threads like this, which focus on the mindset, I changed up my approach. Now, I approach customers (by way of Upwork, Thumbtack, Craigslist, etc.) in a way that echoes their problem, shows how I can provide value to them and solve their problem/alleviate their pain points. I focused on their needs, rather than my own. And yet, I'm still not finding much success.

I've done research and try to identify trends in my competitors' marketing strategies. I don't have a lot of capital to purchase the same paid keywords, adspace, etc... so I try to use a more targeted approach with my advertising.

Website: https://atechnextdoor.com

Questions:
  • What else can I do to build exposure/awareness for my business?
  • Are there any improvements I can make to my website?
I want to make it clear that I'm not looking for a "magic formula" for success, I have no problem putting the work in. Rather, I'd love to see things from a different perspective than my own since that's all I have right now.

I sincerely appreciate any and all advice that you guys/gals can provide.

P.S. I apologize if this isn't the right place to post this. MJ DeMarco, can you please place this in the correct subforum, if necessary? Thank you!
 

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NMdad

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From looking at you website, it's not immediately clear who--exactly--your customer is. So, who--specifically--is your customer? Work-from-home freelancers? Grandmas trying to get online? Parents struggling to set up a home network that's secure for their kids?

If you already have a very well defined, concrete picture of your ideal customers, and you've validated that they're already paying for services similar to yours, then it sounds like your problem is connecting to those people.

However, if the only competitors are Geek Squad (& others), then the pain you're trying to solve might not be great enough.

Oh, and don't try to compete on price. If you have better value than Geek Squad, people will pay for it.
 

rwhyan

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Your website looks very good and professional, so I don't think that is the problem.

One small thing suggestion though, change the CTA to "Get a FREE Consultation Now" instead of "Schedule Appointment"

Have you tried direct mail? I don't know your market but off of my intuition it seems like it'd mainly be older/mid-aged folk who need tech support.

Unless they are looking to solve very technical computer problems, chances are they won't be searching on Upwork, LinkedIn, Craigslist, or any of that. Probably only Google, if anything online.
 

Chapas

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I actually worked in a company very similar to yours for around 2 years. I will try to give some more insight over the weekend when I have a little more time. The potential is definately there (it must be since my boss had 50 employees, a big mansion and a boat).

Our markets are different, even though I believe their disposable income are very much alike. I really believe that your 200 USD premium package a month should be changed. Unless you really target the higher-end segment I cannot see anyone on the B2C market be willing to pay that. Maybe I am wrong though. We only did remote support though.

Just a question. How come you chose to focus on B2C instead of B2B?
 
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rynor

rynor

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From looking at you website, it's not immediately clear who--exactly--your customer is. So, who--specifically--is your customer? Work-from-home freelancers? Grandmas trying to get online? Parents struggling to set up a home network that's secure for their kids?

If you already have a very well defined, concrete picture of your ideal customers, and you've validated that they're already paying for services similar to yours, then it sounds like your problem is connecting to those people.

However, if the only competitors are Geek Squad (& others), then the pain you're trying to solve might not be great enough.

Oh, and don't try to compete on price. If you have better value than Geek Squad, people will pay for it.
Thank you for the feedback! I do have a well-defined buyer persona - I forgot to mention it in the first post. But I think you're right in that it's a problem with connecting to my target audience. Still haven't figured that part out yet, but I've had the business idea validated quite a few times just by talking to people about it. And by "people" I'm referring to those in my target audience.

Good things to think about.

Your website looks very good and professional, so I don't think that is the problem.

One small thing suggestion though, change the CTA to "Get a FREE Consultation Now" instead of "Schedule Appointment"

Have you tried direct mail? I don't know your market but off of my intuition it seems like it'd mainly be older/mid-aged folk who need tech support.

Unless they are looking to solve very technical computer problems, chances are they won't be searching on Upwork, LinkedIn, Craigslist, or any of that. Probably only Google, if anything online.
Thank you! I actually have been thinking about changing that CTA to something more actionable so I'll take your advice on that.

As far as direct mail goes, I haven't tried it yet, but I will definitely look into this option. You're correct about the target audience though. My advertising is currently done through Google AdWords, Facebook and Craigslist since that's where older people look for tech help (if they don't have kids/grandkids to ask lol).

I actually worked in a company very similar to yours for around 2 years. I will try to give some more insight over the weekend when I have a little more time. The potential is definately there (it must be since my boss had 50 employees, a big mansion and a boat).

Our markets are different, even though I believe their disposable income are very much alike. I really believe that your 200 USD premium package a month should be changed. Unless you really target the higher-end segment I cannot see anyone on the B2C market be willing to pay that. Maybe I am wrong though. We only did remote support though.

Just a question. How come you chose to focus on B2C instead of B2B?
Thank you so much! Look forward to hearing more about it.

I'm still experimenting with the pricing. I don't want to charge too little and seem illegitimate, but also don't want to charge too high and scare people away. So I tried to find somewhere in the middle. Although, I don't have any customers (yet) haha.

I chose B2C instead of B2B just because after years of helping my parents, other people's parents and older people, I recognized a need of older people having somebody tech-savvy they can call. The idea stems from wanting to have a direct impact on consumers. However, I'm not completely turned off by B2B since that is where most of my experience comes from.
 

NMdad

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I've had the business idea validated quite a few times just by talking to people about it. And by "people" I'm referring to those in my target audience.
That's soft validation--which is good. But you want hard validation, where people actually pay money. If no one wants to pay--even if they say they like the idea--then the pain isn't great enough for them to part with their cash.
 
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rynor

rynor

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That's soft validation--which is good. But you want hard validation, where people actually pay money. If no one wants to pay--even if they say they like the idea--then the pain isn't great enough for them to part with their cash.
I agree 100%. I've only had two people so far say they were willing to pay. But to play devil's advocate, I haven't talked to enough people in my target audience. One of my main problems is connecting with those people, and in a way that doesn't come off like I'm pitching them the entire time.
 

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Website looks pretty good!

My question is, why not target B2B? Businesses are more lose with money because there is an ROI generally associated with it. Consumers are fickle and might be more apt to call their 18 year old nephew for computer support.

P.S. I apologize if this isn't the right place to post this. MJ DeMarco, can you please place this in the correct subforum, if necessary? Thank you!
Nope, right place!
 
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rynor

rynor

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Website looks pretty good!

My question is, why not target B2B? Businesses are more lose with money because there is an ROI generally associated with it. Consumers are fickle and might be more apt to call their 18 year old nephew for computer support.
Thank you! I appreciate the feedback.

I'm still devising a plan, but after all of the feedback I've received so far, including my meeting with a mentor, I've been thinking of shifting my focus to: 2/3 B2B, 1/3 B2C. I still want to offer an option for consumers who need help. If an overwhelming majority of revenue comes from B2B, I can phase the B2C side out. I initially chose B2C instead of B2B because I recognized a need within groups of older people through personal experience. But you're right, they can call their nephews, grandchildren, etc. before calling me.
 

Andy Black

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What demonstrated cashflow can you follow?

What are people already spending their money on that indicates they are willing to pay to have their tech problems solved?

Who already has your customers? (PC store? Stationary/printer consumable stores? Local education businesses providing entry level IT courses for seniors etc?)

Who else wants you to succeed? Can you create a win-win with them? People with elderly parents? People with kids who are studying? People who work from home? Companies who’s employees work from home?
 
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rynor

rynor

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What demonstrated cashflow can you follow?

What are people already spending their money on that indicates they are willing to pay to have their tech problems solved?

Who already has your customers? (PC store? Stationary/printer consumable stores? Local education businesses providing entry level IT courses for seniors etc?)

Who else wants you to succeed? Can you create a win-win with them? People with elderly parents? People with kids who are studying? People who work from home? Companies who’s employees work from home?
All good questions to think about, thank you Andy Black. Although, I'm not sure what you mean by "demonstrated cash flow" in the first one. Can you explain?
 

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Andy Black

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All good questions to think about, thank you Andy Black. Although, I'm not sure what you mean by "demonstrated cash flow" in the first one. Can you explain?
This post here:


I got the definition of a market being a “demonstrated cashflow” from one of the Tropical MBA podcasts. I can’t remember which it was out of these (I’m thinking the second), but they’re both excellent:
 
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rynor

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Chapas

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As promised buddy.

I used to work almost 2 years in a similar company. Started as an intern in Marketing and then became head of Customer Service for 3 different markets. So keep in mind that this is where my experience is.

First of all I want to say that you seem like a genuine nice guy and this market is filled with money hungry sharks without any conscience at all.

My company had the best intentions - to help people with their problems with their computers. However, once you hire sales people everything changes.

My ethics and conscience did not last long in the end and I had to quit that company. So please do not make the same "mistakes" as they did.

Basically when you work with the B2C segment in this market your target group is 55+ (or more probably 60+). Most elderly people do not have any idea about what is going on with their computers.

The thing is that almost everyone has a relative that can actually help them. So you have to keep in mind that at least once a week (or day depends on how many customers you have) you will get an angry phone call from that relative asking why in the world you sold a huge expensive package to their dad/grandad etc.

This was hell. Elderly people are the easiest victims for sales people. They trust everyone and in the end they do not even know what they buy. Man, I had 85 year old people buy 5 year Antivirus and Help & Support packages for crazy prices. Our sales people were cold and heartless and I could feel how bad my support team felt everytime they had to explain what they had purchased.

Kudos for my team. They went above and beyond for the customers. In the end we got so sick of the sales department though. It felt like they were not providing value, but just scamming people.

What I learned about the elderly segment is that they will not call you and ask for help when there is something wrong with their PC. They will instead call you once a week and pretend there is something wrong with their PC in order just to talk with a person.

They did not buy this support package because they needed help with their computer - they bought it because they spoke with this nice sales person and got the opportunity to call 24/7 and speak with someone. So at some point I felt that my team were more psychologists than IT-experts.

Most of our sales guys had absolutely no idea about computers. Yet it was easy for them to sell as their 65 year old customers knew even less. So all shit came back to our team in Customer Service.

I do not regret these years. I did a great job and my team did the same. I still remember a lot of my customers who I spoke to almost 3-4 times a week (they really called so often pretending there was something wrong with their computers). Heck, I even had a coffee with one of my 68 year old customers after I quit the job. Bonus fact, we even busted 2 pedophiles after discovering horrible stuff on their computer. So we did some good things!

I honestly think if you want to keep your sanity and your conscience you have to go B2B. You seem to good to be in this business and I know that you really want to help people - but you will get killed by the people without conscience who just want to earn money.

The market potential is there, but it is a really tough business model B2C. If you want to work on the B2C market I will recommend you to do something with groups (teach elderly people with their computers).

If you will charge 200 USD a month I think you can expect the same things as I described earlier. Your clientele are most likely having computers they bought 10 years ago for 400 USD and now they will spend 200 USD a month for your services. You will most likely get calls from one of their relatives asking why in the world your are scamming them (even though I know you are not).

My friend works B2B for a company that does almost the same. They chose a niche and now they are driving around in their area and doing all related IT-work for that niche. This is what I would recommend you.

Do not want to take your courage away. I know you will bring value to your customers, but the B2C market in this is very very tough. And you seem to good of a person to make it there.

This is just my experience though. There might be many better ways around this. Just wanted to share my experience, so you do not make the same "mistakes" :)

PS: This was written after 12 beers after my friends birthday so apologize if this reply is totally horrible haha!
 
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rynor

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Elderly people are the easiest victims for sales people. They trust everyone and in the end they do not even know what they buy. Man, I had 85 year old people buy 5 year Antivirus and Help & Support packages for crazy prices.

I honestly think if you want to keep your sanity and your conscience you have to go B2B. You seem to good to be in this business and I know that you really want to help people - but you will get killed by the people without conscience who just want to earn money.

My friend works B2B for a company that does almost the same. They chose a niche and now they are driving around in their area and doing all related IT-work for that niche. This is what I would recommend you.
First off, thank you for taking the time to write all of that. I really appreciate your insight. (And thank you for calling me a nice guy haha)

To address a few of your points:

I see what you're saying in that elderly people fall prey to money-hungry salespeople. I'm definitely not looking for "victims" to sell to. If somebody doesn't need my services, I make it a point to NOT sell them unnecessary stuff. Why? Because I believe karma is a real thing and will always come around to bite people in the a$$ if they do wrong to others. I've seen it happen first-hand.

Don't get me wrong though, sales are crucial for business. If you don't sell your product/service/whatever, your business doesn't make money, and your business will inevitably fail. Salespeople can still be good people selling necessary services.

You're also right in that it's hard to be a "nice guy" in a sea of sharks, but not impossible. I can think of a dozen examples of successful CEO's that are good people. While the sharks may be successful in the short-term, I'll be successful in the long-term by doing things in an ethical way. From a Slowlane perspective, I climbed a corporate ladder very quickly this way and without needing to change my personality.

I agree with you in that I want to keep my sanity haha. I've been thinking about it and will likely shift to 2/3 B2B and 1/3 B2C, adjusting my target market as well simply because it's easier to get businesses to see the benefit and spend the money. I've noticed that consumers sometimes just don't want to spend the money even though they know that the service will benefit them in the long-run. My view is: oh well, onto the next one.

I'd love to know what your friend's company does, if you don't mind telling me.
 

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I have two markets for the digital marketing service I provide - the DIY folks, and the DFY folks.

The DFY folks pay a lot more so I focus on those. The DIY market is huge though, and I choose to serve them by selling a course.

It’s not quite the same as your B2C / B2B split, but the effect is similar.

For you, businesses will see it as an ROI play. They’re also busy and wouldn’t want to clog up your support with millions of questions or issues.


I was IT for about 15 years. Starting as PC Support, then an Analyst/Programmer, then a UNIX SA, then a Production Oracle DBA.

I got out of IT because I felt I was always perceived as a cost. What I do now can generate more revenue for businesses. Sure, it costs them, but the folks I’m interested in are the ones who see the value in what I do, and not the cost.

Personally, if I was still in the IT space then I’d look at doing in-person Excel training locally - for businesses and for consumers. I’d hone the lessons to within an inch of their life. Then I’d record and sell them online. (Hmmm... I may just do that.)


Maybe read “Built to Sell”?
 
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rynor

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I got out of IT because I felt I was always perceived as a cost. What I do now can generate more revenue for businesses. Sure, it costs them, but the folks I’m interested in are the ones who see the value in what I do, and not the cost.

Maybe read “Built to Sell”?
What you've said about being perceived as a "cost" to business hits home. I've definitely felt like that working for others in a B2B environment. However, just like you also said, there are people that will understand the value of what IT brings to the table. Those are the people I'll work with, not the ones who scoff at the price because they don't understand how my services will help them. I will also start educating people about the value and disproving their pre-conceived notions about technology.

On that note, I was also thinking about recording videos to educate people on tasks they have trouble with. I suppose it's time to do some market research on the older generation.
 

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Hi Rynor ,

-Could you add smart phone support too in your offering . I checked your website and looks like your main offering relates to only Computers/laptop etc. Mobile phone/ Cell phone are a huge market.You can help people with virus,mobile speed,educating about harmful apps etc.(though you may need to find how to support it remotely).
- You can also offer hardware protection . Like shield for Computer, Music system, Mobile phones etc.
- I think your main audience should be people from older generation and people who are not that tech savy . You can find out places/medium where you can target them . May be putting advertisement in magazine catering to older generation,magazine/blogs/ Infulencers catering to non tech savy people etc.
- You can also recommend Anti Virus, Cloud storage, apps etc when you have good number of following.And earn few dollars on recommendation.
- I suggest you start a You tube channel in which you teach people how to do basic work themselves and also promote your offerings through it.
 
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rynor

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-Could you add smart phone support too in your offering . I checked your website and looks like your main offering relates to only Computers/laptop etc. Mobile phone/ Cell phone are a huge market.You can help people with virus,mobile speed,educating about harmful apps etc.(though you may need to find how to support it remotely).
- I think your main audience should be people from older generation and people who are not that tech savy
- You can also recommend Anti Virus, Cloud storage, apps etc when you have good number of following.And earn few dollars on recommendation.
- I suggest you start a You tube channel in which you teach people how to do basic work themselves and also promote your offerings through it.
Hi Bhanu,

Thank you for the input! These are all good points.
  • Adding smartphones is on my list of things to do because you're right, I am missing out on that huge market.
  • You're correct - my current target audience is the older generation of people. Targeting them is surely a challenge that I'm working on. Magazines are something I didn't think of before - noted.
  • A YouTube channel is also on my list of things to do since it is an easy way for people to educate people, validate my expertise, and promote my offerings.
 

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Hi Rynor,

I'm in a simlar boat trying to sell an IT-service B2B. Just a few of my thoughts.

  • Trust

    I'm a long-time software developer. So I can usually fix just about any problem that comes up on my laptop.

    However, there are times I need expert help. Then I turn to my local PC shop whom I've been using for years. I trust the tech with my business laptop. The guy is assume.

    if I had to call someone different for help on my business laptop I'd be nervous they'd screw something up accidentally and then I wouldn't be a happy camper.

    So for me, I need a lot of trust in a new person to let them work on my laptop.

  • This is the counter-argument to someone having a relative to help them.

    I gave my old iPad to my brother. He doesn't know how to set it up. Sure I could help him. I don't set up iPads frequently - I don't have that "muscle memory" to help someone right off the bat.

    I'd have to spend time to find instructions on Wkihelp or Youtube videos and watch them and then try to walk my brother through the steps. If I'm tired or have other things to do then this doesn't get done.

    Might be easier for me to pay you to help my brother.

    I might give him my old laptop. He might need help occasionally adding a printer, etc. Again, might be worth it for me to pay your firm to help him.

  • I'm studying The Three Value Conversations: How to Create, Elevate, and Capture Customer Value at Every Stage of the Long-Lead Sale, by employees of Corporate Visions.

    The authors say they have done research on the psychology of how and why buyers make buying decisoions and then give advice on how to present your claims to prospects. They say "best sales practtices" don't cut it b\c those practices aren't based on the actual buyer's psychology.

    The book is targeted more at B2B sales. But might be helpful in the B2C market.

    I'm a sofwtare engineer and I have zero experience in sales and marketing. But the ideas the authors present make sense to me. Of course, I'll find out how those ideas work when I try to implement them in the real world.

  • Monthly Reoccuring Revenue (MRR)

    I saw on your site you wanted to charge $35/hour for support.

    I'm still earning an income on an hourly basis. I've done reasonally well over the years. If I don't work I don't make money for that time period. If I want to take a few hours off or a day then I struggle with that decision b\c I'd not get the income for those hours not working.

    The IT service I want to provide creates MMR. I love the idea of it. Sell a few prospects and collect monthly income. Of course, I stll have to monitor the service to ensure everything is working correctly. But if I want or need to take a few hours off I'm not going to miss out on income.

    Wow - I din't think I had that much to say. I hope some of it is helpful.
Ed
 
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  • This is the counter-argument to someone having a relative to help them.

    I gave my old iPad to my brother. He doesn't know how to set it up. Sure I could help him. I don't set up iPads frequently - I don't have that "muscle memory" to help someone right off the bat.

    Might be easier for me to pay you to help my brother.

    I might give him my old laptop. He might need help occasionally adding a printer, etc. Again, might be worth it for me to pay your firm to help him.

  • Monthly Reoccuring Revenue (MRR)

    The IT service I want to provide creates MMR. I love the idea of it. Sell a few prospects and collect monthly income. Of course, I stll have to monitor the service to ensure everything is working correctly. But if I want or need to take a few hours off I'm not going to miss out on income
Hi Ed,

Thank you for your thoughts! I really appreciate it.

I see your point in terms of having trust with your local PC repair shop. I'm sure most people are like-minded. Where I'm struggling currently is building up a trust with my target audience But before that, I need to be able to target them effectively and bring awareness to my brand. Still working on this process.

I'd be interested to know how you plan to bring in MRR from an IT-services B2B business. I've worked in a few myself and have a baseline understanding of how they do business. Will you have your customers sign long-term contracts? Are you going to be doing the work yourself? Will you outsource?

That is ideal for me as well. I want to eventually walk away from the technician role so I can focus on bringing in new business and other things while the business hums like a well-oiled machine.

Best of luck to you!
 

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Hey guys,

I'm bumping this to see if anyone has any experience in transitioning from a B2C to a B2B model with a business like mine, IT services. I'd love to talk to someone about how they transitioned, where they got their clients from, if they kept B2C at all, etc.

Simply because I'm starting to realize that the real money is in businesses who have revenue to shell out for working technology, not in consumers who can get their grandson to do the work for free. Unless I'm able to scale (franchise), it will be too long of a haul and not worth it. Too slowlane!

Anyways, let me know!
 

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Tempe, AZ
Hey guys,

I'm bumping this to see if anyone has any experience in transitioning from a B2C to a B2B model with a business like mine, IT services. I'd love to talk to someone about how they transitioned, where they got their clients from, if they kept B2C at all, etc.

Simply because I'm starting to realize that the real money is in businesses who have revenue to shell out for working technology, not in consumers who can get their grandson to do the work for free. Unless I'm able to scale (franchise), it will be too long of a haul and not worth it. Too slowlane!

Anyways, let me know!
I do B2B IT. All word of mouth. BNI groups, chamber of commerce, events in your niche where business owners will be. Or just knock on some business doors and say what up.
 

Andy Black

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May 20, 2014
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Ireland
Hey guys,

I'm bumping this to see if anyone has any experience in transitioning from a B2C to a B2B model with a business like mine, IT services. I'd love to talk to someone about how they transitioned, where they got their clients from, if they kept B2C at all, etc.

Simply because I'm starting to realize that the real money is in businesses who have revenue to shell out for working technology, not in consumers who can get their grandson to do the work for free. Unless I'm able to scale (franchise), it will be too long of a haul and not worth it. Too slowlane!

Anyways, let me know!
I’ve always been B2B when providing IT services. I’m still in B2B providing digital marketing services.

Maybe this thread might help?
 

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