When you’re launching a business, there are plenty of things you need to do to get things off the ground. You need to decide who you are as a brand. You need to lock in on your target audience. You need to figure out your point of difference and what sets you apart from the competition. You need to start marketing and build buzz around yourself, your brand and your business.
But one thing you don’t necessarily have to do?
Launch a product.
That’s right—it is possible to market your business without a product. Businesses built around a service (like consulting or design) have just as much potential as more product-centric businesses.
Now, we’re not saying it’s easy; there are definitely a set of unique challenges that are par for the course when you’re marketing a business without a tangible product—the most important being, without any products to sell, you need to come up with alternate revenue streams (like your services!) to make sure there’s money coming into your business.
But how, exactly, do you build buzz and get people excited about your company without a physical product to sell them?
The first—and most obvious—choice for marketing your business without a product?
Marketing yourself, of course.
Offering services instead of products is a great way to start generating revenue in the early stages of your business (and avoid sinking a ton of cash you don’t have into product development). What do you do better than anyone else? Chances are, there are people out there who would pay for whatever it is you do best—you’ve just got to find them.
Do you spend all your free time learning the ins and outs of Pinterest, Facebook and all the other social media platforms out there? Start marketing social media management services to entrepreneurs or small businesses. Do you love to write? Start marketing your content services and writing blogs, ebooks and lead magnets for other companies. Are you a killer salesperson? Offer to partner with other brands to help them close their deals.
The point is, there’s a market for just about every service under the sun. And while scaling a service-based business can be tricky (you only have so many hours in the day!), it can be a great way to get yourself out there and start building buzz around who you are and what you do—no product necessary.
Just look at Amy Porterfield. Porterfield had a successful career running the social media for inspirational guru Tony Robbins but eventually wanted to strike out on her own. Not entirely sure what she wanted to do with her business, she kicked things off by marketing her social media services. She built an impressive book of clients and was able to get her business off the ground strictly based on the services (in this case, social media) she could offer her clients with not a product in sight.
Focus on your branding, not your product
Another great way to market your business without a product?
Focus on your branding.
You don’t need a product to build a strong brand image—all you need is yourself. Start a podcast, develop videos for YouTube, write a blog, be a guest on other people’s podcasts—whatever you need to do to get your brand messaging out there, do it.
What will happen? You’ll build an audience. And if your audience has enough buy-in with your brand, you can build your business and make money. You can sell ad space on your blog. You can partner with larger brands and promote them to your audience. And once you do get to the point where you have a product to launch, you’ll have an engaged audience ready and waiting to buy from you.
Build off your services and create a digital product
So, like we mentioned earlier, scaling a service-based business is tricky. There’s only so many writing/social media/sales/whatever clients you can take on before you completely tap out of time, energy and resources.
But there is a way to take the service you offer and make it scalable—and that’s by creating a digital product.
Digital products, which include everything from ebooks to webinars to digital courses, don’t require as much investment or overhead as traditional product development, but they can be just as profitable a marketing tool for your business.
Let’s go back to Amy Porterfield. After offering her social media services to clients, she realized that she was quickly getting burnt out on her business; she was working too hard, too much, and for not enough money. So she decided to change her business model and move towards focusing on digital products that would teach people how to run an online business (a topic that, after running her own online business, she was clearly qualified to teach). To date, Porterfield has launched multiple digital products (including the uber successful Courses That Convert) that have driven 7-figure revenues and built her audience to hundreds of thousands of people.
Moral of the story: digital products don’t cost as much money to develop as traditional products, but if you do them right, they can bring in just as much (if not more) revenue making them a no-brainer tool for marketing your business.
Market someone else’s product
This might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best thing you can do to market your business is… market somebody else’s business.
Hear us out! When you’re first starting out, you need two things to get your business off the ground: revenue and an audience. And you can get both of those things through promoting someone else’s product, also known as affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing can be a great way to align yourself with another key figure in your space, start building an audience, drive some revenue, and, most importantly, start planting the seeds for your own branding and future products.
Amy Porterfield did (and does) this really well. When Porterfield was first getting started in the digital space, she enrolled in B School, a business course from online entrepreneur Marie Forleo. B School was a huge part of getting Porterfield off the ground, and so once she graduated from the program, Porterfield became an affiliate and started marketing Forleo’s course to her own audience.
This was a killer move for a few reasons. First off, it tied Porterfield’s brand to Marie Forleo, who already had a hugely successful and recognizable brand. Second, it helped to drive major revenue for Porterfield (affiliates earn 50% commission on every sale, and with a hefty price tag of $1999, B School had the potential to drive a lot of dollars). And third, because Porterfield focused her affiliate promotions on her own branding and experience (and bundled B School with some of her own digital products), she was able to strengthen the relationship with her B School customers and eventually turn them into customers for her own business.
If you don’t have a product, find someone else in your space who has a product you can stand behind, and then market that.
Wrapping things up
Launching a business without a product might seem difficult, but it’s totally doable. And now that you know how to make it happen, it’s time to get out there and start marketing your business—whether you have a product or not.