Rohan Gilkes, founder of launch27, a company that offers a booking plugin for local service businesses, started his entrepreneurial career back in 2012 when he took an idea from nothing to replacing his full time salary in 4 months. That idea was Maids in Black, a home cleaning service for the DC-metro area. When the business got to $10k/month, Rohan quit his job and hasn’t looked back since.
The next summer, he hired a small team and his business did $1 million dollars that year. The next year it did $2 million. Along the way, Rohan also bought Wet Shave Club for $4,000 which did $200,000 in 7 months, and launched Lawn Tribe which turned over $17,000 in its first 4 months.
He chronicled his journey openly on Reddit and through dozens of interviews over the years which created a movement of entrepreneurs attempting to recreate Rohan’s success. Seeing this trend, he built out the backend that powered his local service businesses and turned it into a SaaS app, and launch27 was born. The goal for the company is to make it easy for entrepreneurs to get up and running so they can focus on the hard part of building and growing the business.
Where they are now
Groove Living, the parent company setup by Rohan to manage all of his ventures, is composed of 7 businesses and growing. With Maids In Black doing over $2 million a year in revenue, Wet Shave Club doing $350k, it may seem silly to focus on the one only turning over $180k, but I am convinced that launch27 has the most potential. For starters, the margins for a software business are going to be way better than any business that depends on employees or hard goods. Also, because the business doesn’t depend on human capital or inventory, it can scale much easier, faster, and cheaper.
I don’t like to use the “selling shovels to gold miners” example here because the industry he serves isn’t a fad, and he has a damn good shovel, but the point stands that he can make a much larger impact by focusing on providing the backend for thousands of companies instead of expanding his business to thousands of locations.
As of November 2015, launch27 does over $17,000 in MRR and is growing fast, up over 125% in the past 6 months alone and all of this has been achieved with minimal marketing efforts. About 75% of the customers are from Reddit, others come from speaking at a local service conference, and the rest came organically. Rohan should keep doubling down on what works for his big winners, but launch27 needs to have a cohesive marketing plan, and this article lays out the strategies to get them started.
A new approach to content
launch27 handles everything needed to run a local service business, from online scheduling, to taking credit cards for payment, to paying the teams that do the work. For somebody looking to dive into the field, launch27 is a godsend. Knowing this, Rohan created a 27-day step-by-step guide to launching a local service business (hence the name of the company). On top of that, there are also 8 other “members only” resources that promise to make the startup journey even easier for a new entrepreneur.
The problem is, after signing up for the trial, I can’t find these anywhere. While that is obviously bad, the bigger problem is that these materials are only available to members. The goal of content marketing is to educate prospective customers to the point where they know enough to become paying customers. If you are selling a product, you want to give away the information that makes using the product valuable.
I would turn the guide into a 27-day email course, put it front and center on the launch27 email course and promote it everywhere. The email course will guide them through the process so that at the end of it they are begging to sign up and get started. Once the trial starts, keep the content flowing with a series of emails to hold them accountable and offer help where needed. Churn is poison to any SaaS business, so you want to make your customers as successful as you can so that they stick around. This is a great way to do that.
Over the years, Rohan has done dozens of interviews, so he should leverage those relationships to get guests posts which could re-tell his entrepreneurial story and at the end include a “bonus” for the readers by pitching the 27-day email course which they can take for free to get started on their own. I’d also start up a blog on launch27 and use it to share interviews with successful customers, relevant advice, and more in depth case studies.
Even the best websites only get around 10% of their visitors to opt-in to their mailing lists. This use to mean that we wouldn’t have a way to reach out to 90% of our visitors, but Facebook changed all of that. Retargeting has been around for years, but used to be very expensive and only available to the largest enterprises. Facebook however lets you setup a tracking pixel on your website and then later advertise to those visitors who have a Facebook account right in their newsfeed.
These visitors are already familiar with your brand because they were on your site, so now it is time to deepen the relationship by promoting the email course to them. If you test a few different offers and keep promoting your blog content to them, you will get back a significant percent of those visitors that otherwise would have gone to waste. When the average customer is worth almost $700, even a simple retargeting strategy can have huge returns.
As the launch27 email list grows, they can take advantage of another tool Facebook offers, lookalike audiences. A lookalike audience is where Facebook takes any email list you upload and builds a new, completely unique list of users that have similar likes, interests, and behaviors. When creating it, Facebook gives you two options for how they will construct the audience; similarity or greater reach. The more targeted your list, the better, so go with similarity. To increase the targeting even further, I would try adding an interest like “entrepreneurship” which would target only people who are within the lookalike audience AND are interested in entrepreneurship.
Rohan could then repeat the process from before of promoting the 27-day to launch email course to this audience. If that doesn’t perform well, he could try starting earlier in the funnel by instead promoting the blog content first so that these new readers because more familiar with his brand before being asked to hand over their email address.
The HUGE market they aren’t addressing
launch27 is geared towards making it easy for new entrepreneurs to get the backend of their local service business setup so they can focus on growing their business, but what about the tens of thousands of already established local service businesses? Couldn’t they use this too?
YES! And because they are past the startup phase, they are probably doing OK and are more likely to sign-up for the higher cost plans. While a lot of these businesses already have their own scheduling and payment systems in place, if you know anything about small businesses and the internet, you will know that most do not.
When asked in a Reddit thread if he did any cold calls or email, Rohan responded with “Cold call, hell naw.” And honestly, that’s the type of answer I expect to hear from most modern marketers. Cold outreach via phone and email isn’t sexy. They aren’t as cool as SEO and content marketing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work. In fact, if you have a target audience that can be easily identified and found online, cold outreach will often be an insanely profitable tool to reach out and convert them into customers.
Here is how it would work:
- Create a list of maid companies
- Research them to find which ones don’t have online schedule
- Find contact information for those sites
- Reach out to them with a personalized message and show them how launch27 helped a similar business make more money
- Sign them up for a trial
- Repeat the process for lawn services, movers, etc.
If you know exactly who your potential customers are and have a way to reach them directly with a message catered to their specific needs, you will always have more success than sharing a generic message to a larger audience. It may not be as cool or trendy as content marketing, but the revenue it drives can be spent just the same.
Where to go from here
launch27 solves a real problem for 10s of 1000s of businesses and if he can get it in front of those businesses, then its growth will be phenomenal. Rohan knows exactly how to market and grow his other businesses and should keep doubling down on what he has found to work, but for launch27 I think a different approach is in order. The strategies I laid out here will help capitalize on the early entrepreneur market with content marketing, and give him a path to go after the bigger, more profitable market of established businesses.
While I didn’t know he could push harder than he already had been, Rohan has said that 2015 is the year that will be “insanity or bust,” so whatever he decides to do it will be exciting to watch.