A few years back I was on a podcast talking about business, and this particular podcast had live callers without screening, which personally I love!
A caller came on who said, “well it’s easy for you to talk about starting a business when you have money.”
My response was if you genuinely wanted to start a business you could do without a penny.
So I made a bet that I could start a business with zero money and get it off the ground.
3 Years later that company handles $6.8 million a year in ad spend alone, producing over 16,000 pieces of content per day!
And it crossed the 8 figure revenue barrier this year.
This is how I did it:
At the time another business of mine was struggling to find an ad management agency that truly understood the service being offered.
The whole team was getting frustrated over this, and it seems this is when I found my ‘bet’.
Part of the deal with zero money meant I couldn’t just buy the team and marketing, this had to be grassroots.
So, every evening for the next 6 week I watched every Youtube video I could on how to run Facebook ads.
Total spend $0.
I had a plan, the first client would be able to pay for the ad spend and website setup.
So the real barrier was getting the first client.
Now at this stage, I could have simply taken on my own business as a client, but that would have been cheating…
So, I spent another 4 weeks on Google searching small company owners and building a list I could email. I had just over 1,000 contacts, now I needed to contact them, and I had a plan:
- I would cold outreach saying I found the business and love what they did, and I know a couple of ways they could get more leads in.
- Then I would give it 3 days and reply a second time with a cheeky email saying I hadn’t heard back and asked if they could let me know the reason.
- Then finally 3 days after that if there was still no reply I would send a goodbye email wishing them all success.
I was sending each email manually and custom to their contact and their industry. It was a dreadfully slow process, and I was 800 emails in when I got my first reply.
I got the prospect on the phone and landed the client! A sweet $1,800 per month, no contract.
Total marketing spend? $0.
I was now $1,800 positive. So, I took the full amount and took everything I had learned on ads, and channeled it into Facebook ads.
This is where things took off.
It was costing me $248 to acquire a new client via Facebook ads, this was crazy!
I could spend $248 and get an $1800 client.
So even if they only stayed for one month this was still viable, but they were staying for more than a month.
Now here is something painfully true. You won’t often read this in ‘success stories’ but we usually only retain clients for around 3 months in the early days. It’s a mixture of things between us still learning and clients not having a process to convert leads into sales effectively.
Within 3 months I was ready to take on my first salesperson to close these leads. That was another challenge in itself. You can read about how I hire people here.
2 months after this we expanded again by upping our marketing of inbound leads and we hired another salesperson. We just kept growing.
Since starting that business on a bet, we have grown our service into a full content production and ad management service, and we handle clients in 4 different countries already.
Of course, if I had started this with funding the growth rate would have been much steeper and faster but this was a bet about starting a business with zero dollars.
My reason for writing this goes back to the podcast.
During that call, I got the personal contact details of the man who I made the bet with.
I reached out to him, after being able to hand off the marketing company to my nearly built team, to ask how he was and what he was up to. He was still complaining he couldn’t make more money and that no one would give him a loan to start his own business. TWO YEARS LATER!
I want people to know that there is a solution to almost anything, I am no one special.
I am certainly not lucky in business, never have had a lucky break, I just understand numbers and the law of averages. You have to be present to stand a chance.
Those 800 manual emails taught me that its all about reach when it comes to anything in life.
The results of starting a marketing agency on a bet are I now have an agency that can market my business, self-funds itself, and allows me to keep on top of the latest marketing trends.
Steve Goodall is a full-time digital nomad and an Iron Maiden fan who has spent the last 30 years working with business owners in driving company growth, restructuring internal operations and providing full consultancy on all platforms including branding, outreach, and marketing. Talking business is his THING… so connect with him on LinkedIn.