An abbreviated version of this blog can be found posted on the HubSpot Developer Blog here. Here is the full-length blog:
Selling themes, templates, and other assets in an online marketplace can be a very profitable source of revenue for your business.
"A common misconception, however, is that the most profitable and successful way to do this is through passive income by listing a theme and watching the cash roll in."
Many people see transaction counters and product list prices, do some basic math in their head, and get the impression that they are missing out on a gold mine of passive income that other companies are capitalizing on.
For some, utilizing this “set-it-and-forget-it” approach works well and allows them to bring in revenue to help offset expenses. However, this isn’t the most profitable way to utilize the marketplace for growth, and in most cases the actual revenue attributed to these themes is not visible to the public because it isn’t transacted in the marketplace.
"If you sell additional products or services beyond the initial transaction, you’re opening the door to long-term potential clients and a source of revenue that will compound over time."
The secret to making this a profitable area of your business lies in setting clear objectives for your own process and creating a roadmap to achieve them. In this article, we'll explore how to craft a seamless customer journey by nurturing relationships, delivering outstanding customer experiences, and building trust within your client base after someone purchases your marketplace assets. By investing your time and energy in these areas, your theme sales can blossom into a thriving, long-lasting source of business.
Why You SHould Consider Selling In This Format
This is a look into how it's worked for us.
At Web Canopy Studio, we have been making themes and other assets for the marketplace since 2014. From 2014 to 2023, Web Canopy Studio’s assets have been downloaded over 70,000 times in the HubSpot Marketplace. In just the last few years, we can attribute $1,134,817.97 in revenue from original sources related to marketplace listings alone. However, 99.37% of all our HubSpot Marketplace transactions have been completely free downloads.
So how did we turn free themes into a significant source of revenue?
This has exclusively come from email nurturing strategies in post-sale customer acquisition from the marketplace that allows the agency to build trust, authority, and community within the subscriber base. Not only that, but the number referenced doesn’t take into account leads generated elsewhere through other channels, which is where the majority of the revenue comes from. However, it makes up a large portion of the R&D that the agency performs (and it’s paid for instead of existing in the expense column).
Where Most Go Wrong With Marketplace Transactions
This is a pretty common scenario that might sound familiar. Let’s say we have an agency owner named Sarah, a talented entrepreneur who recently launched her first theme in the Marketplace. Excited about the potential for a secondary stream of passive income, and knowing what she built is just as good (if not better!) than what she’s seen in the marketplace today, she set high expectations for her results. However, she soon faces three common hurdles:
Difficulty Generating Passive Income
Sarah has a fair number of theme sales in her first few months, but the income just doesn’t match her expectations. She begins questioning the value of her effort because she spent a considerable amount of time with her team building this theme. She’s wondering if she needs to invest time and money into marketing the theme elsewhere, but she doesn’t want to waste even more resources.
Inability To Convert Sales Into Long-Term Clients
Despite her theme sales, Sarah is frustrated that people purchased her products in the marketplace, but they did not show interest in her agency's services. She reaches out to them and proposes a consultation, gives them recommendations, and sends her calendar as an offer to help them learn how to get more from HubSpot. Unfortunately, these efforts are not turning into real fruit, and sees this as yet another investment of her time that she’s questioning if it’s “worth it.”
Struggling To Keep Up With Agency Life
Sarah noticed a drop in engagement with her theme over time, and she even got a mediocre review from someone who said the theme wasn’t very easy to use (even after she had offered multiple times to help the client but they never responded!). Realizing her agency was going through a season of “crazy,” she needed to focus her attention on her company’s staff, processes, sales outreach, and more. She decides to put her theme efforts on the backburner for the next few months until things settle down.
In the end, Sarah’s efforts in the marketplace never really take off. She sees this as something that she’ll get to down the road. Ultimately, she never gets to put the energy into it that she was once so excited to explore.
What should Sarah have done differently? What could she do in the future to get the most out of these amazing assets she invested so much time and energy into without losing her mind?
Another common misconception among marketplace providers is that the sale of an asset marks the end of their customers' journey. They perceive their assets as mere "things" to sell, often overlooking the potential to nurture long-term relationships that extend far beyond the initial transaction.
Consider the metaphor of a restaurant dining experience. Many marketplace providers view the asset they offer as "the meal" their customers purchase. However, adopting a more customer-centric perspective involves recognizing that the asset is merely "one course" in the entire dining experience.
So, let’s start to consider your customer's journey with you as a multi-course meal at a fine restaurant. The sale of your asset is simply the appetizer, and it's your responsibility to ensure that the experience that follows is memorable and satisfying. Roll out the red carpet for your customers, build rapport with them, and create an environment in which they eagerly anticipate the next course.
The Ultimate Step-by-Step Process for Building an Unforgettable Customer Journey
The key to growing a thriving business through the HubSpot Marketplace is to build and maintain strong relationships with your customers. By prioritizing your customer’s needs and thinking about how you can help them take the next step in their journey—instead of thinking about how you can sell them something—you’ll create a repeatable framework that drives revenue and happy customers consistently. This is called a customer journey.
There are countless examples of customer journeys and frameworks to follow. We have found that time and time again, the more simple you can make your process, the better. We’ve boiled these down to just 4 steps for building a fast and effective customer journey.
Step 1: Define The Goal
You wouldn’t hike into the mountains if you didn’t know where you were supposed to go. You wouldn’t start a race if you didn’t know where the finish line was located. The same goes for your customer journey within the marketplace. First, you should start by simply understanding what success looks like for your customers. If your theme or asset was step one of a multi-step journey, what is the destination that theme will help them get to? Where do they want to go? How can you help get them there? How long will it take to get there? What stepping stones can you provide along the way to make that journey easier? Consider sending a survey, direct email outreach, or even the tried and true method of picking up the phone to get some feedback and ask some questions.
Step 2: Outline The Major Milestones
Milestones and objectives should be like big giant waypoints along their journey that tell them, “you’re on the right track! You’re doing great!” Break your customer’s journey into manageable objectives, ensuring your clients complete each milestone before progressing to the next. Consider finding 3-4 milestones that would signal to your customer that they are doing the right things, and make those become a part of your post-sale process. For example, a small business owner's goal might be to launch an online marketplace for their brand. Purchasing your theme is the first milestone of many along the way. The next milestone might revolve around connecting tools to their HubSpot portal for better tracking and reporting. The next milestone might revolve around partnering with other vendors for more visibility. These are clear checkpoints in their process that you could highlight and feature.
Step 3: Align Milestones With Your Services And Products
Once you understand the milestones they are working toward, ask yourself, “what kind of products or services can I build that would help them with each milestone?” This doesn’t have to be a massive service, although it could be an option. For example, if your theme is focused on the solar industry, and one of the milestones of those business owners is around increasing the number of quote requests they receive, you could consider building an “instant quote calculator” as an interactive element for their site, and you could sell that as a packaged product that can easily be installed in each of your clients’ portals. You could even sell something like that as a subscription (SaaS) model instead of just a one-time purchase. Yes, you may ultimately sell them a complete marketing implementation plan, but that’s not the next step in their journey—it’s 4 steps down the road. You are focused on getting them to make a series of “yes” statements as they get to know and trust your brand, and as they move from one milestone to the next.
Step 4: Anticipate Customer Questions And Build An Arsenal Of Content
Put yourself in your client's shoes and consider their thought process at each step of the journey. You certainly wouldn’t want to be sold something at every turn. You would, however, be more likely to receive content that answered very specific questions you had at that very moment. For instance, perhaps you’re a marketing director and you’ve just launched your first campaign in HubSpot. If you were invited to a private Q&A webinar on “how to evaluate the success of your HubSpot campaigns,” you would more than likely be very interested in the content that was shared. Start to think through the various kinds of content you could provide that go along with the products and/or service you’re selling at each stage, and build an arsenal of content you can provide your customers that answers their questions. By addressing these questions proactively, you will demonstrate your expertise in the area and foster trust.
What To Sell Post Theme Purchase
So what options do you have in order to keep your customers purchasing from you? What can you continue to sell them beyond your initial theme? Here’s a list of a few tried and true areas to focus that you might have missed thus far.
Courses on How to Use the Product
Offering educational courses on using your product effectively helps customers maximize the value they get from it. This could include video tutorials, written guides, or even live training sessions. These courses can cover various topics, such as customization, optimization, and troubleshooting common issues.
Modules or Other Tools
Developing add-on modules or other tools that serve a specific purpose for your theme can enhance your theme’s functionality and take it to completely new levels with your customers. Examples include pricing calculators, quizzes, lead generation systems, or analytics tools. This helps you expand on what your customers already have (your theme), instead of buying something completely unrelated.
Helping customers integrate your product with other software they already use can streamline their workflow and improve overall efficiency. Offer seamless integrations with popular tools, such as other CRMs, email marketing platforms, ERPs, and project management systems. Additionally, provide resources to help customers set up and manage these integrations.
Many HubSpot users still think of their website as a completely separate tool from the rest of their marketing and sales. You can easily create some automation best practices and sell the implementation as a service.
Services for Small Gaps in Their Model
Identify gaps in your customers' existing processes and offer services to fill those needs. This might include content creation, template design, or consulting services. By addressing these pain points, you'll become an indispensable resource for your customers and encourage long-term relationships.
Migrations and System Setups
Offering migration and system setup services can ease the transition for customers who are new to your product. This could involve importing data from their previous system, configuring settings, or setting up necessary integrations. Providing this support can make the onboarding process smoother and establish a positive customer experience from the start.
Full Agency Services
And of course, you can always sell large retainers and complete agency services to your customers if all else fails. This is the most common thought process for people selling themes, but it’s not the easiest to get to happen. By moving this to the last step in the journey instead of the second step, your chances will be much higher in converting more customers into this kind of model.
The Long-Term Effects of Building Relationships with Your Customers Matter
Higher Customer Lifetime Value
Nurturing customer relationships leads to increased Lifetime Value (LTV) of your customers. When customers feel valued and supported, they are more likely to continue doing business with you and make additional purchases. Repeat transactions over long periods of time can bring in significant revenue streams. For example, if you previously sold a theme for $500, sold 5 in a month, and didn’t get a client to move beyond, your customer LTV is relavitvely low. But if you can get three of those customers to buy a $1,500 service and one of those to buy a $20,000 service, your customer LTV is considerably higher.
Lower Customer Acquisition Costs
It's easy to think because a theme is purchased and installed through a completely touchless experience that your customer acquisition cost (CAC) is $0. However, you have to take into account how much money you’ve spent to develop your product, how much you’re spending in HubSpot fees just to be a provider and list your theme, the time it takes to support and maintain this, and so on. By focusing on building relationships and providing exceptional service, you can reduce customer churn and lower your customer acquisition costs over time. This strategic investment in relationship-building will pay off in the long run by enabling you to allocate resources more efficiently and boost profitability.
Enhanced Brand Reputation
When you prioritize customer relationships, you'll also enhance your brand reputation. A strong track record of positive reviews and testimonials from happy customers will help establish your agency as a trusted and reliable choice in the marketplace. This expert reputation will attract more clients and foster long-term growth.
Greater Customer Insights
Engaging with your customers, allows you to learn more about their needs, problems, and pain points. This gives you actionable information and can help inform future products, marketing strategies, and customer support initiatives. The better you understand your customers, the easier it is to stay ahead of the competition and maintain relevance in your niche.
Increased Customer Loyalty
Strong relationships lead to increased customer loyalty, which can have a snowball effect on your business. Loyal customers are valuable because they'll stick with you and won't jump ship to competitors after minor bumps in the road. They will also be more responsive to upselling and cross-selling efforts.
Increased Word-of-Mouth Marketing
By creating strong relationships with your customers, you tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing. A satisfied customer is more likely to share their experiences with your products or services. By talking about your business in a positive light within their personal and professional networks, they help to increase your brand awareness and bring in new customers without the need for advertising.
Stronger Brand Advocates
When you build meaningful relationships with your customers, you'll create brand advocates who are not only loyal to your business but also actively promote it to others. These advocates will share their experiences on social media, write reviews, and even defend your brand in online discussions, further solidifying your agency's credibility and reputation.
What This Means
At the end of the day, having a plan in place for getting customers to buy additional products or services after the first sale is crucial because it helps increase customer lifetime value, fostering long-term revenue growth. By anticipating and catering to your customers' needs with relevant solutions, you create a strong bond and deepen your relationships with them. This fosters loyalty and ensures continued support.
Additionally, a well-thought-out plan can significantly reduce customer acquisition costs, as investing in the satisfaction of your existing customer base proves more cost-effective than constantly seeking new prospects. Not to mention, delighted customers are more likely to spread positive word-of-mouth, expanding your brand's influence and enhancing its reputation within the marketplace.
Ready to master your product sales in a completely new way? Your journey to successful product launching starts here. Download this free checklist called The Ultimate Roadmap To Launch A Service-Based Product With HubSpot.