Are you ready to start your business? Or do you already have one that is struggling to make a profit? The pandemic has impacted small businesses immensely, but your business can thrive with the right marketing plan and a wise budget. 

With marketing leaders worldwide promising amazing results if you take their classes or use their tools, it can be confusing to navigate the waters. Should you do it all on your own, or should you trust a marketing agency to do the work for you? Whatever decision you make, it’s essential to have a budget before you begin. 

How Much Money Should You Spend on Marketing?

We’ll be honest; you probably won’t like our answer. The truth is…it depends. 

Marketing helps you create new revenue, engage new and old customers, and establish yourself as a player in your industry. Between 8-12% of your income should go to marketing. But what if you don’t have income yet?

It’s important to note that your budget for marketing will be higher before you launch versus after you launch. Your business is unknown, and the money you spend at the forefront of the launch will go towards four unique goals.

  1. Stand out from the competition: Who are your competitors? Are they local or across the world? Once you figure that out, you’ll want to do everything you can to differentiate yourself from them. 
  1. Build your unique voice on the market: The way you talk to your target audience and how you are perceived online is your unique brand voice. Customers build trust with brands when they have consistent positive and engaging interactions with them.
  1. Find your customers: The most crucial part of marketing is finding your customers where they already are. Before you launch, you can grow your email lists, social media followers, and traction through ads to establish a customer group. 
  1. Equip the business with a quality online presence and visual elements: Before you launch, you’ll need a website, an online marketplace, social media accounts, and more. The more professional these look, the better. Graphic design, photos, and videos can help buff up your online presence and build trust with your customers. 

Should You Hire a Marketing Agency or Handle It Internally?

Marketing your small business is definitely something you can do on your own….but we can’t promise you’ll have good results. Many tools exist to let you do it on your own: Canva to create graphics, social media platforms to reach your audience, stock image sites to share photos, the list goes on. These tools are great, but without the right skill set and ability to think about the strategy, the time you put in could be all for nothing. 

What other options do you have? Hire a marketing agency! Marketers each have unique skill sets that make them valuable agency employees. Graphic designers, copywriters, paid media specialists, market researchers, and photographers all come together to work on your account to provide you with the best results possible. 

Clear Function Tip: Don’t underestimate the value of good design. Often taken for granted, graphic design can elevate the professionalism of your marketing collateral. Your visual identity is something that your customers will become familiar with – don’t miss out on a great marketing opportunity with poor design. 

What To Look For When Hiring an Agency

The biggest thing to look at when hiring a marketing agency is their previous work. Visit their website and read their case studies. See if they have worked with industries similar to yours. There are often unspoken rules between industries and if they already know these then you’ll spend less time prepping them on the front end. 

Set up an intro meeting to hear from the agency leadership team. Describe your wants and concerns for marketing and listen to the plan they propose. Agencies vary in size and cost, meeting with several can help you find the perfect fit for your business. 

Invest in Paid Marketing

Paid marketing is a great way to increase your profit margin quickly and effectively. Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, and Google are just a few of the platforms that allow for paid media campaigns. Large ad campaigns can be effective, but the day-to-day ongoing campaigns are also important to invest in. 

Large campaigns can be a great way to make a splash. New videos, graphics, ads with multiple versions of copy all play a part in a large, strategic campaign. They help you to reach new segments of customers but can also be rather expensive

Day-to-day campaigns that focus on one to two ads meant to target your local audience often see better targeting results. The data from long-term campaigns lets you see how your business is performing in different target markets. With that data, you can begin to understand your audience better and easily make changes. 

Are You Ready To Market Your Business?

Whether your business is brand new or you’ve tried out marketing on your own and it hasn’t been successful, Clear Function can help. Our dedicated team of marketing experts can evaluate your business plan and come up with a complete marketing strategy. Contact us today to get started!

You have a revolutionary idea for an app, but when it comes to figuring out how much it will cost, you are lost. Without guidance on how to get funding, your app might never see the light of day. This is where the Clear Function team can help! We’ve taken our clients through the process of funding their app because we see the value in digital products and know the resources that are available for new entrepreneurs.

If you’ve done even ancillary research around your funding options, you are probably overwhelmed and confused. From self-funded to venture capital and everything in-between there is a lot to consider when figuring out what your best option is for getting your app and start-up off the ground.

Throughout today’s article, we will answer several of the most asked questions around funding your app. When you’re done reading, you will have a better understanding of what you need and how to get started. It may seem like a hard process, but with expert help, it can be smooth sailing!

Keeping Your App Development Costs in Check

It’s important to realize that the cost of your app could vary wildly. It depends on the complexity of the application, the reach, and how much you decide you want to spend. If you are looking to create an app on a smaller budget, we recommend a few steps.

  • Create an MVP: MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product and is essentially your app in its most basic form. It is the first version you release with only a few features and a minimal design. MVPs are used to conduct user testing and are a fundamental component to receive early feedback.
  • Find a cheaper developer: The actual code development of your app is where the money starts to add up. The Clear Function (CF) team is full of expert engineers, but we understand that not everyone can afford the cost of local development. We partner with an offshore agency to provide a high level of development to our clients while still providing a local CF project manager. With a local project manager, you can rest assured that you will always be up to date on the timeline and that your needs will always be advocated for.
  • Prioritize features: What features are a priority for version one of your app? When you try to build the first version with every single feature, it can get pricy. Spend time talking to your focus group and researching exactly what they want and need. Prioritize those features and only focus on the first few for version one.

We have launched MVPs from 5 thousand to 200 thousand dollars. If you are coming to an agency with an already validated idea and design, the cost will be much less than if you are coming at the very beginning. When you talk with an agency like Clear Function, they will give you a better estimate about how much your specific app could cost.

How Much Money Do I Need to Get Started and How Do I Raise Funds?

The first thing to do is to evaluate how much money you currently have to work with. If you have a good amount of money and feel confident that it is enough to create your MVP, then you are in a great place! This is what we call:

Scenario 1: Self-funded

Say you have a good job that has given you industry expertise in the area you want to create your app in, and you have been able to save capital to self-fund your app. You are able to meet with developers and begin the process of creating your MVP.

Once you have an MVP created, this is what you will then show to potential investors to create the next version. Version 2 will include extra features and a more complex design. Having an MVP to show investors will make you look more credible and will show that you have a solid audience who is excited about future releases.

We always recommend keeping in mind that as soon as you release your app to the public, you will need to make changes. This comes naturally as you receive feedback or you have an error in the code. It’s essential to have enough money to fix those errors or make improvements.

Scenario 2: Friends and Family

The second scenario involves having a good idea but not having the existing capital to do it on your own. You have pitched the idea to your friends and family, and they agree that it is a good idea. They have helped you out with the initial investment but will want to see completed designs and market testing before they commit to more money.

This is also where crowdfunding can come into place. Several websites exist to help with this, like AngelList or Fundable. Don’t feel like you have to rely on your family and friends throughout the entire development of the app. After you have the MVP, you can take it to outside investors with this scenario as well.

Scenario 3: Bank Loan

The third way to get funding is through a small business loan. Typically banks require a very robust business plan, so before you meet with an underwriter, you will want to do a lot of work on the front end. The 7a program is used for startup loans and will require a personal guarantee if you can’t pay the loan back.

Creating an app is a risky move, just like any other startup business. We don’t recommend taking out a loan as your first option, especially if you risk losing your house or another piece of collateral. If you do decide to consider a loan, make sure you have all the necessary paperwork and information together. It can beneficial to work with a business coach at this step who can take you through the process.

How Do I Get Started?

You will need several things nailed down before you actually start the development of your app. Do you have a financial model? Have you done market research? Have you thought about what your brand identity will be? These are all questions, along with many others, that will need to be answered, and the process can be much easier with a business coach.

A coach will help you see beyond just the lines of code. They will prioritize what you need to work on and make sure you will be able to recoup your investment early on. While this is an added expense, it is completely worth it because you’ll actually end up saving money in the long run with a more strategic business plan.

Are you ready to talk about your app idea and get started funding it? Schedule a Discovery Session with our team and start the exciting process today!

As a new entrepreneur, coming up with a revolutionary digital product idea is the hard part. You have done the work of discovering a solution to the problem that you want to solve and finding out if the marketplace has room for your product. You are now ready to pass the product on to a developer with one question in mind: how much will this cost?

No matter if you have a little money to spend or a lot, staying on budget is important. For software development agencies, it is equally as important for their clients to stay on budget. With so many unknowns at the beginning of a project, how do you know how much your product will cost and how do developers provide a complete estimate?

A tool Clear Function now implements into our proposal process, to present an estimated cost for development, is the RAQ. This stands for Range, Assumptions, and Questions. This is an easier and quicker approach that developers can use to guide the estimation process. It helps clients to think through exactly what they want and need, and presents a price range that allows for bumps along the way. After the RAQ is completed companies are able to present a more accurate proposal to the client. Let’s dive into why estimates are hard to give and how the RAQ tool can simplify the process.

Developers Hate Giving Estimates

It’s no secret that developers hate giving estimates for new projects. They are excited about the actual work they will get to do and to see the product finalized and on the market, but estimates are complicated. Clients expect estimates to be accurate and if you give an exact number at the beginning of a project, you will be held to that number.

Developers see the inner working of estimates. They realize that there is no way to know exactly what will be involved just from an initial idea. As you begin to work on a project and receive feedback from testers, your design and needed features will change. Your project could end up being less expensive or more expensive based on the wants and needs of real customers.

Preparing Estimations Can Be Costly

For both the client and the software development agency, time is money. Because most projects are billed hourly, developers always want to be billing the hours that they work. Most companies do not charge to prepare estimations, a good practice, but it can end up costing money if the client does not decide to go with the company for development.

Do developers take time off of money-making projects to prepare an estimate? This is a risky move since there is a good chance that a prospective client might reject the proposal or simply disappear when they discover the amount of time, money and effort that is involved. Using the RAQ estimation model can help get an initial estimation done quickly and efficiently – lessening the risk for both parties.

How to Use the RAQ Estimation Model

  1. Record all Assumptions

Clear Function’s process for new clients is to first lead them through an intro call where they broadly discuss their new idea. The next step is a longer discovery session. It is during these two phone calls where we record parts of the project, including features, the problem they are solving, and the solution they are offering. It is also where we make valuable assumptions about the project.

Assumptions for a project could include only wanting an iPhone app or a website. You are assuming the project will be managed by your team or an offshore team to save costs. Assumptions can be validated during your initial session with developers.

  1. Ask Questions for a Tighter Scope

Questions can be asked during two times of the estimation process. First at the beginning to qualify the project, and after you have recorded all of your assumptions.

Qualifying questions are used to identify when you want your product developed, how involved you want to be, what you want the success of your solution to look like, and even how you plan to proceed once your project has ended. Qualifying questions tend to be less unique and more straightforward that could apply to multiple projects.

Clarifying questions asked near the end of the estimation process are to solidify certain details that could raise or lower the cost. This could include asking if the product needs to integrate with any existing software or if any design or branding work has already been done. These questions tend to be more specific and should be adjusted for each product.

  1. Present a Price Range

Now that assumptions have been made and vital questions have been asked, it is time to talk about money. With the hard work already done, developers can fairly quickly present clients with a range of prices, both low and high. Instead of a solid 50 thousand, you might present a range of 25 to 75 thousand.

With a range, it leaves the developer and the client room to add certain features and requirements or take them away. You aren’t set at a certain price because you don’t know exactly what to expect until you begin the design. Clients will have better peace of mind knowing that the price for the development of their product will most likely fall within that range.

What to Do When Clients Say No

Spending time working on an estimation just for clients to say no can be frustrating. Thankfully, with the RAQ model, you are putting an ample amount of time and effort into price estimation without losing significant amounts of money.

If a client passes, use the estimation you prepared for them as a template for other similar products. It will guide you on assumptions and questions to ask and speed up the process even more.

What other services do you offer that should be included?

Before you present your final estimation to the client, think through the other services that your company offers. Do you offer business coaching or a maintenance plan? These services can bump up the cost but are valuable resources that clients may want and need.

When it comes to building your future digital product, having a solid plan is key. While you may think you can tackle the whole project on your own, developing a product and seeing it launch successfully is hard work.

3 Key Product Development Roles for Launching a Successful Digital Product

Throughout this article, we will introduce you to 3 key players that will serve a vital role in seeing your product become a reality. With these three roles or coaches, your product will have the direction and valuable support that your product will need.

Role 1: Product Coach

The first thing you must consider when looking to develop your product is finding the right developer. You could go with a local agency or decide to go with an offshore team, but this first must be decided before any other moves can be made. A developer can make or break your product, so make sure you spend time on this decision and research to find the best fit.

Once you have decided on your developer, a product coach will play the first key role as you take your idea to a tangible, profitable product. A product coach will help you think through the big picture and how your product would fit in the marketplace. 

Before you can begin the development of your product, you will have to validate the problem. What is the ultimate problem your product is aiming to solve and who is it going to help? A product coach can ask the hard questions and help you think through ways to differentiate your product from others already on the market to make sure it is unique. 

Not only will they help you validate your product’s solution, but they will stay with you throughout the course of your development and keep you informed about deliverables and updates. While the ins and outs of developing your digital product might seem tricky to you, your coach is an expert! You can rely on them to help make the process easier and less stressful. 

Role 2: Marketing Coach

The second role your product needs to have is a marketing coach. Having an idea for a digital product is the first step, but what is your overall brand? A marketing coach will help you develop your brand identity, which includes creating your brand’s name, coming up with a logo, and leading you through exercises to solidify how you want to present your product to the public. 

One other benefit of having a marketing coach is having them help you build your audience. When you release your product to the market it is important to already have a dedicated user base behind you. A marketing coach can guide you through audience building by helping you create professional, user-friendly social media pages and ads. Instead of releasing blindly and hoping for the best, building your audience beforehand can guarantee that you will have users following your launch and who are excited about using your product. 

As your product is being developed, your marketing coach will develop a launch plan that will help generate buzz before release. Having a successful launch plan is important because of the number of products already on the market and the need for yours to stand out. Without a marketing coach, you could run the risk of reaching launch day and seeing little to no interaction on your product. 

Role 3: Project Coach

The third role, crucial to the success of your product, is a project coach. Whether you are working with a local or offshore team, having someone who can help you manage the technical aspects of the design and development of the product is very important. Your development team won’t expect you to know the ins and outs of writing code or having a user-friendly design. Not having to know that is the benefit of having an expert coach who can guide you through the process.

Another key benefit of having a product coach is that they can make sure your product will scale as it continues to grow. A digital product’s development isn’t finished after its first initial release. If it is going to be successful it will take multiple updates, enhancements, and version releases to ensure its future. Your coach will guide you through the process of scaling the development to make sure the right decisions are being made and features are being released at the best times. 

3 Product Development Myths That Can Derail Your Digital Product Launch

Myth 1: I can do the whole project on my own.

Many people feel that they don’t want or need a coach for their product to succeed. One thing to remember is that if you want your company to be successful, you will not be able to do it all on your own. With growth comes added responsibilities and as the founder of a company you could feel that the weight of that is all on your shoulders. 

Having three key players to guide you through the process is a great way to get your company off the ground without the pressure of hiring staff members. Even if you think you can do it all on your own, it can be hard to see other perspectives when you are only looking at one. A coach can help you wear the different hats of your project so that certain responsibilities can be shifted off of you. 

Myth 2: One person can do the work of all three.

As you work through the development of your product you may think that instead of having a separate person for each area, one person could fill all three roles. Each role really needs to be filled by a different person because most leaders will have one specialty that they excel at to help their customer base grow. Each person thinks differently and it’s hard to find someone who can think with all the necessary perspectives

If you can’t imagine filling all the roles by yourself, you can’t expect one leader to fill all the roles. 

Myth 3: All coaches are the same.

The hard truth is, not all coaches will be a good fit for you and your digital product. While many will value your product and opinions, there are those out there that are just looking to make a profit off of you. With that in mind, it’s important to research and ask for feedback on your potential leaders to make sure they will help your product grow.

What makes a good coach? They listen well and repeat to understand. They join you on the journey of making your product succeed and ask the questions, “What would I do if this was my company?” They are able to give good advice and push back with your best interests in mind. 

A good coach has confidence in their proven principles and is able to keep an eye on the target as they help to move you along the process. Find a leader that celebrates your victory, but doesn’t wallow in its defeats. At the end of your journey, you will feel confident that your product had the best support behind it along the way.

Rely on experts who can help your product grow! 

If you can’t tell by now, we are a big fan of coaches. Not only will they make things significantly easier for you, but your product will experience tangible, positive effects.

As you look for a development partner for your digital product, ask about the roles their team members will play for your product. If they don’t offer a plan that fills these three roles ask if they would consider that for you. Your product will benefit substantially from the guidance and expert knowledge. 

Filter By Type

Filter By Category

Clear filters
  • Payments 101: Using Test Cards to Prevent Fraud

    The security and integrity of payment systems is paramount. Testing your payment system using test cards is imperative to ensure your systems are reliable, secure, and compliant. But what is the best way to test payments, and why is it crucial for fraud prevention?

  • Payment Processing Glossary of Terms Pt. 1

    Payment processing is a series of actions that occurs once a business initiates a digital payment transaction. It facilitates the exchange of money between said business or merchant and its customers.

  • Fintech Glossary of Terms

    The ultimate goal of fintech is to provide more efficient and accessible financial solutions to individuals and enterprises.

  • Payments 101: Understanding Payment Logging—The Backbone of Transaction Transparency

    Instituting a rigorous payment logging system ensures that transaction details can be recalled easily for internal reviews or when providing records for a financial audit.