How to start selling a service

Feb 16 2015

The return of the North Carolina General Assembly also marked the return of Capitol Hound, a searchable database of transcripts with a keyword alert system. We have dug in our heels to prepare for the legislature’s long session.

Capitol Hound was able to continue operating when John Clark, the executive director of the Reese News Lab, and Sara Peach, the associate director of the Lab, received the C. Felix Harvey Award for Institutional Priorities. This award allots $50,000 for the continuation of the service. This will keep the momentum of the new business moving forward as we get our grounding, but we are far from being a stable, profitable entity.

Since joining the team, I have learned just how much effort it requires to keep Capitol Hound functioning properly on a day-to-day basis. There are always minor issues popping up. As a new team, we are still learning how to communicate and distribute responsibilities. Since our service is a web-based platform, there is a constant cycle of generating new content, maintaining existing content, debugging and looking to improve. And most often, we are running into problems that could not have been predicted or prevented. Sometimes you have to write the rules as you go.

That being said, these obstacles cannot dismantle us because Capitol Hound always needs to be moving forward. We need customers to make the service financially sustainable. And it is time-sensitive, not only because simply keeping the service functioning is a drain on our balance, but also because the legislative session has a definitive end date. In fact, people will be less likely to pay full price for a service that is considerably underway. Therefore, with each passing week, our team members will feel the pressure to sell (if they don’t already, but they ought to).

After making time for everyone to get his or her bearings these past few weeks, it is time to launch our marketing plan with guns blazing and sell, sell, sell. If there was one lesson passed down to us from past Capitol Hound teams, it is that cold calls and anonymous emails get you nowhere. That is why, as of late, we have been employing the help of many UNC professors with years of political and government reporting experience under their belt (and years of building relationships and contacts) to help us get our foot in the door and reach out to possible clients.

Another thing to consider when pitching the product is that we are representing Capitol Hound. The team consists of college students, which makes other people wary of giving us their money. We have to exude professionalism and legitimacy. If we cannot convince others that we know what we are talking about, we cannot convince them that they need our service.

We have a long way to go to break even, but we are still excited and our morale is high after our first sale. Going into next week, we will be hunting for buyers like nobody’s business.


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