Over a year ago now I interviewed Rand Fishkin at SMX London where I asked him about the process of taking SEOmoz from a consultancy service business to a Software tools company. As you would expect from someone as charming as Rand he presented a compelling case for the switch from consulting to a more commoditized service business.
If you’re a regular reader here you’ll no doubt have heard about our own small steps towards products with the launch of our premium podcast content.
Though we’re still very much a consultancy business and always will be; I thought I’d share a couple of stories of consultancy businesses that made the switch to service companies either partially or completely who I’ve enjoyed reading about.
SEOmoz started out as a consultancy businesses like any in the world of SEO. A client paid them money and they provided the advice to allow them to rank better.
One of the ways they attracted clients was through their blog, which quickly became one of the most popular in the industry. With the huge audience of their site they began to produce tools which their team and audience would find useful.
Before long they came up with the ideas for various tools they’d like to produce, along with a changing attitude to their consultancy business we discussed above they took on venture funding and launched a suite of tools including the game changing Linkscape tool.
If you work in the digital media business there’s a good chance you’ve come across or use one of the suite of programs from 37Signals.
Personally I’ve used Basecamp the project management software but their other services, Ta-Da List, Backpack, Writeboard, Campfire and Highrise are all really highly regarded.
If you’re not familiar with the background story to these guys, they started out as a fairly traditional Web Development company but as the developed Basecamp as an internal tool they realised it’s potential as a commercial product, they spun it out and before long the software development side of the business was the primary driver of the organisation.
The first day I arrived as a trainee at SiteVisibility Damon sat me down with a early printed copy of Aaron Wall’s SEOBook, the rest is as they say history.
By selling a book covering SEO, Aaron’s always used a slightly different business model to most within the SEO industry and his innovative streak shows no signs of slowing down, SEOBook is now a premium membership site which gives access to a suite of tools, training guides and private members forums.
While not everyone will have the gift to produce content like the guys at SEOBook but it does illustrate a different way of monetising knowledge and experience other than conventional consultancy.
RavenSEO is owned by Sitening and like the examples above they started as a consultancy which began producing an internal tool which they sold externally which became so successful that recently it became to sole focus of the business.
They offer a very specific software service to those working in an agency environment where they used their experience as a typical customer to develop a product which appealed perfectly to their target market.
This is just a trend of a few companies or thousands of SEO companies but interesting to study nonetheless. Is it the future or just a small niche trend?