I am trying to figure out the best way to reach my target audience. I launched the site 3 weeks ago, and I'm kind of stuck right now. I have tried SEO and SEM with very little success, since no one is actively looking for this product. I could also try a push email marketing campaign to a targeted audience, but it will probably get ignored mostly as spam.
At this point, I really think the best thing is to find a sales person to help me make cold call to the potential prospects. I know the type of business I am targeting, and can make the list for the sales guy.
I'd like ask the experts here to help me validate my thinking.
Should I try something else before hiring a sales guy?
And what's the best way to on-board a sales guy for a part-time startup. thanks!
I'd suggest another approach - talk to prospective customers, share your research with them, and validate your product offering. This customer development model demystifies the "sales process" and breaks "the build it and they (customers) will come" mentality that fails a lot of startups.
Reading a book, reaching out to your customers and integrating their feedback into your product development iterations is much cheaper than outsourcing the sales process altogether.
I would also take a close look at the questions you are asking, and the approach you use to capture those conversations. Here's a vimeo that might be helpful in reviewing your approach http://vimeo.com/40192415
Have you considered facebook advertising? It sounds like it would suit you well. With facebook advertising you can target people based on their profession even if they aren't actually looking for what you have. It's really the key difference in my mind to search engine advertising.
I would also suggest finding any forums that your target audience might be involved in (industry specific forums) and get active and post in those. You could also see if there are any publications that target them you could advertise in, often it's not as expensive as you would think.
Are there associations for your target market? If so there may be sponsorship or advertising avenues through them, often a paid email ad through an association is quite affordable and can be very well targeted.
If that doesn't work out, I would definitely do some cold calling yourself before considering hiring a sales guy. Even if you do plan to hire someone, doing it yourself first will have you much better equiped to both hire and then manage them. Otherwise you are trying to set goals and manage someone to do something that you have no idea about.
Perhaps you should consider hiring a business student with exlusively variable salary. It doesn't cost you alot and I guess sometimes can bring in even higher motivation level as fixed salary. Offering constant source of revenue in the future (as long companies don't cancel subscription) should be enough to get someone willing to put in their efforts with relatively low expected income in very short term.
3 weeks is a short time, allow some more time. IMHO hiring good sales people is harder than hiring good programmers. If a salesperson knows how to sell they can expertly sell themselves and will convince you they are the best you can find. And a good sales person is always looking for an easy to sell product. If your sales are low/flat they won't be interested.
In addition to the other answers you might want to invest some time into marketing and see if you can develop a clearer message about your solution for your market.
Ask your prospects how they would describe your product/service. Their answers are often surprising.
Plus, without knowing more than your question gives, your price sounds too low. $20 or $40 a month 'looks too cheap to be good'. Try $99 a month/$990 per year and see if you get a better response. (Note -I'm only guessing at those prices, I don't know your product or target market)
First, I'll answer your direct question:
I'd continue doing what you're doing for a few months at least to make sure you've given it enough time. I'd also hire paid search consultant (I hired Andy Brice for 4 hours and it was well worth it. I suspect Patrick McKenzie would be great too (I've read his stuff for years but don't have experience hiring him). (I have no financial relationship with either of these folks. I'm providing a recommendation b/c there are a lot of quacks out there.)
There are a lot of great answers here and one more from me: