Protected: CEO grows up. Reluctantly. – Peldi Guilizzoni – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

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The inside story of self-funded SaaS growth – Rob Walling – MicroConf Europe 2015

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Website: softwarebyrob.com
Twitter: @robwalling
Slides:

 

Talk Recap

  • last 15 months of my story as a founder – mainly Drip

3-Step Marketing Playbook

  • Build something people want
  • Find your position
  • Scale

Build Something People Want

  • Drip: Revenue at Launch: 100% (All numbers relative to that)
  • Stayed the same for ~6 months
    • new trials slowed down after launch
    • 40% trial-to-paid rate
  • Rules of thumb
    • visit to trial 0.7%-2%
    • trial to paid: 40-60%
    • First 60/90 day churn: 20-40%
    • Post 60/90 day churn: 4-7%
  • “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster” – David Ogilvy
  • Ask for cancellation reason in a short email
    • How to filter out the useful feedback?
    • Lots of “too pricey” feedback –> Do NOT lower prices; change your product to justify price!
    • Ask customers “What do you need Drip to do to make $50/mo worth it?”
      • “I like automation rules like Infusionsoft”
      • “Tags and a rules engine”
    • Gut feeling: “Marketing automation will justify the price”
      • checked out Infusionsoft via Google image search
      • talked to mastermind group
  • Build feature or not?
    • Does it fit my vision of the product?
    • Will this feature matter in 2 years?
    • Will it grow the business?
  • Rules Engine
    • Didn’t want to build it: too much work; enterprise-y; not fun
    • building in small steps
    • Revenue went up to 150% – People started talking on Twitter, etc
      • No marketing during that time ==> trial numbers went down
      • Churn rate went down
      • Trial-to-paid went up
      • ==> Product/Market fit

Find Your Position

  • If you are in a market with ANY competition, you need to pick a position
  • Invent a category (e.g. educate people on “Marketing automation” in 2003)
    • Usually something for funded companies
  • Compare features
    • bad path
  • Take a position in a category
    • comparing features makes you a commodity
    • better: “One click SaaS metrics for Stripe” – Baremetrics
    • “Drip is the best way to send emails to your prospects, trial users and customers based on who they are and what they’ve done.” –> Worst. Headline. Ever.
  • The Choices:
    • Compare Features
    • “Email Marketing”
    • “Marketing Automation”
    • Mastermind group: “Fuck it! Call yourself ‘Lightweight Marketing Automation That Doesn’t Suck'”
    • That headline totally crushed it

Scale

  • MRR today: 580%
  • First steps:
    • set up email course
    • Retargeting

Concentric Circle Marketing

  • Circles
    • Your Audience
    • Colleagues’ Audiences
    • Cold Audiences
  • Circle 1: Your Audience
  • Circle 2: Colleagues’ Audiences
  • Circle 3: Cold Audiences
    • “Powered by Drip” widget link
    • adding integrations to other software, get featured on “Integrations” page
    • SEO

Tactics we haven’t used

  • no split testing (for a lack of time)
  • paid acquisition – just recently started
  • AppSumo deal
  • Webinars – just recently started
  • Outbound email – just recently started

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From solo-founder with a day job – to a million dollar software business – Alex Yumashev – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Website: jitbit.com
Twitter: @jitbit
Slides:

 

Talk Recap

  • “You can teach a software engineer how to run a business, but you cannot teach an MBA how to write code” – Joel Spolsky
  • Jitbit history
    • 100% self-funded
    • 10 years; first 5 years: just me, all alone, 2 years moonlighting
    • 4 people, 100% remote
    • Flagship product: help desk software app (Really, REALLY crowded market)

The Don’ts

  • Don’t wait for an idea
    • start building before you have a product
    • tons of product-agnostic stuff:
      • website
      • blog
      • analytics
      • email list
      • payment gateway
    • less consumption, MORE creation
  • Don’t target developers
    • (At least not with your first product)
    • Hard crowd to please – don’t make it hard on yourself
  • Don’t worry about pirates
    • Software pirates never switch to paid versions – they switch to your competitor
    • We even tried “cracking” our own software and uploading it
  • Don’t worry about incorporating
    • Revenue is important, “LLP or LLC?” is not important
  • Don’t be afraid of competition
    • Don’t try to come up with some new cool innovative shit
    • competition is good news – they proof market exists
    • “Me too” products are fine – you can even clone a product
    • “First – learn to draw a horse” – Salvador Dali

The Dos

  • Charge More
    • charge from day 1
    • price for the customers you want
    • $5 customer is different from a $99 customer – $5 customer is PITA
    • add completely stripped $5 plan only to prevent disruptive competition (if threat imminent)
  • SEO
    • works on all stages of your company
  • “Always be marketing”
    • where no one expects it: 404 page, 500 page,
    • support = cheap marketing (no hard selling, but delight people for word-of-mouth)
  • “Marketing Mondays” by Mike Taber
    • whole team does nothing but marketing on mondays
  • Content Marketing
  • Log everything
    • links you build, AB-tests you run, posts you publish
    • have a “commit history” for your marketing – not just your code

Product Management 101

  • Monitor feature usage from 1st customer
    • Monitor trial/paid users separately
    • Kill the unused ones
    • Enhance the heavily used ones
    • CRO inside the product

SEO

  • SEO should be done by founder
  • Do the basics (on page, mobile, speed, Annie Cushing’s SEO checklist, Google Webmaster Tools)
  • target long-tail keywords
    • make all your internal content public – publish knowledge base, enduser docs, API docs, FAQs, installation guides, workarounds
  • Build links from pages that rank for your keyword
    • even at #218. Export the ranking URLs (serps.com), check for link opportunities
  • Build brand mentions
    • Google’s patents: “Non-linking citations are treated as implied links”
  • Competitor backlinks
  • Track rankings
    • if it drops, check the “marketing log”, check the Panguin tool
    • track top20 rankings to learn when your competitors improve their SEO –> reverse engineer

Other things we tried (Did it work or not?)

  • Remarketing ==> NO
    • people hate B2B/work-stuff on FB
  • A/B testing ==> YES
    • be prepared that 90% of tests will fail
    • Always have a hypothesis behind a test – not just “lets try X and see what happens”
    • Don’t trust your guts
    • Statistical significance (long time + high-traffic pages)
  • Email marketing ==> NO
    • at least not at the scale I hoped it would work
  • Growth hacks (“invite a friend”, “RT to extend trial”) ==> NO
    • not in B2B
  • Net Promoter Score ==> YES
    • surveying method to know customer happiness
    • delivers actionable data

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How to write email courses – Jacob Funnell – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Website: writing-skills.com
Twitter: @emphasiswriting
Slides:

Key Takeaways

  • Pick a small topic you can cover thoroughly
  • Make the user better with each email
  • Be supportive personal and confident

 

Talk Recap

  • 5 day course: “Homeworking in Brighton”
    • only has 3 emails (!!) – half-finished
    • still converts!

How to write an email course

  • Picking a course topic
    1. Everything oyu know about a topic != what you can reasonably teach someone in a week
    2. Example: “Speak in a Week”
      1. Seven-day course
      2. Objective: have a conversation at the end of the week
      3. Solve one problem ==> people think you’re good at solving other problems (Halo Effect)
  • Make the reader a better person
    • Example: Brennan Dunn “Charge What You’re Worth”
      • Gets readers to ask questions in a worksheet
      • Focuses reader on problem
    • Example “Serve Mastery”
      • Asks readers to respond to initial email
      • Increases reader’s investment
  • Tell people something useful
    • Write things that a user can act on
    • Don’t cram everything into an email
  • Course is about more than knowledge – come across as a genuine person
    • Tell stories about your own struggle
    • encourage people to add you on Twitter/Facebook
    • Don’t be timid about giving advice – AVOID underconfidence

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Limits and Liabilities: How to use where you come from to get where you’re going – Sherry Walling – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Website: zenfounder.com
Twitter: @zenfounder
Slides:

Key Points From the Talk

  • own your story
  • know your past and the weaknesses & strengths you get because of your past

Talk Recap

  • When you are the sole driver of your business, everything else matters WAY more
    • emotional well-being, enough sleep, physical fitness ALL affect your bottom line

How your past shapes your present

  • Who you are right now in this moment is an accumulation of all the past moments
  • If we don’t pay attention to the messages we received, we won’t be able to make the most out of our strengths and weaknesses
  • Abuse, neglect and household dysfunction as a child is a robust predictor of how much healthcare support you will need in your adult life
    • People with 4+ categories of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” were 2x as likely to be diagnosed with heart disease or cancer than someone with <4
    • People with 4+ ACEs were 460% more to suffer from depression
    • 6+ ACE shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years
  • We can’t change what happened in childhood, but we can change adoption of health-risk behaviors
  • The same things that can hurt us can also make us incredibly strong
  • The important thing is NOT how scary your liabilities are, the important thing is that you do NOT look the other way
  • the golden child
    • gives you a lot of confidence
    • shadow side: you might lack grit
  • the loner
    • incredible ability to trust your own ideas
    • good problem solver
    • you don’t seek permission
    • shadow side: difficult to understand your customers, lacking empathy
  • the pleaser
    • growing up in a demanding family (“You’ll be a lawyer!”)
    • able to anticipate needs & wants of others
    • shadow side: perfectionist
  • the survivor
    • great ability to protect yourself
    • good at competition, a lot of grit
    • shadow side: difficult to feel accomplishment

The past matters

  • From the founder origin stories
    • lots of adversity – but enough support to hang in there
      • use friends/masterminds to talk through tough spots
    • The need to create an original path
      • not following a script
    • intelligence, curiosity and hard work
  • Own your story
  • not owning your story
    • forcing what has never worked for you

Practical Strategies to own your own story

  • Start tonight
  • write your personal story
    • go on a retreat
    • use a free writing method
    • work with a coach or therapist
  • tell your story in your matermind group
  • write or record the origin story of your business
  • cultivate self-reflection to watch your story unfold in front you

 

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Productizing to $10k/month: How to use a productized service to accelerate your transition to software – Brian Casel – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Website: casjam.com
Twitter: @casjam
Slides:

 

Key Points From the Talk

  • Build a service first, learn, develop software from there
  • Customers want results, not tools
  • Combining a Done For You Service with software delivers results

Talk Recap

  • 3 goals:
    • What a productized service looks like as an actual business
    • Combining a productized Service and (SaaS) software
    • Showing opportunities to use productized service to transition from freelance to products
  • Restaurant engine history
    • freelance developer/designer – living project to project
    • Plan/Dream: within a year transition from freelance to customer
      • build software
      • first customers
      • $10k/month
      • Quit! (and focus on product)
    • Fast forward a year:
      • some customers, growing – not quite $10k/month
      • ready to take a leap of faith and quit freelancing
      • no relation between time and money lead to a number of bad decisions
      • within a year back to taking client work
      • This is how it went
        • build software
        • first customers
        • $10k/month
        • Quit! (and focus on product)
  • Factors of Resistance (things that slow you down)
    • Client work
    • Day job
    • Bills
    • Kids
    • Family & Friends
    • No experience (working in a product business)
    • No chops
    • No help
    • No network
    • No idea
    • RISK
      • time investment with little to no payoff initially (hard to sell to family & friends)
  • Actual timeline for Restaurant Engine
    • Build software
    • First customers
    • Quit freelancing
    • Resistance, Mistakes, Back to client work,
    • Re-Focus
    • $10k/month

The Path of Least Resistance

  • Audience Ops – actual timeline:
    • Launch
    • First Customers
    • $10k/month
    • Building software
    • Launch software
  • SWaS – Software With a Service
    • Software product with a “Done For You” component (DFY)
    • The Software provides the tool
    • The Service delivers the result
    • Services = higher form of onboarding – ensures great experience
  • SWaS is easier to buy
    • no/minimal learning curve for the customer
  • SWaS is easier to sell
    • you are identifying ONE problem
    • you’re delivering the perfect method to solve ONE problem
    • “Onboarding/learning curve” no longer a valid objection by the customer
    • Cancellations become less of concern as customers are seeing results –> customers are happy –> lower churn –> higher LTV

Case Studies & Tactics

  • LeadFuze – DFY cold emailing lead generation
    • “Invisible Software” – they use software internally, but customers never see it
    • software streamlines & scales the Service
    • Used revenue from the Service to turn internal Software into a SaaS product
  • owning the tool is optional!
    • build your service on top of existing tool
    • Leverage popularity of existing tool OR keep it opaque
  • Test Triggers – runs & manages A/B test on your websites
    • built on top of Optimizely
    • 3 clients ($1500 MRR) within 30 days – from 50 hand-crafted outreach emails
  • AuditShark – security auditing software
    • enterprise sales territory –> 6 month sales cycle
    • “The Service sells the Software”
    • 3 sales in the first month of offering the DFY service
    • much faster & more efficient delivery of service, thanks to tool
  • Podcast Motor – DFY podcast editing & production
    • “Launch with a day job”
    • 20+ paying customers in less than 6 months
    • Targeting business podcasts
    • Re-investing all business revenue to grow team & product
    • Plans to launch a software component later

But Can it Scale?

  • Benefit of SWaS: revenue and results (and business lessons!) from day one (for the founder)
  • customers want the RESULT, not the tool ==> DFY component for Restaurant Engine
  • I removed myself to the point that I spend <3 hours/month managing the business
    • outsource and automate using freelancers
    • First: Get the solution right – then: remove yourself from the delivery
  • Focus
    • on one problem, one solution for one ideal customer
    • standardized and predictable delivery of the solution
    • come up with a marketing plan for your ideal customer
    • Your DFY solution is a no brainer value proposition
  • Audience Ops
    • “10x The Speed”
    • 4 months in:
      • 90% removed
      • $10k/month MRR
      • self-funding software product
    • If you’ve done it before, you can do it again 10x faster

Price on Value. Scale the Costs.

  • value-based pricing is key
    • price high, charge upfront
    • tool + service == more value – charge accordingly
  • Streamline with predictability
    • lowers costs
    • delegate work / remove yourself
    • software boosts efficiency

Leverage Everything

  • leverage existing software to deliver a service

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How to acquire your first 100 customers: 10 tactics to use after your launch – Justin Jackson – MicroConf Europe 2015 talk recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Website: productpeople.club
Twitter: @mijustin
Slides: here

Key Points From the Talk

  • Ask for money
  • “sprinkling some marketing on top of it” is NOT the magic formula to success
  • Content + Email Marketing works really well right now

 

Talk Recap

  • In 1980 Iron Maiden was a brand new heavy metal band, they were about to release their first album
  • We are all in search of the magic formula to (marketing) success – but there is none
    • Marketing has dependencies
      • product that people want
      • audience
      • channels that work
      • combines into “Message that resonates”
    • You have competition, etc.
    • Your way out: UNIQUENESS
  • 3 ways to be unique
    • bake uniqueness into your product (Balsamiq)
    • use your own personal uniqueness (DHH)
    • Create unique branding (Rovio – Angry Birds)

7 Tactics for getting more leads

  • #1 Rank highly on a list
    • most of the major properties are ranked lists
      • Google
      • iTunes App Store
      • Reddit
      • Product Hunt
      • Quora
    • list hack: Quora
      • edit “Answer Wiki”
      • Answer a question
      • summarize the answers into the “Answer wiki” – put your product up top
    • List hack: Product Hunt search
    • List hack: Google Image Search
      • Justin is #1 result for “nerd mullet”
      • Really easy to rank for
      • For StageCMS: “band websites”
        • add <img src=”band-websites.jpg” alt=”Band website example” title=”Example of a band website” /> to your website
  • #2 Create a free tool that naturally leads to your product
    • engineering as marketing
    • e.g. Bidsketch “freelance proposal templates”
    • for StageCMS: “Free spreadsheet for managing band finances”
  • #3 write a surprising blog post that gets people interested
  • #4 Give away an ebook
    • trade eBook for email address ==> build an audience
  • #5 ask for referrals
    • word of mouth is great – but you can encourage people
  • #6 share a journey
    • share your story from 0 to $20k/mo
    • For StageCMS: Nightwish (one customer) has a documentary on Youtube
  • #7 Email people you know
    • you are already building relationships
    • you can ask them to use your product, if you have the relational capital

2 Tactics for guiding leads through the funnel

  • #8 Drip email campaigns
    • for SaaS businesses this is the #1 driver of trials & paid customers
    • build trust over a time – automatically
    • In the last email “I told you all these things, why don’t you try my product now?”
    • StageCMS: “Turn your band into a business in 5 days”
  • #9 use retargeting ads
    • test retargeting against not doing retargeting – some people don’t see results!
    • For StageCMS: Retarget on Facebook to people who “like” Bandcamp and SoundCloud

2 Tactics for closing the deal

  • #10 Follow up with your leads
    • no CRM needed; use Google spreadsheets, track:
      • name
      • email
      • estimated LOW/HIGH value
      • ask date
  • #11 Ask for their money
    • we are getting worse at this!
    • “Shut up and take my money” –> Entrepreneurs: “OK, I’M ready to take your money”
    • use phone to close deals

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MicroConf Europe 2015 Notes and Noteworthy

This is the central resource for a recap of MicroConf Europe 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.
If you write/record/create ANYTHING related to MicroConf Europe 2015 please let me know and I’ll be happy to add it here.

Notes on the Talks

Attendee Talk Notes

Articles and Podcast Episodes About MicroConf Europe 2015

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Ultimate Badass List of Productized Consulting Services

If you are looking to outsource specific parts of your business, you’ve come to the right place.

Productized consulting services allow you to outsource parts of your business without getting caught up in the hiring process.

I’m trying to provide you (and me) with a good overview of what is available online. If you find something missing here, please tell me: christoph@christophengelhardt.com

The User is Drunk

Ever heard that your website should be so simple that a drunk user can use it? Richard Littauer, an UX designer, offers to be that drunk user for your website – complete with video.

Website Teardowns

Let’s face it: We are woefully blind to the deficiencies of our own websites. We think we’ve got a clever headline, when in fact we have a non-descript headline. Dave Collins gives you straight talk on how visitors do see your website with a fresh pair of eyes. You can even get an SEO audit to go with your website teardown. Topped of with a sprinkle of British sarcasm.

The User is my Mom

Think a drunk UX expert is the worst challenge you can put your website through? You’re wrong. There’s one thing worse than that: Your mom. Here you can hire someone else’s Mom to torture your website.

WebmasterOnSite

Managed website hosting starting at $299/mo

Contentation

Complete management of your blog – from setup to content creation to content promotion – starting from $99 for the blog setup to $109/mo for the complete management package.

Podcast Motor

PodcastMotor offers three tiers:

  • the concierge service (editing, publication, social media, show notes, etc) for $495/mo
  • setup of your podcast (hosting, feed, cover art, etc) for $150
  • episode editing for $50/episode

I’ve personally tried the episode editing and the results were good.

CastingWords

CastingWords is a transcription service for your audio/video files. Prices start at $1 per minute of recording. They send you the transcription in HTML, MS Word and plain text and also offer different ways of integration with Dropbox, Zapier and more.

Scribie

Scribie offers the same services as CastingWords at a slightly lower price point.

PostPolished

PostPolished offers editing services for your content. Prices start at $39 for a one-time editing task or $139/mo for 1 blog.

GhostBlogWriters

Ghost writing for your blog. Prices start at $40 per post. Good quality and they come up with their own topics to write about. They also publish the post to your WordPress blog (if given access) – very easy to use

OptimizedPrime

The folks at OptimizedPrime create lead magnets for you. Lead magnets help you convert more visitors into email subscribers. Prices start at $49/mo for 1 lead magnet

WPCurve

Productized WordPress support (backups, security updates and small jobs) makes it much easier to host your own blog.

WPNexus.io

WPNexus is offering a productized service similar to WPCurve but at a lower price point

CodeMyViews WordPress Concierge

This concierge service for WordPress offers you complete peace of mind for your WordPress website. Starting at $599/mo they offer preventive maintenance, development, and marketing tasks.

WPSaaS

WPSaaS offers support as a service for your WordPress plugins so you can focus your time on developing new features. Prices start at $399/mo

ThemeValet

ThemeValet sets up your WordPress website for you – starting from $99

DrupalAid

Want a WPCurve-like service but don’t run WordPress? Well if you’re using Drupal there’s help for you: DrupalAid is productized Drupal Support – starting from $99/mo

WooGuru.net

WooGuru.net is a productized support service for WooCommerce.

SEOak

Productized SEO services for resellers. You pay them to do the SEO work for your clients. Ideal for digital marketing agencies. Starts at $125/mo

UX Reviews by GobySavvy

Have a professional test the UX of your product – starting at $325

AppAftercare

AppAftercare manages and maintains your existing apps.

OutreachSignals

OK. This whole Productized Consulting thing is getting a bit meta. 🙂

OutreachSignals is a concierge prospecting & outreach service specifically designed for B2B productized consulting services. So it’s marketing for your B2B productized consulting service – starting at $495/mo

Rocking Book Covers

A productized design service for book covers; both eBook and print.

FunnelEngine

This great productized consulting service delivers funnels Done-For-You. Starting at $999 for a popup marketing funnel this is one of the greatest additions to the list. I love it.

Draft Revise & Draft Coaching

Nick Disabato is an UX / split testing expert and offers a monthly ongoing A/B testing service. Additionally you can hire him to help you grow your freelancing business.

My Content Sherpa

Philip Morgan’s “My Content Sherpa” not only creates a content strategy for you, but also executes it.

CreativeBoris

CreativeBoris helps you generate blog post ideas – including three different headlines per post and tweets. Starts at $99/mo

Bench

Productized book-keeping service that starts at $135/mo

Kudu

Kudu is a productized AdWords account management service – starting at $399/mo

BirdLeap

BirdLeap is productized Twitter Ads management. Starting at $299/mo (+$199 setup) for ad budgets up to $1,500 monthly this service makes it super easy to run successful ad campaigns on Twitter.

DoubleYourECommerce

Kai Davis is an outreach marketer who specializes in helping eCommerce websites get more traffic to their website. Prices start at $749 for the “digital outreach plan”

Undullify

Undullify offers unlimited design jobs (small jobs taking less than 30 minutes) for $149/mo.

Kapa99.com

Unlimited graphics and small design jobs for a flat fee – starting at $399/mo.
Or you can pay $49 for one-off jobs. 
Now let me tell you: I’ve vetted those guys after Ka, their founder, contacted me. And let me tell you: They are worth every penny they charge. 
Because here’s is the email I sent Ka with the job description: 

 

And here’s the final result and it was spot on: 

 

I can only recommend the folks at Kapa99.com

Correlation

My friend Jane Portman is an amazing designer and you can hire her to give monthly creative directions to your designers.

Snap by Copyhackers

The folks over at Copyhackers offer a productized copy-writing service – either one-off or monthly recurring. A bit pricey, but they are regarded as world-class copywriters.

LittleAds

LittleAds helps you by crafting the copy for your Facebook ads ($65/mo) or even setting up and managing your Facebook ad campaigns ($495/mo)

Calibrate Rapid

Calibrate Rapid by Nathan Powell is a one-off report with actionable design improvements to increase your website’s conversion rate. Priced at $920.

AudienceOps

AudienceOps offers the creation and execution of your content marketing strategy. Starts at $950/mo

RecapMail

RecapMail keeps your existing mailing list warm and engaged. Starts at $79/mo

WebsiteRescues

This productized service helps you generate more revenue with your Shopify store. They do walkthroughs of your store and dissect the user experience of your shop.
Additionally, they also offer Shopify SEO packages starting at $894

WholeDesignStudios

This agency offers a wide range of services for Shopify: SEO, Facebook Ad Management, Conversion Rate Optimization, etc.
Rather pricey, but you’ll get a bunch of services from the same people. 

Rails as a Service

Rails as a Service provides maintenance (e.g. installing security updates) and even upgrades it from Rails 2.3 or 3.2 to Rails 4.2. Prices start at $495/mo

WorkNice

WorkNice provides a virtual workplace happiness consultant that helps you improve the culture in your company. Costs $100/mo per team member

Black Light

Conversion Optimization services for membership websites. Prices start at $750

WPTheory

WordPress website setup and launch done in just one day. Priced at $999

Reactive Ops

DevOps-as-a-Service starting at $6,000/mo.

Here comes the Airplane

OK… I’m not going to say anything about the name. If you live in the Bay Area this offer takes care of your meals. You sign up for a year and they deliver a fixed amount of meals per month to you. I just hope it’s not as bad as most airlines’ food.

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LinksSpy – Monthly Income Report February 2015

LinksSpy has seen a bit of growth during February, not much mind you, but it’s going the right direction. But before I dive deep into this, first let me get some boilerplate out of the way.

Preface

You can find all my income reports here: http://www.christophengelhardt.com/income-reports/.

These are the ground rules for my income reports:

  1. I publish income reports for two reasons: a) Accountability helps me push forward. b) I know that most of us compare ourselves to internet-famous people like Patrick McKenzie, Brennan Dunn, Nathan Barry and others. I am no stranger to that and it is hard to feel good comparing yourself to them. Well, compare yourself to me and you’ll feel better instantly 😉
  2. I will only cover what I make from LinksSpy – no consulting, no day job
  3. I am terrible at accounting – so most numbers (especially expenses) are not 100% accurate.
  4. I have an agreement with Nathan Powell of nusii.com that I will stop income reports by the time I hit $1,000,000 annual run rate. According to Nathan that should happen sometime in June 2015 – we’ll have to see about that.

The Numbers

Last Month’s Revenue

In January monthly recurring revenue (MRR) for LinksSpy was $1,245 from 42 customers.

This Month’s Revenue

February ended with $1,285 MRR from 39 customers. Which is great, because it is slightly higher than the previous month.

05_february-mrr-growth

MRR growth for LinksSpy – provided by the fine folks of FirstOfficer.io

 

 

As you can see from the number of customers, a few customers in the lowest plan cancelled. That was offset by new customers in the higher-price plans. While I have fewer customers, the MRR increased. I lost $114 in MRR and gained $234 for a net MRR increase of $120.

So why do I only report an MRR that is $40 above last month’s? Let me show you another picture:

05a_february-past-due

$443 MRR are caught with past-due customers (i.e. their CC charge didn’t go through) – picture by HookFeed

 

That’s right. I currently have 8 customers with failing payments. Another 34.5% of my current MRR is “past-due”.

I’ve been historically bad at reaching out to people after their payments failed and sending dunning emails. I usually waited for 3 charges to fail, because that was something my friend Andrew recommended. Then I would loose count of how many failed charge each customer had and then I’d just let it be.
This is something I am going to tackle in March.

Expenses

Due to the way LinksSpy is set up my costs are relatively low. It was one of my design goals to keep most things running on Heroku‘s free tier. This is partly because I’m really cheap and – more importantly – because I didn’t know how well LinksSpy would do and I was afraid of catastrophic failure.

Total expenses:

  • $36 to Heroku for database, SSL and Papertrail
  • $74.67 in Stripe fees (More on that later)
  • $49 for Drip
  • $12 for HireFire.io
  • $10 for Google Apps/GMail
  • $40 to oDesk for research
  • $195 for blogging services
  • $50 for a VA

If I didn’t miss anything (which I probably did), the total costs were $466.67.

Profit

For the time being, I don’t plan on making any profit from LinksSpy. I want to focus on growing it as fast and as big as possible, thus I’m re-investing everything back into LinksSpy.

LinksSpy made roughly $800 in profit this month. That means it has made a (small) profit in 4(!) consecutive months and I really want to change that (i.e. blow that money on marketing).
Something always keeps me from doing so.

My war chest is filled with a bit of money and my intention is to spend that money on marketing.

I’ve come to an agreement with two new bloggers who will do paid guest posts on the LinksSpy blog and I guess think I am going to spend the money this way. Additionally, I think I am probably going to invest money into one big content piece, because it would take me half a year or more to finish it on my own.

Traffic

Traffic numbers for this months aren’t spectacular.
One thing of note: Almost 400 users came from a single list/collection on Product Hunt. AMAZING!

blog.linksspy.com: 375 sessions – 311 users
www.linksspy.com: 1,594 sessions – 1,208 users

Progress

February was a month of rather small wins: I set up an email campaign for users who start the signup process and abandon it. They will get two follow-up email.
In case you want to use it, here are the two emails:

Subject: Start stealing links today
Hi {{subscriber.first_name}},

You started the registration for LinksSpy a few hours ago, but stopped before finishing it.
Was there a problem?
Is there anything I can help you with?

You can continue the registration at: https://www.linksspy.com/account/registration

Cheers,
Christoph
Founder, LinksSpy.com

Subject: Don’t leave me this way…
Hi {{ subscriber.first_name}},

You started the registration for LinksSpy yesterday, but got stuck half-way through.
Is there anything that’s blocking you?
If so, how can I help you get unblocked and start earning links to crush your competition?

Cheers,
Christoph
Founder, LinksSpy.com

Additionally, I followed Rob Walling’s advice and dropped the mandatory cancellation reason box in favor of an automatic follow-up email after cancellation.
The reasoning here is that users are frustrated if you make it complicated to cancel their subscription, but once they answer to an email it’s relatively easy to get a conversation going.

Here’s the text for that email – an exact copy of Rob’s email:

Subject: A quick question…
Hello,

I was hoping you could spare 15 seconds of your time and let me know why you decided to cancel your LinksSpy account. Feel free to just hit reply and fire away.

Thanks in advance,

Christoph
Founder, LinksSpy

P.S. I’d really appreciate your reply – even if it’s just a few words letting me know why you decided to cancel.

Apart from the improvements to my email campaigns, I also took part in a few expert roundup posts such as this one: http://www.bloggingcage.com/best-link-building-strategies/ – yes, apparently my opinion is almost as important as Neil Patel’s.
Yes, I am also utterly shocked by that.

Furthermore, I invested a lot of time to implement proper invoicing and reporting for LinksSpy. That took a lot of time, but it was necessary to file my taxes. Sometimes you’ve got to spend some time on the plumbing.

Lastly, I started a rather big new feature, which will improve the quality as well as the frequency with which LinksSpy delivers link opportunities for your campaigns. I finished an early version in early May and am getting the first beta users set up with it as I write this.
Pretty excited about that one, as I hope that weekly emails will help make LinksSpy’s value more easily understood by my customers.

What to Focus on Next Month

In March I am STILL going to focus on growing my list with my new lead magnet (Get a free competitive link analysis in exchange for your email address).
I have to make a slightly less ugly version of that site and want to promote it on other blogs and podcasts.
Then I have to figure out how to properly promote it.

Additionally, I am going to do something about the “past-due” issues.

My Takeaways

I definitely improved my email marketing, which will be a great asset moving forward. I’m super stoked about the new feature I am developing and hope it will deliver great results. If my predictions are true (they probably aren’t), this feature will help reduce churn.

At the moment updates to the underlying data are few and far between (>1 month between updates on average), which leaves a lot of room for my customers to forget about LinksSpy. Not a happy place to be in ™.
With the new feature at least customers on the highest plans will get weekly updates, which should help quite a bit.

Conclusion

Baby steps to victory. That’s all I’m going to say for this month.

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