Rob Walling: How to 10x in 15 months – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here Speaker: Rob Walling (@robwalling)

Things you’ll learn

  • Inside story of a small acquisition
  • specific steps taken to grow it
  • How to apply what you’ve learned to new products

The State of Rob’s Product Portfolio

HitTail Then…

  • More information on the acquisition is here or in Rob’s own words here: (part 1, part 2, part 3)
  • 100 paying customers, mostly on $9.99 / month plan – many free users
  • Good things
    • Credibility (mentioned in BusinessWeek), incoming links, good market (SEO / Internet Marketing)
  • Not so good things
    • Prices too low, only 2 tiers
    • 60 day free trial
    • complicated signup process
  • Total Acquisition cost: $52,000 – including redesign, legal & technical

Redesigning the App

  • Make signup process easier (only 5 fields required, more focused page, less fuss)
  • Complete redesign (Bringing the website to 2011)


Growing The Business

  • Business now running at about 84% profit after fixed costs
  • It takes Rob 6 months of learning to market HitTail – expect even longer for yourself

Phase 1: Relaunch

  • Posts / Mentions on Hacker News, Startups For The Rest Of Us, Software By Rob
  • Traffic increased to 5,200
  • Revenue stayed the same

Phase 2: Podcast Tour

  • BlogcastFM, Escape Velocity, Foolish Adventure, Internet Business Mastery, The Startup Slingshot
  • Partly knows the hosts, partly cold-call emailing
  • Traffic up to 5,600
  • Revenue stayed the same

Phase 3: Operation Retention

  • Trial to Paid sucked (18%)
  • Initial churn about 15%
  • Actions:
    • Emailed cancellations and asked for reasons
    • Figure out what makes HitTail different from Google Analytics
    • Drip-Email-Campaign
  • Traffic stayed the same
  • Revenue increased to 150% (+50%  over last iteration)

Phase 3.a): How Rob fixed the Funnel

  • no marketing (!)
  • Enforced trial length
  • encourage code installation (even do it yourself for free – LTV justifies that!)
  • drip-email-campaign during trial period (education on using HitTail AND doing SEO)
  • Implement downsell
  • Implement one-click articles (don’t only deliver action items, but solve those items for customers!)
  • Results:
    • Trial to paid doubled to 36%
    • Churn decreased to 8%
    • Overall a 4x improvement to the business (multiplicative improvements FTW!)

Phase 4: Return To Marketing

  • Start retargeting (tried 4 different networks – recommendation PerfectAudience)
  • Tried Facebook Ads – didn’t work out
  • Google Adwords – too expensive for HitTail
  • Guest Posts – work, but super time-intensive
  • Traffic at 4,000
  • revenue stays at 150%

Phase 5: AppSumo

  • Rob does not like discounts, had real reservations about AppSumo deal (-70% discount)
  • You get 30% out of gross revenue from AppSumo
  • You get additional signups besides AppSumo – massive footprint
  • Traffic to 11,400
  • Revenue up to 344% (+130% over last iteration)

Phase 6: Paid Acquisition

  • Reddit, Facebook, Adwords, LinkedIn, BuySellAds & others
  • Reddit worked for a while
  • Facebook Ads worked for about 7 months – what made it work:
    • Invested more time (1 month) & money ($5,000)
    • a lot of iterations (about 30 pictures tested)
  • Google Adwords never worked out for Rob
  • LinkedIn was too expensive for Rob
  • BuySellAds didn’t work for HitTail
  • Traffic up to 20,300
  • Revenue up to 408% base level (+19% improvement over last iteration)

Phase 7: Product Manager

  • reduce free trial from 30 to 21 days – almost no effect on conversion rate, but faster iteration
  • Integration Marketing with Basecamp – didn’t drive many customers
  • Drip-Email-Campaign to educate people about benefits of Longtail SEO and how HitTail plays into it
  • Revenue up to 536% (+30% over last iteration)

Phase 8: More Integration Marketing

  • When thinking “Search Engines”, start thinking: “Amazon,, Youtube, Drupal”
  • WordPress plugin huge win: Easy to rank on, makes installation easier (Win-Win)
  • Get a deal as “SEOmoz Pro Perks” (best converting traffic for HitTail)
  • Revenue up to 636% base level (+19% improvement over last iteration)

Phase 9: Mentioned on Search Engine Watch & AuthorityLabs

  • Got mentioned purely due to “Luck surface area” – “the harder you work, the luckier you get”
  • Revenue up to 728% (+14% over last iteration)

Part 2: Moving to Drip

  • Move from HitTail to Drip caused by:
    • saw writing on the wall (“Google is going to pull some shit with SEO”)
    • Churn Rate
    • Tough Market
    • Want to do something new
  • Same three phases “Building, Learning – eventually Scaling”

How To Get 3,000 emails?

  • concentric circle marketing (about 2,500 signups)
    • your own audience (blog, podcast)
    • other blogs / podcasts
    • Press (all inbound, no pitching)
    • Facebook Ads
  • Viral loop (each Drip popup has a link back)

Share Button
About Christoph

Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.

He likes to write on this blog about anything of relevance to single-founder bootstrapped software startups.


  1. Christoph,
    thank you so much for creating this recap so quickly and organizing diner on Saturday. It was great meeting you and your wife.

    • Christoph says

      Hi Estelle,

      it was my absolute pleasure to have you join the dinner. I enjoyed talking to you so much. Let me know how the things we discussed work out for you – I <3 <3 <3 hearing those stories.



  1. […] Rob Walling: ”How to 10x in 15 months“ […]

  2. […] První přednášku měl Rob Walling (, @robwalling), který konferenci pořádal. Jeho přednáška měla název How to 10x in 15 months a ukázal v ní grafy, čísla, profit ze své aplikace HitTail. Tento nástroj pro hledání témat, které zajímají vaše čtenáře, koupil za $30.000 a dále jej rozvíjel. V přednášce prošel kompletně celým procesem od prvního měsíce, až po současnost o tom, jak měnil pricing, jaké marketingové metody využíval atd. Ale hlavně také jaký to přesně mělo dopad a jak to měřil. Jeho přednáška pěkně kopírovala mé zkušenosti z vývoje a prodeje SaaS aplikace, tak jsem si příjemně validoval to co jsem si už vyzkoušel sám. Další zápisky z jeho přednášky. […]

  3. […] Rob Walling used downselling (among other strategies discussed in this post) to reduce Hittail’s churn rate by 7%. […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.