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Progress Thread A Project Once Left For Dead

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by PeterCastle, May 10, 2017.

  1. PeterCastle

    PeterCastle Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I finally decided to take some time to document my progress. I've been telling myself to wait until I make better progress but then I realized that the process itself is progress because it is through the process that we learn, and that makes it worth documenting whether or not the project itself is successful.

    Some Background
    I just turned 35, have been married for 12 years and have a 4-year-old. By slow lane standards I've done alright. I've done everything according to the script. I went to college, got a computer science degree, have a six figure job, bought a house, and my wife has been able to stay at home with our son for the past four years. It helps that both my wife and I are very responsible and we are both good at managing money, so we live within our means.

    I came to the U.S. when I was 11. When I graduated high school I decided to get a bachelor's degree even after watching my friends take shortcuts and go to unaccredited 2-year schools.

    The slow lane path has taken me this far, and I don't regret going to college as I did learn a very valuable skill. Understand that my dad has been driving a cab for like 30 years and my mom works in a factory, so I am proud of what I've been able to accomplish so far.

    Why The Fast Lane?
    The slow lane I'm on is OK for those without ambition who don't mind being zombies and being told what to do every day. It seems like such a waste to me. It's frustrating knowing how much more you can contribute to the world, and having to limit yourself to being someone else's robot.

    I have so many ideas in my head..so many things I wanna do in life, and I watch these people I've worked with, and it's like their minds are empty. Their plan is just to continue doing what they've been doing. It never occurs to them that there are bigger things in life that can be achieved. I'm just not built like they are I guess.

    I want the ability to put my son in private school, and most importantly I want to show him how it's done; how to be different and set the script on fire.

    And I want to give my wife that house by the water she's always wanted.

    Bruce Wayne's Rope
    Although I've been wanting to start my own business for a long time and I've had many side projects in the last 14 years or so, I think it was about 5 years ago when it really hit me...The fastlane (I didn't know the term yet) was no longer a "would-be-nice" thing for me. It was a necessity. I had just started a new "exciting" job when I realized that I was never going to be happy at any job.

    Have you seen "Dark Knight Rises"? Remember the scene where Bruce tries to escape from that prison? The jump he had to make to escape? He didn't make it until he attempted the jump without the rope. He didn't make it until he got rid of his Plan B.

    When you realize working 9 to 5 until retirement is no Plan B, you start feeling a sense of urgency, and that's when you get really serious...When failure isn't an option.

    Once Left for Dead
    I created a website (SaaS) about 2 years ago with the idea of charging a monthly fee, and as has always been the case for me, as soon as I finished it, I got quickly discouraged when I found myself having to actually promote it.

    I did nothing with it for a while. In 2016, 5 users subscribed without me doing much promoting at all (I currently charge $2.99/mo but will be raising the fee very soon to $4.99).

    "Did you put your product in front of enough people?" MJ always asks this. I obviously haven't and I can't move on to other projects without giving this one everything I have or I will always have that doubt in my mind.

    I figured even if I fail, I'm going to use this project to get better at selling which has been something I've always sucked at.

    The next thing I wanted to try was to get on the App Store as the product lends itself well for this and it's a channel that I've never tried before. So I took a few months and built an app, which I finished about a month and a half ago.

    Where I am Now
    Right now I have 12 paid subscribers, 5 of which are paying me annually. For now I'm charging $3/mo or $30/year. As I said before I intend to raise this but I think $5/mo is the most I can charge, which is the downside to this kind of product.

    I've only lost 2 customers. I still have one from December 2015. It's a product that if you do like it and end up subscribing, I can probably count on you staying with it for a while.

    The product was my wife's idea, and we are both now heavy users of it. The question I'm trying to answer now is, will 3,000+ people think it is good enough to pay a monthly fee for?

    Actually, what I'm really trying to answer now is whether 50 people are willing to pay for it. After that I will be trying to see if 100 people are willing to pay for it. And if the answer is yes...well then it's on!

    I'm going to be documenting what I've tried so far. I will share my experiences with Adwords, Apple Search, Facebook Ads, and ideas that have been floating around in my mind.
    Last edited: May 25, 2017
    NeverTooLate, Yoda, daru and 2 others like this.
  2. PeterCastle

    PeterCastle Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I stopped running ads a few weeks ago for now, while I re-design the website. After I created the app I realized just how much easier to use and to understand the app is when compared to the website and I want to make sure brand new users checking the site out are never confused about how to use it.

    Apple Search Ads Are Great!
    The idea to create the iPhone app was a great one, as already this channel has proven to be the most successful for me. Google Adwords was too expensive for the keywords I was targeting. I think I was paying over $2.00 per click on Adwords.

    I've run some tests in Apple Search for the app, and the results are very encouraging. I've basically been testing different campaigns before I really go all in with this. For one campaign that I ran I paid about $1.00 per tap. The tap-through-rate was 10% (percentage of people who clicked on it after seeing it). The conversion rate though, was an insane 50%!! I guess this is not uncommon for App Store ads. So basically, 50% of the people who clicked on the ad, downloaded the app. The sample for this was about 600 ad views.

    So the CPA (cost per acquisition) for the most successful App Store campaign I've run so far was about $2.00. I offer a 30-day trial though, so this was just the cost to acquire a free trial user.

    Trial-Subscriber Ratio
    So I wanted to find out what a free trial user is really worth to me. I went to my database and saw that I've had a total of about 270 people sign up so far. Out of that I've had 14 people subscribe (2 are no longer members). That's a trial to subscriber ratio of 5%, which I guess is pretty common for services that offer free trials.

    Lifetime Value Of One Customer
    What I don't exactly know yet is what the lifetime value is for each customer because I haven't been doing this very long. I've lost 2 members, but I still have someone from December 2015 that is still paying. So I'm not sure what value I should be using for this. For now I am assuming a user will stick around for at least 1 year, and I'll see if that holds.

    Using the current price of $3/mo or $30/year, and assuming that a member will stick around for 1 year means each free trial user is worth $1.50 ($30/20). The "20" comes from the 5% trial to subscriber ratio. Basically, every 20th free trial user should in theory, start paying.

    My plan is to raise the price to $5/mo or $50/year which would increase the free trial user's value to $2.50. So theoretically, I should be able to spend up to this amount per free trial acquisition and break even IF they stick around for a year, which I don't think is too crazy of an assumption for this product.

    What Sucks About Apple Search
    You can't change your ad text in Apple Search. Your ads are basically the name and description of your app so you can't do much testing with seeing how different ads would perform. And if you want to change the name/description of your app, you have to release a new version before that change can take effect.

    Later I will write a post about how I set up my Apple Search campaigns.

    My first 1-star review, and it was awesome!!
    My first review was 1-star and I loved it!! Why? Because it was great feedback! Basically when I first created the website a while back I had made a decision to not include a certain feature, to make things simple. As users, this feature wasn't important for my wife and I so we decided not to bother.

    This user who gave me the 1-star review was pissed that this feature was missing. I had forgotten about this feature completely and started thinking about how many other potential customers had un-installed the app, or left my website when they found out this feature was missing.

    So as part of the website re-design, I'm going to be putting this feature in, and updating the app.

    What's Immediately Next?
    Finish the website re-design, including the new feature. I'm probably about 3 or 4 weeks away from being done.
    - Go back to advertising on the app store.
    - Raise the price? I'm not sure if I should do this yet or wait until I have more data to be able to really compare and see how it impacts things.

    What's Next After That?
    I've been listening to Russell Brunson lately. This guy is amazing!! I'm going through his "Marketing In Your Car Archive" podcast and the value that he provides is just insane. I've also been checking out his webinars, and have gotten awesome ideas from listening to him!

    The downside to listening to Brunson is that I've gotten so many ideas that I'm struggling to remain focused on this one project. I keep thinking of different product ideas that I can try to quickly validate using his ClickFunnels software. The time that you can save by using his software is just unreal!

    I may sign up for ClickFunnels and create a separate site to give away something for free, including a video that will show people how the product can help them. Similar to what he does. The guy is killing it!

    Build a Movement?
    He also talks about building somewhat of a cult, a movement, rather than just selling a product. I've gotten some ideas on what I can try to make people feel like they are joining a special group of people that believe in my product and what it does.
    Last edited: May 25, 2017
    Argue likes this.
  3. PeterCastle

    PeterCastle Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    TLDR Summary:
    • I feel I have validated my project
    • Have 20 paid subscribers (8 of them are paying annually)
    • Increasing the price to 4.99/mo (or 47.88/yr) was a good idea (revenue increased)
    • Apple is trying to extort me. F*ck 'em. (CONTROL lesson)
    • Market is huge, crowded (good thing). All I need is traffic. A lot of it.
    • Strategies going forward:
      • Mini funnel (Facebook Ads --> Free Bait --> Brief Email Sequence --> Special Offer For Discounted Annual Membership For First Year)
      • Facebook Ads directly to website (no funnel)
      • Content Marketing: Turn site blog into a standalone useful newsletter, and collect emails. Advertise using Outbrain to get people directly to the articles.
      • Influencer Marketing: Try to get influencers to link to my articles and/or the main website. (Just one link could change everything)
      • Try advertising on LinkedIn just to see how it goes

    So here are the details of what I've been working on in the last 4 months:

    1. Re-designed the flow of the website to better match the flow of the app (finished 2 months ago)
    2. Added the missing feature
    3. Created a Backup application that runs daily and backs up my database to Amazon S3, to make sure users never lose their data if something ever goes horribly wrong. It also backs up all my code once a week.
    4. Added custom code so I can better track users with Google Analytics. I can now see what users are doing on the app, not just the website.
    5. Increased the price to $4.99/mo or $47.88/yr
    6. Got Apple to switch my developer account from Individual to "Company" so the name of my LLC shows up in the app store instead of my personal name. (Didn't make a difference in the number of people who clicked, like I thought it would)
    7. Went back to advertising on the App Store 2 months ago
    8. Tried advertising on Adwords, and Bing again (Too expensive. I'm done with this)
    9. Ran a quick test by advertising with Outbrain to drive traffic directly to a couple of blog posts (very interesting results)
    10. Signed up for MailChimp and set up two lists (one for the newsletter, and one for onboarding). Onboarding emails are sent out now to help trial users understand the benefits of some of the most important features, and how to use them. This will hopefully help to encourage more trial users to become paid members.
    11. Re-designed the site's blog, as I'm going to be using it to write useful articles that will be of interest to my target market.

    How did the Price Increase Do?
    I proved that raising the price was a good idea. Basically, out of 125 trial users, I got 7 subscribers instead of the 8 that I got before with the same amount of trial users. So the ratio went from like 6.4% down to 5.5%, and I'm still making more, which is great. Thanks @MidwestLandlord. Your pricing thread gave me the confidence to raise the price.

    What sucks about free trials is that it literally takes 2 months to see the full results of a campaign.

    Where I am Now
    I now have 20 paid subscribers, 8 of them are paying annually. That's 40% that are paying annually, which is great. I think I have proved without a doubt I have something that people will pay for. This happens to be a huge, crowded market, and my solution is undoubtedly different than what's out there. There are plenty of people still in search of a different solution.

    Some Stats
    65% of those who first sign up for the free trial appear to decide very quickly that it's not what they were looking for, which is fine. I know because they never even use the software. Out of the other 35%, about 14-15% end up becoming paid subscribers. So like I said before, this means out of every 100 free trial users, about 5 end up becoming paid users. I'm hoping the Onboarding email sequence will improve this number a little bit.

    So I'm at a point now where I literally just need more qualified traffic! A lot of it!

    Apple Extortion
    So Apple wants 30% of what my users pay me, can you believe that sh*t? They're complaining because I have a monthly subscription and I'm not using Apple to charge users, which means Apple can't take 30% of my recurring revenue.

    I tried to explain to them that there is no way I can do that because my users are not just app users. They are users of my website. The app is just another way to access their account. No way am I going to have multiple different ways for users to pay. It would be a nightmare to keep track of which user has paid and where.

    I would agree that they deserve the money IF they were bringing users to me just for being on the App Store. But that's not the case. Just being on the App Store gets you nothing. I've been paying like $300-$500 a month to run ads there. So I have to pay them to get users, plus pay them %30 of my revenue. F*ck that.

    They're supposed to call me within a few days to discuss this but I already know what they're gonna say. They're gonna ask me to remove the Sign Up screen from the app. As long as users are not creating accounts via the app, they'll leave me the f*ck alone.

    So this actually sucks for them. I will tell them that if I can't have users create accounts on the app itself, I have no reason to advertise on the App Store anymore. Facebook instead, will be getting my money.

    This also sucks for me because I can't send users directly to the app store from Facebook ads. I'll have to send them to the website and once they log in, tell them they can use the app instead of the mobile web version, and send them there.

    Done With Search Ads
    In reality, I was probably gonna stop the App Store ads anyway. I need thousands of users, and I'll never get there by paying for search ads. I need a strategy that can deliver thousands of trial users cheaply, or free, which brings me to...

    The Strategy Going Forward
    Here's what I'll be focusing on right now...

    Facebook Ads
    I'm learning everything I can right now about Facebook ads, and how to run re-targeting campaigns and all that stuff.

    First I will experiment with different ads to send people directly to the website. I don't have much hope for this strategy since that traffic is very cold, and I haven't had much luck so far, although my ideas for ads keep getting better and better as I improve my copy.

    Second, I'm creating a mini-funnel. I'm going to be writing a short ebook to give away in exchange for emails. Once they sign up, I will start a brief email sequence (probably 2 or 3 emails) that will end in a special offer if they sign up for my site AND become a paid member TODAY. I'm going to offer a heavily discounted annual membership for the first year. Maybe something like $34.99 instead of the regular $47.88.

    Content Marketing
    I read Joe Pulizzi's "Epic Content Marketing" book and it got me thinking about really turning the site's blog into its own useful entity. That's a great book if anyone is interested in reading it.

    If you've read articles and have seen those catchy titled posts at the bottom that look like they are part of the website you are viewing, (e.g, "See what these celebrities look like now"), that's what Outbrain allows you to do. It's an ad platform for advertising your content on other sites.

    What's interesting is that after running ads very briefly (for like a day), I noticed that the people that came to read my articles were clicking around for more. These people got to your article because they were already in "reading" mode, not on facebook scrolling through memes and sh*t. This is great for marketing your content!

    So I'll be using Outbrain to get traffic to my articles in the hopes that I'll get some subscriptions to my newsletter, which I will strategically use later to push people to sign up for my software.

    Influencer Marketing
    Russel Brunson talks about the "Dream 100" strategy where you target your top 100 influencers to get on their radar. I need to do this, but I'm still not sure what my strategy will be for this.

    One way may be to strategically write articles where I can mention and link to them so I have a reason to email them and let them know, without asking for anything in return. For this to work, the articles must be gold! I may take the Sumo approach of writing huge beastly articles that makes the person reading it say, "I have to bookmark this sh*t."

    Related Books I've Been Reading
    • Brand Seduction (Thanks for the recommendation, @MJ DeMarco ): This is a great book on branding. I want to put the stuff into practice but after I have figured out my way of getting traffic, as that is my main focus right now.
    • Epic Content Marketing: This one is about growing your company and your sales by basically becoming a publisher and not just a business that sells a product.
    • Play Bigger: I'm still reading this one. It's about Category Design, which is very relevant to what I'm doing, as my product is basically a brand new sub-category that most people don't know about. The book covers how to go about creating a whole new category and letting people see the problem that they never knew they had, and becoming the Category King once you do that.

    Too Validated to Drop
    You've heard of "too big to fail." I'm at a point where I feel my idea is too validated to drop. When I'm frustrated and feel like trying some other idea, I tell myself that I'm so close. If I've proved that for every 100 trial user, I can get 5 subscribers, all I need is more trial users. And a couple of links from some good websites could literally change everything. So I can't stop now.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
    vinylawesome and Kingmaker like this.
  4. PeterCastle

    PeterCastle Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    What I've Done
    • Apple forced me to charge app users via the app using In-App Purchases, so I had to spend a lot of time adding support for these non-renewing subscriptions. So now users have the option to subscribe via the app (no auto-renewal) or subscribe on the website (auto renewal).
    • I spent almost a month writing a 30 page ebook that I'm giving away along with another digital product, when people sign up to my blog. These products are useful on their own but at the same time, help to encourage people to try the software.
    • I also turned the ebook into a massive blog post for SEO purposes. I got the idea from Sumo. They have massive articles that they then turn into ebooks that they give away on other pages of their blog.
    • Based on feedback I've received I decided it was time to add yet another feature that I knew I would have to add eventually. Just the other day someone emailed me and said they loved the product and wanted to switch to it, but decided not to because it was missing this feature. I told him he was in luck because I'm almost done implementing it. I'm hoping this is the last major code change I'll have to make for a while as I really want to focus on marketing. I'm hoping to be done with this in a few weeks.
    Project Assessment So Far

    I have 31 paid users now and have gotten some great feedback. People do love the product, and it is very different than what is out there.

    My wife and I can't live without it, so it's really great to be able to sell something that I use myself as I understand what users want.

    As I mentioned before, this is a HUGE market. Almost anyone can benefit from using this product.

    The problem is that the market is what some would call "saturated" with so many products that basically take the same approach, that it is very expensive to advertise on Google, FB, etc.

    It's hard to get noticed. I even stopped advertising on the App Store. Organic traffic has been picking up but I obviously can't rely on that.

    Marketing Plan Going Forward

    I decided I want nothing to do with the "influencers" I spoke about targeting before.

    Why? Because the truth is I want nothing to do with their followers. Those are not the people I want as customers.

    It's hard to explain without giving away what my product is, but I don't want to go after the same people that all my competitors are going after.

    One, because they really don't fit with the brand I'm trying to build, and two, because for that I would have to talk about the same crap my competitors are talking about.

    I still think Influencer Marketing and Content Marketing (sorry Andy Black, I know you hate that term), are my best bet to get noticed, but I got an idea I want to try...

    My New Idea!

    All my competitors are talking about X, because they sell X, and all the stuff they write is crap.

    Nothing is unique and when you read an article from them you can tell it was written just to write something. And this is understandable because there's only so much you can write about X.

    What I wanna do is talk about Y, even though I sell X (albeit a different kind of X). Think of Y as a much bigger category that X falls into.

    Yes we've all heard of "niching down", but when it comes to Content Marketing and Branding, think about niching UP to find the true purpose of your brand.

    For example, Joe Pulizzi in his book talks about how Liberty Mutual had created a blog dedicated to Responsibility.

    They didn't just write about insurance because they sell insurance. They "niched up" and made their brand about being responsible.

    When you "niche up" like this, I think it helps you to come up with what your brand should really be about.

    It helps you think of the bigger picture. What are you REALLY helping people with??

    Not only does this help you define your brand, but it also makes Content Marketing way easier because now you have more stuff to talk about.

    Now that I've decided to "niche up" in order to really define what my brand is about, my options as far as Influencer Marketing are so much greater!

    This means I can join forums, and interact with influencers that talk about Y instead of just boring old X. I'm planning to use Facebook and Instagram for this as well.

    I'm really excited about trying this approach because "Y" is something I love talking about and writing about so I see this as easier for me to do than to try to force myself to only talk about my product and things directly related to it.

    It will also help me to differentiate myself from competitors by giving my brand a personality.