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Anonymous review site to bring light to a shady industry.

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sonny_1080

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Three days ago, @Andy Black and I chatted it up for a bit. I told him something we hear in TFLF all the time: "I'm working on building [insert latest idea]" - in my case, a website.

In true Andy fashion, he brought me back to why we are all here in the first place: to add value. You can't add value without getting in front of people. He suggested I post something on FB and start engaging the market. I immediately felt afraid of posting the wrong thing or something less than perfect. Andy helped me realize that if I'm helping people, what is there to be afraid of?

Before I spoke to Andy, I spent about a week researching, planning and sketching a website without really engaging the market.

That night, I posted something of a rant (related to the pain point I think my website can solve), and then disabled all my FB notifications. In the last 3 days, I've got about 60 comments and 10+ PMs. 95% of the responses were from people who felt the same way and thanked me for saying something. A few tried to offer a solution (not as good as my website idea).

After responding to them, the questions came: why aren't more people sharing their experiences? Why isn't this post being shared to more people?

I've asked people offline to comment and share and they said: a) "I don't want my boss knowing I'm in this conversation" and b) "I don't want the constant notifications from FB."

This information further validates my website because it solves both a) and b). I also asked people if they thought an anonymous review site would be helpful and I got nothing but positive answers.

Andy suggested I just make a list and put it on a landing page to get something started - and that's what I decided to do.

So my list is coming together. Google Forms integrated with Google Sheets on a simple Wordpress site should be good enough to start.

My post on Facebook got a way better response than I thought it would. Turns out a lot of people feel the same way I do - so far. It will be easier to get more people involved since a website link is a lot easier to share than a facebook post. And an anonymous review is a lot easier than a facebook comment.

I'm gonna make it to where only past and current residents can leave a review. Anybody can add a business to the list, all they need is the name of the business and the location. And since people will be adding businesses and reviewing them, the businesses will be incentivized to add more information (amenities, room availability, respond to reviews, etc.). This they can do by claiming the business (like Yelp). I'm gonna figure out a way to verify everybody and ensure content guidelines to avoid any fakery.

My question is: should I charge them to claim the business in the beginning? Or should I wait until the site has more popularity?

I was gonna let them claim for free in the beginning, but after reading Be Open To Receive I'm thinking about charging them like $50 to claim their business. Part of me feels like $50 is too much for the beginning since its a brand new site, but another part of me feels like that's totally fair. In the end of the day, they can choose NOT to claim their business - and people will still be reviewing them. It'll just be a little bit harder for people to contact the business because the only info they'll have is a name, location, and reviews.

On the other hand, if I start charging them in the beginning, I won't have to take any business info down if people decide not to claim their business. Come to think of it, this will probably happen regardless if I raise the prices as the popularity of the site increases.

After journalizing all this, I guess I should charge from the beginning.

My value skew for the businesses is: represent your business on the "go-to" platform for your target audience.

To my understanding, it's damn near impossible to calculate an average customer lifetime value for this niche because the churn rate is outrageous. For that reason, any PPC is just not feasible right now. A flat monthly rate makes the most sense to me.

I know this niche charges anywhere between $600 - $10,000 a month, but I think the average is $1,400. I read that in an article somewhere. However, I don't want to hurt the lesser-expensive businesses by charging too much. Besides, the expensive ones are usually the most unscrupulous.

I feel like $50 is too cheap and $300 is to expensive. But again, the more popular the site gets, the more valuable it will be to the individual businesses.

Either way, I'm probably going to have to raise the price down the road. I think I'll start with $50 a month.

Or should I allow the businesses to claim for free?

The more I think about, I think no on the free because of the idea of money being a confirmation of value.

What do you guys think?
 
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Andy Black

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Pick a direction, get started, keep going?

Also, consider testing the market instead of worrying? Be curious.

“Hmmm... what would happen if I got 10 listed for free and then went to others offering to put them up for $50/mth? Can I sell that?”

“Or maybe I’ll just speak to an owner about their listing to get more details and ask if they want a premium listing?”

Personally, I’d start at $10/mth or something. I’d make it monthly so I’m not tied in for a year, and I can drop the project later, or increase later. Etc.

Don’t spend too long wondering why your first instinct is to ask other people. That’s the way you’re programmed at the moment, or the way fear is rearing it’s head.

A coach once told me:

“F*ck why. It only holds you back.”

Just get it done. Move faster and agonise less about every decision?
 

sonny_1080

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[update]

Ran into some issues with the anonymous review form so i made a better one with jotform.

Spent the last week promoting it on Facebook, building authority, getting attention, and posting the review form.

I’ve gotten nothing but great feedback. So far I’ve got 11 submissions out of 54 form views.

I figure that I’d be able to get more of a buzz if people had a landing page to have some tangible evidence of my vision.

I got hosting and a domain yesterday and started building a quick landing page.

I’m focused on the promotion first and I’ll build the website parallel.
 

sonny_1080

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I don't get it. You're trying to start another yelp?
Kind of. Same concept with the user-generated reviews. A lot of differences. More specificity to a particular niche.
 

Private Witt

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Kind of. Same concept with the user-generated reviews. A lot of differences. More specificity to a particular niche.

I like this idea for my niche as my industry could use a B2B review system as the scamming and dirt baggery is so immense, but yet the players who shine dont have a platform for others to see they rise about it all.
 

sonny_1080

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[update]

Went from building a quick landing page to just diving into building the whole website. After watching
View: https://youtu.be/BxSruxav35k
I decided that with all the tools at my disposal, it would be best to present a website that does what is claimed instead of just a list or a LP.

This was decided because it would DEFINITELY be more helpful to people. And again, with all the tools and software out there, there is no excuse to not have something really awesome up and running and helping people by late January - early February.

Since December 12th, I've collected 30 reviews without a website. Been promoting the idea on Facebook a lot. Nothing but really positive feedback. A lot of "I really admire what you're doing" and "that's a great idea! Why doesn't that exist already?"

I've had to learn a ton of stuff on the fly and get different software tools. Theres been about two times (so far) that I built out one whole part of the website with 1 kind of software but could only get so far without needing another type of software. Only to realize the two were incompatible so I had to scrap the whole the whole thing and start over.

I've got a sticky note above my computer that reads "PROCESS OVER EVENTS" that has kept me patient.

Thank God for the money I made from running Google Ads for people. I've been able to use that money to put into this website.

I've finished the template for each listing to be displayed, the archive for the listings, search engine functionality w/ filtering & sorting, homepage (to solidify design and layout), header/footer, the single listing page template, and I figured out how to list what each business has available on their listing page. All that took about two weeks.

Promoting the idea on FB parallel to building the website has given me market feedback on how to make the website more helpful to people. It has also given me specific business data so once it's time to start fleshing out the database I will have enough content to start with.

Once all the templates are made and the dynamic interactions are set up then it will just be a matter of adding in all the content and letting the website build itself out. On track to start doing that by the end of next week.

I've come across 4 or 5 different websites that are doing something kind of similar but I'm confident in my ability to beat them simply because of the intrinsic differences in what I'm doing.

Still haven't decided if I should launch as a loss leader and focus on the following before offering a 'PRO' claim with additional features for a fee. Or if I should offer the 'PRO' claim from the time of launch.

The reason I haven't made the decision is because I'm just not sure what is BEST for the long-term vision: loss leader or value-confirmation through actual purchases.

That is all for now.
 

sonny_1080

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[update]

I've decided to build out PRO features on the website so it can be monetized when launched.

I'm in the thick of it right now. The excitement about the idea has withered away but the feedback I get from the posts on FB promoting the idea keep me directional.

Currently I'm figuring out how to create a dynamic registration form that categorizes different users giving them each different capabilities on the site. Definitely the hardest part of the project so far.

I posted a job on Upwork to talk to a JetEngine specialist and have been reaching out to different FB groups. Figuring it out little by slowly.

I crafted a realistic timeline with the goal of launching in the first week of February.

I'm really looking forward to have something to show people.
 

sonny_1080

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It is January 21st and I'm back on schedule to launch my website on February 6th. I find my myself getting caught up in dynamic features that distract me from the one true aim - get a functional prototype launched that does what I claim.

I've referred back to Unscripted multiple times to the Prototyping part in the 7 P's of Process.

Something that also helps stay on track is the 12-week year goal-planning process. Breaking down my main goals into weekly milestones is such a simple concept that gives significant focus driving results.

I also write down my goals each morning, with a quote that resonates with me for that day, my targets for that day, and the successes I had at the end of that day.

Today's quote is: "A website that barely does what I claim is 10,000% better than a feature-rich masterpiece that isn't launched."
 
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Mike Stoian

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Awesome work man. From what I've heard your product sounds kinda similar to Glassdoor here in the UK. On Glassdoor people leave anonymous reviews for companies, they disclose their salaries and other stuff like that. It's mostly helpful for people to figure out if they wanna work for a company or not. However it's super annoying to use sometimes.

Even if you have exactly the same idea in your mind, You can make it SOOOOOO much better. And also exapand it into so many more other markets that Glassdoor hasn't touched yet. But I'm sure your idea is different and way more specialised.

You seem to be on the right track. Congrats!
 

sonny_1080

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Awesome work man. From what I've heard your product sounds kinda similar to Glassdoor here in the UK. On Glassdoor people leave anonymous reviews for companies, they disclose their salaries and other stuff like that. It's mostly helpful for people to figure out if they wanna work for a company or not. However it's super annoying to use sometimes.

Even if you have exactly the same idea in your mind, You can make it SOOOOOO much better. And also exapand it into so many more other markets that Glassdoor hasn't touched yet. But I'm sure your idea is different and way more specialised.

You seem to be on the right track. Congrats!
Thank you. Your feedback is my appreciated.
 

sonny_1080

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[update]

A couple weeks ago I met with a web developer. I partnered with him and he and his team have been awesome.

I’m happy I made the decision. I built out the website as far as I could, but I wanted to get an expert to handle the advanced stuff. I believe his second opinion and expertise will keep me out of the deep water for sure.

Since handing it off to him, I crafted an offer to start pre-registering people either for free and with a PRO upgrade for a fee.

I cold called 2 people and got a voicemail. Called a 3rd and booked an appointment. Called a 4th and the guy was like, “I’m free now” so I went over there.

He went with the free listing. I tried to close him on PRO upgrade but he hit me with like 8 objections that I kept countering until he told me to leave.

Im meeting with a sales coach tonight to role play out the situations so it doesn’t happen again.
 
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sonny_1080

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Two days ago I made 30 cold calls. Reached 10 people and booked 5 meetings.

Yesterday I met with 3 people and got everybody signed up for the free version of my website and got my first PRE-ORDER SALE FOR $800!!!

Super stoked.

Today I’m taking the presentation that worked, recording it, and posting it on social media to reach as many people as possible.

Then it’s back to making cold calls and booking meetings.
 

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Two days ago I made 30 cold calls. Reached 10 people and booked 5 meetings.

Yesterday I met with 3 people and got everybody signed up for the free version of my website and got my first PRE-ORDER SALE FOR $800!!!

Super stoked.

Today I’m taking the presentation that worked, recording it, and posting it on social media to reach as many people as possible.

Then it’s back to making cold calls and booking meetings.
Cold calls? Meetings? Signups? And revenue?

Well done!
 

sonny_1080

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sonny_1080

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I haven't taken the time to write an update because I didn't think anybody cared. But after reading @Likwid24 's https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/co...-progress-thread-the-paint-brush-cover.30969/ at the behest of @MJ DeMarco 's GOLD! - 9 'Slap-Your-Face' Lessons You Need to Learn from this Shark Tank Success Story I decided to keep going.

Since the last post I made about the $800 pre-order, I realized that if I kept spending time trying to get pre-orders, then my website would launch without any useful content. So I cold called about 150 businesses in the niche and offered the Basic Claim (Free). 50 of them had shutdown, another 50 I never spoke with, and the other 50 said yes. Saying yes meant they would have a free listing on my website that aggregated their target audience... and consumers would have enough basic information to find a provider. The rest of my time was spent trying to get attention on social media and working with my web developer to bring the site to life.

We launched February 24th with 44 reviews, 53 business claims, and 1 upgraded claim ($800 annual revenue). I've spent the majority of my time getting as much feedback as possible from users and relaying the information to the developer who has been a total life-saver. We've made a lot of changes and after the first month it really started to come together.

In the last 39 days, we've received an additional 8 reviews, 3 more business claims (the free one), and no new revenues. Here's what my analytics looks like:

Screen Shot 2021-04-04 at 11.56.42 AM.png

Perhaps the most important thing that has happened since I started this project is I've had about 6 people reach out to me directly to help them find a provider... and I never told them to do that. I just said "hey, check out this website. And people were like, no, do it for me."

Here is where things get tricky. People hit me up, I use my website as a tool to help them (which is so awesome), they find providers to help meet their needs, I think 2 or 3 ended up closing and the providers made money.

However, I still have not made a dime other than the $800 pre-order. So last week, my friend tells me instead of doing charging for listing space, charge per lead. A few hours later, I'm on the phone with a provider explaining to them I'm thinking about doing PPL and he says "bro, this industry (medical) is all about branding and perception. I like your idea, but PPL will be looked at so negatively." He was interested in meeting with me and we spoke for about an hour where he gave me some very valuable feedback. I spoke with about 7 others in the industry and it resulted in me having a very serious moral crisis that has put a severe restraint on my "Why" and thus, for the last week, I've been totally stuck.

It comes down to this: I HATE the industry I started this business in. All of my domain experience is in this one field and I wanted to have a review website that brought transparency to the ONE aspect of this industry that I thought could be salvaged and useful. I've recently come to learn that this niche within the niche is becoming about 75% involved with a part of this industry that I just cannot have anything to do with.

It seems as though my options are 1) continue building a business focusing on the remaining 25% - which seems stupid because its like I'm choosing to build a business in a declining niche or 2) turn to the darkside.

So for the last week I've been trying to decide what to do. I know it seems complicated because it is and that is why I'm stuck.

I'm trying to get my "Why" right before I do anything else, so I've been trolling the FLF and reading hoping to stumble across something that clears it all up for me.

I got a $10,000 loan last week that I can use as a financial cushion for the business so thats good. I also have a 3-day leadership seminar this week that is supposed to drill-down into the "Why", and I really hope it helps. I'm pretty sure it will. And then when I come back, I'll have a restructured "Why" and then I can get back into making things happen.

Here's a video for anyone in a similar situation:

 

Likwid24

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Honestly, I love this. I despise Yelp. They are corrupt extortionists. It's such a scam. I always hoped someone with high moral standards would create something to compete with them.

Paying to claim your business is fine. DO NOT charge people to keep bad reviews off your site and good reviews on. This is what Yelp does.

BTW - glad I could be of help. The progress thread I created is one of thew best things I ever did. It kept me motivated and held me accountable. I also received some great advice/ideas from members. Keep it going!
 

sonny_1080

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Honestly, I love this. I despise Yelp. They are corrupt extortionists. It's such a scam. I always hoped someone with high moral standards would create something to compete with them.

Paying to claim your business is fine. DO NOT charge people to keep bad reviews off your site and good reviews on. This is what Yelp does.

BTW - glad I could be of help. The progress thread I created is one of thew best things I ever did. It kept me motivated and held me accountable. I also received some great advice/ideas from members. Keep it going!
Thanks man.

The website I built is for a very specific niche so it’s not quite like Yelp.

The problem is that the niche is becoming something I believe to be unethical.

Which really sucks because I built this thing to help people, people are being helped, but in order to grow the business, I’d have to basically funnel people into an industry that I think does more harm than good.
 
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sonny_1080

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sonny_1080

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It has been about 4 months since I've written in this thread. I spent about a month battling my own mindset. "Why am I doing this?" "Is it really needed?" "Am I wasting my time?" "Should I just go get a job?" "I'm a loser." These are all thoughts I struggled with. I probably fell into a little bit of a depression and spent a month playing video games.

In May I worked on a significant update to the website to iron out some of the never-ending kinks to make it more useful. I wrote a downloadable pdf to build my mailing list and put it on Facebook, but only a couple people downloaded it.

After we rolled out the new update, I talked to about 10 Operators to see how I could make a better offer. This helped me narrow down where I can bring more actual value to my potential clients. I signed 1 more business up who is paying $47 a month.

In June, I spent about a week reading the E-myth which helped me take a step back from my business and look at from the business owner's perspective instead of the worker's perspective.

From this new perspective, I realized that the direction I was going in with the subscription revenue model was not going to bring the results I wanted in the long-term. That in order to reach my vision, I would need to adopt a template for operating the way that envisioned business would operate.

So I created that template. The issue I came up against was trying to find the best revenue model for my audience. Understanding that knowing my audience is critical, I was able to test the information I've been consuming alongside this newfound wisdom of who my target audience is. It's crazy to see how easy it is to veer off-track from my target.

In July, I was watching an interview of a lady who started a website similar to mine but in another industry. Her website generates 50+ million dollars a year now. I found her on Facebook, DM'd her, and she responded! We've had 2 zoom calls now. She likes what I'm doing and has given me guidance on revenue modeling in order to decide how my website should be monetized. She's also given me a sample investor deck so I can start thinking about raising money.

At this point, my site's traffic, new clients, and revenues has not changed. I'm currently planning how I'm going to apply the significant changes to my website. It is very hard to stay motivated when there is only $47 a month in revenue coming in.

Fortunately, @Andy Black taught me how to run Google Ads last year and an old client reached out to me to make a website and run some ads for him again - so that extra income is super useful.

And my friend needed some extra help at his pizza restaurant so I picked up a couple shifts. It is humbling to be 29 years old with an Economics degree and still barely scraping by working at my friend's pizza shop with an unsuccessful website, while my 22 year old girlfriend is probably going to make upwards of $80,000 this year at her sales job. She tells me I should keep at the website and reminds of all the different entrepreneurs that have had similar struggles. I don't know if I could've gotten this far without her.

This whole thing is just a never-ending process of trying stuff that doesn't work as well as I thought it would. I thought so many things would go differently and that I'd be so much further by now. At this point I've dealt myself all in - I'm just gonna keep going. Like a robot.

My biggest difficulty has been staying motivated. And the biggest tool to help me with that difficulty has been remembering and getting back in touch with my "why" - which continues to evolve.

In the words of the great @MJ DeMarco , "failure is the sweat of success."
 

sonny_1080

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Its crazy how many times in the last year I changed my mind about how I'm going to monetize this thing. I've switched up the business model to a referral service, pay-per-lead service, advertising, and have gone full-circle back to just focusing on user-generated reviews.

It sucks because I need money. It's not really a business at this point, more like a website for people to write reviews. I dug into Yelp's financials... it took them 10 years to post a profit.

The industry my website focuses on is much smaller so a part of me is questioning if it is even worth it to keep going.

I still believe something like this needs to exist. I have spent $0 on advertising and to be honest I haven't spent a lot of time on advertising or marketing either. Most of my time is spent on making tweaks on the site and freaking out about not making any money, so I plan a different business model until I remember why I started this thing in the first place. I've wasted months doing this.

I don't know.

People use it, but it's a free service. I have $900 in revenue from last year, but I hate the industry I'm in. A big part of me appreciates the fact that I have the underpinnings of a functional site, but I should change verticals into something that is a bit more rewarding.

Another part of me dreads the fact of having to keep putting money into this thing until it makes a profit years from now. Something like this will only be successful if I stop focusing on revenue right now and only focus on growth; but growth costs money.

It just feels like I'm not "fastlane-ing" right lol
 

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The biggest problem with what I'm doing is the problems the website solves, it solves for free. The only way it is monetized is via advertising... and I've found that the people paying for advertising don't want to be on a user-generated review site.

Now that I think about it, definitely. Even if I switched to pay-per-lead, the people paying would not want to pay for a lead because their problem isn't painful enough.
 
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Simon Angel

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Since a year has already gone by and you feel your project is going nowhere, perhaps you could share your website with us so we can brainstorm together?
 

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@sonny_1080

How about this:

What if you keep the anonymous review part for free BUT connect people to more ethical rehab businesses? You can charge these businesses a fixed price per patient or put them on a retainer. It's a win-win-win.

EDIT: It looks like you already have quite a few listed. But maybe you should look into how you can provide value to the nice rehab places and negotiate a referral deal rather than just having all of these listed without them paying.
 
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sonny_1080

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I have personal experiences, biases, and beliefs against the the whole treatment industry. That's why I wanted a review sit specifically for sober livings.

What you sugggest is a great idea, but to work with that industry is to sell my soul. It's a great idea for someone else.

This is a big reason why I've struggled this past year with what I'm doing.
 

sonny_1080

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@sonny_1080

How about this:

What if you keep the anonymous review part for free BUT connect people to more ethical rehab businesses? You can charge these businesses a fixed price per patient or put them on a retainer. It's a win-win-win.

EDIT: It looks like you already have quite a few listed. But maybe you should look into how you can provide value to the nice rehab places and negotiate a referral deal rather than just having all of these listed without them paying.
Besides, the government is trying to outlaw lead gen for rehabs.
 

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