Snip plans as of 5/22/2015

I’ve been guilty of being somewhat directionless lately. I had previously put together a plan that ended with “start a Google AdWords campaign” but didn’t account for what needed to happen after that. So let’s talk about that.

First, I want to address my website redesign. That’s something that I saw as a prerequisite to starting my AdWords campaign but I got impatient and started the AdWords campaign even though the new site’s not done yet. The ball is still in the designer’s court there.

A rep from Capterra called me the other day and reminded me of something I already knew, but had apparently forgotten: I shouldn’t send PPC visitors to my home page; I should be sending them to landing pages. I had gotten so focused for so long on my home page that I forgot about anything else. Believe it or not, I even read (most of) a whole book called Landing Page Optimization, so suffice it to say that I’m familiar with the idea! The rep even shared a link with me to a landing page for a different industry that she claimed to have “double-digit” conversion rates. The landing page seemed compliant with some of the recommendations I read in Landing Page Optimization, and in violation of other ones. In any case, I judged it to be a good-enough template for me to use. I figure I can kind of paint by numbers by replacing their value prop with mine, their business name with mine, etc. It won’t be perfect but it’ll be an improvement over the nothing I have now. I’m don’t want to build separate landing pages for different keywords yet, just one general landing page. From there I can split it into different ones.

So I think my plan is:

  1. When the website redesign comes back, implement it
  2. Build a landing page and point AdWords and Capterra at it
  3. Set up proper conversion tracking
  4. Optimize the landing page to reach the conversion goal I previously set (I don’t remember what it is without looking)
  5. Move to the next step of the funnel and optimize that
  6. Repeat from #5

Obviously I can’t do #1 right now, but when I can, it’ll be the highest priority. I’ve already started with #2.

Snip ads

I recently hired a designer to redo the awful-looking Snip website. My plan was to put up the new site, then point an AdWords campaign at it. In true Jason fashion, I got impatient and spun up an AdWords campaign earlier this month even though the new design wasn’t ready yet. While I was at it, I figured I might as well spin up a PPC campaign on Capterra as well. Also in true Jason fashion, I have yet to set up proper conversion tracking for either of my two campaigns.

Anyway, in the time since I’ve spun up my PPC campaigns, I’ve gotten three trial sign-ups. For a few months, for whatever reason, I’ve gotten almost no sign-ups at all. So even though I don’t have conversion tracking set up yet, it seems pretty safe to attribute those sign-ups to the PPC campaigns. Feeling irresponsible about the no-tracking thing, I created a spreadsheet with all my 8 or 9 funnel steps and the conversion rate at each step. So far I only know the conversion rate for the first two steps, but at least I’ve identified exactly what work I need to do. Part of the barrier to getting this stuff set up correctly is just figuring out what the heck it is I need to do.

Out of my three signer-uppers, 100% of them completed the two steps in my new “setup wizard”, meaning they all provided a) their salon name and b) their stylists’ names. My hypothesis was that if I provided a sequential set of steps to follow, people would comply. That hypothesis seems to be correct. It also seems that once the steps stop, engagement stops. So what I think I need to do is keep feeding the prospect with steps of increasing levels of commitment. One of the steps should probably be “Would you like someone to call you to help you get started with your free trial? If so, what’s your phone number?” or something like that. And no matter how many steps the prospect completes, I should probably have a red banner at the top that says, “For free help getting started, call 1-800-whatever”.

Anyway, what I wanted to say in this blog post is that a thought occurred to me today. That thought was that it probably wouldn’t be terribly unreasonable for me to pour as much money into advertising as I can afford in order to get a batch of “seed” users, even if I’m acquiring those users at a rate that isn’t quite profitable. But in order for that move not to be TOTALLY crazy, I’d want to be pretty confident that my funnel will convert at a rate that registers above “devastatingly low”. So I guess I’d want to do a few of the things I KNOW I need to do to my funnel before paying for traffic to send to it, like the website redesign, and the couple extra setup wizard steps. I don’t think the absence of those things necessarily means I should shut off the PPC campaigns right now, though. There’s a danger in waiting until my funnel is “perfect” before paying to send traffic to it. I’ll keep the spend limits where they are now until at least after the website redesign.

Napoleon

One of the books I finished not long ago was Napoleon by Andrew Roberts.

I like to read biographies of famous/successful people in order to learn what they did to become so successful so that I might copy what they did and emulate their success.

Napoleon, like many “great” men, seems to have been a professional success (until his decline) but somewhat of a failure in his personal life. He cheated on his wives and didn’t seem to be a very good dad.

I did have at least one good takeaway lesson from the book. Napoleon had a number of “military maxims” as I remember it, and one of them stated that you should concentrate all your forces in one place instead of dividing them. I think this is a good rule. Once in a while I remember a certain friend of mine who has something like three different businesses. Last I heard, not one of those three businesses was successful. It would probably be better just to focus on one business and make that one successful.

I have two businesses by necessity. One, Ben Franklin Labs, provides income now but can’t provide long-term wealth. The other, Snip, can provide long-term wealth but doesn’t yet have much income. I don’t want to make things any more complicated than this. I often have ideas for other businesses or projects, and in fact I’ve worked on other projects in addition to BFL and Snip, but it’s probably not a good idea.

I can also think of how the “concentrate your forces” rule could apply inside a single business. There have been times in the past when I’ve spun up a Google AdWords campaign on Snip, only to get cold feet and pause the campaign shortly after starting it, truncating any positive effect it might have had. I’ve also had stretches of time where I would dabble in several different areas of Snip – coding on the product, tweaking the website, interviewing industry influencers, etc. – rather than focusing on just one area at a time. Focusing on just one area at a time is probably best. Thanks, Napoleon.

Weekly Snip Report, May 13th, 2015

A few new things. I’ve gotten some more stuff back from my designer for the marketing site redesign and it’s looking good. I have to wait until I get the final deliverables in order to actually code the new design into the site.

I also got impatient and started an AdWords campaign a few days ago even though the new site isn’t ready yet. Since 5/9 I’ve had 5 clicks. My average CPC is $10.53 and my CTR is 0.44%. I’d like to get the CTR above 1%, and of course I’d like the CPC to be as low as possible. I’m estimating that I’m going to need one new customer for every $2000 I spend. Right now I have AdWords set to a $500/mo budget.

In addition to AdWords I also engaged with this company called Capterra. If you google for “salon software” or “hair salon software”, the first result is this Capterra’s salon software directory. I had long wondered what exactly it would take to get to the top of Capterra’s listings. I assumed it of course involved giving them money. It turns out they offer a PPC thing to their customers. The minimum bid is $2.00/click. I was told I could leap over a number of my competitors by bumping it up to $2.25, so I did that. I’ve had that going for a couple days and I’ve gotten 8 clicks each day. I’ll be curious to see how Capterra performs compared to AdWords. My plan is to run them in parallel for about a month and then see what I think. I’ll probably dial AdWords back to $250/mo and set Capterra to $250 as well because I kind of decided I just wanted to spend $500/mo on marketing at first.

Weekly Snip Report, May 6th, 2015

I’ve been continuing to focus on earning money consulting. That’s going well.

The designer I hired to redesign the website showed me some material last weekend. I understand I’ll be receiving the rest this coming weekend.

Weekly Snip Report, Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Not much to report. I’ve just been working on earning the money to pay for the website redesign.

My Angular/Rails Kickstarter campaign failed, but not by a whole bunch. I got $426 of my $1000 goal. I’m not too bummed about it. My take-away is that if I do another Kickstarter when I have a substantially bigger audience for AngularOnRails.com, I can expect better funding.

Weekly Snip Update, Friday, April 17th, 2015

The prospective client engagement I mentioned last week has become a reality. I started on Tuesday.

I don’t remember if I had made this decision as of last week but I’ve decided now that the way I’ll move Snip forward over the next six months will be to spend my time earning as much money as possible, then putting a portion of that money toward Snip. First comes the website, then AdWords, then who knows what. My hope and expectation is that I can put together a funnel using just AdWords that will get me a few more customers. I don’t even care much at this point if I have to lose money on each customer, I just want a bigger customer base to get some momentum going.

So my next several updates might not be terribly interesting.

The E-Myth Revisited

I read kind of a lot of books. I thought it might be a good idea to jot down some thoughts on each book I’ve read to a) help crystalize any knowledge I might have absorbed from the book and b) share the book and some of its knowledge with the people who read my blog. (Yes, to my continued astonishment, there are people who actually read this blog.)

Today I finished The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I listeded to the audio version on Audible, which I’m glad I did, because it was read heartfully by the author. I don’t say this too often but this book was a mind-blower and a life-changer for me. I’ll explain why.

I’ll start by explaining what “The E-Myth” is. The E-Myth, as I understand it, is that small businesses are started by entrepreneurs. The truth is that small businesses are started not by entrepreneurs but by “technicians experiencing an entrepreneurial seizure”. Instead of creating a business for himself, the technician creates a job, often a shitty job. I found this insight interesting because I’m a technician and I’ve created a job for myself. I’m mostly doing the technical work of a software engineer rather than the work of an entrepreneur.

Michael Gerber contrasted this job-masquerading-as-a-business picture with that of McDonald’s which apparently calls itself “the most successful small business in the world”. The product McDonald’s sells is not hamburgers and french fries but the unique way it has developed of operating its stores. Because McDonald’s has a system that’s been proven to predictably produce the right results, McDonald’s stores can be operated by teenagers with no work experience.

The author’s suggestion is to apply the franchise model to your small business. He doesn’t mean to literally turn it into a franchise. He just means to turn your business into a prototype of a franchise with a documented system describing how it works. Instead of thinking of yourself as someone who works in the business, think of yourself as a stakeholder outside the business. Of course, there’s work that needs to be done, and early on, the founder will be the only person available to do it. The author says to come up with a complete org chart for your business including all the roles that need to be filled. For me and Ben Franklin Labs, that might include programming, marketing, web design, sales, and accounting, for starters. Then I would assign myself to each individual role and design and document the system that describes that role. After I developed a system for each role that was proven to produce the right result, I could hire someone else to fill that position and I could move onto the next position, and repeat.

There was more to the book that I’m not summarizing here but those are the broad strokes that I remember off the top of my head. This is definitely the kind of book I plan to go back and re-read and study, just like I’ve done with How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The E-Myth is exciting to me because a) the author recognizes the fact that people like me tend to create jobs for themselves, not real businesses, and b) he describes a path for escaping jobhood and creating a real business, e.g. a business that doesn’t require my constant presence.

I’ve already started with the org chart for both BFL and Snip. Looking forward to seeing where this takes me.