Weekly Snip Report, Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

I missed last week. Sorry.

Interesting stuff has been happening with my Capterra PPC campaign. I had a certain landing page that was capturing about one lead today, quite predictably, and that was nice. If nothing else it was nice for motivation.

I got a call yesterday from an unknown number and it turned out to be a lady from Capterra. She seemed to be really strongly of the opinion that instead of just an email, I should be asking for a phone number in my initial landing page. I’m inclined to believe she has some idea what she’s talking about because she seemed to have had a lot of contact with other businesses using Capterra (naturally) who were asking for a phone number up front. Since the one-lead-a-day thing was nice but wasn’t getting me a whole heck of a lot of engagement, I decided I didn’t have much to lose by giving the phone-number-up-front thing a shot. So I added a “phone” field to the “Get Free Demo” form yesterday. We’ll see how it goes.

I also released a redesign of my website yesterday. It’s more like a first pass at a redesign, but even this rough first pass is a big improvement in my opinion over what I had before. I still need to make sure it looks okay on various browser, devices, etc. (which I’m pretty sure it doesn’t right now).

I’ve been receiving feedback from a couple prospects I’ve talked to that my pricing structure is fucked up. Until recently the only difference between my $49/mo plan and my $99/mo plan was that the $99/mo one offered text reminders. People understandably found that to be a lot of money for such a small difference. So I changed the pricing structure to $29, $49 and $69 depending on how many stylists you have (1-5, 6-10, 11+).

Out of the leads I’ve gotten so far, there are two particular ones that have been the most promising. Both have said they plan to use the software. One of those two just told me so today, so I gave her an incentive to get her credit card on file within the next day. For some stupid reason I didn’t try to create any kind of urgency for the other prospect, but I should probably go do that. If even just one of these two prospects actually becomes a customer, I’ll be happy with the ROI and fairly happy with the rate of acquisition.

Overall I’m feeling pretty good about the state of things right now. The path to success is more illuminated than it has ever been. I have a highly predictable stream of qualified traffic coming in. I had (until I recently changed it) a landing page that was capturing leads at a predictable rate. The challenge now is to get a higher level of engagement with those leads. We’ll see what the presence of the phone number field does. My hope and expectation is that I’ll get fewer leads but more qualified ones that I can engage with more easily.

Weekly Snip Report, Thursday, June 11th, 2015

My landing page was getting a pretty phenomenal conversion rate: roughly 20%. I realized after a while that I didn’t really have anything after that first funnel step that necessarily made a ton of sense as a next step.

I changed the landing page’s CTA from “Get Free Demo” to “Start Your 30-Day Free Trial” after a competitor very generously showed me his Capterra landing page that had free trial as the CTA instead of demo. He claimed to have gotten about 30 new customers over the course of six months from 300 trial sign-ups and $5k in spend.

Rather than trying to be cleverer than other SaaS business owners (which after four and a half years of effort I’ve discovered I’m clearly fucking not), I decided to just copy what my competitor has done in hopes that I might have similar results, or at least even a fraction of the results.

I discovered the other day that about half my Capterra traffic is going not to my landing page but to my homepage, which currently totally sucks. My pricing page is actually completely broken. So I think my next step will be to code up my website’s new design and put it out there.

Consulting is going well. My main client now has enough work for me that it’s basically the equivalent of a full-time job. Perhaps somewhat ironically, this is exactly what I didn’t want when I first started freelancing in October 2013, but now it’s pretty much exactly what I want.

Weekly Snip Report, Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Last week I reported a 20% conversion rate on my landing page based on 15 visits and 3 conversions. Those numbers have risen to 67 and 14, for a conversion rate of about 21%.

I’m surprised and delighted that something is actually working. At least, it appears so far to be working. Twenty percent is a plenty acceptable conversion rate. I’ll still be happy if it ends up averaging out at 10%.

I said last week that next I planned to put up a demo video on the page the user sees after filling out the “Get Free Demo” form. I’ve done this. The only other thing I put on this page is a couple testimonials and a “Start Free Trial” button above and below the video.

I think the next step is to properly set up conversion tracking from the “demo video” step to the “start free trial” step. This is a challenge because the demo video lives on my WordPress site (snipsalonsoftware.com) while the trial sign-up form (and everything after that) lives on Heroku (app.snipsalonsoftware.com). You apparently have to do something in Mixpanel beyond the normal stuff because I plugged in those steps and they aren’t working right away.

But anyway, the landing page that’s converting at 20% (even if I’m off by a whole 10%) is a meaningful, permanent victory all by itself. This isn’t an “event” like getting a new customer out of the blue that’s a positive thing but non-lasting. It’s a foundational victory off of which more victories can be built.

I also had someone call me on Monday who clicked on one of my ads and visited my landing page. She ended up starting a free trial and it sounds like she’s off to a pretty good start.

I’m hesitant to get prematurely excited but things are looking very good so far.

Weekly Snip Report, Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve had much of a “win” with Snip but I’ve recently had a pretty good small win.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I started a couple PPC campaigns: one with AdWords and one with something called Capterra. I had originally just pointed both campaigns to Snip’s homepage. This is in violation of what I understand to be best PPC practices. I’m not super sure why I did it that way. I guess just because I didn’t have a landing page yet, and I kind of just plain forgot about that rule too.

So last week I built what I think is a halfway-decent landing page (which I won’t link to here right now because I don’t want to dilute my conversion rate). The call to action is “Get Free Demo”. I pointed both my PPC campaigns at the new landing page on Monday. The same day, I got a demo requester. The next day I got another one. Today I got another one for a total of 3 in 3 days. I’ve had 15 visits to the landing page in the last 3 days, so that’s a 20% conversion rate so far. I realize that that’s a really small sample size. Over time I don’t necessarily expect the conversion rate to stay that good. I’ll be interested to see.

I understand from history that I can expect at least 5 PPC clicks per day. That’s of course about 150 clicks per month. I don’t know statistics math, and I can go find this out, but I would imagine that 150 clicks is an okay number to go off of when measuring a conversion rate, at least for a first pass of getting a feel for how I’m doing. So I’m guessing that after a month passes I can know, at least kind of, whether the landing page is converting sufficiently acceptably to move to the next step of the funnel or if it needs further optimization.

The number I think I’ll decide as an acceptable conversion rate is 10%. So if by a month from now my conversion rate is >= 10%, I think I can safely say see you later to that step of the funnel for now and focus on the next step.

Of course, I don’t need to just sit and twiddle my thumbs while the PPC campaigns are going. Right now the “Get Free Demo” opt-in doesn’t actually do anything. I have to follow up via email. I think instead, I’ll redirect them to a demo video. Below the demo video will be a button that says “Start 30-Day Free Trial” or something like that. I don’t expect that that would be very much work, and it would be interesting to see how well that step of the funnel converts.

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.