Weekly Snip Report, April 1st, 2015

Yesterday was the deadline for my goal of reaching $1000/mo in revenue by 3/31/2015, which I missed bigtime. My current revenue is about $380/mo. It made me think that for my next goals I should choose something closer to the beginning of the funnel where I have more direct influence.

So here are my new goals. These are all conversion rate goals.

AdWords CTR 1% Already previously achieved
Trial sign-up 5% 4/13/2015
Activation: provide stylist names 50% 4/27/2015
Activation: provide service names 25% 5/11/2015
Activation: schedule at least one appointment 10% 5/25/2015
Paying customer 5% 6/8/2015

So let’s talk math for a second. Let’s say I buy 1000 AdWords clicks for $1000. If I have a 5% visitor-to-trial conversion rate and 5% trial-to-customer conversion rate, then 5% of 5% of 1000 is 2.5. So under that scenario a paying customer would cost $1000/2.5 = $400, which would almost certainly be profitable. I realize the cost of 1000 clicks would probably be more than $1000, but even at $3/click the cost of acquisition would still only be $1200, which I think would probably still be profitable.

As of March my trial sign-up rate was about 11/900 = 1.2%. (That’s 11 trial sign-ups and 900 unique visitors in March.) I’m meeting with my designer later today to kick off a so-badly-needed website redesign. I expect a more professional-looking site to convert a little better even without much in the way of copy/content improvements. I’ll be much more motivated to put effort into content improvements once I’m no longer ashamed of the site, once I “believe” in it.

The next coarse-grained conversion that happens is trial to customerhood, but that’s kind of a big gap inside of which a lot needs to happen. You could put another conversion between trial and customerhood called activation. Many prospects sign up for a free trial but then never even log in once. They really need to put in some stylists, some services, and some appointments. I think I could help grease the chute on that process by creating some sort of multi-step “setup wizard” where the first step is to enter some stylist names, then services, etc. Such a wizard would also make it super super easy to pinpoint the exact step where people fall off the wagon. The only information I have now is that they never logged in after signing up, and that doesn’t tell me much. If I could just get 10% of trial signer-uppers to put in some stylist names, services names, and schedule at least one appointment, that would be a big improvement over where I am now.

So those are my new goals. I think they’re within more realistic reach than many of my old ones. Wish me luck.

Snip goals

Some time ago I had set a goal to get Snip to $1000/mo in revenue by March 31st, 2015. Today is 3/31 and my revenue is still about $380/mo, which is actually even less than it was when I set the goal ($430ish).

It kinda hurts to not only not achieve a goal but to slip further away from it. It may or may not be productive to ask why I didn’t hit my goal. Actually, the question to ask would be why my revenue didn’t go up a single dollar. What I think needs to happen is that I need to move down to a metric I can influence more directly. Revenue is a result, and specifying a desired result goal doesn’t necessarily say anything about how that result might be achieved.

I was thinking about these things today along with the fact that now that this goal has expired I need new goals. I was thinking about how my website is so appallingly terrible. Maybe my goal could be to have a website I’m proud of and that I consider good. But that’s not very measurable, plus it’s the effectiveness of the site that matters, not how good it looks (not that it shouldn’t be both effective and good-looking). So maybe it would make sense to set goals around certain conversion rates.

That’s what I decided. I said why don’t I set a goal to get visitor-to-trial conversions to 1% and trial-to-customer conversions to 10%. So for every 1000 uniques per month, I can expect one paying customer.

Then I checked my numbers and realized my visitor-to-trial conversion is already about 1%. In March I got about 900 uniques and 11 trial sign-ups, obviously better than 1%. So I guess I’m good there, although 11 trials per month doesn’t feel like enough to work with. If my trial-to-customer rate is anything less than 10%, I wouldn’t nexessarily get any customers at all that month.

So I figured traffic should probably play into the goal too. Maybe let’s roughly 2X the traffic to 2000 uniques a month.

More on this later.

 

 

 

Weekly Snip Report, Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

I’d like to proudly announce that Snip trial-signer-uppers now get a welcome email when they sign up! That took forever.

I believe I implemented that feature on Monday. Since then I’ve added two more lifecycle emails: one to encourage you to add some appointments and another to encourage you to add some stylists.

A sufficient level of lifecycle emails was one of my two prerequisites for pointing an AdWords campaign at the site. My plan as of the last time I posted it was:

  1. Move trial sign-up form to home page
  2. Set up autoresponders throughout 30-day trial
  3. Redesign website
  4. AdWords
  5. Get as prominent as possible on Capterra (Capterra is the #1 result when you search for “salon software” or “hair salon software”)

I now think it makes more sense to combine steps 1 and 3, so the plan is now this:

  1. Set up autoresponders throughout 30-day trial
  2. Redesign website
  3. AdWords
  4. Get as prominent as possible on Capterra (Capterra is the #1 result when you search for “salon software” or “hair salon software”)

And now that I have a few lifecycle emails ready to go, I’m ready to call #1 good enough to start the campaign. So that would make the plan:

  1. Redesign website
  2. AdWords
  3. Get as prominent as possible on Capterra (Capterra is the #1 result when you search for “salon software” or “hair salon software”)

But before I can do the website redesign I have to wait to receive a certain large payment I’m waiting for. So I’ll work on the lifecycle emails until then.

I also got a message last night from one of my customers that some of her clients aren’t receiving their text reminders. I checked my logs and didn’t see anything unusual, so I’m a little frustrated that the customer sees a bug but I can’t see it. This isn’t the first time customers have complained about texts not being delivered. I don’t know if the issue is a real one or just a perceived one, but either way I think I probably need to create a text log the customers can see themselves for peace of mind. I’m frustrated that that is becoming a necessity because I don’t fucking want to work on the product right now! It’s already taking me long enough to get the website ready for an AdWords campaign. I guess maybe I can just get to a good stopping point with the lifecycle emails, then work on the text stuff while I’m waiting for the money for the website.

I’ve been thinking that in general it would probably be good to have a system for allocating for product work vs. marketing work. Both areas are in always in dire need of attention and I always feel guilty for not working on one when I’m working on the other. Maybe I do every other week or every other month or something like that.

I’m frankly getting really sick of trying to make Snip work for so long and having not much success. Is it possible I just wasn’t born with whatever it takes to be successful at this kind of thing?

I also haven’t gotten any Olark chats in forever, which is like what the fuck? I used to get about one a week and I’ve gotten like two in 2015 so far, period. What the fuck changed?? It’s not broken. I keep checking. My traffic hasn’t gone down. Nothing has fucking changed. Success is a mystery to me and I’m fucking pissed about it.

But anyway, I haven’t yet run out of things to try. I can’t give up before I have lifecycle emails in place, because it’s retarded not to. It’s also retarded to have a shitty website, so I can’t give up before I have a not-shitty website. I’ve always said that I won’t give up until I’ve run out of things to try, and I have plenty more to try. I expect to eventually be successful rather than to have to give up. But at this particular moment in time I’m pretty fucking frustrated.

Weekly Snip Report, Friday, March 13, 2015

I’ve done pretty well this week as far as making time for Snip goes. I fixed a bug with the forgot password feature and now I’m in the process of FINALLY adding a welcome email to the free trial. I can’t believe I’m just now doing this. Better late than never.

Adding this welcome email is the first step in adding a series of autoresponders all throughout the 30-day trial, which is again something I’ve had on my to-do list forever. My hope and expectation is of course that the autoresponders will get more people to “activate” after they sign up for a free trial. That’s a useful term I just learned: activate. My biggest problem with my free trials is that once people sign up, they fail to activate. They either never schedule a single appointment, or they just schedule a couple test appointments and then never come back.

A couple weeks ago I had reached out to my designer because I wanted to have snipsalonsoftware.com redesigned. Unfortunately she said she was busy with some long-term contracts, so I had to find somebody else. I recently connected with a friend of mine who I’ve known for a long time but didn’t think was available, so that’s nice. My plan is to pull the trigger on the redesign as soon as I have enough money. By the way, I’ve tried and tried to use some off-the-shelf design and make it work. I don’t know what it is but I just can’t fucking do it. I have to have it done custom by a real designer.

Once I have a good-looking site and have my autoresonders in place to a sufficient degree, I think it will no longer be premature to invest in sending paid traffic to the site.

Weekly Snip Report, Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Interesting week. On Monday I noticed my seven year-old MacBook was running exceptionally slow. After trying and failing to sufficiently reduce RAM usage I decided to just restart. It wouldn’t turn back on…and I had a pairing session in an hour!

I rushed home and used my wife’s computer for my pairing session, then I took my MacBook to the Apple store to see what the deal with it was. Bad hard drive. The machine also has a bad battery, so between paying to fix both the battery and hard drive (and at the end still owning a laptop from 2008) and just buying a new computer, I went with the latter. I bought a 13″ MacBook Air. It hurt to part ways with the money but it sure fucking feels good to have a brand new computer after living with that old one for so long. The old computer was also somewhat of an embarrassment in front of clients. If I apparently can’t afford a computer that’s not old as fuck with a broken “enter” key, how successful could I be (and therefore how good could I be)? Now that’s one little thing I don’t have to worry about.

While I was in Nigeria I set myself up at a “pairing station” where students could sign up to do pair programming sessions with me throughout the day. I found a sign on the door of my temporary office that said “The Code Clinic” and the students started calling me “Dr. Jason”. I found myself in very high demand (and exasperatingly short supply). When I got back to the states, I thought maybe I could replicate this situation at my new office. I won’t bestow the grandiose title of Dr. Jason upon myself but I will hold office hours at the grandiosely-named Ben Franklin Labs World Headquarters. I describe all this just to mention up the fact that I held my first office hours session last Friday and I remembered, about five minutes before my guests were due to arrive, that I have no wi-fi in the office. I believe both of my guests had MacBook Airs and so weren’t able to get online. Whoops. I realized eventually I would need a wireless router.

So now myself being in possession of a MacBook Air, the time had come when I absolutely needed a wireless router. So I drove straight from the Apple Store to Best Buy and bought a router. I then spent ALL afternoon fucking with the router to try to get it to work and no dice. Long story short, I didn’t get the router working until Wednesday (!). So all that stuff took a big bite out of my week’s productivity.

I wrote several more paragraphs after this but then WordPress lost it. I didn’t write anything terribly important. Talk to you next week.

How to be a good mentee

  • Make the mentorship convenient for the mentor. As the mentee, you should handle scheduling any meetings. A good way to schedule meetings is not to ask “What time works for you?” but to ask “Would any of the following times work?” and then list the times. When you meet, come prepared with specific things to talk about.
  • Show the mentor you’re taking his or her advice. Busy, successful people are especially sensitive to wasting time. Nobody wants to invest time in giving advice to a loser who’s not actually going to put the advice to use. So when a mentor gives you advice, take the advice, and let the mentor know you did, and what happened as a result.
  • Have clear goals and a clear agenda which you share with your mentor. The purpose of a mentor, in my mind, is to help you achieve some particular thing. It will help the mentor help you if he or she knows what you’re trying to accomplish. So decide what your goals are and share those goals with your mentor.

Side note: when seeking out a mentor, don’t limit yourself. I’ve been surprised by some of the famous/wealthy/busy people who have agreed to mentor me.

Weekly Snip Report, February 25th, 2015

The last week or so has been crazy for Snip. On Sunday I pushed out a fix for a bug I found in the reporting section, and on Monday I started calling my customers to tell them about it. I expected it to be horrible but nobody was pissed about it, which I found surprising.

Then yesterday one of my customers called me and complained of like 5 different problems, some real, some perceived. That was totally separate from the report issue but coincidentally around the same time. Then, also yesterday, another customer called me with a really good feature request that sucks to not have, but I don’t see how I’ll be able to afford to build it anytime soon, given that I have all those bugs to fix and maybe I’ll like to try to make some sales at some point too.

As of yesterday morning I was already working on moving the trial sign-up form to the home page of the marketing site, so I decided to keep going on that before I focused on bugs, since I had already partially done the form-moving job before but I had to throw the work out because I abandoned it and then it got too out of sync with the rest of the codebase.

Today I also received some money I’ve been waiting on for a long time, so I think I’m finally okay to pay to have the Snip site redesigned. I don’t see any reason why that can’t be done in parallel to the bug fix/missing feature addition work I need to do in the next little bit.

My schedule change has been great for Snip productivity. I’m back on the rails. I wish these product defects weren’t a thing, but whatever.

How To Meet Successful, High-Profile People

One of the things I’ve found to be true of all rich, successful people is that they know a lot of people.

How did they get that way?

And more importantly, how can little old me meet all these successful people I want to meet, people who don’t necessarily have any reason to give me the time of day?

These questions have interested me for a long time. I’m kind of a slow learner and so it took me a very very long time, but I’ve finally discovered a technique that works.

First I’ll quickly explain how I found the technique. I knew that the golden rule of networking is to give before you get, but not in all situations do I have something to give. For example, what could I give, say, Richard Branson that’s not already within his easy reach? What can I give to someone who’s “ahead” of me in every way? Nothing, right?

Then one day it dawned on me what I could give. Even if I have nothing else to give someone, I can still give sincere appreciation and a legitimate feeling of usefulness and importance the person. This can take the form of simply asking thoughtful questions, listening with genuine interest, and then repeating from the first step.

So when I wanted to improve my salon scheduling software business by making connections in the beauty industry, I decided to put this idea in action by performing interviews with beauty industry influencers with a strong focus on the other person. What I’ve found is that not only are my interviewees very happy to spend the time, but there’s also a strong sense of mutual goodwill built up by the end of the interview.

And in my case I’m also giving the other person the opportunity to promote his or her business, but I don’t know that that piece of it is super relevant. I’ve also done interviews when there was no economical component to it at all, and it still had the same connecting effect.

So there is my suggestion: if you want to meet successful, high-profile people, one good technique is to interview them.

And by the way, here’s a tactical note: the way I’ve done it in the past is to talk to the person over a Skype video chat and record the session using Ecamm Call Recorder which I then upload to Wistia. Then I have the interview transcribed by Casting Words and put it all up on a blog post.

Two Easy Ways to Raise Your Profile

If you want to raise your profile in any area, an effective way to do that is to assume a position of leadership. People will naturally assume you’re “somebody” in that area because you’re in a leadership position. I’ll describe two ways I know of to do this.

Method 1: Volunteering in an Organization

For a year, I served as President of Michigan’s oldest continuously-chartered Toastmasters club. People seem to be impressed by this credential when I share it with them, but it doesn’t represent a hard-won achievement. There was only one person running against me, and her “campaign speech” was “I don’t want to be President. Vote for Jason instead!”

I recently volunteered to serve on my local Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador Committee. I’ve only been an active Committee member for about two weeks, but I’m already experiencing access to high-quality business connections I would not have had otherwise. Becoming an Ambassador wasn’t hard. All I did was ask.

In organizations run by volunteers, leadership positions are yours for the asking. Most people don’t want the responsibility. In my experience, just about any position can be yours if you just express interest.

Method 2: Teaching

I’ve been blogging about technical topics for years. When I find the solution to some tricky problem and I’m in the mood to write about it, maybe I’ll put up a blog post. Occasionally other people find certain posts helpful.

In 2014 I created AngularOnRails.com with the intention of becoming the internet’s best resource for issue at the intersection of Ruby on Rails and AngularJS. Whether or not I meet this objective, I can always say I’m the author of AngularOnRails.com, which without my having to say anything else indicates to people that I know my way around those two technologies.

By the way, here’s how I came up with the content for AngularOnRails.com: I solved problems as I encountered them, and then I blogged about how I did it. You don’t need years of experience in order to teach something genuinely useful!

You Can Do It

The barrier to entry for teaching is pretty low. But even if you can’t think of something to teach yet, I’d say the barrier to entry for volunteering is even lower. So if you want to raise your profile, there’s a fairly clear and easy path for you to follow.