From 40 to 80, doing things that don’t scale

I came across a quote on Quora that said, if you managed to acquire 10 customers, it means you can probably acquire 20, and since you can acquire 20, you can acquire 30… meaning you can acquire 100. And if you can acquire a 100… well you get the point (I searched Hard but could not find it back, brownie points for who can found it, it’s from Jason from EchoSign I think)

This sounds silly but it’s quite true in fact. It obviously depends on the size of your market but the idea is that if you keep doing what you do you probably will get the same results.

I acquired customer by creating a good relationship based on me trying to help and make people successful. It’s a lot of “work” (I work roughly 10-11 hours per day but I love what I do and I’m taking my week-ends “off” to be able to keep doing it), but I would not change this for anything else.

What I do to nurture and get  more customers doesn’t scale. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently it’s a good thing so now I can happily keep doing it that way until I can’t anymore.

An example of what doesn’t scale would be how I help a few of my users at random by giving advice on their copy, or simply how accessible I try to make myself. I added Olark on my website quite early on (live chat) and this proved to be a great way to help my users as well as answering questions from visitors. I love doing that (although the chat does pop up in middle of a watching a movie or playing a game on the week-end, trying to relax :)). That’s something I can’t really automate unless I hire support/sales people, but then it would not be like speaking to the founder directly…

Anyway, as I “slowly” grew, acquiring about 20-25 new customers each month, it became very clear to me that people value having a relationship too. Product matters for sure but it’s never just a product that people buy. It’s also the support, quality of service and relationship that goes with it. Some had really poor experiences with other products and they are sold on the spot based on positive interaction. Some products out there charge extra $ for their support/service according to different tier, I treat all customers equal and expect only the best service possible, I don’t care if it’s Joe or Bill, both try to be successful with my tool. I love to delight my users and when people don’t explicitly pay for it, it’s easy to exceed expectations.

Here are some quotes I received recently. I receive many each week but I saved these ones because they made my day as I read them. It makes what I do so damn worthwhile:

(in no particular order)

” its awesome to learn with people like you.”

” thanks for the effort, is great that even when you don’t speak spanish, you try to help us.”

” Not to sound corny but I probably wouldn’t have ever got to this point if I didn’t switch to Quickmail.”

” Sweet!  Just noticed the “View email” button in the lead timeline.  Nice feature!  Been wanting that for a while”

” Dude, I’m loving QuickMail”

” Thanks Jeremy, what shall I say? Amazing!”

” Great product you have! I’ve been recommending it and blogging about it.”

” I’ve started to use QuickMail and I must say I find it very useful and easy to use.”

“quickmail works amazingly. hope it become a success.”

” Finally paid for the tool! I really like it so far :-) I’m really enjoying using it! “

” Of all your competitors, I just like you and how you explain your functions.”

So far, I can only report 1 email that was mean… so touch wood.

Carol

Hello,
We went another route, thanks for reaching out.
Best,
Carol

 Me

Hey Carol,

I’m totally cool with that. QuickMail is not done to solve everybody’s needs.
I’m curious what route did you go for?

Be amazing,
Jeremy

Carol

The one that does not expect me to pay for privilege of beta testing their product.

*Outch*

So what happened on my road from 40 to 80 recurring paying customers?

Well first, I started to get totally swamped with support emails (talk about doing things that don’t scale) and had to devote a lot of energy to not only respond to the best of my abilities but also to address this so that future users would not ask.

As a quick fix, I decided to clone myself and did small videos of me (not of my product as they would got out of date too quickly, plus it’s nice to have a face speaking to you… hopefully) explaining how the product works as you go from page to page.

The main friction point in my product was (and still is actually) importing prospects. That’s something I know I’ll need to address for good at some point, but the video helped a lot with this.

I was happy when I finished them (took me a full day to do 6 clips of 1 minute each!), but it’s quite embarrassing to see yourself (especially when doing a demo). Sure I had got some good comments on the videos: “Looooove the videos. You’re so destined for greatness!”. But of course you will never hear the one who thinks  “Dude, your video sucks, this got me out of your product in no time”. Fortunately, I got evidence to assess the impact and avoid relying on what I think or imagine.

The following week, I also added a Wizard on top to guide people visually.

wiz

So, in the end, not only did I have less support but engagement increased drastically (I consider people engaged when they send their first emails with the system).

Check this out:

usage

On that picture, each square is a user. First squares are the older ones (I’m the first square top left… yes I use my own system).

You can see that later users (last 3-4 rows) got way more engaged with the app.

Before that, I did test initially to set-up people with some test templates and adding me as a prospects when they start their trial to get them started, but it just didn’t work.

I know a general video of how QuickMail.io would go a long way and is long overdue, but every time I do so, the video became outdated the next week because or so I keep adding and changing things. As a compromise, someone suggested I only do videos of new features. Loved the idea and I’m doing that now. Check out the new sequence video for example.

Finally, I could go back to delight my users. It hurts not to be able to go help my users as much as I would love to but I know it’s good to feel that way as it’s a positive force to finding ways to add value.

Meanwhile, I continued to cold email prospects to pitch QuickMail.io. I started stumbling upon a few companies who wanted multiple accounts. I was doing the usual exploratory calls with them and they casually mentioned they needed 3 or 4 accounts.

That was a first really, and some problems arised from that (like a single invoice document or ability to share things between accounts). To understand this, my original pains/needs when I built QuickMail.io were those of a solo entrepreneur and I now needed to think about working in team (more on this on the next post). I did get my first 3 accounts from 1 company, but it took more time as usual to get them.

Today, I got 4-5 companies with multiple accounts. It feels good to think of all I can do along the lines of 1+1 = 3, and I have big plans to make team work awesome in the near future but I need to prioritize things. I can do so many things that keeping focus and priorities straight became really important.

Another thing happened with my first customers from a different niche (internet marketing). Apparently some authority in that domain mentioned QuickMail.io and I got 2 people buying the product pretty fast (2 minutes after the trial started for one and while I was demoing it for the second one). This puzzled me a bit. Was that easy because they are looking for the next magic thing? I don’t know but they did have plenty of assumptions that were not correct for how to use QuickMail.io (e.g. they though response was people opening or clicking rather than actually hitting reply button and responding, or that you don’t blast to your entire list but work your list by automatically contacting a small chunk each day so you can handle the responses without dropping balls).

This led to a funny realisation. Although I could technically do all the things they needed fairly easily and build that in a couple of weeks (if I shifted priorities, see the point above about staying focused), the hard bit would be to create new landing pages and copy to target a new market I didn’t know well…

One day, I came across Noah Kagan: Summer of Marketing, where he promoted King Sumo free give-away product. I though it was worth giving it a go for $100 and decided to give away 1 free pro-license of QuickMail.io for life. The idea was to collect emails to advertise future webinars. One of my mastermind group friend David gave me a lot of awesome resources on how to conduct webinars, I’m very grateful.

Just as a side note: a couple of weeks after I went full time on QuickMail.io, I created a Mastermind group (Kick Ass) with 6 other awesome entrepreneurs (one was recruited during a demo call I did, we just clicked together). This proved to be a really smart move and I got tons of value and support out of the group (and got my ass kicked a few times too, which is good).

Anyway, result of the give-away campaign was pretty lame (169 emails captured, most I had already, that’s $1.69/email as initial investment), but I think it was largely due to people not knowing what QuickMail.io was, so the virality of the campaign happened to be very limited. I should try giving away books like Predictable Revenue or Spin Selling… stuff that my target audience needs and reads…. hum let me try that and come back to you in a future post :) On top of that, the person who won was already a customer, so I lost revenue in the process! Bummer. Webinar went great though (~80% happy) but it’s hard to quantify how much actual sales I got out of it. Oh well, baby steps…

Money-wise, it was a bit messy to figure out how much I was really making, I know it wasn’t much, but I knew it wasn’t nothing either. I was probably around the $1,000 mark. This was difficult to know exactly as I switched 3 times payment gateways. The super early adopters with a killer deal were on my personal Paypal account, the next early adopters were on my Paypal business account and lucky for me Stripe came to Switzerland and I was invited in the beta. What a huge relief! I jumped on them straight away for any new subscriptions. Sure, Paypal was taking care of expiry cards (Stripe doesn’t) but Paypal was a massive pain in my back. I was losing business because of it (recurring in Germany is not supported, most business don’t like it (I know I don’t) and their interface is horrible to work with from a Merchant point of view (e.g. terrible to search anything within it))… Thanks Stripe for rescuing me on this one.

I knew I needed to sanitize this and bring all my accounts into one roof (Stripe), but that was not my priority (does not bringing new business and I can live without). Plus, as more users came in, the old PayPal account revenues started to become less and less significant.

The move from 60 to 70 customers almost happened on its own. I did talk to all users before they bought but they didn’t need much convincing, for most it was a quick question that needed answering or some clarifications. I think this was due to the second year of foundation kicking in and of course, my product fits this needs perfectly and save them time, a no brainer.

Later, I decided to finally contact my mailing list. I captured it through SumoMe (that I like very much), the give-away, the blog, people who got into trial and even those who turned into customers. I didn’t segment it unfortunately (still haven’t) and I didn’t know what to do with it… so I did what I do in those situations, I just tell people.

I blasted 535 emails in MailChimp telling them I had no idea from which channel I captured their email. I told them what I planned this list to be about and that if they didn’t fancy it, they would do both a favour if they unsubscribed. In the end, I had just 72 unsubscribes (some were double emails) and the guarantee that people who stayed want to read what I write. Pretty pumped about this and I’m thinking hard about how I can add value to that list.

Things were getting good on social too, the community group on Facebook was growing (141 members at the time of writing). I announce new features regularly but things picked up nicely lately and community became more engaged with some awesome contributors emerging slowly. I felt really gifted.

That’s it for today. If all goes well, next post, I’ll be at 10% of my 1,000 journey. Wish me luck! :)

2 thoughts on “From 40 to 80, doing things that don’t scale

  1. It’s nice to get a sense of your excitement while experimenting and weaving through options to find out what works best for you. There are lots of practical tips here that we can all find some takeaway from. For me its nice to hear about the value that stripe provides over the paypal monster.

  2. Hey Jeremy!
    Glad to see you sharing this journey! GrooveHQ just hit the $100,000 MRR mark from the journey they shared on their blog and I look forward to seeing you hit your goal :)

    Btw. I’d take Carol’s comment as a compliment. Charging your users, even for an early version of your product, is exactly what you should be doing -> http://blog.close.io/charge-your-users :)

    Talk soon,
    Ramin
    PS: Pretty sure you meant this post http://saastr.com/2013/01/09/if-you-have-10-unaffiliated-customers-in-saas-you-have-something/

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