Wow, what a month!
We doubled the amount of hours charged through the platform, increased our average hourly rate significantly which lead to a significant revenue increase for Virtual Valley in February.
We had our fair share of technical issues, customer support enquiries and frustrated Virtual Assistants but pulled through with some awesome efforts from Zandro and the rest of the team.
This post will outline our progress through the first full month as a live online marketplace and what we have learnt (so you can go away and apply the learnings to your online business).
Who This Post Will Help:
- Anyone about to launch their online business
- Anyone in the process of building an online marketplace/SAAS business
How To Read This Post:
- If you are a startup founder/internet business owner pressed for time, scan through the headings in the Table Of Contents below and review those relevant topics
- If you are a normal person or just like stories, then settle in and enjoy the roller coaster
Here is our famous Goal Pyramid:
You will note that our blog subscriber and MRR revenue goals are still marked as red, and thus are at risk of not being completed by the deadline. Though we have more confidence about our content marketing and working procedure goals.
The table above tracks these goals at a more granular level, we have made steady improvements through each metric but not at the rate that is required to hit the stretch goals that we set. Regardless, we will continue striving forward.
Whilst MRR has been rising steadily since we launched, I have yet to find a scalable method to increase signups on the blog, any ideas? Tweet us.
I have taken a breather with regards to guest content spots but will be using Ninja Outreach over the next couple of months to land further podcast interviews (will share the results of course ;)).
With the influx of customer support inquiries and recruitment requests for Zandro, we have decided to pause blog commenting. Stephen is doing a FANTASTIC job managing and growing our Twitter presence and we have not invested any further time into creating Working Procedures this month.
Three Key Learnings
1. A BIG PODCAST LAUNCH WON’T SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS
I was happy with the launch, but as you can see from the download statistics above, an awesome launch does not guarantee sustained listener growth. I did not invest any further time in promoting the podcast during February partly to see what would happen to download figures and partly as I had other areas to focus on.
Moving forward I will be investing more time in promotion and we will be reviewing this effort in these monthly updates.
2. WE NEED A TECHNICAL CO-FOUNDER
A SIGNIFICANT portion of my time this month was invested in managing freelance developers to improve the Virtual Valley experience for both Entrepreneurs & Virtual Assistants.
However, if we are to hit our ambitious monthly revenue goals, I need to invest my time 100% in the marketing of the platform to Entrepreneurs.
I would be prepared to give away up to 40% of Virtual Valley to the right person, as I see this as a crucial role as we look to differentiate our offering from other marketplaces and Virtual Assistant services to command a higher purchase price when we do eventually decided to sell the company.
3. COLD EMAILING WORKS (IF YOU DO IT RIGHT)
I sent this plain text email to 1,900 startup owners:
Quick one, as I know you’re busy…
Just stumbled upon [[startup name]], and thought I would drop you a quick mail to explain how I think I can help you grow.
We recently launched Virtual Valley: a marketplace connecting startups and virtual assistants based in the Philippines. We have spent 4 months recruiting a database of the best VA’s that are hungry to enable startup founders such as yourself, spend more time working ON your business and not IN your business.
We have just moved out of Beta and are looking to bring just a couple of new startups to the demand side of the platform.
As I think that what you guys are doing is pretty cool, I would be happy to have a 30 minute, 1 on 1 consultation with you/your operations guy to deep dive into the tasks and processes that you could potentially outsource to maximise productivity and cost savings.
As a background, I spent 3 years working on large outsourcing projects with Accenture and have been outsourcing with startups for 2 further years, so know a thing or two about this stuff! Plus my hourly consulting rate is normally $100 😉
Furthermore, as we are in the early stages of our journey and would really value your feedback on our platform, we would offer you 1 month WITHOUT the Virtual Valley charge, this would reduce your investment in the salary of your new Virtual Assistant by 20%.
Let me know if it makes sense to talk?
Founder – www.virtualvalley.io
Feel free to swipe and adapt for your business.
Before we jump into why I think this mail converted so well, let’s have a look at one of the responses:
The mail was sent less than 24 hours ago and we have already had 26 responses and ONLY 1 of them suggested that they knew the mail was automated.
A number of them enquired about our services and a couple of them have already gone on to create a Virtual Valley account and even hire Virtual Assistants, sort of like free revenue right? (Apart from the costs to build the email list and mailing software).
Here are the three reasons why I think this mail converted so well:
1. Build Value
I built the value of myself, Virtual Valley and the offer by making the following true statements:
- That I used to work for Accenture
- That my consulting rate is usually $100 per hour
- That we are looking to take on just a couple of new clients
- We have just come out of Beta e.g. people have already used us and we are a startup just like you
- Offered an exclusive discount
2. Sneaky Personalisation
The mail was sent in plain text to increase the personal feel, I also personalised the Founder Name and Startup Name naturally in the mail and made sure that the link was not tracked so it was pretty hard to tell that the email was automated.
3. Take The Perspective Of The Lead
Scroll up and review the first two sentences of the email again..
I am basically saying that I am not a normal spammer as I understand that they are busy AND that I want to help them with their biggest frustration as an early stage startup: growth.
To increase the amount of people reading your cold emails you MUST open the mail whilst talking from their perspective and NOT start talking about yourself straight away.
Three Key People
MARREN KATE (FOUNDER OF ZIRTUAL)
When looking for individuals in this world that have actually done what we are trying to do, there is no one better suited than the Founder of Zirtual: Marren Kate.
I reached out to Marren through her blog: and she generously agreed to a 1 hour Skype Call.
I will not go into further details here as I covered the majority of our discussion in this podcast episode, but let’s just say it was eye opening.
DAVE NEVOGT (FOUNDER OF HUBSTAFF)
Another individual who has been on a similar journey is Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff Founder. For those of you who are unaware of Hubstaff, I am more than happy to propose that you go and check them out, their time tracking software FAR surpasses what we have built here at Virtual Valley.
I first interacted with Dave on the Hubstaff blog:
I then followed him on Twitter:
And connected with him on LinkedIn:
And then decided to book a Clarity call with him:
My biggest takeaway from the call was the requirement for relevant content marketing. Over the past 4 months I have produced numerous guest blog posts focused on marketing… NOT outsourcing, virtual assistants and systems (the content that supports the Virtual Valley mission). Thus moving forward, Virtual Valley’s content marketing will be more focussed on these topics.
At Virtual Valley, we love working with legends.
I spend a few minute each day checking in with our Virtual Assistants to see how they are getting on with their respective Entrepreneurs and the feedback for Chris has been remarkable.
So, Chris – thank you for working with Virtual Valley (and for being such a legend!).
Three Key Tools
Any tool that enables us to place PLAYABLE podcast episodes in our Twitter feed AUTOMATICALLY deserves a mention on our blog:
Here is the Recipe if you want to do the same.
Zapier have been instrumental in our campaign to systemise our lead generation efforts, so much so that I have dedicated a whole podcast episode to how we are using different Zaps to automate different parts of the process, it is being released this week.
And as you are aware, Virtual Valley is looking for a Technical Co-Founder, so I have spent time browsing through different Co-Founder dating sites and have found CoFoundersLab to be the most effective. I have had two conversations with potential Co-Founder’s that I have met through this platform and who knows… maybe they will be the chosen one.
To be continued in next month’s update.
Three Key Focus Areas
1. FINDING A TECHNICAL CO-FOUNDER
I have spoken with 5 potential co-founders during the past week and will be meeting those that I believe to be suitable IN PERSON later this month and expect to have made a decision and finalised the agreement by the end of March.
2. ENSURING WE CONTINUE TO STAFF THE BEST VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS
As I have stated from Day 1, one of the most important factors that will determine the success of Virtual Valley is our ability to source the BEST Virtual Assistants and connect them with exciting Entrepreneurs.
Our pre-launch recruitment process has been well documented, though we paused recruitment during the January and February as we had a sufficient amount of Virtual Assistants for the demand that we were experiencing. Now we are starting to experience increased demand (we had 12 paying customers during the month of February), we MUST ensure that we continue to provide the best Virtual Assistants possible to ensure we continue to add value to our Entrepreneurs.
3. MAINTAIN CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS WITH EACH PAYING ENTREPRENEUR
As Virtual Valley grows over the coming months, it will be crucial to maintain open and honest communication lines with all of our paying customers (we had 12 in February), for two reasons:
- To collect feedback to enable continuous improvement
- To ensure that Virtual Valley continues to provide value to the Entrepreneur once the connection has been made to increase chance of referrals AND to reduce churn and platform leakage.
In summary, February was a rollercoaster of a month that saw us DOUBLE the amount of hours charged through the Virtual Valley platform and therefore revenue, we connected with individuals that have done what we are doing and were all confident that it could be achieved AND helped 12 Entrepreneurs to such an extent that they were willing to pay for our service.
Not bad for a bootstrapped online marketplace that has been live for less than 2 months?
That said, we are significantly behind on our Q1 Goals so will be trying everything we can to catch up in the rest of March to try and get us back on track…
Speak then and you have an awesome month.
And finally, you know that one technical friend who is looking to join a PROFITABLE startup? It would be AWESOME if you could click the button below to help us in our search for an AWESOME CoFounder: