Wow, what a month.
We finally have built a platform and even better… we have people using the platform!
In fact, I’m sitting here 2 hours prior to when the first monthly automated payment is to be taken from our Entrepreneurs, with 80% being transferred to our Team Members and 20% to Virtual Valley, let’s hope it works.
This post will outline our progress through the launch and the initial feedback stages through to the start of our bootstrapped growth.
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
You will note a slight change in our goals since the December Update as we actually hit a couple before the launch date and I wanted to align them to the yearly calendar quarters. Here is our updated two year goal pyramid:
And here is a weekly breakdown of our progress thus far:
Guest Content Spots, Twitter Followers and Working Procedures have been awarded an orange RAG status as their progress has shown more promise than our MRR, Blog Subscriber and Blog Comment growth.
A Guest Content Spot can either be a guest post or a podcast interview like the one I did on Nathan Latka’s podcast.
A Working Procedure is simply the documentation of one of Virtual Valley’s processes, they have been built for all of the marketing activities that Zandro and his colleague Stephen undertake each day and will be created for other activities over the coming months. They retain process knowledge regardless of who is responsible and enable us to track improvements reliably.
Our Twitter following (for both @tomhuntio and @virtualvalleyio) has been growing steadily over the past couple of months but we will need to grow exponentially over the next two months in order to hit the 10k goal. In case you are curious, we discussed our tactics to grow from 2-5k followers in 2 months in Episode 12 of 0-$4 Million.
Which brings us nicely on to the Podcast…
Yes, “0-$4 Million: A Startup’s Bootstrapped Journey To A Seven Figure-Exit” managed to hit the #1 New & Noteworthy spot in the Business Category of iTunes and #14 spot in the Overall New & Noteworthy spot on the iTunes Homepage.
The system we have built to produce the podcast takes up around 5 hours of my time (Tom) and costs approximately $30 for Zandro and Spartak’s time (our Russian podcast editor) per week, for 5, 10 minute daily episodes.
We have an upcoming guest post that outlines exactly how we built this system and how you can too, I will link from here when it is released.
I will also publish a full account of our launch plan that produced 258 downloads on launch day and propelled us to the top of iTunes with just a few hours of my time.
It also felt good to get some recognition from a podcasting legend:
Check out the upcoming 0-$4 Million Podcast Episode 019 to find out how we managed influence JLD to dropping this tweet.
Three Key Learnings
1. GUEST BLOG POSTS WILL NOT SEND YOU AN AVALANCHE OF TRAFFIC
Guest Blog Posts Will NOT Send You An Avalanche Of TrafficCLICK TO TWEET
Unless you land a post with a highly engaged blog that is the PERFECT fit for your favoured writing topic, style and product, do not expect an avalanche of traffic. This has been our experience.
Instead, we believe that the greater reward of guest blogging comes through the relationships that you develop with key influencer’s in your industry.
These connections could ultimately prove priceless in your journey to online business success and may prove to be so for Virtual Valley.
2. YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS WILL NOT EXPECT YOU TO BE PERFECT
Your First Customers Will NOT Expect You To Be PerfectCLICK TO TWEET
Or if they do, you probably don’t want them to be your first customers.
We are starting to see this whole “build an online business” thing as more of a process as opposed to an event. Your marketplace or SAAS product should be un-recognisable from launch day to 365 days later as your product should exist in a continuous state of iteration.
Thus, do not be afraid to ship that risky feature for fear that your first customers will be upset and will leave, as you won’t know unless you try.
Just remember, ships were not built to be kept in the harbor and you will be surprised to see the effect of a simple apology on the mood of a disgruntled customer.
3. IF YOU HAVE FRIENDS, GETTING INTO ITUNES NEW & NOTEWORTHY IS NOT THAT HARD
If You Have Friends, Getting Into iTunes New & Noteworthy Is NOT That HardCLICK TO TWEET
Our promotion for 0-$4 Million consisted of:
- Setting up a very clear and simple subscribe and review instruction page
- Promising to mention people in the show that subscribe and review
- Posting strategically in relevant Facebook Groups
- Mailing the Virtual Valley and TomHunt.io lists
- Pushing out to all of the Virtual Valley and our personal social channels
- Hassling all of our personal networks, personally
Not rocket science hey, maybe you should start a podcast?
Three Key People
1. ANA HOFFMAN
Purely for this awesome tweet:
And also because I have just drafted a 4.7k word post containing 42 Lessons’s From 42 Guest Blog Posts that I am hoping Ana will accept as a guest post on her awesome blog Traffic Generation Cafe.
2. SUJAN PATEL
For emailing me after I signed up to use his AWESOME tool Notifier asking if I wanted to jump on a Skype call to discuss content marketing.
Which we did and he gave me some awesome content marketing ideas for this blog and also invited me into his secret content marketing Slack community:
3. ARTHUR RADKE
For being our second Entrepreneur on the platform to hire a Team Member, for putting up with all of our teething problems and for being an all-round legend.
So much so that he even agreed to be interviewed live in Episode 14 of 0-$4 Million to give his thoughts and feedback about his time with Virtual Valley to date, which fortunately were all positive and constructive.
Three Key Tools
Who would have thought that you increase the engagement rate on the Virtual Valley homepage by 7% simply by altering the sub-headline from:
“We Connect Virtual Entrepreneurs With Rockstar Virtual Assistants”
“Hire An Awesome Virtual Assistant In 5 Minutes And 7 Clicks”
We would not have thought this if we had not had access to the FREE tool Optimizely, which enabled us to run split tests on any Virtual Valley page.
Though technically a competitor, we had to drop the guys at Upwork a mention as it would not have been possible to go from idea to implementation to top ranking in the iTunes New & Noteworthy with 0-$4 Million over just 1 month without them.
Our Russian podcast editor Spartak, was the first freelancer we tried for the podcast, he was flawless and we now manage and pay him through the the Upwork platform.
This free tool will save you a solid 30 minutes with every blog post that you promote, in fact shortly after finishing this post I will be using it to extract and reach out to each person mentioned in this post on Twitter, in an attempt to obtain those all important shares.
Three Key Focus Areas
1. CONVERSION FROM LEAD TO ACCOUNT
We average 3 leads per day generated through this blog. Leads are then placed on an autoresponder that educates each lead about outsourcing before suggesting that the Entrepreneur could create an account and “Get Hiring!”
You can see that we have favourable open rates (this is low on the first mail as it previous was a plain text mail and therefore was not tracked.), yet we still think there is considerable room for improvement in conversion from lead to creating an account.
This autoresponder will be expanded with step by step walkthroughs for the top 5 highest leverage tasks to outsource for any online business owner with the goal of increasing this conversion rate.
2. CONVERSION FROM ACCOUNT TO HIRE
Entrepreneurs can create a Virtual Valley account to enable them to post roles and message Team Members, but only validate their PayPal account and set up a pre-approved payment upon sending a Hire Request to a Team Member.
Once accepted the Entrepreneur can view the off-platform contact details of the Team Member and they can work together on external collaboration tools, with all time being tracked and data fed back to the Entrepreneur Dashboard. With total charges being taken from the Entrepreneur account at the end of the month.
We currently have 28 Entrepreneurs signed up (that are not friends), yet only 7 of these have hired and are working with Team Members, which is a an opportunity for improvement.
3. CONTENT CREATION
Through this blog and the podcast, we have built an awesome platform to disseminate content that can really add value to those on a similar online entrepreneurial journey, so would be doing ourselves and others a disservice if we were NOT to continue creating awesome content.
Though in particular, we need to focus on creating the content that our potential customers would consume prior to using the platform. Our ideal customer is a new online business owner that has just reached the point in their new venture where they can experience greater growth through investing their time in the high $ value tasks within their business.
This month has had it’s ups (podcast launch and they first few paying customers) and it’s downs (Team Members not able to track time due to anti virus software interfering with our time tracking software), but the learning lessons have been tremendous.
The ball is now in our court to take the foundation we have built to further bootstrap our own growth to a position that would enable us to calculate the following metrics reliably by the end of 2016:
- Customer Acquisition Cost – How much it costs us to acquire an Entrepreneur
- Lifetime Customer Value – How much a Entrepreneur is worth to us over the lifetime of their relationship with Virtual Valley
Once these metrics have been calculated, optimised and are favourable, we can take them along to potential investors to tell a compelling story about Virtual Valley.
We decided to share and document our goals so openly to inspire others to join us on a journey of their own AND also to gather feedback
Therefore, if you have any feedback or opinions on the goals stated above or even our method of achieving them, please Tweet us or leave a comment below.
And finally, if you think our journey will inspire anyone in your network it would be AWESOME if you could use the share buttons below to send a link their way, who knows the effect that it could have?