Since then, we’ve built our customer base to 182 customers and as of today, we have a $118,000 annual recurring revenue run rate.
Wait. What? Why so transparent?
We have a habit of over sharing.
An example is this post. I’m writing with Michelle (my favorite editor), watching my every keystroke. Isn’t that kind of weird? Yes…but it’s also a ton of fun.
Fast feedback means I can ship this post in a day, instead of a week. We apply this method to all of our businesses, including our latest launch, ConvertPress.
It took us a week to get this new business up and running, from idea to first paying customers. In this article, I’ll give you a play by play of what we learned along the way.
To set the scene, we are fanatical about content marketing. In 5 months, we’ve spent $180.72 on advertising and that’s $180.72 too much! Instead of spending money, we build traffic and engagement by sharing useful and actionable content with our audience… including free how to guides, ebooks and you guessed it—plugins!
We created a free landing page plugin which topped 600 downloads in just 6 weeks. We had two assumptions: 1) it was useful and 2) with new and improved features, people in our audience would pay to use it.
Enter the 7 day challenge!
After coming up with the idea, we realized that our most successful businesses to date (WP Curve and Content Club) have been launched in 7 days. So we had the somewhat crazy idea of putting a post up on our site, telling people about our little project. Not only would we launch a business inside a week, we would also send a daily email and a daily blog post with our progress. We had a few hundred people signup to come along for the ride with us.
With our developer furiously working away on making improvements on the existing plugin, we held ourselves accountable by promising our audience we would ship in 7 days.
In the past, I’ve seen people waste weeks or months trying to figure out what their business will be called. We took an alternative approach by using this formula:
- Do you have an idea for a name?
- Is your name available?
- Does the name tell you what the business does?
- Can people understand it?
- Is it memorable?
- Is it short and simple?
- Do you like it?
It might not be a killer name like Amazon or Google, but we had a name and one less reason to waste time!
My co-founder Dan has a strong opinion about startup validation, so we skipped the “validation” process. In his last startup, he asked for customer feedback and changed the product to suit these wishes. After 11 months of validation, Dan had built a business with $476 in monthly recurring revenue. This is what our revenue curve looks like since then:
We’ve learned from this and use our own “lean startup” approach:
- Choose a problem that people in our audience are actively trying to solve
- Formulate an idea that cures customer pain in a unique way
- Conduct quick and dirty research
- Write copy that sells the idea
- Launch with a payment button as quickly as possible, a week if possible
- Tell people about it
- Review actual signups and overall response after launch (not vanity metrics before launch)
- Improve and refine the product
On day 4, the plot thickened. We had a long list of improvements to make to the plugin, but only 3 days left to implement and test them. We had a few options: descope features, push the release date or work harder. We cleared our developer’s deck so he could get ConvertPress across the line.
Initially, we wanted to offer ConvertPress as a monthly and annual subscription product. This went against the grain of our other businesses, where we offer a monthly recurring payment only. The monthly only approach makes it very easy to understand how our business is performing. It also gives us some certainty about the coming month’s income, which helps us and our amazing wives sleep at night.
We didn’t want to eat support costs and we certainly didn’t want to sell one off, so… we were between a rock and a hard place.
There were up to 40 people viewing the document at a time, with some leaving useful commentary. The final version of the sales page was composed from this document.
Dan saved the best for last and he built a simple site for $150 with the help of our developer, Mike. While all of this was going on, Andrew (the plugin developer) was putting the finishing touches on ConvertPress. It was going to be close, but with a big final push—we made it!
Then we hit launch day. Oops! This was the eve of Thanksgiving… which is probably not the best time to launch a new product.
We emailed our audience of 6,000+ subscribers with our new product offering. We didn’t offer any special discounts and went with a monthly recurring fee of $19 per month. We knew this would hurt initial sales but we wanted to stay true to our business and we weren’t under any pressure to have a big launch.
- I ate 3 pizzas during the launch
- We consumed at least 3 cases of beer
- We lost sleep every night of the launch week
- We wrote 6,210 words on our blog
- One week in, we had 7 paying customers
- At time of writing, we have 12 paying customers
So…what did we learn about launching in a week?
Accountability matters – it kept us going through the tough times.
Lifetime customer value beats one off sales – the subscription model may cost us short term sales, but that’s OK!
A post launch to do list helped our momentum – we’ve already made big improvements to our landing page and the plugin.
Have you launched your own product or service? What did you learn? Please tell us in the comments below.
Alex McClafferty is the co-founder of WP Curve, Content Club, ConvertPress and Informly. He loves content marketing, writing, and helping business owners succeed online. He’s an avid powerlifter, an Australian living in San Francisco and a reformed wantrepreneur.