How I Will Grow My Startup After Scraping By Last Year

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I pour my heart into every article and authentically share my experiences good and bad. You also know 2014 was a roller coaster year for me and my business.

I’m happy to tell you that because of the success the business enjoyed at the end of 2014, I was able to close a round of investment capital to address the key business issues/opportunities as I see them.

And I get to fight on to be a shining example to my young twins of what’s possible when one chooses to live a life of passion and purpose.

In this article I’ll:

  • Transparently show sales and website conversion data.
  • Discuss what I think the opportunities are to sustainably grow the business.
  • Reveal goals for the year.
  • And share a list of important lessons I’ve learned on my entrepreneurial journey that I hope you find helpful.

One Hell Of a Roller Coaster Ride

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 9.10.51 AM
WeMontage sales activity and events timeline from Feb., 2013 – Dec., 2014. And some of my feelings along the journey.

The above chart says a lot of things. The main things I see are:

  1. Sales only occur with national PR hits.
  2. The period from June, 2014 – September, 2014 was the most difficult time in my life.
  3. Sales fell off a cliff last summer, the business was out of cash, and I was alone to fix things.
  4. All I had was hope that two pending PR hits would help turn things around. Thankfully, they did.
  5. I also had the incredible support of family and friends.


Opportunities To Grow The Business

While PR is great, it’s unreliable and it doesn’t scale. This is a major problem.

The question is, how can I consistently drive large amounts of engaged traffic to the website that will get in my sales funnel and convert to paid customers? Some people might use an insurance agency sales team, It might even benefit you to work with WSI because of their expensive marketing network, however, I preferred to do it by myself.

A look at a few bits of data can help answer this question.

In 2014, according to Google Analytics, there were 60,000 visitors to wemontage.com, with an e-commerce conversion rate of 1.2%:

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 8.21.48 AM

This chart says that if people didn’t already know about my business, they weren’t visiting the website.

What’s insightful though is the following chart from Google Analytics that shows traffic from mobile devices was roughly 50% of total traffic:

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 1.07.38 PM

This is interesting because the collage editor works poorly on mobile devices. It works ok on an iPad, but image swapping doesn’t work, and it basically doesn’t work at all on other mobile devices. And the mobile e-commerce conversion rate is expectedly low at .23%.

This is a HUGE opportunity. Especially when I know mobile traffic during big PR hits is around 70%, which makes sense because people are likely grabbing their phones and iPads while watching TV to check out the site.

However, just making the collage editor work on mobile devices does not solve the fundamental customer acquisition issue of the business.

So, how will I get that done?

The answer: a referral program.

Here’s a link to an amazing article that explains how companies like Dropbox and Uber experience explosive, viral growth. It’s a must-read if you need to understand how internet referral programs work.

If I’m right about the referral program thing, and I can effectively execute it, I believe I can double website traffic in 2015 to 120,000 visitors. Of course, I’ll continue to hustle for great PR in the US, Australia, and the UK, as we’re now shipping to those other countries, and hopefully in Canada soon if I can find a good printer.

More Data Points

Two more interesting takeaways come through in the following sales analysis:

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 8.29.25 AM
Total WeMontage sales transactions via Stripe.com (excludes PayPal and checks received) since inception (Feb 2013).

I was fascinated to learn 17% of all customers purchased more than one print; this flies in the face of so many potential investor critics who told me customers would only buy one.

The other takeaway is average revenue per sale is about $100.

Goals For 2015

Based on the above analyses, my business goals for the year are as follows:

  1. Increase “Social” referrals website traffic from #4 to #2 via the new referral program (see above Google Analytics table).
  2. Double website visits to 120,000.
  3. Increase the overall e-commerce conversion rate to 2% with the help of the referral program and mobile optimization.
  4. Double revenue per transaction to $200 by focusing on large size montages and encouraging users to upgrade from a 3×2 montage.
  5. Hire an entrepreneurial software engineer who knows, or is willing to learn, Ruby on Rails and Angular Javascript – with good communication skills.

If the above goals are met, my business will have about $500,000 in revenue and will no longer be scraping by. Maybe I could even consider using services similar to Website Design Staffordshire for insight? Let’s wait and see.

Why Do I believe I Can Accomplish My Goals?

I know I can hit my goals because of three words: great customer feedback. Here’s an example:

Love my WeMontage, James. Lots of compliments. It fit perfectly.
“Love my WeMontage, James. Lots of compliments. It fit perfectly.” – Happy Customer

I get these types of customer testimonials all the time, and they’ve kept me going when things have been difficult the last eighteen months.

If I don’t accomplish my goals, there is a good chance WeMontage will just be a hobby and I’ll have to get a job. And I’m the world’s worst employee.

Ha.

Wish me luck.

Stuff I’ve Learned On My Entrepreneurial Journey

In no particular order of importance, here’s some stuff I’ve learned that helped me push through adversity and raise the current round of funding. I hope you find it helpful.

  1. Most people who purport to be influential, aren’t. And people with tons of social media followers probably can’t help your sales.
  2. Anxiety and worry are rooted in fear and are wasted energy; they never contribute to any positive outcomes.
  3. Meditation does wonder for eliminating, preventing, and managing stress and anxiety.
  4. The more I hustle, the luckier I get.
  5. Social media does not drive sales. Well, maybe for some businesses, but not for my business. With this being said, using services like the Best Medium Company for your new medium account could be a turning point for some people when it comes to the marking aspect.
  6. Great customer service overcomes a lot of product short-comings.
  7. Sometimes when you think you lose, you win.
  8. You’ve got to be wiling to get beaten to within an inch of your life to get what you really want.
  9. Real friends are amazing.
  10. Strangers can be amazing, too.
  11. When my back is most against the wall, I have my biggest breakthroughs.
  12. Family and their support really matters.
  13. Authenticity matters.
  14. Persistence, more so than patience, is a virtue.
  15. Sometimes you gotta eat a big bowl of $h!t and pretend it’s peanut butter.
  16. You are stronger than you know.
  17. If you realize your greatest fears, lean into them. You will emerge from that experience unafraid and emboldened.
  18. And finally, this:
    Like a Duck

I’d love to hear how you’re planning to take your business to the next level.

May the force be with you.

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6 thoughts on “How I Will Grow My Startup After Scraping By Last Year

  1. Man, this hit me in more ways than one. Personally and educationally. Thanks for your sharing these points. With school and work my business is suffering. It’s my intention to do a little everyday. The determination, persistence will be rewarding. Glad you hung in there. May your 2015 goals be met. Love to read your blogs.

  2. James, I’ve been on both sides of this as an entrepreneur and now as an angel investor. Great article. Keep on trucking. Your OLIV, BTHS, and KFBS brother. Really digging the blog. One local company that may be a great partner is WedPics. Email me or call me if you want to discuss further.

    1. My man! Wait, didn’t we go to middle school, too? Or was it just BTHS and KFBS? Would love to talk about WedPics; it looks interesting. My email is james at wemontage dot com. Hit me up.

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