Hello and welcome to my Week 3 update of my startup idea ThemeValet (‘WordPress website set-up for busy people’) which was launched as a result of following the process in the 7 Day Startup book by Dan Norris.
Here’s what’s been happening.
No new customers
I could get down about it, give up, but it’s far too early (and far too self indulgent) for either of those things.
- the idea just has not been in front of enough people yet, and
- I haven’t yet cracked – or gone far enough down the road of trying and discovered I can’t crack – the real issue of finding a steady stream of customers.
I think what would help at this point is introducing a more structured way of examining the whole situation, provided in this case by my friend and successful entrepreneur, Jonny Nastor.
In his recent article for Enterpreneur.com, ‘3 Likely Reasons Why Your Online Business Is Not Getting Traction’, Jonny proposes a three stage checklist for testing your business idea before abandoning it (or declaring it a win):
- Not enough traffic
- Wrong revenue model
- Your idea sucks
So we can’t even think about writing this (or any) idea off until we’ve brought more traffic to it. Which is where I’m at now.
After that, if I succeed in bringing more traffic but the business is still not working, we then have to decide if it has the right revenue model or not (and whether the idea can survive or even thrive with a revenue model change).
If after trying and failing that then – Jonny argues – we are likely forced to confront that our idea ‘sucks’. Oh dear.
That might all sound like a downer (and I’m not on a downer about ThemeValet) but rather than just thrash around trying random stuff or feeling sorry for myself I think it’s better to think about things in a structured way.
Ironically I actually feel in a pretty good place about the whole business / idea. I just feel it might take a little time / hard work and smarts on my part to ramp it up to the point where it gets regular customers and that’s fine for me.
Finally, on this point, I’ll let it Jonny sum it up better than me:
Success exists just beyond where most people give up. This is not to say that you should never quit. Quitting is often times a really important part of building a business. What I am saying is, most people quit for the wrong reasons.
– Jonny Nastor, entrepreneur
Ultimately as a business owner I have to make my own decisions about the business and not blindly follow any system, but Jonny’s framework seems like a good and useful place to start.
So if the stage we’re at is needing more traffic, let’s focus on that. Last week I set myself some targets on marketing, let’s start with how I did on those things.
‘I will contact at least three ‘theme shops’ and suggest ThemeValet as an interesting referral service for their customers’
I did this! Only one replied so far but initial noises from the one that did are positive. More on that next week hopefully.
And, not to overstate this, but I think partnering in this way could be the best thing I could do for the business (theme shop sells a theme, mentions ThemeValet as an option for setting it up, theme shop gets paid an affiliate fee for every person they refer).
I will chase the others and also look for more to contact.
‘I will post ThemeValet on Product Hunt’
I did this too! Before I get into the details though, first of all if you were one of the people who took the time out to support me I really appreciate it, especially Jonny Nastor (yes, him again) who left an amazing testimonial for me on there.
Now onto what happened. I decided in the end to post the link to Product Hunt myself.
It’s impossible to say for sure, but I think this was not ideal because although ThemeValet had – at some stages – more votes than some of the ideas that were featured on the home page of PH, at no point during the day did it get appear there (where most of the attention is).
First of all for clarification, I’m not whining about this or saying it’s unfair. I knew in advance this might be the case. PH of course gets hundreds of submissions each day and so uses an algorithm to determine what they feature and I respect that completely.
However, all other things being equal, if someone who is better known in the Product Hunt community posts your product or service to the site it seems you have a higher chance of making the home page (I base this anecdotally on what I’ve seen and I’m not saying this is the only factor).
This makes sense of course, the opinion of long standing respected community members is often likely to be more useful. That is not to say that ThemeValet would’ve made the front page anyway (whoever posted it), I’m just analysing it retrospectively considering one of the things that I can control.
Finally, I would add that I never expected ThemeValet to become some kind of smash success just by being posted on PH (homepage or not). My main goal as I mentioned is getting more eyeballs on the site and PH seems like one of the best ways to do that if you do get featured and definitely did get me some new visitors in any case.
All in all, I’m proud that ThemeValet made it on PH in any capacity and even more proud that people took the time out to support it.
I will, on a daily basis, participate in every single thread I can add some value to on all the relevant Facebook groups I belong to
I did this, however…
‘I will find and join at least three more Facebook groups that seem like they might contain my ideal customer’
I did not do this and that is a bit of a fail on my part. I think part of the reason is only wanting to join high quality groups that were recommended to me (rather than going on some spam fest) but even so I could’ve done more to find great and relevant groups to join.
(I’m also considering joining some private Slack groups for this purpose).
‘I will post at least three awesome articles to the ThemeValet blog and promote the hell out of them’
I only posted and promoted two… I was writing a lot for my blog (what you’re reading now). Here are the ThemeValet articles:
- The top seven ‘7 Day Startup’ WordPress launch themes
- How to make pretty images happen on all your social media updates
You could debate (and I have) whether it would be better to spend the time I spent posting to my blog creating stuff for ThemeValet, but I believe the value in writing here is well worth it (and many people know about ThemeValet because of it).
In short, I just need to do a little more. At the moment, I’m thinking of switching to a Monday / Wednesday / Friday posting schedule for ThemeValet, but we’ll see (I’m currently posting every day on NickDavis.co).
I had some amazing affiliates sign up to promote ThemeValet. The more I think about it the more I think it is the affiliates that are going to power this business.
My challenge – as I’ve always said – is that people seem to like the idea of ThemeValet but I need to get them at the right moment in the cycle of buying a theme.
By working with the right affiliates I believe I can do that and it makes me very excited for the future.
My second ad went out on Jonny Nastor’s (yes, still him) Hack the Entrepreneur podcast and I got some solid leads from it.
So what’s the plan for next week? (Week 4). I think maybe a bit of work smarter not harder (though like Gary Vaynerchuk I definitely plan to work smart and hard!).
I get a lot of satisfaction out of creating content and I think it’s definitely the right long term move (and I will keep doing it) but I also think that focusing more on things like Facebook and Slack (two channels which have already been big for me), as well as affiliates is probably the way to go.
There’s other options available to me of course, like running competitions etc and I’m open minded about that (Dan lists 20 great marketing ideas in his 7 Day Startup book so there’s lots of things there to try too).
The bottom line is I should spend as much of next week as possible working on the things that are most likely to get ThemeValet in front of as many eyeballs as possible (point #1 on Jonny’s scale) not just doing things for the sake of it.
Only once I reach the point of having ‘enough’ people see and experience the idea will I really learn something useful and know the right things to give you all the awesome ThemeValet that you deserve!