Brooklyn Bagel Restaurant

I recently put brooklynbagelrestaurant.com into production.

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Lessons from Constant Contact

A few of my favorites from the list of 8.

Get a CEO peer group to bounce ideas off of as soon as possible. Gail learned from a fellow CEO that calling free trial-ers would lead to a doubling in their “trial-to-pay” conversion rates. Trying this was the difference between a model that she thought was failing miserably and one that has built Constant Contact into a publicly traded company.
If your product is strong enough, people do not need to be sold. Focus your sales teams on being coaches, not salespeople. This means focusing salespeople on making prospective customers successful, and not on near-term revenue maximization.

8 Startup Lessons from Constant Contact | David Cancel

Signup Funnel Analysis

This is a summary of my traffic and call to action results on the landing page of a service that I have built.

I’ve built the moustach.io landing page to capture email addresses in order to validate the need for a social-based user testing service. I am using Google Analytics with several custom events in order to track who clicks what, where they click it, and what they do after the click.

First, here is the layout. I’ve placed a video up top along with a call to action to use the service for $1. I call this the top-cta. A little further down an a screenshot and the middle-cta, again, a call to action to create a project for $1. Finally, at the bottom of the page is a third screenshot, the bottom-cta, and some footer links.

A couple of notes. The call to action is “Create a Project for $1”. Certainly, this $1 creates enough friction to scare off most would-be-users. So hopefully the users who actually click the call to action are pretty serious about wanting to use the service and, in theory, have rationally determined that they would be willing to spend a dollar to check it out further. 

I recognize that “Create a Project” is not a great verb for what the user. I wonder how a proper verb would increase click through rates.

Here are the numbers year to date (9-Apr-2012).

↓ 2025 Unique visitors
↓   299 Call to action clicks
↓     41 Subscriptions

To break those down.

14.7% of unique visits result in a call to action click.
13.7% of those call to action clicks result in a new subscriber. 

or

14.7% of unique visits result in a call to action click.
2% of unique visits result in a new subscriber. 

Analyzing the traffic sources helps to reveal how well targeted the traffic is. Ideally 100% of the traffic is at least interested in this service. While probably not 100%, I think the traffic who visited during this time period was the right type of customer. That is, based on the sources, they are likely web developers, software developers, or otherwise users of this type of services. Almost 45% came from builtwithbootstrap.com. Presumably most users who create content on the web. 20% just recently dropped in betali.st. I posted there a couple of weeks ago. Probably not all web developers, but still a good site to bring in my target audience. Finally a few from twitter and facebook.

So there are the numbers for this past quarter. This accounts for less than half of my subscribers to date. 

I wish the numbers made more clear where to go from here. Its hard to say that these numbers either prove or disprove that the service can cover operating costs.

I need to determine if I should proceed with this feature set, or if a product feature pivot is in order. I’ve considered starting work on deep social integration - asking each reviewer to signin with Twitter or Facebook and then allowing for dialog between the project owner and the reviewers. 

I will keep digging for answers, but am also interested in any analysis that you might have of these numbers.

The temporary, pop-up corporation

I don’t read much of Jeff Jarvis, but maybe I should read more.

Most companies fail within five years. Why not up and out in two or three?

Of course, enterprises today can start with no need to build factories (use someone else’s) or distribution (plenty of that, for now) or technology (use the cloud) or marketing (let your customers do it for you) or design (let your customers help) or retail outlets (they’re dying anyway) or capital (see above). We know that this new architecture of the economy means enterprises can be launched with less investment, risk, and effort.

The temporary, pop-up corporationBuzz Machine

PROTIP: developer documentation

Your developer documentation should not come in the form of a video.

We do have a delete API endpoint, please take a look at this video to learn more. Its very straight forward and we just don’t have public documentation on it right now.

The easiest cash you can get for your business

It seems like everyone with an idea thinks they need funding. Thats because all of the tech blogs celebrate funding. 

In order, here is the easiest cash you can get for your business: Customers, borrow against receivables, borrow against your house, friends and family, angels, venture capitalists, the public. Note that the VCs are near the end. Maybe you never need them. Why does everyone chase big-time VCs all the time? Do you really need $10 million in the bank. You just started! I shoud’ve made this point number one. Don’t even start your business unless you have a customer.

Blogs are not your friends

This post has a few dozen great tips and presents some real world views on starting a startup.

If your communication strategy sounds something like “1. Create cool product. 2. Have TechCrunch blog about it. 3. Profit!”, I have some bad news for you…

What I Learned Bootstrapping Folyo in 2011 via SachaGreif

MailChip Double Opt In

I’m using Mail Chimp for a project to collect a list of potential early adopters. I have integrated the default Mail Chimp forms. This requires a user to enter an email address into a form on my page and click submit. A new window on the  Mail Chimp.com domain is opened to inform the user that they have signed up.

That’s alright. I don’t really think the  Mail Chimp  confirmation page is necessary, but that’s not the problem.

Mail Chimp uses a double opt in mechanism. That is, after the user signs up they get an email that contains a link that they must click in order to actually get on to the mailing list. Among other things, this ensures that the mailing list of very good quality.

However, my analytics suggest that I am getting a lot of users who subscribe through my forms, but never end up on the mailing list. This means either they aren’t getting the confirmation email due to spam filters or other road blocks, or they are receiving the email but have changed their mind. My analytics suggest as many as 30% of my sign-ups never double confirm.

Mail Chimp makes is pretty difficult to disable the double opt in. I have to utilize their API and build my own forms rather than using their forms.

Weekend project. I guess.

10 Tips on Tips For Startup Websites

Not just ten tips, but eleven. In fact the eleventh is the the tip that I find most intriguing. 

If you can provide an easy way for customers to tell you why they’re not interested 

I first really got into this idea from the Unbounce blog. In this Case Study Oli Gardner introduced me to the KISSinsights feedback widget. Oli utilized the widget to ask potential users questions like “Ff you didn’t click the Get for a Tweet button, why is that?” and “Do you think a Tweet is a fair exchange for a free eBook?” — what great insight this provided to him. He was able to immediately make changes to increase conversion by 32%.

Aside from the great eleventh tip, the other 10 tips are what information must be on a startup’s site. There is also an argument provided for each item.

5. What does it cost?  Throw out complicated pricing formulas and don’t believe the marketing professionals that tell you that you should sell a customer on your “value proposition” before telling them what it costs.  In today’s world, with so many options, if I can’t figure out what your price is in the first 5 minutes, I’m probably gone.  Don’t make me email sales@somecompany.com to get a “price quote that is tailored for my needs”.  Worse, don’t make me contact my regional sales rep.  (In fact, if you have regional sales reps, you’re probably reading the wrong blog – its meant for startups).

7. Who’s behind it?  I don’t need to read your life story or see a “board of advisors” list that reads like the who’s who of the business world.  But, based on how much I expect to spend (in time and/or money), I’m likely going to want to know that there are actual humans working for the company.  You don’t need to misdirect and create the illusion of size (being small or even a one-person company is perfectly fine), so be honest. 

If you read the post be sure to also read into the comments where valuable discussions ensue.

Startup Websites That Work via On Startups

Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, on feedback

"Feedback doesn’t tell you about you, it tells you about them." 23:00

Eric Ries of Lean Startup - TWiST #199 via This Week In Startups

"Usage is like oxygen for ideas"

I found this great advice that fits right in with the Lean Startup methodology. When it comes to building a Minimal Viable Product the point is not to build working reusable software, the point is to build something that allows you to start getting feedback.

"You shouldn’t let perfection get in the way of actually doing something."

I built the first version of Dayta in a week. In later versions, I had to rewrite the entire database solution I had built (think one large array of objects for the entire app… yeah, seriously, but it worked!) and it took tens of hours. But because I hacked together a solution earlier, I was able to complete the app in a week. And more importantly, have the time later on to improve the product later while constantly gaining feedback from tens of thousands of users.

Whatever works via Sahil Lavingia

Usability Testing doesn’t mean you have to change everything.

The greatest fear in doing usability has got to be that you’re going to end up with a massive list of changes - and you just don’t have the time. That’s how I’ve always looked at it.

Finally someone has told me how to do it the right way. How to test and how to use those tests to actually make a difference.

Charles Nicholls says 

Usability testing always produces a huge laundry list of problems. Fixing problems is no fun; it takes far less resources to find problems than fix them. Krug’s advice is to get consensus on the top five problems, not in terms of how hard they are to fix, but in terms of the impact on the site.

And it doesn’t have to be the top five problems. It could be the top two. Or even the top one. Just do something to make your site better.

Not Doing Website Usability Testing? Are You Nuts? via Business 2 Community

Your business will change

Some great stories behind the creation and paypal and flickr.

It doesn’t matter what your first idea is. First, it’s probably wrong. Second, the only way to find the right one is to try the wrong one and see what happens. You won’t find it by fiddling around with PowerPoint slides and Photoshop mock-ups.

All of my previous attempts at creating something started and ended with mockups and documentation. Not this time.

Your idea sucks, now go do it anyway via A Smart Bear

Defining your Value Proposition

The aim of this post was not help you to define your value proposition, but utilizing the technique that is described, one could create a lot of copy for their landing page.

Jason recommends defining your perfect customer, exactly who you want to sell to. Define the customer, where they work, what problems they need solved, and how they want them solved. Now just regurgitate that information in short phrases.

If you take the effort to nail down the perfect customer, the words come easily. That’s why it’s a good technique!

How do I get my first few customers? via A Smart Bear

A solo career is never forever

Some pros of being a single founder.  And specifically, some reasons not to go looking for a co-founder before you you need to find one.

Major points include: valuing your time; learning new skills; single founders fail faster; and a good solo career is never forever.

If I were a single founder […], I’d stick to building, and let the co-founders just happen.

If I were a Single Founder via Foy Savas