Miles Burke

Thoughts on startups, small business, marketing & more.

Category: Startups (Page 1 of 5)

Perth Helicopter

My Latest (Old) Side Project Promoting Perth Startups

At the start of 2017, I promised myself to spend this year launching four different side projects. One every quarter.

I’ve got three other side projects part ready, and growth.email which I am still running, however for this quarter I’ve decided to double down on something I began a while ago as a purely community project.

I’d like to introduce an old side project which has been bubbling away, however now it’s time to put some real effort in. Startup Perth is a Twitter account and associated landing page, which I started back in August 2015, as a way to promote fellow Perth startups and innovators.

Over time, it has grown to become a valuable resource for the local startups which receive extra visibility and promotion as a result, and to the 18,500+ people who follow the account, who get an insight into local innovators.

I wrote an article just recently about the progress so far. This reminded me how much I spent, both financially and the hours I have been putting in over the last 20 months.

I’ve made the decision to dedicate the next three months to either get at least the money and time I am spending promoting Perth startups, covered through some income, or look at either selling it, or shutting down. Whilst I started it purely for the benefit of the community, it is taking time and money that I could be using towards one of my other side projects (or, you know, a life).

The trick is, that it’s typically hard to monetise a Twitter account.

Marketing Benefits of Startup Perth for Startups
Whilst the idea of sharing content on Twitter seems very simple and low value, it’s actually very valuable for brands, as most marketers attest to. In this article on Quuu, they discuss five benefits, being

  • It’s Free Traffic
  • Engage and Cultivate Even More Free Traffic
  • Your Google Rankings Will Rise
  • You’ll Get Indexed Faster
  • You’ll Create a Better Relationship with Customers

One of the big benefits for many of the startups I have been sharing content from, is the search engine rankings, and the exposure of these brands to new markets. A while back, I started sharing one particular startup which had 9 Twitter followers at the time. A week later, they had 24 – all naturally as a result of Startup Perth sharing their tweets.

This is great validation that comes from promoting Perth startups, especially early stage innovators.

Recent statistics show a high correlation between those successful on social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ also have much success in Google visibility.

Recent changes to Startup Perth
In the last 13 days, I have been getting a few tasks lined up and completed, to give this quarter a better chance of success.

I started by overhauling the Startup Perth website (it used to be just a page here on my blog).

Afterwards, I deleted a number of old automated feeds, and added a few new startups. I also changed the timing for many of these, and tweaked the hashtags that are associated with them.

I also compiled a contact list for each startup, and put it in a spreadsheet. I have reached out to all of these businesses by email, and I confirmed their URL, name, etc is all perfect.

New Startup Perth website

New Startup Perth website

The plan for Startup Perth
So this is what I am going to attempt to achieve over the next three months. I’m going to spend the next two months building further engagement on Twitter, as well as trying to attract income to cover the costs.

Depending on how this goes, I’ll spend the final month either negotiating for selling the name, website and Twitter account or shutting the account down.

Building engagement
Startup Perth already attracts a fair amount of engagement. Most tweets are retweeted, replied to or favourited. So here are a few things I’ll be trying over the next month;

Add more visual quotes. I’ve tried these on and off, and they are always well received. Inspirational quotes that relate to startups and innovation.

Daily focus tweets. I am scheduling a daily tweet, where we focus on one of the startups in my automated posting list.

Reaching out and saying hello. I’ll be using the account and say thanks to a few followers, and hello to some new followers.

Promoting Perth startups. I’ll continue doing what I have been, and try to find new startups to start promoting as well.

Generating income
There are a few possible methods of getting income whilst also promoting Perth startups. I believe I could just demand a monthly/annual fee to include the 35 startups I am currently promoting, or I could sell sponsorship for a time period such as a week or month (Like “This week’s tweets are brought to you by 6Q”).

These methods, however, put those early stage startups, who typically are bootstrapped and possibly not making any money at this stage, at a disadvantage.

The model I am going to try first, is literally just ask for donations, using a PayPal link. This way, the startups and others who gain value from the service, and who can afford to spend a little on advertising can send me what they feel is adequate and fair value, and those who don’t have the spare marketing budget, don’t feel pressured to.

How you can help
If you want to help, sharing this post, or retweeting Startup Perth would be a great help.

If you follow the account, and feel you are getting value from it, a small donation towards running it would be nice. If you are from one of the startups that I am currently promoting, I would appreciate you pitching in a small part of your marketing budget towards paying the bills.

See this page for more detail.

Woman typing with coffee

Why You Shouldn’t Ask Friends or Family for Startup Feedback [& Better Ways]

You’ve come up with a startup idea, and you’re excited. This is going to be The Next Big Thing, you’re absolutely positive. You catch up with friends and family and bounce your idea off them. They agree you are onto The Next Big Thing. Yay!

Have you just done yourself and your friends a disservice? Often, sadly yes.

I have seen way too many crazy startup ideas get too far down the track, thanks to well meaning people supporting ideas, that frankly, have significant problems. What you need is customer validation; not platitudes from loved ones.

I’ve been guilty of doing this. I’ve also been on the receiving end.

Enter the topic of confirmation bias.

Your friend Sally wants you to remain positive and wants to see you succeed. She listens to your startup idea, you brimming with smiles and talking enthusiastically. Sally nods and agrees with your idea. However, deep down, Sally remains unconvinced. In some situations, she is actually thinking that this is the Next Big Dumb Thing.

You see, Sally doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. She doesn’t want to be the person who brings bad news. So it’s easier for Sally in a social setting to just agree, to keep you happy.

Problem is, Sally isn’t helping you at all, and you’re putting stress on Sally because now she feels guilty that she told you it was great, when she actually feels it isn’t.

Now, obviously not everyone is the same, however what you want to do is avoid the group-think mentality of people just agreeing with your thought processes.

Better ways to ask colleagues

One way to do this is before you explain your startup idea to someone, make sure to mention that there are no good or bad answers – you’re after as much feedback as possible, positive or negative. It all helps you as an entrepreneur.

It is also very wise to frame your questions differently.

For example, start by saying ‘I have an idea to improve shiny rockets. I’d love to hear your thoughts, but I want as much negative feedback as positive feedback’

Once you’ve given them a quick pitch on the idea, ask exploring (and not leading!) questions, such as ‘What do you like the most about this idea?’ and then follow up ‘What don’t you like about this idea?’

Make sure not to answer defensively either; a good way to shoot down someone’s freely given advice is to start saying ‘No, you’re wrong’, which is effectively what I hear when someone starts acting defensively.

Instead, say things such as ‘Oh, hey great point I hadn’t thought of that’ or if you had, say ‘Yes, that had crossed my mind. One way to tackle that is use shinier shiny things’. The shiny things bit may not work in your case.

It is fine to ask family and friends for thoughts, but ensure you balance that with feedback from further afield; and by further, I mean from people who aren’t emotionally connected to you.

How to validate with real customers

The startup world is full of talk about customer validation, and this often can feel like a huge step, but it doesn’t need to be.

First off, determine who you think is the ideal customer. This is the person who frequently suffers the problem you are out to solve. Say your shiny rocket idea.

The first step is to discover who is actually affected with this problem; what role do they play? Is it the engineers, the astronauts or the administration staff?

Asking for feedback using social media

Asking for feedback using social media

Find these customers in social connections

Then, make a list of people who you know that fit this customer persona. If you don’t know anyone in these roles, look for people you may know that could introduce you.

Using LinkedIn or Facebook, you can trawl through your contacts and try to find the right person, even someone who works in the rocketry field.

Run a very short survey

Another way to approach this, is to use a survey tool such as Google Forms or Typeform, and invite people by email or social to answer it. I’ve used this technique a few times to collect data, and it’s very handy. The good thing about this technique is that the recipient doesn’t feel pressure completing it, the con however is you aren’t able to change questions, based on the interviewees previous answers.

Side projects survey I recently ran

Side projects survey I recently ran

The above survey was great. I created it for free using Google Forms, and then using social, collected around 35 responses over a 24 hour period. It gave me great insight into how people feel, and I can now dig down using the next step.

The cold call technique

If not, try calling your nearest rocket manufacturer, and ask to be put through to someone in that role. It may feel daunting to pick up a phone and just call a stranger, however you’ll quickly find that most people are very happy to spend a few minutes to give advice.

Before you ask though, you need to contextualise it correctly.

Begin the conversation by saying something like “I’m not selling anything, I promise. I am thinking of creating something to help alleviate a specific problem that rocket manufacturers face. Can I ask a couple of questions? I promise it will be only five minutes of your time.”

Then, start by asking them if it really is a problem. “Do you have problems with dull rockets?” or “Is the shiny parts of a rocket important to manufacturers?”.

Make sure to follow my leading question advice from above too. A leading question is when you ask something in a way that encourages people to agree or disagree. Such as “Shiny rockets are a big problem, aren’t they?”. This question would be far better if phrased “Are shiny rockets an issue for you?”

Finally! Confidence in the feedback you’ve received

In no time at all, you’ll collect valuable thoughts around your startup idea, and you may discover that there is no problem there to fix, that the decision makers don’t value your proposed solution, or that you really have stumbled on to The Next Big Thing.

In any case, get feedback about your startup idea from further afar. Don’t spend lots of time or money building a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, or is undervalued by your target customers. Good luck!

@StartupPerth on Twitter

Update on Micro News Service Startup Perth [20 Months]

Since way back in August 2015, I’ve been running what I call a ‘micro news service’ on Twitter, called Startup Perth. Whilst it has a single page website, all the activity happens on the Twitter account.

It was started to raise further awareness of Perth’s innovative companies. Startup Perth uses a combination of both automation, and manual checking once or twice a day, to share news and information about the Perth startup ecosystem. I wrote about it before, back on Promoting Perth Startups.

Over the last 19 months since it began, I’ve attracted 18,545 followers to the account, making it by far the most followed for Western Australian startup and innovation news. In fact, the nearest three Twitter accounts, added up, make up less than a third of the Startup Perth followers, so something about this account is doing well.

Similar twitter accounts
Startup News 3,034
Techboard 1,990
Startup WA 1,564

Some statistics
Followers 18,545
Tweets 3,879
Automated 1,951 tweets
Manual 1,928 tweets

So, what did it share? Well, it shared mostly news and announcements from Western Australian startups, including links to over 1,900 blog posts, 1,426 photos and videos, inspirational quotes and more.

Manual retweet example

Manual re-tweet example

The 1,928 manual tweets were me, typically re-tweeting something a local startup tagged the account in, or found on one of their feeds, such as the example above. At one minute per tweet, that’s taken me roughly 32.5 hours to do.

The tweet automation checks against 50+ startups that have blogs with RSS feeds, and then posts their latest blog post, with a link and hashtags, such as this example, below.

Automated tweet example

Automated tweet example

There were 50 RSS feeds being monitored, and out of those, five didn’t post anything in the last 20 months. There were another 38 feeds that were only tweeted between 1 and 84 times. That totals 883 tweets in total.

The top four feeds were posted 1,068 times alone, more than the rest of the list, combined. They were for the four biggest content producers in Perth (it seems), being;

Techboard
Startup News
Prezentt
6Q

The entire list of feeds that Startup Perth has been watching is at the footer of this post, for your perusal.

Time spent
As well as the 32.5 hours of manual re-tweeting and sharing, there was around 1-2 hours per month, checking feeds, answering questions, and other administration.

Outgoings
There were costs involved in doing this, mainly;

Domain name ($20 per year)
Hosting (sponsored by Bam Creative)
Automation ($20 per month)

All up, this side project has cost me in hard money, $440.00 in total.

Income
Absoutely nothing.

To be fair, I’ve never gone hunting for any sponsorship or support. In fact, it is a little perplexing for me how I should approach any sponsorship; what do they sponsor? I guess I could have a paid to be included feed, as long as the content was on topic, or a weekly/month ‘This feed supported by SPONSOR NAME’ type arrangement.

Future of Startup Perth
Having done all the above sums, spending 50 hours and $440 every 20 months for a side project that doesn’t give me any financial gain does seem a little daunting to continue. I do love helping fellow startups out, and never started with the plan of making this some profitable activity, though I would be keen to get something to cover costs.

At this stage, I rate the financial success of this side project a big fail, however I’m continuing for the meantime, whilst I ponder any future it may have. If you have any keen thoughts, or want to berate me for wasting my time, please comment below.

Companies being promoted
Here is the list of the 45 Perth startups who did get some content out, via their RSS feeds I am automatically monitoring. Well done for this lot getting some promotion out there.

Startups being promoted

Startups being promoted

Perth city from Kings Park

Lessons and Data on Growing My Side Project

The three month deadline which I initially set for this $99 side project experiment is nearly here; in this article, I share my latest learnings from growing my side project with experiments, discuss financials and make decisions on where to go from here.

Quick background
A quick summary; I started a weekly curated growth marketing email as a side project at the start of this year, with a 3 month deadline and a budget of $99.

I have written a few times about what I have taken away from the project and some growth experiments, which are here;

Introducing My $99 Side Project for 2017
Growth Hacking Newsletter Side Project Update
My Weekly Curated Growth Marketing Email [Update 3]

Recent experiments
A combination of being busy with other work and wanting to see natural growth when I am not pushing it, has meant that I’ve not exerted myself too far with growth experiments over the last few weeks. I’ve had two experiments worth sharing though, posting on Medium and promoting using Quuu.

Publishing article with lead magnet on Medium
One activity I had imagined would work really well for me, was posting an article, 100 growth marketing articles you really should read, on Medium.

Article on Medium

Article on Medium

I spent a few hours and collated all the content I have sent so far, and put it in a Google sheet for new subscribers to download or use. Then I added a form at the footer of the article, using Upscribe to collect subscribers from within Medium.

Google Sheet

Google Sheet

So far, the article has had 430 views (which is okay), and 24 recommends (awesome!) however had only 8 new subscribers. That’s a lot of work for just 8 new subscribers.

The main reason for the lack of reads and new subscribers would definitely be that the growth.email Medium account has only 148 followers. In hindsight, I should have posted it on my own personal Medium account, which has 3,300 followers. A rookie mistake which I now regret.

Trying out Quuu
Quuu is an interesting service. They provide a cheap service to fill your social queue with related content, and also offer Quuu Promote, a service that you can pay to share your content (if it is approved).

I paid $30 to share my previous article on this side project, as a way to encourage people to this blog, and hopefully flow on to subscribing to growth.email. The campaign resulted in 467 shares and 108 clicks.

Quuu Promote results

Quuu Promote results

These results reaffirm something I’ve known for a while, which is many people share content without actually looking at it themselves.

As a cost per click exercise, the campaign cost me $0.28 per click ($0.06 per share), which is cheaper than the $0.38 per click on reddit, and way cheaper than the $20 per click on Facebook. The most affordable result so far with paid experiments growing my side project.

Tweeting more content
The growth.email Twitter account @thegrowthemail has been steadily building up an audience since it started 3 months ago. It now has 1,325 followers, and a large reason for that is the increase in the amount of content I have it sharing per day, using my favourite social media scheduling tool, Buffer.

It now tweets six times per day (up from 2-3 daily tweets a month ago), with many of the tweets being the articles I have curated within growth.email so far. The combination of specific content (growth marketing) and relevant hashtags has meant it is organically growing nicely.

Content curation workflow
As well as growing my side project, I have achieved more in curation workflow, now sorting my Feedly account into categorising content feeds better, so I am able to choose a spread of topics to review for inclusion. I have had a few people contact me asking if their articles can be included. I’ve reviewed their blogs and where appropriate I have added to my Feedly.

Categories in Feedly

Categories in Feedly

Chasing revenue
Because I took a sponsorship booking until the end of June, it has meant that I can’t sell any new sponsorships. I’ve had four enquiries come in, however I’ve shared the sponsorship calendar (a Google sheet) and asked them to wait for availability.

Big lesson here is to not take advertising bookings so far in advance. They were charged at sub 1,000 subscriber rates, and I now have over 1,500 great people on the list. I’m not taking sponsorship bookings more than six weeks ahead now.

The future
The side project has been great for me, building more connections in the growth marketing industry across the globe, and encouraging more readers to my blog here, and extra subscribers to my own email list.

The experiments have been enjoyable and interesting, and has reaffirmed my interest in sharing results of experiments, something I can’t normally do with client work.

Future financials
The financials moving forward are tricky to balance. The costs of email delivery means that a weekly frequency is difficult to maintain in the longer term, which explains why so many established newsletter businesses are daily or multiple sends per week.

Potential income
Say I send once a week, versus twice a week (assumption here is that I have every email sponsored at $25 per thousand subscribers).

Subscribers Weekly email Twice weekly email
1,500 $37.50 $75
2,500 $62.50 $125
5,000 $125 $250
10,000 $250 $500

Now, let’s look at my possible expenses (my curation software has recently announced a major shift in their pricing plans, so when I go over 2,000 subscribers I won’t be paying $8 a month anymore).

Pricing plans for Goodbits

Pricing plans for Goodbits

This means, that at 2,500 subscribers, I would earn $268.75 a month on weekly sends, or $537.50 on twice weekly sends. I would pay the same outgoings of $49 per month in either scenario. So, the estimated profit of either $219.75 (weekly) or $488.50 (twice weekly) per month.

So whilst we know the costs remain the same, the income can vary greatly depending on frequency and obviously, the amount of subscribers you have on your list. The 10,000 subscribers at twice a week means a monthly profit of $2,101 which would be a great result; a motivator in growing my side project.

Beyond the deadline
I am going to continue with growth.email past my initial deadline of 30 March, for at least another few months, and see what the subscriber growth curve looks like. Depending on how things progress growing my side project, it is possible that spending an hour or so a week curating interesting articles and emailing them out could be a worthwhile endeavour. It is still enjoyable and I like giving back to the community, so for now, it’s still a go from me.

If you haven’t yet, I would appreciate you signing up to growth.email – the content is high quality and it is easy to unsubscribe at any time, should it disappoint.

Boorna Waanginy, Kings Park

My Weekly Curated Growth Marketing Email [Update 3]

I’m back with the third update about my little side project, growth.email. If you haven’t kept up, here’s the previous articles I have written about this journey.

Introducing My $99 Side Project for 2017
Growth Hacking Newsletter Side Project Update

Given it has been a few weeks since my last post, and we are at the halfway mark of my original 3 month deadline, I want to share what I’ve been doing to attract new subscribers, and then provide an update on the subscriber and financial objectives again.

Video fame
I uploaded a short video on YouTube, showing me scrolling up and down a recent issue, as a way to capture potential interest from people searching on related topics on YouTube. Since 11 January, it has been viewed 1,369 times which is fantastic.

Reddit ad

Reddit ad

Tried advertising on Reddit
I ran a small $10 ad campaign on Reddit, specifically targeting these subreddits;
/r/Entrepreneur
/r/growmybusiness
/r/Growth_Hacking
/r/marketing
/r/SideProject
/r/smallbusiness
/r/startup
/r/startups
/r/startup_marketing

Reddit ad stats

Reddit ad stats

It ended up costing me 38.5 cents per click, which although is possibly cheaper than some platforms, wasn’t as good as I had hoped. The fact only 14.46% of these subscribed, means it cost me $2.66 per subscriber, which isn’t good.

If you want to consider running ads in various subreddits, redditlist.com has a handy list of the most populated subreddits, which makes life much easier.

Posted a Top 20 list on Medium
Medium is a great place to discover content, with their tagging navigation, links to related articles in the footer of each post, and a huge community of people interested in start-ups, entrepreneurship and self development.

So, I looked through the click rates off the first four issues, collated the top 20 articles, and posted them as an article on Medium, tagging as many of the link writers as I could find, with Medium accounts.

I was fortunate to have Andrew Chen tweet a link to this, which resulted in around 50 new visitors, of which around 50% of these signed up to the newsletter as a result.

Andrew Chen tweet

Andrew Chen tweet

Hunted on Product Hunt
Thanks to my buddy, Chris Messina, I had growth.email hunted on Product Hunt. Chris kindly posted it after I reached out to him, and the traffic was immediate.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

You can take a guess which spike was Product Hunt. That was by far the biggest contributor to new subscribers in the entire project lifetime of seven weeks.

Tracking goals in Google Analytics
One of the more important takeaways I have for you, is to ensure that you use the Goals feature in Google Analytics, to see how many visitors complete an action. There are plenty of blog posts out there, to show you how.

GA Goals by Source

GA Goals by Source

The above shows you the goals completed (that is, visitors signing up to subscribe) attributed to the source they came from. The average was 30.55% of visitors subscribe, which means 69% take a look and leave – that’s big room for improvement.

The best conversion rate was from a link I put in a Yammer community I belong to, at 44%, and the least was traffic from StumbleUpon, which is well known for 1 second visits, and no conversions at all. Visitors from my own blog subscribed 37.6% of the time, so thank you!

Spoke at Morning Startup
I was honoured to be invited to speak at Morning Startup, a fortnightly event here in Perth for the startup ecosystem. I had a great time putting together some slides about the project so far, and Jurgen from Niche Interview was kind enough to record a video of it. You can watch the talk I gave, however a warning: it is about 45 minutes long.

Book Giveaway experiment
As an experiment, I offered to give away a signed copy of my published book, The Principles of Successful Freelancing, during my Morning Startup talk to one new subscriber in the room. I had 14 people sign up during the 45 minute talk, so that’s not something I’ll repeat, given the $40 price tag of the book means it cost me $2.86 for each new subscriber from that test.

Add animated gif to success page
Since I migrated my email database from Campaign Monitor, to Mailchimp to reduce costs (Mailchimp give you 2,000 subscribers for zero cost), I noticed a slight drop in successful new subscribes.

It is well known that any double opt-in subscription flow has a significant drop off rate, between completing the form, and actually clicking the confirmation link in the resulting email. To help reduce that with growth.email, I used a free tool to whip up a super quick little animated GIF, which I use on the success page which is shown once you submit the form.

Animated GIF showing double opt-in

Animated GIF showing double opt-in

How did I go with objectives?
Now, let’s take a look at the growth I have managed so far.

Subscribers
Back in the first article, I mentioned that my minimum target was 500 subscribers, and a stretch goal was 1,500, so 500 new subscribers a month.

Well, at the halfway point towards the deadline of 31 March, I’ve managed to attract 1,164 subscribers so far. Thank you to everyone who has signed up!

Financial
As you know, I started with a budget of $99 for both setting up and maintaining the project for three months.

Well, so far I have spent $81.25 in total, which includes advertising on Facebook, advertising on Reddit, two domain names (I bought growthemail.com recently), email software and hosting.

However, I’ve done really well on the sponsorship front, having pre-booked all the advertising until the end of June! That’s an incredible $331, including the sponsorship income to date.

Financials for growth.email so far

Financials for growth.email so far

The only issue with allowing advertising so far in advance, is that once I go over 2,000 subscribers, Mailchimp will start charging me, and the Goodbits monthly fee goes from $8 to $25 per month (for up to 10,000 subscribers).

It means, let’s say 5,000 subscribers, I’ll be paying $92.13 per month, and making $64 per month in sponsorship. Lesson learned; I’ll not take sponsorship bookings at today’s subscriber totals for more than 6 weeks in advance.

An ideal CPM (cost per thousand subscribers) seems to be around the $25 per thousand mark, so 5,000 should net $125 per week, once we’re past June.

Moving forward
I’ve got some other experiments I wish to try, and a few thoughts on different models too. I’ll post an update on 3-4 weeks time, meanwhile if you haven’t yet signed up, please take a look at growth.email, thanks!

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