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Tonight I skipped a Friday night on the town in Los Angeles with Silverlake hipsters, Hollywood socialites and Venice Beach Dogtown skater boys to watch a video case study on how a company called AppSumo grew to 500,000 customers in only 18 months. The information in the videos was AWESOME.
AppSumo is like a Groupon for web applications. I discovered the case study as a deal on their website homepage. Though the headline was alluring, the trigger for buying the video series was hearing from Andrew Chen, an analytics and metrics master who Noah Kagan, the founder of AppSumo, raves about in his business talks. Being that Noah was the 4th employee at the ever successful financial website MINT and the 30th employee at the world dominating Facebook, I knew that if he thinks Andrew is worth listening to, then I should too. Andrew is an investor and adviser for Appsumo.
After watching the candid 7 part video interviews I am able to understand what realistic expectations can be set in place for a new business owner growing a company. Noah and Andrew give us many tactics and tips, but I wouldn’t call the videos a traditional “course”. It’s not a step-by-step micro level how to guide. It’s better than that. They give us an overall plan. What the videos share is a broken down, easy to digest, process outline for how to build a significant customer base in a short amount of time. They reveal how to discover and scale working marketing tactics.
They break it down into 3 parts. Phase 1 is the “Hustle Stage” from Zero – 1,000 customers. In the first stage it’s all about defining who our customers are and where they hang out in order to reach them. What websites do they visit? What content do they read? They remind us if a product or service sucks no marketing will work. The goal is to find out what marketing works for customer acquisition to be on an upward trajectory because they reinforce ‘you can’t scale a flat line’.
Then Phase 2 is the “Puberty Stage” from 1,001 to 50,000 customers where we take what we learned in phase one and review what marketing tactics worked that can be scaled, then test if they perform to meet our long term expectations. In the second stage they suggest focusing on one specific marketing tactic and mastering it so that it is scalable, repeatable and predictable. For AppSumo this was online advertising also known as PPC, Pay Per Click.
Phase 3 is the “Scale Stage” from 50,001 to 500,000 where we have spent time seasoning ourselves in very specific marketing tactics, have enough data to know how much each customer is costing us and making sure we are getting at least a 10x return on our efforts. Most importantly in phase 3 we want to analyze the long-term activity of our customers to embrace how much we can spend to acquire new ones. In the last stage it’s all about data and looking at how people are interacting with your company over the long term. This is called cohort analysis. How much revenue is each customer generating the first week, 2nd month, 6 months, etc. Compare marketing and site presence to what type of customer was attracted to your company and analyze their site activity. Tweak your company marketing accordingly to what components contribute to a customers who spend the most money over an extended period of time.
Though I highly recommend checking out these interviews, rather than trusting me take a look at the intro video below to see if it suits what you are looking to learn.
“the Girl who Gets it Done”
Have you ever searched for a local business or service and seen google search results that look like this:
These are called Google Places and if you are a local business or service provider with a real address you can grab one of these for free, courtesy of Google. In fact Google wants you to grab your place page and make it the best it can be so that they can rank you in the search engines. If you are a local business there is no better way to reach for the top of the search engines than creating a Places page.To claim or create your Google Places page just follow the steps below. If Google has already created a page for your business you must claim it by verifying that it is in fact your business either through phone or postcard verification. If Google hasn’t created a Places page yet for your business you can go ahead and do it yourself and let Google and the rest of the world know that you exist.
Fill out the form with all the necessary information about your business and submit your info. for Google verification. Make sure and watch the video above to get specific details on filling out the form. Once your Places Page is verified by Google it is eligible to show up in the search engines. If you are in a competitive market you will need to get reviews and citations in order to compete for a top spot in the search engines.
This guest post was written by Maria Calanchini. For More Information go to mariacalanchini.com
Maria Calanchini is an internet marketing and social media consultant that specializes in small to medium sized businesses.
Guest post by Robert Richman
As entrepreneurs we often hit that point where we question everything: Do I stay with this business or do I try something else?
It can be a gut wrenching time. The success stories say to stick with it, stay dedicated and you’ll win. But the history of business is also littered with failures as 1 out of every 5 don’t even make it past year 1. So what’s the difference between the stories of glory and the tragedies of entrepreneurs who held on for too long? This answer may surprise you: It’s how they felt.
Let me explain….
People are surprised to hear I don’t have an MBA. And while I don’t have a degree, I did go to the business school of hard knocks. I risked everything on a dream I had, and I didn’t just lose, I went into $60,000 worth of debt and had to sell most of my things to avoid going bankrupt. For a long time it didn’t make sense to me. I really stuck to it, so why did it all end so terribly?
The answer hit me when I was reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. There’s a time in his story when he risked it all on Zappos.com. The company was still not profitable, but they had happy customers, and even more importantly, he and the whole team felt happy working there. They loved every day of it. So to him it was worth betting it all to save what he loved.
When I looked back on my own story, I realized I actually didn’t like working on my startup. I was stressed out, working two jobs, fighting with my partners, and worrying every day. In other words, the feeling of it was terrible, and my health took a toll, not to mention crumbling relationships with friends and family. With all that in retrospect, can you see why I’m actually thankful the business went down in flames?
Now that I have this perspective, I can see all the things I did wrong, and I truly believe I got my business school education (for less than the cost of an Ivy league school).
Here’s what happened next… I had no idea what to do. The only thing that was clear to me was that I always wanted to become a spinning instructor but never took the time. Everyone knows there’s no money there, but I got trained and certified, and loved every moment of it, and that really cleared my mind. I felt passionate and aligned. So I focused on marketing consulting, got myself out of debt, and now I’m an entrepreneur for Zappos, launching several new divisions. And it all started by simply focusing on my own happiness.
Let me leave you with a story of another entrepreneur that may shed light on your own experience. John came to me for business coaching because he didn’t know whether or not to end his start-up. “Our customers love it, and I really want this to succeed, but my wife is still making most of our money and she’s wondering how much longer she can take it.” I thought about it for a moment and asked him:
“How are you coming home every day? Are you totally charged up and driven, and energized by what you’re doing? Or are you coming home worn out and stressed.”
“I’m coming home very stressed,” he said. “And I can be in a terrible mood.”
“That’s what I think is really disturbing your wife. It seems that she really loves you and wants you to be happy. But to see you lose your money, and not even enjoy what you’re doing… that must be killing her.”
I let John know that if he can find a way to love his work, then not only will his wife be happier, he’ll also have the peace and clarity to detach himself from his business enough to see it clearly and make the right strategic decisions.
I hope that wherever you are in your business, you can take a step back and ask, “Am I enjoying myself everyday?” Because the tragedy of failure is not about a lack of revenue. The tragedy is looking back and seeing a wasted life. Commit to your own happiness, and your own enjoyment, and watch as that spreads to clients, customers, employees, and your own friends and family.
Robert Richman is the manager of Zappos Insights, a Zappos company that teaches organizations how to create a strong culture. He’s had many careers and ventures, and now speaks to Fortune 500 companies on how to drive performance through improving company culture. His personal musings can be found at RobertRichman.com
What’s the thing that scares you most about being a business owner? Please share in the comments!
About Gary: Im a life enthusiast with an insatiable hunger for more. I dream of what I want, go for it then analyze it after. This process is called dreamlining. Dreamlining has helped me through my whole life from skateboarding, language learning to transforming my body. I’m a serial investor that analyzes every opportunity presented. Born into a family business that I worked at for 7 years before realizing I didn’t want to pursue it. I’ve always been a nomad at heart, so I hit the road again, but this time for something more then a stint of luxury lifestyle. I hit the road for an experience of life, not knowing what will be next I documented much of my travels and learned many lessons along the way. I plan on sharing them with you as I live different lives and continue to explore the best things life has to offer. “SOME WILL LAUGH MANY WILL FOLLOW”-G
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I’m finally realizing that this fascination of business isn’t just a fad- I’ve been fascinated by it since I was an adolescent. Haggling for a Go- Kart, setting up not lemonade, but Iced Tea and Rice Crispy Treat stands instead, just so i could abolish all competition before it even started . For me it’s a game… instead of sitting on the couch playing video games I play this- business. It’s all very relevant, I too have levels to beat, problems to solve and girlfriend’s definitely want to shut it off.
I realized just how seriously addicting the game was when I looked back on a vacation my father and I took for some nice, relaxing, father/son bonding. At the time I had been working with him at our auto body shop for a while, and we needed some time together away from the chaos of the business. (I would recommend this to any family business’). So it started the night before while lying in my bed. The anticipation of going to the Dominican Republic in the morning had me up thinking. I always thought about how no matter what tourist spot you go to there’s always peddlers selling pretty much all of the the same stuff. I mean, the people that live in these areas most likely don’t vacation often themselves (maybe never), so I was sure they would love some American goods. Shirts, shoes, cologne.
With that I hopped out of bed and started throwing lightly used clothing and shoes into a laundry bag. The next morning I woke up and threw my stuff in the cab. My father looked at the laundry bag like “what the $%#! is that?!” I told him that I had an idea to make money in DR, and as any self respecting Entrepreneur would do, he patted me on the back not even knowing how I would do it. Upon landing we got off the plane and headed to the shuttles to find a ride to the hotel. As usual, a ton of locals ran up to give us a ride and I chose one that I thought would love the lightly used Iverson sneakers that I had brought. I asked him how much for the ride and he said “$30 dollars for the two of you”. I then looked down at his shoes, confidently reached into my bag and said “How about some Iverson sneakers?”. His face lit up and we were on our way. My father looked at me and said, “Relaxing?”.
I told you- it’s what I like to do. After tipping cleaning ladies and waiters for the best seat’s in the house with pants, shirts, and my sister’s thought-to-be old perfumes I still had half of the bag left over. On our final day there we were on the beach lounging and the last thing I wanted to do was take these clothes back on the plane. So, my a.d.d. kicked in. I hopped up, grabbed the bag from the room, and started wandering down to the beach area where the armed guards don’t protect you anymore.
Wearing a Ginzo chain and wife beater I strolled past the shanty’s. One by one the people started to ask “ whats in the bag?” and they where so sketchy I remember telling them “coconuts”. I found a decent little shop and purposed my offer- to unload my stuff for money or some of there things. Well, I got all of my souvenirs and also paid for the cigarettes that I smuggled back into the states… not to mention having home made Mamajuana with some genuine local people.
The point I’m trying to get at is this stuff should be fun for you! Take a step back. Think.. Was the story I just told you so far fetched from any experience you’ve had? If so, I believe this game isn’t for you, and maybe you should think about pursuing another life, because that’s what it is- Life. If it isn’t to far off maybe you too have found your passion and you didn’t even know it, Business!
Have fun, stay semi-legal take it slow and stay confident. The more fun you’re having …. well the more fun your having!.
“Some Will Laugh, Many Will Follow”
-Gary C Misner Jr.
Afterword from Espree:
I met Gary when Tim Ferriss featured that video above. He absolutely opened my mind to the possibility of letting go of all my rules and follow my dreams. Since we’ve met he launched a laundry pick up service in New York City. For a flat fee of $8 a Comeclean.it delivery man will come pick up your laundry and drop it at the mat! Really freakin cool. I remember when I lived in the City it was so annoying constantly going to the Laundromat. Gary is always inspiring me with ways to market a new business. Check out his most recent guerilla marketing in the photo above.
What’s the the one thing you have been wanting to do that you have been putting off? Please share in the comments!
Small Business Accounting Software has taken small business finances a from shoebox full of receipts or an excel spreadsheet to a quick, time saving, easy to use business wonder tool.
Long gone are the days when you had your books in one place and then had to spend hours matching the numbers against your checking account. Once you enter a sale or expense into your business accounting software, one click matches the transactions to your bank account. This saves times and helps prevent pesky accidental clerical errors which inevitably come from manual input.
Contact management is built into a good small business accounting software which lets you store records about invoicing, payment collections and orders all in one place. No more putting people on hold while you search for paper files, all your data is at your fingertips. Your client and vendor relationships are your most important asset and a good financial tool will help you track and manage your relationships effectively and professionally.
These days business accounting software is so easy to use that you no longer need a degree in accounting or a 6 month course on how to use your software before you can take advantage of using it. Tap and track expenses, automated reports, email invoices, integrated CRM, tax reports, all the nuts and bolts of your finances are streamlined and set up which saves you time so you can focus on other aspects of running your business.
If you have inventory, small business accounting software can help you manage your inventory and link it to your financial records to track what you have on hand, which makes reordering so easy. It also helps you identify popular items, spot purchasing trends and start to use your inventory data to improve your business!
Email invoicing is the best way to save money on office supplies and save the planet. No more printing costs, paper supplies, struggling with stamps, tracking when things send, keeping manual records when you mail something, rifling through files or worrying that your invoices were received. Plus, linking your invoicing to your accounting software means that when it sends your accounts will update automatically, saving you time and steps.
Then when you need to check in on your business, with a click of a button you can generate financial reports, look for trends, create reports for tax filings and take the stress out of monitoring your business’s financial health.
Business accounting software has changed the way that small businesses run by making it easy and painless!
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About Dena: Dena Stern was the author and curator of the WorkingPoint blog, a resource for small businesses. She spent five years as a program officer and fundraiser for a community non profit before she began channeling her passion for relationship building, social media and SEO to help small businesses be successful. Both her parents own and operate small, local businesses and were hit hard by the economic downturn and she is passionate about using new technologies to help small businesses thrive in the changing landscape. She is currently the Managing Editor for Exercise.com
Afterword from Espree:
I have personally used WorkingPoint for about a year now and love the tool. What I found is that other tools like MINT and inDinero are solely aggregators, but Working Point gives me my realtime transaction and allows me to edit and adjust accordingly to your book keeping needs.
What’s the most interesting funny thing you ever expensed or wrote off as a business expense and why? Please share in the comments!
Just click on this link to let me know what small business “how to” content you’d like created for free. Anything from social media tactics, video marketing, raising venture money, outsourcing, small business accounting, website creation… check out this video for more details…
My passion for business began when I was 4 years old and would walk with my father into Westwood Village to see a movie and pass by empty office buildings. I’d share with him the businesses I would start to fill those vacant offices from cartoon companies to movie reviewers to parent child relationship centers. Yes, I can’t believe these thoughts crossed my mind so young either, but I am grateful they did.
Before my teens I hung out on Prodigy in my father’s home office. My parents couldn’t part me from the PC green neon display so they made up “office police” who would arrest daddies who let their kids hang out too long. Ha! It didn’t work. I was glued and chat rooms, turned into new friends around the country which turned into understanding code and how these machines worked which in end planted seeds to who I am professionally today, a crackberry social nerd in love with everything internet marketing and the lifestyle it caters to.