Do you believe in the phrase Do or die? Many people are afraid of putting all their eggs in one basket; they fear the situations they’ll have to face if they fail. I used to be the same way. Over the past 4 years, I’ve spent as an entrepreneur, I feared failure.
In May 2015, however, I decided that enough was enough. Even though Stunnly.com is operating smoothly, my subconscious has yet to realize that I can’t reach my goals with an agency model business. Exhausted by fighting for new customers, I—along with my friend/cofounder Narasimha—decided to start a new business one last time. We decided that if we didn’t get 10 customers by the end of May, we were going to leave the company behind.
So, we got together on a Sunday afternoon and rehashed all our old startup ideas. We jotted down the pro and cons of each idea, compared our lists and set out to begin Live Chat Ninjas. The initial concept of Live Chat Ninjas was very different from what it is now, from the offering to the website design. Sometimes we need to get to know our customers and make adjustments accordingly.
PERFECTING THE SERVICE
Unlike anything else, we spent an entire week perfecting the offer, website design and the content. We cross-checked our competitors, talking to them as though we were potential customers (you need to do this!), which helped us pinpoint their issues and create our USP. People call this “Competitor Analysis“. With feedback from a few forums, and from several people I’d talked to, I found that our potential customers wanted a 24/7 service rather than an 8/5 (which was our initial concept). We didn’t think we were capable of operating 24/7, so we didn’t even gave it a try. However, we acknowledged that the customer is king… and 24/6 was a perfect compromise! (We can’t be online on Sundays, after all.)
Next was the Number Of Chats. We found that most of our competition restricted the number of chats they offered in their plans. Well, if I was their potential customer, I’d suspect the chat quality—what they consider a chat—as a lead, and that extra costs would be involved with more visitors. And most of our customers had the same questions. Consequently, we answered all those questions by making it Unlimited. Yes, unlimited chats, 24/6. Why? Because of 1. Unlimited is cool, and 2. Unlimited is doubt-free and hassle-free. Guess what? Our customers took it well.
The next thing we did was iterate our Pricing. Since there are tons of blog posts about pricing, I tried to read as many as I could. However, each one has a different perspective, and I couldn’t figure out an answer. That was when I started with something that would interest our customers: something below the $100 mark, but at the same time with a sense of urgency. We introduced a launch offer, with a higher price and a discounted price below $100.
Here’s a screenshot of our pricing when we first launched.
- Choose the market wisely. Not every shiny object is guaranteed to make money. For productized businesses, choose a platform with a large number of customers, like Shopify, WordPress, KissMetrics, etc.
- Make the offering too good to be true. Unlimited chats, leads and 24/6 coverage for less than $100 a month is too good to be true, right?
Everything’s good, and we’re eagerly waiting for the Sign-ups to roll in. The question is, how do we get them?
While we were working on Stunny, we focused on cold email outreach. So, being in the final month, we moved onto collecting the emails of potential customers. Our target? Service businesses, plus eCommerce and SaaS companies. We were excited, sitting in front of our computers to send out all those cold emails—but our hands stopped moving! Why do you ask? Because we had no idea where—and who—to target! Targeting 3 sets of customers is awesome, offering a huge market and great potential, but when it comes down to getting those initial customers, you need to focus on just one.
We burned through half of the second week, as we were still 10/10 customers away. Consequently, we decided to narrow down the target and focus on eCommerce, and Shopify in particular. Why? Because Shopify is the biggest COMMERCIAL eCommerce platform, and because people who use Shopify need to pay a monthly subscription fee, similar to our “Low Priced Monthly Recurring,” so they were already familiar with this model. Plus, this strategy gave us a huge target of paying customers: 100,000 of them, to be exact. We can secure 1,000 customers, even if just 1 in 100 sign up with us. Cool math, huh? That was when we changed the copy on our website to target Shopify users.
Determining whom to market? Check. Where to find them? Not quite yet. We didn’t want to pay for email lists from BuiltWith, and we didn’t want to bet our final month on cold emailing either, we dropped it. So where could we access a list of people who used Shopify? Our answer was
Shopify themes! Yes, Themeforest has dozens of great themes, with more than 1,000 sales. All of them are unique because no one wants to buy a theme twice. It’s logical!
Then we planned an affiliate program and reached the authors of those Shopify themes on Themeforest. We offered them 20% of the recurring sale price as their commission, every month. 6/17 of them accepted the offer, and they began recommending us to their customers by communicating with them on our behalf. The total number of prospects we reached through our 6 affiliates is precisely 1,642, in which 7 of them converted. Yeah, I know, I know—the conversion rate is pretty low, but that’s how it works, so cheer up! It’s still better than cold emailing. Justin from LeadFuze.com helped me create a 3-part email series in order to reach our potential customers without spamming them. He also gave me a valuable piece of advice, that “80% of the leads are in the follow-ups.” Turns out, it proved to be true. 80% of our customers responded and signed up through the follow-up emails sent by our affiliates. This led to 7 signups in just 2 weeks.
Facebook drove us to 4 signups in only 3 weeks! Unfortunately, they didn’t lead to any long-term customers, but we found that Facebook still has the potential to attract new customers.
How did we do it?
We joined a few Facebook eCommerce groups and started contributing a week before the launch. During this time, we asked a few group members about their views on having live chat agents on their websites, and we got mixed results. Some said it’s great, some showed no interest, and others helped us craft the offer for the better— a few group owners even kicked us out :P, but we’re determined to do whatever it takes to get our first 11 customers.
Then, I started following up with people who showed interest and updated them with day-to-day improvements, building interest in them. This thing worked! 4 out of the 6 people I talked to signed up, but that didn’t last as much.
- Make a pact with people who have already sold something to your potential customers. Since they’ve already established trust with your potential customers, your customers will listen to them.
- Facebook will bring you customers, but don’t rely too much on them.
Even though Affiliate Marketing worked for us, it isn’t making much of a profit on the financial side. 20% of all the income is a considerable chunk of money to spend each month. As such, we created a 6-Month Marketing Plan for 2016. I’ll write it in greater detail in the next blog post. For now, here’s a summary:
I’ve divided the Marketing Plan into 3 parts:
- The Saviors – Saviors are the customers who show interest in us quickly and who sign up with us with a blind trust in us. We value these people a lot, and they are the reason our business runs.
- The Bridge – The Bridge are the customers we get through spending; not Adwords spending, but a strategic means of spending we need to test.
- The Dependables – Dependables are the customers with whom we look forward to working. The big companies out there, those with lot of traffic and a huge potential for us to convert. These people stay with us for longer periods of time, and the future of our company will be secure with them.
I’ll talk more about the 3 parts and my execution plan in the next post, “2016 Marketing Plan for Productized Services“.
This is the exact process we followed when we first started Live Chat Ninjas. Granted, we faced a lot of road-blocks: affiliates dropping off, and people complaining about our mailing approach, some of them even marking our messages as spam. What matters, however, are our customers who found us useful, and who have stayed with us for 6 months now. That cold/warm/hot/whatever email looked great to some and like spam to others, which proves that it’s all about perspective.
So, what do you think? Did our story give you any new ideas on how to market your business? Did it inspire you to attract your first 11 customers? Do let me know in the comments below.