SteveBlogs

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Took an Automated Business-Evaluation (E-Myth)

I saw a mention of E-Myth in a newsletter I read and I clicked over to take their three minute survey. The automated analysis told me my strength is recruiting competent and loyal people and I am reasonably competent with financial end of the business. My weaknesses are spending to much time on operations and actual technical work and that I am weak on marketing and business development. Both of these hit home. Of course, I got into this business because I know how to do the work. But building a business around the work is a totally different animal.

As entrepreneur, I have not spent enough time pushing ahead on the big picture vision. They recommend as founder/CEO that I do zero technical work. I am transitioning to that more and more but it will be some months before I can substantially further reduce my commitment there. I have pushed my actual management and technical responsibilities into 2-3 hours per day on average. That leaves 4-5 hours of a typical day for business-building. It’s not perfect but that’s what I have to work with for a couple months.

The report recommended that I systematize and document my lead conversion process and do more to “partner” with my customers or potential customers.

It is slowly dawning on me how I will do that. Stay tuned. I know I am going to have to do a lot of writing. Thankfully that comes relatively easily.

First LinkedIn Campaign - Results

I received a coupon for $50 to spend on an advertising campaign on LinkedIn. I decided to use this to test my first ad campaign.

I set up a simple “conversion” form via wufoo, stuck it on a single page with a tracking code on one of my empty domains, grabbed a couple photos of my team and wrote some simple, direct copy for their two-line ad format. I created 4 variations. 2 text variations and combined one with each image.

The purpose of this test was to see if I could generate targeted, interested traffic and what the cost would be to bring one of those visitors to my site. I did not put a lot of effort into actually converting customers once they were on my site and in retrospect, it really was kind of embarrassing what they came to look at.

The result: no conversions.

However, I did learn that people are interested in what I was advertising and would click through and that these clicks will cost me about $3.50 each from LinkedIn. Our best performing ad received 12 clicks on 10,953 impressions – a CTR (“click-through-rate”) of 0.110%.

At the conclusion of the campaign, I immediately started researching what was a reasonable CTR to expect. Apparently LinkedIn and Facebook are similar in that they produce lower CTRs than Google AdWords. I read that 0.025% is considered ok on LinkedIn, or at least enough for them to continue to run your ad. By way of contrast, apparently 1% is a decent CTR on AdWords. I feel pretty good about my 0.11% on LinkedIn then!

Many commenters on other forums expressed frustration with the low CTR and high CPC (“cost-per-click”) on LinkedIn but it clearly works for more business-oriented products and services selling at a higher price-point. Consumer goods and low sale-price items are probably not good candidates for LinkedIn advertising.

The product we are test marketing is a b2b professional service with the expected net value of a sale (after service delivery costs) around $3000. If we spent $350 to convert one customer, our model might still be viable.

All my landing page really did was ask 3 qualifying questions and then ask them to provide contact information. Without any supporting pages, branding, endorsements and no giveaways or low-commitment ways to stay in touch, it is not surprising that no one completed the form. Many customers might have wanted to “bookmark” us for later consideration and I provided no way to do that.

Anyway, before I launch another campaign that brings many possibly interested individuals to my landing page, I will try to improve the page/website to convert better.

First Post: Setting Up a Blog Again

I decided to launch a personal/professional blog on steventalcottsmith.com again. The last blog I had several years ago, I accidentally deleted during a botched recovery from a database crash. The only other time ever recall losing data in the last 20 years was when I accidentally deleted a CF card with some photos from my Spain/Morocco trip in 2002.

Anyway, the old blog contained a couple good posts, including one that made to the top of reddit back in 2006 – a story about when non-programmers end up writing software in the course of trying to build a business.

Nowadays there are a couple interesting things going on in my life that I want to share and that is my primary motivation for firing this up. By way of a quick update, in the last 18 months, I married a wonderful woman, moved to the Philippines, my wife gave birth to a handsome baby boy, I got back in shape, I found and hired some great software developers, and I won my first international customer. (from Sydney)

Now I am engaged in pivoting my business to a new model that will scale. Key to that is learning to generate leads and sales. I can sell. I sold real estate. I sold myself as a consultant many times. As an entrepreneur, I sold investors. Sales is not a problem.

Despite my confidence in my ability to negotiate and close, something has eluded me thus far. This thing stands between me and the business success I seek. The thing it has taken me several years to fully realize is that I have to master marketing.

In the past, I usually did just enough marketing to get by. Since my phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook, I would have to go out and hunt for customers when I got hungry. I guess I always hoped that I would partner with someone or hire someone who could make my phone ring and my inbox fill up with prospects.

Alas, that has not happened.

My modest success with marketing was with newconsearch, a now-idle project I launched during the Florida real estate construction boom of the naughty-aughtys. I used email marketing to good effect before both spam filters and a turn in the real estate market crushed my business model.

Now I once again have a business and service to sell. However, it needs customers or it will just smolder without ever catching fire. I must move from hunter-gatherer to cultivator of the land. (Metaphorically speaking of course, although I do fancy playing gentleman farmer from time to time.) Cultivation is where real surplus is to be found. Hunting and gathering can in the right environment sustain you but it cannot provide security and it cannot generate the capital needed for larger projects.

The fields I will till are the social networks, the blogs, the PPC campaigns, the newsletters, the zero-moment-of-truth the branding, the whole thing.

For now, this blog will chronicle my experiences in general and my specific lessons learned with this transition. It may also contain personal anecdotes or technical posts as I see fit. Enjoy.