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Another month passes…
Many more bugs, many more issues, many more improvements and most importantly, many more new friends.
It is starting to feel like we are building a real marketplace startup.
Yes, a number of Entrepreneurs this month came to Virtual Valley, created an account, interacted with AND hired Virtual Assistants with ZERO interaction from myself or Zandro.
The feeling of helping Entrepreneurs AND Virtual Assistants through connection and software is wonderful, almost worth all of the bullsh*t that you have to go through as a solo startup founder 😉
Who This Post Will Help:
- Anyone about to launch their online business
- Anyone in the process of building an online marketplace/SAAS business
How To Read This Post:
- If you are a startup founder/internet business owner pressed for time, scan through the headings in the Table Of Contents below and review those relevant topics
- If you are a normal person or just like stories, then settle in and enjoy the roller coaster
Table Of Contents
Here is our famous Goal Pyramid, updated for Quarter 2 of 2016:
Wait a minute Tom, haven’t you changed some of your goals since last months update?
Yes, here is the Goal Pyramid from last months update:
And here is a summary of our 6 weekly metrics for the past 4 months:
You will note strong growth in:
MRR – We maintained the 12 paying customers from the month of February with an 80% churn and added 3 new paying customers in March which increased our revenue by $1,084 and 213 hours charged. We also increased our average hourly rate by $0.50 to $5.02.
Guest Content Spots – I outline EXACTLY how this was achieved in this podcast episode.
Twitter Following – And I outline EXACTLY how this was achieved in this podcast episode.
Though we were somewhat stagnant in:
Blog Subscribers – I am still yet to find a reliable and reproducible approach to building our email list of Entrepreneurs through this blog at the rate required, here is our daily subscriber growth over the past month:
Steady but uninspiring.
I have tried:
- In post content upgrades on blog
- Welcome Mat on blog
LeadDigits™ through podcast
And I believe that these methods are sufficient to hit our subscriber goals, the issue lies in the time required to create the content of sufficient value to incentivise Entrepreneurs to provide that all important permission asset, leave this with me.
Blog Comments – Partially down to lack of motivation and partly due to lack of measurable results, we have paused our blog commenting campaign.
Working Procedures – The increase in number of Working Procedures in January was down to the new processes we needed to formulate after launch, since then, just a couple of new processes have been required. As we bring on a Technical Cofounder and scale our offerring, I expect that further Working Procedures will be both formulated and documented.
And here are the Weekly Metrics we will be tracking moving forward into Quarter 2:
We have opted to replace tracking the number of Blog Comments with Hours Charged, as this will give us greater clarity on our progress towards Virtual Valley’s ultimate goal and reason for existing:
To give Entrepreneurs back 1 million hours of their time by 2018.
In other news, we have seen significant growth in monthly podcast downloads:
And are look to sustain this rate of growth to 25k downloads in Quarter 2 (in comparison to 11,086 in Q1) .
Three Key Learnings
1. Be Controversial
If you are struggling to gain traffic/exposure for your site, try taking a contrarian (yet un-offensive) viewpoint.
This is exactly what I did when suggesting a novel way to use Auto DM’s on Twitter in this guest blog post for Marketing Profs (402 Shares).
Which… let’s say… was not well received:
Which then stimulated a healthy discussion:
Some of these “hater’s” persevered through this in-personal direct messaging, only to receive further automation:
However, the lovely blog host Ann Handley, seems to understand this concept:
Do you think it’s a co-incidence that we experienced our largest % increase in Twitter following (9%) in the week this post was published?
2. WE NEED A TECHNICAL CO-FOUNDER
A couple of mornings ago, our application sent out an email to ALL of our Entrepreneurs with just the digit 1:
Now, I do not bring this up to apportion blame, I bring this up to highlight the fact that we do NOT have technical resources incentivised towards our vision, and are therefore likely to make significant mistakes such as the email above, this needs to change.
And this is why I have spent the majority of my time this month in search of a Technical Cofounder that will take on a significant amount of equity in the platform to provide a sufficient incentive AGAINST these types of technical blunders.
3. our user interface needs to improve
My experience with user interface is somewhat limited.
Which I believe is why when I asked our trusted advisor Stephen Fishburn (see Key People Section below) to have a nose around the platform, I received this avalanche of Skype feedback:
Since launching Virtual Valley, we have spent minimal time understanding the Entrepreneur user journey through the system and have therefore been blind to this type of feedback for the past 3 months since launch.
If we are to optimise this user flow to increase hours charged and therefore revenue, this needs to change.
Three Key People
ADAM Callow (FOUNDER OF EXPERT TRADES)
As part of our Guest Content Spots metric, I have been reaching out to other influencers that have a similar audience, one of these is a podcast that I am rather envious of:
If you enjoy listening to the 0-$4 Million podcast, I would highly recommend Startup Diary for MUCH better production quality and a similar level of honesty.
Adam and I connected on Skype and agree to a talk through our respective journeys on each others podcasts, here is my interview on Startup Diary:
And you can learn more about Adam and his story in his interview on 0-$4 Million here.
Don Sevcik (FOUNDER OF MATH CELEBRITY)
Don is one of our first Entrepreneurs here at Virtual Valley and also has great Facebook outreach skills:
It turns out that Don has significant experience in PHP and we connected about the Virtual Valley Technical CoFounder opportunity, which he agreed to be recorded for this podcast interview.
To bring perspective, imagine that the job you applied for didn’t say you had the role and wanted to share the fact that you had applied AND why you had applied with the whole internet, what would you say?
If you are as much as a legend as Don, you would say YES.
Stephen Fishburn (Founder Of GET WELL CITIES)
What happens when you cold email someone who could become a potential mentor/advisor?
I’m not 100% sure, but on this occasion a relationship has been formed that could see me travel 6757km to spend a week in Stephen’s Brooklyn apartment to build the specification for the next evolution of Virtual Valley during the month of April.
Now, this would not have happened if Stephen had not been so liberal with his extensive knowledge about startups, technology and concierge services, check out his startup Get Well Cities with the link above.
Three Key Tools
Here is an elegant model for human behaviour:
And the reason I use Typeform for ALL of my surveys, is that I believe it significantly increases the ability of the subject to act in the presence of a Trigger to take the required action.
So when I send a link to our Entrepreneurs requesting their feedback for potential testimonials, I simply send them a link to an embedded Typeform and this simple design increases the ability of the Entrepreneur to provide the information required.
Plus, they also like to share our content on social media:
As I strive to leverage the value of my time by handing over as much of the tasks within Virtual Valley to our team/computers, Zapier has been a key player.
Here are a couple of Zapier automations we have utilised over the past month:
Adding All Twitter Mentions To A Google Sheet
These Twitter Handles can then be simply added to our “Twitter Friends” list in Buzzsumo:
This enables easy and simple outreach to all of our Twitter Friends as and when required (e.g. to request shares for this blog post).
Auto Welcoming New Followers
And as we have seen above, that sometimes Twitter automation can lead to frustration with the Twitter purists and sometimes it can lead to building awesome relationships:
Daniela is a passionate entrepreneur building an eCommerce store with a MISSION, we are now business friends, all thanks to an automated Zapier Tweet.
Let’s keep it simple…
I used Ninja Outreach to reach out to Podcast hosts during the past 2 weeks and invested approximately 12 hours which resulted in the following 7 interviews being published:
- TEDx Speaker Tom Hunt Talks Using Virtual Assistants To Improve Productivity – Serious Startups
- Location Freedom Entrepreneur – Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do
- Tales From The Dragon’s Den – Industry Angel
- Tom Hunt Virtual Valley – Outlier On Air
- Increasing Your Strengths With Tom Hunt – The True Challenge
- Entering Dragon’s Den With Tom Hunt – University Of Young Entrepreneurs
- Interview With Virtual Valley Founder Tom Hunt – Startup Diary
With around 8 more interviews recorded and 10 booked. Furthermore, in true Virtual Valley style, the outreach process has now been fully outsourced to Zandro leaving me the task of simply turning up to the interviews and talking.
Three Key Focus Areas
1. Confirming TECHNICAL CO-FOUNDER & Advisor
Once we have our Technical CoFounder and Advisor positions finalised with people that understand the role, are incentivised to complete the role and have the ability to perform the role, I see our progress accelerating significantly.
I will no longer have to invest time in managing freelance developers and being fully responsible for our technology stack, which will leave me free to accelerate our marketing strategy from Phase 1 to Phase 2.
2. Prepare for transition from MArketing Phase 1
Though I wasn’t completely conscious of this strategy from Day 1, our marketing approach fits nicely into two different phases. Phase 1 focussing on setting a foundation of SEO, Content and Social Media exposure through guest blogging, our own blog, social media profiles and the podcast.
As expected, Phase 1 has produced a “trickle” of demand side customers (Entrepreneurs) and it will be the role of our Advisor, Technical CoFounder and myself to collate feedback from these initial customers and translate these into improvements to the platform.
Only then can we move onto Phase 2…
Which currently consists of 4 areas:
- Cold Email – As outlined in this podcast episode
- A Double Sided Referral Scheme – E.g. an existing Entrepreneur can invite a friend and if that friend hire’s a Virtual Assistant, both sides are awarded X number of free hours
- Experimentation With Facebook Ads – Though I’m sure this would take weeks of optimisation to reach a reasonable CPA, if achieved could prove to be an extremely scalable acquisition channel
- An Affiliate Program – To enable us to leverage on the relationships built with influencers over the past 4 months, we will collaborate on webinars which will offer value and will culminate in an offer with a revenue split between Virtual Valley and the affiliate
Phase 2 focusses on scaling an optimised Virtual Valley service based on the feedback of the customers from Phase 1.
3. Collate Feedback and improve product
As outlined above, once the Advisor and Technical CoFounder roles have been filled, we will work together to translate the feedback from our existing customers into an optimised offerring OR a completely new offering that would NOT be based on exchanging time for money, more to come in next months update…
Though our 32% growth on hours charged through the platform from February to March is promising, this only equates for 5.5 out of the estimated 3-400 full time Virtual Assistants we will need to be charging per month to reach our $4 million exit goal.
In order to achieve this we will need to make significant changes to the platform to ensure we are offerring the value necessary to attract AND sustain Entrepreneurs using the platform.
Therefore, by the next monthly update I expect our newly appointed Technical CoFounder will have transformed our platform and should be on our way to explosive growth as fueled by Phase 2 of the marketing strategy.
And finally I need a favour from you…
You know that one friend who is also talking about starting an online business? Let’s inspire them by using the social icons below to share this post.