January update on my 2015 goals

After a great year in 2014, I came up with 4 fairly ambitious goals for 2015.

  1. Turn WP Curve into a $2m annual business
  2. Start a physical brewery on the Gold Coast
  3. Build Helloify into a business growing by 10% month on month by the end of the year
  4. Release another best selling book and earn $50,000 from my personal content.

Related: 2014 results and 2015 goals

Here is an update on how things are progressing after 1 month.

WP Curve

Goal: $2m in annual run rate by the end of the year ($166,667 / month)

curve

WP Curve has navigated the tricky months of December and January well. We grew by 8% in both months and have grown from $52,328 revenue per month in November last year to $62,823 as of today (5 February 2015). Part of me was worried we wouldn’t grow at all during this time, so I am very happy with the results. Our current annual run rate is $753,867 USD which because of the Aussie dollar is incidentally very close to $1m AUD.

I am hopeful and confident that we will get to $1m in annual run rate ($83k / month) by June this year. Getting to $2m is a different story.

There are some fundamental things I think we will have to get on top of if we are a chance of getting to $2m.

Differentiation

We were the first to do unlimited monthly WordPress support but since we launched 19 months ago there has been a sea of competitors offering exactly the same thing. A lot of them will come and go, but some are big established, well funded companies so we will have to respond. One way we aim to do that is by further building our brand and investing in design.

Related: The 5 most likely reasons your design sucks

Improving customer satisfaction

We are on a constant mission to improve customer satisfaction. Our current happiness score (happy customer % minus unhappy customer %) is 81. I want this to be 95 and getting there is not easy. There are a lot of things that impact on the happiness of our customers. A few things we are currently include introducing a Quality Assurance process (developers checking each other’s work), and changing the way we prioritise certain tickets. Most of the things we are doing in this list, will have some sort of an impact on customer happiness.

Improving customer retention

Our growth has always been good, but we have room to improve on customer retention. Increasing happiness will help this but it’s not the only factor. We are going to experiment with a bunch of things to help improve this. The main one for me is improving service quality, but there are other things we will try to get on top of churn.

Related: The ultimate guide to understanding and improving customer retention

Figuring out hiring

So far we have done a good job at hiring in the Asia timezone. However hiring in the US timezone has been more difficult. We have made some strides already towards this, and we now hire people in 7 different countries. Still, hiring in the US timezone is an ongoing challenge that might take us a while to fully figure out.

Related: Our exact process for hiring developers

Team performance

There is no doubt that we will need to continue to improve the performance of the team. This is going to impact on service quality and customer happiness, staff happiness and retention and our ability to attract new team members. This is a big process that we are currently working through that includes things like staff member of the month, daily leaderboards etc. Alex has taken the lead on this and is working with Julie to implement what we can now and gradually implement more as we are ready.

A more advanced system

We are outgrowing a pure help desk system. It’s not unexpected and we have planned for it, however building our own has taken longer than I hoped. What we are building is our own system that will sit on top of our help system, Help Scout. We will still use the Help Scout platform, but our own system will enable us to do things that Help Scout doesn’t. These are things like a QA process where developers can check their own work and changing the way we prioritize tickets.

I have at least 20 different ideas for this system around how we can build it out to help improve customer happiness and I’m aching to get them all live.

But again it’s going to take time. Phase 1 will be a simple system that supports QA and basic prioritization of jobs. That should be live next week. The more advanced features will be implemented gradually in the coming months. We now have a full time systems developer which was really holding us up to getting this live.

Our goal of $2m annually is extremely ambitious. If we hit $1m in June it’s effectively doubling the business in 6 months. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible but it will be a big challenge.

Black Hops Brewing

Goal: Start a physical brewery on the Gold Coast

blackhops

It’s been a fun start to 2015 for Black Hops. We’ve continued with our pilot batches and we’ve locked in a few exciting things for the first part of 2015.

Related: Lessons learnt brewing 10 pilot batches of craft beer

The 2 main thing we are focusing on are 2 big brewing events.

Brewsvegas

Brewsvegas is a festival in our local city Brisbane that focused on local craft beer. We have locked a bunch of different events where we will be brewing one off kegs of some of our beer. The events will be fun and another opportunity to build our brand in the community. The pilot batches we’ve brewed have helped us decide what to brew for these events and we are confident we will come up with some unique and great tasting beers.

The festival is in  March and planning for it, has taken a significant amount of our energy so far this year. We will be announcing what we are brewing and the events we are participating in via the Black Hops Brewing blog soon.

GABS Festival

The GABS Festival (Great Australasian Beer Spectacular) is the biggest craft beer event in Australia. It brings together all of the main players in the craft beer industry and offers the public a chance to sample their latest creation, brewed specifically for the festival. Some of Australia’s most respected up and coming brewers have made a name for themselves by beers released at GABS.

We are really excited about doing a beer for the festival this year. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what we are brewing as it isn’t finalized yet. But I can promise whatever we do, will be extremely unique!

GABS is on in May in Melbourne and Sydney. We will be going down to the Melbourne event at least.

Our next commercial batch

We have been focusing all of our efforts on these 2 events so we haven’t yet committed to another commercial brew. Our previous batch of Eggnog Stout is just about gone and we are definitely keen to do some more soon. Once Brewsvegas is out of the way, we will lock down a date for doing our next batch. It will either be another run of Eggnog Stout or one of our more interesting pilot batches.

Physical brewery

In all honesty we aren’t really any closer to having a physical brewery on the Gold Coast. There is a major hurdle for that and that is money. We don’t have the money ourselves, nor do we have much knowledge of getting funding for this sort of thing. Equity based crowd funding isn’t legal in Australia so I don’t think crowd funding is a great option. I’m super keen to talk to anyone who’s got experience in this and might be able to point us in the right direction.

Having a physical brewery in 2015 is a very ambitious goal. If we aren’t able to do it, we hope we will at least have a lot more commercial beers on the market. But still, the ultimate goal is to have our own spot.

If you want to keep up to date with what we are doing with Black Hops, you can jump on our weekly email via the blog.

Helloify

Goal: Build Helloify into a business growing by 10% month on month by the end of the year

helloify

Helloify has also had a good start to the year. We rushed to launch the product in December as we knew if we didn’t we’d be waiting till 2015. It wasn’t all smooth sailing but we managed to get quite a bit of coverage, some solid traffic and users.

We now have paying customers and active users growing on a week on week basis.

It’s still very early days though, so we aren’t really that much closer to knowing how this is going to go long term.

We have chosen 2 metrics to focus on:

  1. Week on week growth of people who have activated the code on their site (all users including free).
  2. Monthly recurring revenue.

To hit these targets we’ve made some major changes to the homepage design and copy and the onboarding process for new users.

It’s taken us a while but I’m pretty confident these changes are going to result in more people installing the chat widget on their site.

Here is a summary of the changes:

Site copy

We originally used the tagline ‘Business messaging reinvented’. This gave us something useful for the press when we launched but I suspect that the wording confused people. Helloify is essentially a live chat app, and I think we were doing too much by positioning it as a ‘messaging’ app. We have made some major changes to the copy on the site including:

  • New much simpler headline – The fastest & easiest way to chat with your website visitors.
  • New more descriptive subheading – Helloify is a simple website button that lets you message and chat live with your visitors. You can set it up for free in under 60 seconds, by adding 1 line of code to your site.
  • Removed some sections – The old site focused a lot on complex features like SMS and it had duplicate sections like having the devices section showing the mobile devices as well as a dedicated section just for the mobile app. The new site is much cleaner, simpler and anything that wasn’t contributing to encouraging people to add the code to their site, has been removed.
  • How it works section – We’ve added a clear description of what it is and how it works up the top.
  • Removing plans – We’ve removed the plans to a separate page and focused on getting people to add the code.

Site design

The site design is also simplified. We made the screenshot of Helloify less complex (removed some team members), removed some key elements like the mobile screenshot, added more white space before and after headings and generally there is less on the page. I think it looks much nicer and more balanced and will hopefully let people focus on the action we want them to take.

New onboarding process

We made a huge change to the way we onboard users. This had 3 big implications.

First of all we moved away from a dedicated registration page and instead, we are letting people generate their code first, before they even sign up.

So the sign up flow used to be Sign up, Generate code, install code on your site, then log in and use it.

The sign up flow is now Generate code, Install code on your site and the remainder of the registration and configuration process happens directly on your website. If you don’t complete this process, Helloify still acts as a contact button on your site so to us you are still using it, and your visitors will still see our branding on your site.

We now have a dedicated installation page, where you can generate your code and you are given clear instructions on how to install it.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 1.06.22 pm

I’m hopeful this has a big impact on registrations, but we just launched it this morning so time will tell.

We have also revised what happens when you get into the app itself with a new user tour.

helloify_tour

It’s still early days but the progress has been good. I’m hopeful over the next few months we’ll see a big boost in activations and a continuation in paid customer signups.

Books

Goal: Release another best selling book and earn $50,000 from my personal content. 

books

I’ve made some reasonable progress towards this goal. My first book, The 7 Day Startup is still selling 20-60 copies a day on Amazon. If that keeps up and I also continue to sell international translations, I will go close to achieving the $50,000 goal just from that book.

The problem is, I have no idea whether it keep up those sales. In fact, I suspect it won’t. So this goal was mainly put in place to fire me up to do another book in 2015.

That book is Content Machine, a book which I hope will be the most actionable book on content marketing available. Here is how it has progressed so far:

  • I purchased the domain contentmachine.com (it wasn’t cheap). I installed WordPress on it and put a basic landing page up there using ConvertPress. I’ve migrated my old landing page for The 7 Day Startup over there using OptimizePress and I’ve started working on the new landing page for Content Machine.
  • I’ve written 70% of the first draft of the book. 16,000 words so far. A good chunk of those were written late last year and I didn’t do much over the break. It’s very rough and it’s still a long way off being ready even for an editor to look at.
  • I’ve come up with a weekly challenge to go for the next 12 weeks, and I’ve launched a Facebook group where I’m running the challenges. So far we have over 600 members and we are  in week 2 of the challenge. Today’s challenge is about how much content you can create, and I’ve set myself a goal of writing 10,000 words in a normal work today. This post will get me over 10,000 words!
  • I’ve planned out interviews and resources for each chapter but I haven’t yet locked anything in.
  • I’ve started talking to Derek Murphy who is going to design the cover again for me.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. I don’t think the topic of Content Marketing is going to result in a book that sells like the last one did. But it’s something I’m passionate about and hopefully my process is unique enough to stand out.

How was your January?

To all in all it’s a cracking start to 2015. Let me know in the comments what you have done in January, and your goals for 2015.