Path to 100 Customers – Month 4

Hurray! 2021! We made it! 

I won’t share with you my thoughts about the year 2020, because what’s the point? You don’t care what my opinion is…nor should you!

I’m sure we could all use a bit of a breather from the relentless news cycles and doom scrolling anyways. 

But, what I will share with you my dear reader, are some of the major and awesome updates on this nascent little company called Panda Copy.

First a confession: I know in the back of my mind I owed myself the time to write this blog post – but I never got around to doing it. 

Honestly? Panda Copy has been growing exponentially, and I’ve been thrilled with devoting my hours and energy to helping grow the team. Is that an excuse? No. But, here we are. As they say, “Better late than never.”

As a team we’ve learned a ton about growing this business.  Don’t let me sugar coat this – we’ve run into operational issues, HR issues, and client issues.  These roadblocks have been somewhat expected, and some have been totally unexpected. Such is life.

Let’s recap 2020. 

We launched in August 2020, and ended the month with 7 paying customers (Yes – most are STILL with us!).

Throughout September and October, we tested various initial trial offers to generate interest and signups to Panda Copy. 

This was invaluable for learnings on the marketing side, but horrible for our operation and writers. When we tested price points of $5, $15, $20 for 7 days, we attracted a decent sized crowd that submitted lots of extensive writing projects, were ‘never satisfied,’ and churned out before renewal time came one week later. 

The silver lining in this, the clients that signed up and saw the value in our offering, and have stuck around (thank you!)

In retrospect, this should have been expected. Conventional business wisdom always says to avoid chasing the bottom. 

Despite all of these hardships, we generated a few hundred dollars in profit between September and October. Literally, only a few hundred dollars. Definitely not a full (or part) time job, but the glimmer of hope that we were on to something was there. 

In reaction to the churn and types of customers, we attracted, November executed a completely different acquisition strategy. We decided to go upmarket and change the starting price to $999/mo, and subsequently ramped up spend. Big mistake. 

A few customers signed up, most canceled, and we lost our momentum with our advertising dollars. With the increase in spend, and lack of new customers feeding the top line, we took a substantial loss in November. 

This led to two very important discoveries:

  1. Customer expectations are drastically different at $999/mo vs. $499/mo. Without a trial price, we would have to expect to spend hundreds of dollars more per customer and hope to keep them much longer.
  2. We need an editing and QA process. Our writers are great at writing copy, but there’s a lot of “behind the scenes” efforts required to clean up, format, and schedule work. If we wanted to retain customers, we needed to get things more formalized.

Personally speaking, November was a punch in the gut for me as a business owner. To have a business start to catch a tiny bit of traction, then to lose that momentum is a killer to motivation and really does make you question if what you’re doing is the right thing. 

These are the days, weeks, and months that they don’t talk about in entrepreneurship books, and you never see these mentioned in speeches by successful founders talking about their unicorn babies. Not everything is a shiny star. 

We also dealt with a turnover on the writing team due to performance and reliability issues. Sometimes tough calls need to be made. These calls are never easy, but we ended November with a rock star writing team focused on teamwork, collaboration, and communication. 

December was the boost of energy the team (and I) needed.  

Towards the end of November, we changed our initial offers to $49 for our Essentials plan and $75 for our Professional plan. 

This higher entry price point has helped keep the extremely price-sensitive buyers out, but let us still speak and sell to the types of customers we love…successful marketing agencies, successful websites, and personal projects.  We also clearly articulated the differences in plans – which let buyers decide which plan was best for them, depending on the quantity of content needed. 

Thankfully, the reception was great, and the “flywheel” started to gain some serious momentum throughout December. 

We expanded our team significantly and managed to hire a rockstar full-time editor. We landed a couple pre-pays subscriptions, to take advantage of savings and commitment to our service. 

Operationally, we hit limits with our internal systems and way of doing things. So, quickly with the team’s help, we changed the way we scheduled projects, created specialized processes/rules for internal communication, and continuously implemented customer feedback. 

In summary, here is how we ended for the year: 

Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
# of NEW
Customers
9 18 21 10 14
# of Tickets 42 159 307 267 385
# of Pandas 4 4 7 5 7

In total, at the end of December, we ended with 36 paying customers, with a significant amount of churn happening with our September, October and November cohorts. 

This obviously is short of where I wanted to be, but we foundationally are building a great system poised for explosive growth in 2021. 

Here is what we have in store for the next few months:

  1. Dedicated Writing Plans – we just launched a dedicated offering. Currently, everyone on our team tackles projects based on their strengths. With our dedicated offering, we are hoping to provide a solution for the specific needs of specialized customers wanting consistency. 
  2. Team expansion! We are adding more editing and writing staff to the team as we continue to grow. The first quarter of the year is always the big season for marketing agencies, and we already have seen this hit Panda Copy.
  3. New advertising channels – Panda Copy is perfect for so many use cases and types of customers. We’re going to be significantly ramping up our activity with affiliate marketing.
  4. Product Improvements – Our intake and subscription platform is a patchwork of customizations to WordPress. We’ve heard from customers they want some specific functionality we simply cannot provide. We will be looking to create custom software to handle our specific needs. 

Moving forward, I will try to offer many more updates as time allows :). Looks like by this count we have another 64 customers to go!

 

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