A foray into growth marketing

6 months of startups

I’ve build a website; now what?

Over the past 6 months I’ve built 4 “startups”. Yes, they’re more products than companies at this point but we’ll come back to it. There are a lot of checklists out there for how to get this, but I want to throw my opinion into the ring.

4 Weeks to Launch is exhausting. I don’t recommend it to others, but hopefully through my repetition and experimentation you can skip to success right away. Wouldn’t that be nice. Let’s just say the “Lean Startup” feels slow compared to how I’ve been approaching it. All that being said, it’s difficult to keep going. It’s hard to keep focused and keep working towards a goal when it feels so far away. More on this in future posts.

So what does the process look like after doing it 4 times over? What trends are there? While I keep iterating on the process, it’s pretty straightforward from a high level:

  • Pick an idea. It doesn’t have to be good.
  • Pick tools. How are you going to build it really quickly?
  • Build it. This is most people either go slowly or just plan forever and never take action.
  • Deploy. Get it out in the world as quickly as possible.

This can be done with no technical skills. The part that’s missing? Users.

The product for Guitar String Box, which is an ecommerce store, is finished. The strings are shipping from China in the next few weeks and I’m going to start focusing on marketing now. Check out guitarstringbox.com and let me know what you think. More importantly if you know anyone who plays guitar, sent it to them and shoot me an email to get 20% off.

User acquisition and strategy

User acquisition is something that I know about but haven’t ever focused on but is obviously essential for any business. You need customers. I talked with a friend of mine who has built a few different passive income businesses before and got her take on marketing. She’s monetized Instagram accounts and hacked her way to the front page of reddit before.

Her advice was simple, but actionable:

  • Define your users and user segments
  • Brainstorm as many different acquisition channels as possible
  • Prioritize your list based on how likely it is to work. (Will work, maybe work, might work)
  • Prioritize list based on how expensive it is to test
  • Test a few channels per week
  • Once you find 3 that work, reinvest in those channels

Now that the ecommerce store is finished (more or less) this is what I’ve started to do. I’m tempted to spend more time on the website making it look prettier, but I don’t want to distract from getting users. Everything I’m going to focus on now is going to be getting users.

The best place to start is with friends–can you get any of your friends to buy what you’re selling? If you can’t get them to buy it, why not? Ask them to give you negative feedback. People typically try to be nice to their friends, but if you ask for them to critique your product you’re more likely to figure out why they wouldn’t buy.

How do you keep yourself motivated? Let me know by email, reply/comment, or phone.

How to Build a Box Subscription Site in 1 Day

Learning a new skill = bad

Building an ecommerce subscription store has been surprisingly difficult. For the past 2 weeks I’ve been working with a new framework Moltin, building a custom store. This affords me far more customization and scalability than any other method but it comes at a price–it’s slow, complex, and the fact that Moltin is an early stage startup doesn’t help. I’ve found over half a dozen bugs and missing documentation, further slowing down development.

I thought that Moltin was the right choice for my subscription store. What I realized was that learning a new skill is actually bad, at least at times. The flexibility that I desired actually made things more complex and frustrating. When you need to get something done, stick with what you know and don’t try to learn.

Solve the problem you have today

Moltin was also the wrong choice because I focused on “the future” instead of “the now”. If Guitar String Box blows up and needs to be really scalable, sure, Moltin is probably better than other solutions. But that solves a problem I may never have, and creates problems right now. Solve the problem that you have now when in the validation phase of building a business. You can deal with the future when you have paying customers, not before.

Rely on what you already know works

I scrapped my site and went back to the drawing board. What would be the fastest solution that would work? Both Squarespace and Shopify are good platforms for building stores, but neither natively support subscription products. The plugins that let you set up subscriptions suck because customers have to go through extra checkout steps. Not good.

WordPress comprises 26% of the internet. WooCommerce (biggest ecommerce plugin for WordPress) has over 2 million installs in the internet. Ok, that works. Let’s use that.

Leverage your strengths, don’t improve your weaknesses (when focused for speed)

WordPress also has the added benefit of being easy to work with and something I’ve spent a lot of time learning when just starting out. I spent 2 weeks trying to get Moltin to work and had a half finished product. 2 hours into WordPress setup I had my entire store built. Subscriptions, products, dynamic pricing, everything I wanted. By leveraging skills I already had I went from 2 weeks to 2 hours. I’ll never make that mistake again.

Tools Used

  • WordPress
  • WooCommerce
  • WooCommerce Subscriptions
  • Storefront WordPress Theme
  • Storefront WordPress Child Theme (for customizations)
  • Some basic customizations to the theme to make it not look crappy

When to Learn, When to Do

Learning new tools is fun but it doesn’t get you results fast. I didn’t start building Guitar String Box with my goal clearly in mind. If the primary goal is to learn, fine, then focus on that. But if your primary goal is to get build a business or get something done, then focus on that and use what you already know.

Don’t make work harder for yourself by learning new tools and building for scale. You can deal with that later when you need to. Right now you need to get users. Focus on complete, not perfect.

Next steps

The next steps for Guitar String Box are to design the website, setup secure checkout, and get the products! The Chinese factory that’s giving us the strings should be able to ship them in 2 weeks! I’ll post pics once I have samples in hand.

I’ve been working on 4 Weeks to Launch for 6 months. So far I have 2 failed products, 1 awaiting app store approvals, and 1 in progress. Once Guitar String Box is completed I’m going to teach myself the final piece of the puzzle, getting users! Here’s the

  • ✅ Idea selection
  • ✅ building the product
  • ✅ staying focused
  • ✅ optimizing for results/speed
  • ⬜️ getting users/revenue

Question: What do you need most help with? Idea selection, staying focused, building the product, or getting users/revenue. Let me know by email, reply/comment, or phone.

Startup 4: Week 1 – Building an ecommerce business from scratch in a month

Startup #3 Update

Last month’s startup, Extreme Vacation Deals, is submitted to the App and Play Stores and waiting final approval! Make sure to download it at extremevacationdeals.com once it’s live.

Goals Update

The goal of 4 Weeks to Launch is to make passive income. I haven’t made any yet. That’s a problem.

The first step, I thought, was to be disciplined at building products. And fast. I couldn’t generate revenue without something to sell.

This time around I’m going to shake things up. While I will still be building a new product, I’ll also focus on marketing and user acquisition (my old nemesis).

You can make money with marketing and no product, but you can’t make money from a product with no marketing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve built the best app in the world if no one knows about it! It’s like that tree in the forest thing…I think…

Without further ado, Startup #4.

Startup #4: Guitar String Box

Guitar String Box and it is a guitar string subscription service. Guitar strings delivered, every month.

I started this project awhile ago but haven’t focused on it until now. Online store subscription (whether digital or physical) is one of the best passive income models. A great example of this is Dollar Shave Club. If you haven’t heard of them before, they were bought for $1,000,000,000 (billion) and they’re f***ing great.

Subscription is great for passive income. Get a customer once, and then generate revenue over and over and over.

Getting the Goods

I also have a great deal for the guitar strings. A Chinese supplier is giving me the strings for free. Sounds too good to be true, but in reality it’s a good opportunity for the manufacturer. I have a friend who works with the Chinese supplier extensively already, so the strings a free add-on they’re offering. The factory also gets co-branded packaging and the potential for a lot more business in the future.

It’s amazing what you can get if you just ask. Worst case scenario you get a, ‘no’, best case scenario you get exactly what you want. Low risk, high reward.

Targeting to get the first 500 strings packages in from China next month. We’ll repackage and ship via USPS on the 1st of every month!

The landing page for pre-registration is live so sign up if you’re a guitarist or want to give guitar strings to someone as a gift.

This past week I’ve been working on building the ecommerce store.

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Building the Store

After a lot of research I found there aren’t many options to start a physical product subscription site. Cratejoy.com is the only option but it’s priced at $99/month and near impossible if you ever want to migrate away from them. I decided to build from scratch using a new startup’s API based ecommerce platform named Moltin. It’s more scalable and I have full control over everything. Hook up to their backend for inventory management and you’re good to go.

Moltin is a startup, and with startups come problems. Their team has been very supportive on their slack channel and my hope is that once I build one store, I will be able to quickly spin up other stores in the future. Invest now, rewards later.

As with all my projects, I try to keep things as bare bones as possible. I have 3 different products, light, medium and heavy gauge guitar strings. You can see the ecommerce store scaffolding here.

Guitar string subscription is a very simple service with a niche audience. I plan on marketing directly to this audience using social media ads, squeeze pages, retargeting, and email drip campaign. More on that in future weeks.

Enough writing. Time to get back to programming.

Question of the Week: Why do you want to make passive income? Let me know by email, reply/comment, or phone.

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