This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.
A couple of weeks ago, I put together a post exploring the blog growth conundrum. If you read that post, you might remember that I concluded that when your growth slows, you might need to look inside your own wallet for the answer.
Now that can be quite confronting, so I wanted to share with you the story of one of the initiatives we’ve started over at dPS to help ensure that the growth curve of that blog keeps pointing in the right direction.
It will hopefully show that while investment is needed to grow your blog, it doesn’t need to be as daunting as perhaps I portrayed in the first article.
The big idea
For the last few years, Darren has run a Christmas countdown on dPS, and it’s a model we’re all getting familiar with. He offers 12 deals for 12 days in the lead-up to Christmas.
The first year Darren ran it all on his own, but in the second he asked for some help, and the results are well documented here.
Given the commercial success of the campaign, we spent many an evening exploring ways we could deliver even a fraction of those results across the year.
The challenges we had around the idea were pretty common.
- Time: We are both pretty busy people.
- List burn: The 1 million+ dPS subscriber list is an asset you don’t want to burn out with a deal overload.
- Enough deals: We wondered if there would be enough photography deals to offer throughout the year.
For six months we talked on and off about the idea of offering ongoing deals for dPS. We decided that we’d run longer deals starting at one a month, then build to a deal every two weeks, and go from there.
This solved the time problem as well as the deals concern, as we would only need 12 to cover the whole year.
We then decided that we’d feature the deals in the dPS newsletter, ensuring they got exposure to the wider audience without creating too much noise, and at the same time we’d build a specific deals list what wouldn’t suffer the same effects of list fatigue.
While these decisions were great, getting to this point did involve a lot of talking, not a lot of doing!
…that was, until we had a name
Darren send me an instant message, a suggestion for what we could call that “deals site”
we’d been talking about. I don’t even remember what it was, but I do remember that I said it was terrible!
Thankfully, the name didn’t go ahead, but it did kick off a three- or four-hour naming session. Then, out of the blue, Darren came out with SnapnDeals—and we were both immediately sold.
“Snapn” had both a photographic undertone as well as a “grab it while you can” sentiment. And deals? Well that just means deals!
Domains were registered and excitement built
It was strange how almost immediately, once we had a name, the project became much more real. We stopped talking about the theoretical “deals site,” and started talking about the SnapnDeals launch. With a target launch date locked in, it was time to build the thing.
We wanted to start small, test it, and build from that momentum, so we agreed on a shippable minimum viable product from day 1. Having settled on a premium WordPress deals theme that we modified slightly to suit our needs, the site was all set up in a weekend, and cost less than the registration of the domains.
As it was built with WordPress, we were intimately familiar with the CMS, and we were able to leverage the wonderful hosting on thesis.
Knowing that web best practice is hard to achieve when you’re building a minimum viable product, we accepted that on day 1:
- The design wouldn’t be great. unfortunately, it doesn’t appeal to a photographer’s sense of creativity.
- There wasn’t a mobile version of the site.
- The list opt-in form was far from optimal.
There was also much more we’d love the site to do. However, we could have spent 12 months and risked thousands of dollars getting all that right. Or, we decided, we could go from deciding a name on Friday, to being ready to launch on Monday.
So we copped those weaknesses on the chin and decide to launch the site as it was.
There was only one problem: we didn’t have any deals.
Reaching out for deals
We had established a good network of product providers thought our 12 days campaigns, as well as affiliate programs we’d run on dPS over the years. So we set up a target list of 20 contacts, and send them all an email.
I wasn’t quite ready for the response. All 20 responded and all 20 were eager to jump on board!
Suffice it to say, deals were not going to be a problem. We very quickly changed our one-a-month plan to oneevery-two-weeks, with deals queued up until the end of the year.
Launching the site
Both Darren and myself are pretty well drilled in launching new products, so it wasn’t hard to come up with the plan. The only specific SnapnDeals aspect to the plan was that we started with a dPS product to ensure that the community were familiar with the deal being offered to them on the new site.
We spent the evening launching the new site, and creating an avalanche of interest … only to be outdone by an earthquake in Melbourne that very night. Yet within minutes we saw sales coming through, which is always cause for relief, and the site has continued to grow every week since.
The results to date
The results have been quite solid and building as every month passes. In only a few months, the site was already pushing six digits in sales, and the profit is looking quite healthy too. With the 12 days of Christmas just around the corner, it’s likely to get a nice jolt as that crazy campaign kicks in.
Importantly, the revenue is incremental to dPS—we aren’t simply taking sales away from dPS and putting them into SnapnDeals; we’re building on top of an existing base.
Finally, we’re now able to offer great deals to the dPS audience on they stuff they love, in a way they wish to receive them. The site has a bright future.
The lessons learnt
While there are always many lessons you’ll learn with each and every product launch, there are five that stood out in my mind about this launch. I’m hoping that they’ll help you in your product creation endeavors.
- Talk and planning is great, but it will never deliver you a dime unless to do something about it.
- That which has a name, becomes immediately more real.
- The challenges you face in creating a product should be tackled, not run from.
- Focus on your minimum viable product, or you’ll never go live.
- Give yourself a target to aim at—set a launch date and deliver.
So that’s the story of how SnapnDeals came to be. I’d love to hear about your own stories about creating your products and growing your blog to the next level. Please do share some of the challenges and lessons you learnt in building a product all of your own.
Stay tuned for more posts by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand. Follow the Web Marketing Ninja on Twitter.