Entrepreneur-ing in Public: Journey Log #10
Autopest + TikTok = 🤯
I teach entrepreneurship at Duke and I’m publicly growing a company — Autopest — from $0 to $100k/year in revenue in order to help entrepreneurs better understanding the process of building startups. Learn more about my journey here.
Spoiler alert: if you keep reading to the end of this issue, you’re going to get to watch me embarrass myself on TikTok for the sake of some marketing experiments. But, before we can get there, I wanted to share this week’s interesting entrepreneurial lesson…
When I launched Autopest, I hadn’t finished an important piece of functionality. I’m not going to waste your time explaining the functionality or why it matters — I know that’s not why you’re here. Let’s just leave it as “an important piece of functionality wasn’t finished when I launched.”
It was a difficult thing to do. The software engineer in me was equal parts frustrated and embarrassed at the thought of publicly releasing a piece of code I knew wasn’t working. However, the functionality was going to take a few weeks to build, and I was already months behind on my launch schedule. As a result, the entrepreneur in me convinced myself that I needed to forget about the wonky code and launch.
In retrospect, the entrepreneur in me was 100% right.
Finally, after three months — THREE MONTHS — someone just emailed to ask about the problematic feature. Plus, the question was more of a polite suggestion about how to improve Autopest while telling me how much he loved it!
In other words, the feature that had me to seriously wondering whether to delay the launch of my startup wasn’t important.
I’m sharing this story because, when I think back to my other startups (especially the early ones), I remember always delaying business decisions for the sake of product decisions. “We can’t try to make X sale without first finishing Y feature” or “We can’t pitch XYZ investor if our product can’t do such-and-such.”
Sure, those kinds of hesitancies would have been fine if I was building products that could kill someone when they malfunctioned, but that’s never been the case for any of my startups.
If the same is true for you — if you’re building something that can be improved over time — don’t worry about getting the product perfect on Day 1. Instead, worry about getting launched and trying to get users.
P.S. In case you’re curious, the missing feature was the ability to easily edit autopests using a text editor. By chance, the day before I received the email with the product suggestion, I actually finished the update and was just waiting until the weekend to push it live. I did that this past Sunday, meaning now you can edit your autopests. Hooray!
Thanks for reading about my journey growing Autopest from $0 to $100k/year in revenue. To keep following along, be sure to subscribe!
WEEKLY ACQUISITION METRICS:
Site Visitors: 383 uniques (-18%)
New Free Users: 24 (-31%)
Website Conversion Rate: 6.3%
New Paid Users: 0
AGGREGATE ACQUISITION METRICS:
Total Free Users: 480
Total Paid Users: 3
Total Revenue: $328
Total Costs: $30.90
Net Revenue: $297.10
WEEKLY USAGE METRICS:
Extension Installs: 9 (+13%)
Unique Senders: 7 (+17%)
As mentioned in last week’s issue, I’m weening myself off the generic pipeline of non-targeted traffic I’d been using to test the basic functionality of Autopest. As a result, stats are dropping, and they probably will be for a little while.
Now it’s time to drive real traffic, and that means marketing.
In the marketing world, we’ve got two options: inbound marketing and outbound marketing.
As the name suggests, inbound marketing means convincing prospective customers to come to you by putting content/ads into the world. Conversely, outbound marketing means actively reaching out to prospective customers.
As someone who spent nearly a decade running outbound marketing strategies, I’m inclined to go with what I know. However, considering Autopest’s low price point, it traditionally wouldn’t be a candidate for outbound marketing because the time cost of contacting enough people would almost surely be too high. That leaves me in a difficult position. I think I might be able to execute an outbound strategy, but it’ll require a killer email prospecting campaign, a huge email list, and a lot of creative efforts to avoid SPAM filters. Those things are all going to take time to setup, which means, for the sake of not having months of dull content, I’ve got to start testing inbound strategies.
Clearly, I like writing articles, and that’s a way of creating inbound interest. As a result, my initial idea for an inbound marketing strategy was to create Medium and LinkedIn articles teaching people how to send great emails. But then, the TikTok gods and their magical algorithm seemed to have guessed what I was thinking about, and I started getting flooded with TikToks of small businesses selling their products. “I can do that,” I thought to myself. (BTW, I probably can’t.) So that’s what I’m testing.
As of Monday evening, I’ve launched Autopest’s official TikTok account and posted the first video. As of this writing, the newly posted video has zero views, but you can help change that:
Embarrassing, right? Oh well… it’s a brave new world of marketing out there. I’m not sure if I’m ready for it, but, for the sake of a good lesson, I’m willing to try.
I’m committing to posting one video every day this week. I’ll report back on the results in next week’s issue. Wish me luck!