Update – Into Production for 80/20 Drummer, Testing Shoes From Taiwan

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Here’s a portrait of a conversion rate. It means my site it finally doing what it should – filtering out time-wasters and channeling potential buyers to the purchase page. This is over two days – 40 visitors to the main page, 9 continued to “about”, which describes the product in greater detail, a total of 7 either to Chapter Previews or Download Info, both of which quote the price for the first time, and finally one to Order. I’ve started saying “download now” instead of “pre order” because I want to make sure there’s no dropoff if people assume it’s available right now.

So I’m back to one hypothetical “order” per day, which means it’s into production. I’ve abandoned strict crowd funding for now, in favor of selling a self-produced first edition (which I’m honest about in the disclosure), and using some of the eventual proceeds to produce the final product.

Again I have to beg that no visitors to Breaking Ferriss visit the 80/20 Drummer site because I want to make sure all the page hits are “real”, not Breaking Ferriss readers browsing. Once I have product up live, I’ll invite everyone (all 3 or 4 of us;) to visit.

Here’s another pretty picture…

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Which hints at my next business move. Yes, we’re back to shoes. But not like before. We’re actually sourcing them from retailers in Taiwan, provided they’ll work with us. The text is copied verbatim from the French Sailor Shirts example in Four Hour Work Week, and the 2.00% Click Through rate is good.

Today I’ll be putting up the landing page for conversion testing – seeing what percentage of visitors actually click “purchase”, and I expect a lot of tweaks will be necessary. Shoes are a very specific thing – what if the size is wrong, or you don’t like the material once it arrives – requiring size guides and return/exchange policies. I plan to copy the content from other successful shoe sites more-or-less verbatim (I’m not talking plagiarism – I’ll paraphrase, but things like “60 day return policy” aren’t really intellectual property anyway), and use an existing Squarespace template for sales, changing as little as possible.

I may not be good at selling yet, and I may be a “sourcing virgin”, but one thing I know how to do is validate in a hurry. If I can’t get the landing page up in two hours, I’m doing something wrong.

That’s the update!

Thanks for reading,

Nate

Update – 80/20 Campaign, Day 2

At the risk of besieging my readers with updates, got another one.

These days, the readership of this blog consists of exactly the people who will eventually ask me about my business when they see me in person, so think of blog entries these few days as extended “status updates”, tailored to a small audience.

Some tweaks in my advertising have helped me zero in on where my traffic is coming from, and where my highest converting traffic is coming from, and it’s definitively from Youtube, and from the older videos on youtube. (I discovered this by archiving some older, lower-resolution videos in favor or newer ones and seeing the numbers drop.)

With that in mind, an interesting alternative strategy presents itself – “slow build” crowd-source. The answer to the question, “can I drive enough paid traffic to the site to pre-fund production of the videos within 60 days?” seems to be “no”. But I was getting almost enough free traffic to do it. Since free traffic is less predictable/scalable, limiting myself to the 60-day campaign Indiegogo and Fund Anything offer is problematic – if I don’t meet the funding goal they both take a 9% fee (though I’d still get 91% of whatever money I’d raised), and I’d have to promise to deliver the videos by a date certain. The rigidity of that timeline doesn’t allow for the flexibility of a “slow-build” SEO-based campaign. (SEO-based, in this case, referring to optimizing Youtube videos for popular search terms, like “how to play jazz drums”, and letting traffic build from there.)

What I can do, however, is revert to the Four Hour Work Week textbook method. Get pre-orders to fill out a contact form, build a mailing list, invest up-front to produce the video (fully tax-deductible), then email the people on the list that it’s complete, telling them they have two weeks to buy for their “pre order” price, before the price resets to the $80 price. It’s reasonable to assume only a percentage of those “orders” will actually send the money once the product is complete, but I can build that into the math, either after testing or by making an assumption. If 30% of people who “pre-ordered” at $29.99 actually buy, I can calculate the number I need to “sell” to cover my production.

Anyway, covering production costs 1:1 is the least important part of the equation, because it’s all about the traffic. If I’ve gotten enough “pre orders” to fund, theoretically, production, I’ve confirmed many times over sufficient web traffic of new customers to ensure an income stream. (I’ve also given consideration to things like market saturation – when everybody who needs a copy of The 80/20 Drummer already has one, and as the purveyors of Kaplan products will tell you, the beauty of a product geared toward assisting an application is there’s a constantly self-renewing stream of new customers.)

So that’s the plan for the forseeable future. Play Youtube like $4 ukelele (all “white hat”, of course – you know who you’re talking to), let the traffic build as it builds, and go into production whenever I have sufficient number of pre-orders to reassure me I’ll reach profitability. The other elegant thing is I can always transition to a third-party crowd-funding site if the traffic reaches a sufficient level.

More on youtube SEO strategies like “meta tag cloning” – which is way less sexy than it sounds – in future posts.

OOH – also, I heard what may be a great “pain point” for a Dane Maxwell-style customized software. Here at NYU I may well be sitting on a goldmine. First things first. Get the 80/20 Drummer to profitibility, then onward. Baby steps.

Crowd-Funding The 80/20 Drummer – Post One

First, a word of caution. As before, I have to entreat Breaking Ferriss readers not to visit the 80/20 Drummer site during this period, because one false “visit” could upset my metrics. Thanks!

Well I’m stymied.

After receiving 4 “pre orders” in 4 days for the 80/20 Drummer, I decided that to continue “dry testing” (that’s advertising a hypothetical product and seeing what percentage of visitors to your site click “buy now” to gauge how sales you’d have before investing in a product) without adding the last parameter – crowd funding – would be a waste of money.

Using the server logs, I was able to determine where each visitor who clicked “pre order now” came from, and it was a surprise. Facebook ads? Google adwords? Nope. Two of the four came from Youtube, one from Craigslist (which means he/she was interested in in-person lessons, but decided to order the videos instead), and the fourth from google – not from paid advertising but from a natural search. There are two sides to that coin. The good news is that I’m getting free traffic to my site that’s converting (going from “visitor” to “customer”) really well, which means I may be able to save on advertising. The downside is, unlike paid advertising, I can’t control the volume of traffic (by, for instance, doubling my ad budget for twice as many visitors on Adwords).

Still, I needed to “jump in” to crowd-funding, and I conquered my initial fears of asking people to crowd-fund the 80/20 Drummer by putting myself in the shoes of a Breaking Ferriss reader. “What’s the minimum effective dose?”

Obviously, campaigns on Indiegogo and Fund Anything are 60 days in length. At the pace of one “order” per day, I could almost make my goal in 60 days, but first I need to test if a visitor learning “pre order” means crowd-fund changes conversion rates at all. My fear is someone will see “crowd fund” and be like “waaaaaaait a minute – your video isn’t even made yet?” As usual, I’m doing two things. First, I’m being completely transparent.

Here’s the crowd-fund landing page.

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The page explains that when potential customers click to continue, they’re going to be redirected to a third-party funding site. I felt that would be less jarring than linking directly to Indiegogo from the “buy now” button on the main page. Personally, I’d far rather somebody leveled with me, and I the only site I can create as a “first draft” (before I market test it) is the one that would be most likely to make me buy.

Crowd funding typically sets a funding goal (mine will be $2000) and awards “premiums” to people who “donate”. As the text explains, my “premium” will simply be a steeply discounted copy of the 80/20 Drummer. As such, it’s more strictly a “pre order” than it’s a donation, since the buyer will receive the product he purchased – at a discount – he just has to wait a few months.

If you’re thinking “wait – how do you know somebody will pay $80 for the completed product?” you’re thinking the right thing. I plan to do an actual price-test soon. The price range for drum DVDs is all over the map, and many done for pure entertainment purposes actually sell for around $30 all-in. The 80/20 Drummer is different in two ways – first, it’s longer – more like five actual private lessons chocked full of material somebody could continue to work on for years (I know because I’m still working on it), and second, it includes an e-book with transcriptions of the exercises. Heh heh I feel like I’m writing copy for the site…

To return to my Macro-Point, above I said “I’m doing two things, first…”

So here’s the second thing I’m doing. Dry-testing how “crowd source” affects the conversions. Will 100% of visitors who clicked “pre order” click “continue” after learning they’re going to Indiegogo to crowd fund the project? Probably not. I suspect that after a couple of days I’ll have a pretty good picture of the “falloff”. If it’s 75% that continues to crowd fund me, that’s pretty good, and I’ll be reasonably confident launching a real campaign. If it’s lower, like 25%, or – horrors – 0%, I might have to take a different approach.

Remember, crowd-funding is just one idea I’m playing with. Another is the much simpler Tim Ferriss model of simply confirming the demand, investing up-front in video production, and making my money back with actual orders (at the highest price point, not at $29.99). We’ll get further into that, and why if you’ve got some liquidity the tax laws make such a minimal investment pretty “win win”, if crowd-funding turns out not to be viable.

Also, I need to figure out how to increase my free traffic.

Back soon with more. I do it for the readers;)

It’s On – Three Hypothetical “Sales” for The 80/20 Drummer

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Monday morning, and good news. According to my stats page on Squarespace, I’ve had three clicks on the page called “pre order” in the last 3 days. That’s a page you only reach if you click “buy now for $29.99”. I’m beyond psyched, especially after wondering if the method of using paid advertising was even viable. I now need to figure out for-sure where the traffic is coming from (I have a pretty good idea), see if it scales (for instance if I spend 10x on advertising if I’ll get 10 clicks-per-day instead of 1), and do it.

To review, my hairbrained idea was to use the crowd-funding model to fund the production of the 80/20 Drummer – being completely transparent to the buyers, telling them that by “pre-ordering” they’re getting a sharp savings on the eventual price – to the tune of about $1500 (the estimated production costs), which would require 69 pre-orders at $29.99 and a bit extra to cover the advertising retrospectively. I plan to use a crowd-funding site like Indiegogo or FundAnything, to side-step any legal issues involved with accepting credit card payments personally. Again, the idea being that any musician can duplicate my “success” with zero investment up-front.

Here’s how the numbers look. 74 views in the last 3 days and 3 “buys” is a conversion rate of about 4.05%, which is actually excellent. I suspect that’s going to tick up, because my suspicion is most all of the traffic is coming from Google Adwords. (Facebook advertising, it turns out, is great for getting page “likes”, and traffic perusing your site, but not great for conversions. Who’s ready to buy a drum DVD? Somebody who’s googled “drum lessons”.) At any rate, my Adwords budget is currently $5-a-day, so that’s $24.99 hypothetical profit-per-customer. What will happen if I up my ad budget to $50? We’ll see.

Back soon, with more news.

Feeling Good – Inflection Points – Staying Grounded

That’s what everybody wants, right? Abstraction? What can I say? I’m reading a lot of Murakami these days.

Well I’m again at the end of a “phase”. When last I wrote, I was market testing the 80/20 Drummer (please don’t google it or visit my site, because I need my analytics to reflect “real” traffic), and had generated good traffic to my site, but no “sales”. Reasoning that I just needed a better landing page, I went into serious production mode, generating demo videos. Below are four of my favorites, and you’ll see what I mean about this taking time-

Each required me to rough out a script, quickly “teach” myself the demo beats (not always easy), film the whole thing, then upload the whole jones to Final Cut and do my thing. I’m happy to say they’re all on the landing page – four previews like those above for four of the five chapters, and the conversion testing has begun again. This time I’m advertising both on Facebook and Google Adwords.

Adwords you say?!?

Yup. I’m revisiting Adwords after almost six months, because some of the lessons I’ve learned on Facebook are applicable. Geographic and demographic targetting. Longtail keywords. (I’ve been chided for not explaining things fully enough, so let me say that “drum lessons jazz school grad NYC” is a Longtail Keyword, whereas “drum lessons” is not. The former is lightly searched but cheap to advertise to, the latter is the opposite.

Another thing I’m going to be doing in this and future posts, on the advice of friends, is providing context. I started this blog after reading Four Hour Workweek, to catalog my experiments applying the author’s advice in real life. The premise is creating a low-risk, low-initial-investment side business to provide financial flexibility (freeing up money), using efficiency and focus tricks to minimize time wasted on unproductive things (freeing up time), then living life with a focus on what fulfills me instead of how many more years of this s@#$ can I take before retirement or how come Bob got the corner office? Efforts I’ve made toward financial freedom – the 80/20 Drummer, a concept drum DVD I want to create and sell as a video download with accompanying e-book and musical tracks, Smart Getaways for Couples (feel free to visit that one – the traffic is high enough that Breaking Ferriss readers won’t upset the metrics much), and the forthcoming Smart Asia Getaways.

So, 80/20 drummer is back to testing mode, and I’ll continue to apply minor tweaks to the marketing until I’ve either validated it or ruled it out as a quick route and “back-burnered” it to build an audience slowly.

Smart Getaways is a niche site, although it’s principally just a comprehensive travel diary/tip farm. The idea there is you decide what people are searching for on the web and throw up attractive content, generate traffic that’s valuable to advertisers, then charge them for access to your audience. It’s waaaaaay more art than science, and I can now say with confidence that choosing a topic you’d write about for free, writing the hell out of it (SGFC is at 79 posts now), marketing it person-to-person by guest posting on related blogs, and letting the chips fall where-they-may is the way this works in reality. The sites I created solely based on keywords have so far failed to garner any attention.

Oh – and 80/20 Creative LLC earned its first dollar last month. From Adsense. And it was almost exactly a dollar. A dollar-forty-three to be precise. Somehow my “first dollar” isn’t exactly as I pictured it;) But the good news is since I “back burnered” it to deal with 80/20 Drummer, Smart Getaways has continued to climb in the rankings, and is now ranking for a portfolio of long tail keywords, resulting in up to a thousand impressions-a-day, and a modest 20-30 clicks. I hope that continues to climb, and I certainly plan to continue traveling and writing about it. Also, Adsense isn’t my “be-all-end-all” monetization strategy. Affiliate deals probably will be, if I ever have enough traffic to make it worth an advertiser’s while.

I’m also reaping fringe benefits of the websites and 80/20 Drummer videos. When I needed to attract some drum students to fund some travel ventures, I already had the architecture in place.

Finally, I’d like to use this platform to shout out my buddy Alex, who’s using SEO and web commerce in exactly the right way to promote his own product – jazz for weddings. A link for you, sir, with anchor-text.

And the more I dig, the more musician buddies I discover already killing it in various ways with e-commerce. A friend building his own drum studio answered my query about the best places to find students with two sentences: Adwords, and Google Groups. Done and Done.

Ok – time to read some Murakami before bed.