TL;DR: This tutorial is about building a small, profitable website translator, from scratch and making it earning $5000 per month. This has nothing to do with multibillion unicorn startups, I’m just describing my experience. It’s about a useful, robust, and profitable tool that anyone can make.
It’s New York, June 2020, the epicenter of Covid-19 and George Floyd violence. People are getting tired of work from home, and the government’s financial help has run out… The stores are being looted, the police is being harassed, the peaceful business owners are beaten up and robbed. Sounds like a horror scenario from some kind of futuristic movie. But, it’s not. It’s our current life.
We’ve reached a new milestone in growth of ConveyThis and penetrated $5,000 MRR mark. It was an exciting journey and the purpose of this article is to sit back and reflex on what has been done. It is helpful to analyze what has worked for us and what has not.
If you refer to the previous post we’ve published on $2,000 MRR back in January (https://www.conveythis.com/our-journey/how-i-grew-my-saas-company-from-0-to-2000-month/?locale=en), we spoke about what has worked well and what, unfortunately, hadn’t. What really didn’t work for us is paid advertising: Google Ads, to be specific.
We’ve pulled our stats on Google, and found out that cost of bringing a free subscriber from paid ads was $66 per user.
At this moment, I felt like:
That’s a lot of money if you think about that! The free user that doesn’t bring you any money, but taking up your resources and costs you $66!
What about paid users? I am glad you asked! When you develop a freemium product, what is ConveyThis, of course, you are stuck with a boatload of freeloaders and a tiny minority of paid users. Most users won’t pay. They just won’t. And on average 2-3% of free users will exceed their limits and they would upgrade to a paid plan. That’s all you can get. So, the Google Ads math with 3% conversion rate would look like: $66 / 0.03 = $2,200. That’s well above any feasible and plausible LTV that we’ve calculated. Can’t tell you that number though. No free food for competitors, hahaha! So, to get the paid ads to work, you need to raise the prices so high, that your LTV would exceed $2,200. But higher prices would lower the sign ups as fewer people would be able to afford that.
Another way to make paid ads to work, is to find a way to pay less per click. In the competitive landscape of English speaking US Internet, this is highly improbable. It is a bloodbath as more than 10 advertisers are fighting for the exposure, sometimes as high as 17. And this is not a limit as more and more desperate advertisers are trying to relocate online and find their luck by outbidding the incumbents. We were one of these folks and we were outbid. In the end of the day, we are not a huge firm yet, so we can’t wrestle with folks out of our league. We need to turn guerilla! I.e. set smaller targets and protect them. Just like real guerilla, they are mobile, strong at small scale and can’t be defeated by larger armies.
Thus, the first round of paid ads was lost and we had withdrawn our website from being promoted by Google Ads. At the same time, the released amount of time and energy has helped us to reposition our efforts toward other things: social media and foreign SEO.
Foreign SEO is a remarkable, underestimated thing. If English speaking US market is a bloodbath, there are blue oceans in other languages. For example, Germany has twice less competition. France – three times less competition. Russian, on the other hand, no competition at all! We were like: “Holy shit!”. This is not possible! But it is. People are fragmented and prefer to visit websites in their own language. So, why can’t we just use our own technology to promote ConveyThis in foreign languages? Thus, the idea of global expansion has begun. We have translated ConveyThis into Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Hindi and Portuguese languages. With German, French, Dutch, Swedish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean next. The goal is to attain a global exposure and translation of our own website is a cost effective way to do it.
First, we pre-translate all pages with automatic translator. It is a default option on ConveyThis. Then, we use our Glossary feature to exclude certain words from being translated. Then, we analyze the high trafficable content, and manually proofread the parts that customers are visiting the most. This especially for registration, checkout and dashboard pages. The end user should feel at ease when logging into user dashboard and everything should be impeccable in their own language. This is critical for longevity and re-use.
Another layer of foreign SEO is translation of email newsletters and email automations. We currently work with MailerLite and their cost-effective platform is a real deal. We started using them back in 2018 when our email list had zero users. Today, the list has exceeded 10,000 active subscribers and we are on a hefty monthly plan and keep going strong! MailerLite has a cool email automation sequence. When a user signs up, we can add them to this list and they will be receiving an array of automatic emails with various offers and tips: how to setup an account, what helpful videos to watch, what steps to do after that and so on. In addition, there is a way to further segment users into categories and segments. We broke it down into Free and Paid segments. In addition, there is a way to break it down into English and foreign segments. So you can email them automations in their own language. Pretty neat, right?
When it comes to price, we’ve launched another pretty cool trick. Just like JetBlue, we thought of moving into a low cost territory, but without sacrifice for quality and features. This is an attractive idea as lots of people shop for the price and stick with most cost effective options. The idea is not to rip off users for the short term, but to give them away a product at 50% discount and ensure their long term loyalty with high quality support and care. That’s what we did. Lowered prices in half and had the best month on record. Each paid user was getting a paid ConveyThis plan with a 50% discount. That’s a hard pill to swallow for our competitors who would be forced to match or suffer layoffs or both. This came from the playbook of “Marketing Warfare”. An amazing book if you care to read. We are a smaller firm by any count, $5,000 MRR is not a huge number to brag about, but I am documenting our journey to show that even in 2020, there is a way to start a company and succeed with it. We can’t be offensive nor defensive at the moment. It is a tool for market leaders and underdogs. We can only play in the smaller markets pretending to be guerilla quickly winning little battles at places where we have two to one advantage.
Social Media growth. Facebook is growing. So does YouTube and Twitter. LinkedIn is still relevant, so is Medium. There are lots of fabulous places where users are hanging out besides Google search. It is a great idea to tap into these networks and play by their rules to spread the message across.
So, I felt like this is it! One punch knockout!
But what kind of message would you spread there? If you come and say something like: “Hey, I have a tool that would help you to translate your website into multiple languages and get more customers”, people would look at it and won’t take action. This message won’t be spread virally like photos of George Floyd’s assassination and it won’t get any traction. Social networks are all about viral virility which boils down to content distribution. Social networks like relevant content that people care about: cats, dogs, politics, pandemics, horror news and so on. No one would care to read about your website translator. That’s just not what is part of human nature. Thus, to succeed in social, we had to brainstorm and come up with a powerful one two punch content marketing strategy.
We deployed our blog, and hired remote writers to produce quality content for the topics we deemed to be popular. Search for popular hashtags on Twitter or Medium to get an idea what people read and search for. The writers produce content and we distribute it on social networks where focal point is our blog. This resulted in our blog growing in popularity and readership by 50% in the last 3 months. This is a very encouraging news.
Youtube is another social network that is a bit apart from LinkedIn, Medium and Facebook. To succeed on YouTube, you need to understand how it selects the videos to be features as suggested videos or in trends. This requires producing something of very high quality and would capture users imagination and makes them mesmerized to the screen. Watch duration is a main factor and we haven’t been successful with that, unfortunately. In the end of the day, there is nothing mesmerizing in explaining how the language switcher works, even if you show naked girls (which we don’t, hahaha). However, we found a way to attract multiple Youtube bloggers to write reviews about ConveyThis and pandemics had a great catalyst for that when people stayed at home and they needed more side income to sustain. Youtube traffic brings us a steady referral source which is behind organic search, but still something to account for.
So, all in all, the growth has been steady and reminded me of rotating a heavy flywheel. There was no fabulous start. We haven’t won a lottery and wasn’t picked up by media as a darling technology. It’s been a systematic content distribution and outreach. We worked like athletes doing the heavy workout in order to spread the word. In the end of the day, the next target is $10,000 MRR. When do you think we will hit that?
Love you all guys ❤️
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