Monday, November 29, 2010

Expedia Gets $12MM Overnight

Expedia analysts realised the site needed to be changed after investigating why many customers who clicked the 'Buy Now' button on the company's site did not complete the transaction.

"This is someone who was on our site, found the right location and hotel, put in all their billing and travel information and clicked the 'Buy Now' button," Megibow said.

"As far as leading indicators of purchase intent go, this is as good as it gets and yet we weren't taking the money."

Frankly speaking, this is a sad story. Company that has millions in revenue never analysed its key funnels - how stupid is that? $12MM per year.

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Black Friday: Free 1Password for Mac ((free, giveaway, mac, 1password, one day, sale, black, friday))

People, I'm running my mini-version of Black Friday because I have got a couple of licenses for 1Password for Mac to share.    This is a limited time offer sponsored by Agile Web Solutions, the makers of 1Password, and might not last long, so better hurry up.  

So, if you would like to get the single license key for 1Password for Mac, absolutely FREE, let me know your first name, last name & email address, AND:
  1. You need to follow PlusRated on Twitter,
  2. Like us on Facebook,
  3. Register at PlusRated, make sure you've completed all three steps during registration and let me know 1 (only one) thing that we can do better to make PlusRated that product, that you'd happily use and tell all your friends about.

That's it.  As long as I still have an ability to give a free license to you, I'll do that right away. So hurry up, it won't last long, because you are getting an awesome tool worth $39.95 just for FREE, no strings attached.  

Good luck!

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost

Xbox Serial Numbers

Between October 2003 and January 2005, the Xbox Linux Project asked all visitors to their website to enter their Xbox serial numbers, date and country of manufacture, ROM version, hard disk and DVD drive brand and other properties, and gathered more than 14,000 entries. The original idea was to find a rule to deduce the hard disk and DVD drive types in an Xbox by only looking at the serial number, which was visible through the unopened packaging.

This guy has spent a lot of time putting numbers together. And, frankly speaking, while I don't see much value in the findings (as one of the commenters pointed out: just go a talk to the Microsoft!), it's always exciting how numbers that are put in order can tell a story.

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost

Monday, November 22, 2010

Build Your Own Backup System on Linode

I have recently finished moving couple of our virtual servers instances from Slicehost to Linode, and I'm quite happy with them so far. Very flexible with their Web interface, decent support and about two times less expensive than Slicehost (which adds up pretty quickly if you run multiple instances). One more good thing is that you can actually build _your own_ backup subsystem using their API and allocated storage space, without paying anything extra (while you can still pay to use pre-built one :). E.g. here is a quick Ruby script that, run weekly, creates a copy of a disk. You need to keep enough of free space though, however, this wasn't an issue for me (I had about twice as much free for every instance).


require 'rubygems'

require 'linode'


api_key = 'SecretKeyGoesHere'

linode_id = 12345

disk_id = 67890

backup_disk_id = 0

backup_label = 'weekly'


l = =>; api_key)


# 1. Find the backup named 'XXX' and remove it first

result = l.linode.disk.list(:LinodeId => linode_id)

result.each do |i|

    backup_disk_id = i.diskid if i.label == backup_label


p "Backup disk named #{backup_label} # #{backup_disk_id}"


# 2. Remove old backup

remove_job = l.linode.disk.delete(:LinodeId => linode_id, :DiskId => backup_disk_id) if backup_disk_id != 0

p "Remove job status: #{remove_job}"


# 3. Duplicate disk

duplicate_job = l.linode.disk.duplicate(:LinodeId => linode_id, :DiskId => disk_id)

p "Duplicate job status: #{duplicate_job}"


# 4. Rename duplicated disk as 'XXX'

rename_job = l.linode.disk.update(:LinodeId => linode_id, :DiskId => duplicate_job.diskid, :Label => backup_label)

p "Rename job status: #{rename_job}"


P.S. I am so pissed off with broken markdown support at Posterous, that I am ready to give up and move my blog away from it.

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Three Lessons From Using Mechanical Turk


Lastly, we found that in order to get these fairly high quality numbers, we had to run the same gig with three workers.  I.e. have three workers categorize each dress.  We took the majority "vote" of the categories and found this to improve our quality significantly (as opposed to having just one worker do each gig).  $3 for a good categorization of 100 dresses is great!  Takeaways: run a gig 3 times, pay as little as possible, and be super clear in creating your gig.

Pretty interesting write up of using Amazon's Mechanical Turk for making people sort out some data, that is still expensive or too inaccurate to be sorted automatically.

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fundamentals of Startup Marketing

Articulate a Clear, Specific, Compelling Value Proposition

For many of the startups I looked at, I had to kind of scratch my head and think for a few minutes as I tried to figure out exactly what benefit they offered consumers. The value of your product or service, your unique competitive advantage, should be clear within 5 seconds of visiting your site. I’m sure you’ve heard the old copywriting mantra of “list benefits, not features”. Take that to the next level. Take the single most important benefit of using your service, and make that your headline.

Take the single most important benefit of using your service, and make that your headline.
If you could only have one feature in your app, what would it be? Your “killer app” can lead to your biggest benefit, and that’s how you need to introduce yourself to customers. I could write volumes about writing headlines, but a simple statement like this is a good place to start. Especially if you’re selling a B2B service, as many of you are, you need to make the immediate benefit or ROI of using your service crystal clear. If you’re building a B2B app to manage payroll, “Cloud hosted SaaS payroll for your business” is not a good headline. “Spend less time worrying about payroll” is a better one. “Cut payroll management costs by 37% instantly” is even better.

Find Your Target Market, and Segment the Hell out of Them

Another issue I ran across rather frequently is a distinct lack of marketing focus. When asked who their target market was, many people responded “small businesses” or, worse “anyone”. Alright, fine, you sell your SaaS products to small business in the US. But what kind of small business owner converts the best for you? Which customers are most likely to be profitable customers? Who is most excited about your product? You have been tracking these things, haven’t you?

You don’t have the budget to target all small businesses, so start with a specific niche or industry you think your product has particularly strong appeal for. Selling time tracking software? Start positioning as time tracking software for accountants, or dentists, or landscapers. How about targeting a specific task or feature and finding people looking for that feature only? Or what about people who already use a particular competitor’s software? I’ll go into competitor bidding at a later time, but it’s a fantastic way to get motivated early users.

Build super niche landing pages or, even better, microsites targeting each specific market segment you want to go after, emphasizing the specific benefits of your product to that group only. Not only is this a very strong SEO play, but it will increase your quality score and relevance in AdWords, as well as greatly increase conversions.

If you have a landing page targeted to doctors, test putting a stock photo of a smiling doctor using your software on your landing page. It’s cheesy, but there’s a reason companies use it- it works. Similarity is a very powerful principle of persuasion. Tech people respond well to screenshots of software. Local small business owners may not.

By the way, this applies to ecommerce startups as well. If you’re a clothing company build pages like “Top products for new moms” or “Tshirts for fans of __”, they will do very well.

Optimize Aggressively for CLV

If you’re running a subscription service of any kind, customer lifetime value(CLV) is by far the most important metric you need to be thinking about. More than conversion rates, burn rate, SEO, or anything else, CLV will determine whether your startup lives or dies. Try to determine this number, at least an average for your entire customer base, as soon as possible.

There are so many ways to increase CLV that fall outside the scope of this post, but just remember that effective monetization of the backend is where many online businesses live or die. Effectively upselling or cross-selling once you’ve acquired a customer could mean the difference between outbidding your competitors and capturing more market share or falling behind.

You don’t have to be spammy or annoying to upsell well. This can be as simple a showing a notification when your customer is close to reaching a usage limit, urging him to upgrade to the next tier of service, or emailing your most loyal customers with special discounts.

Start measuring engagement, churn rate and attrition, visit frequency, etc, loyalty and so on. If you’re selling a $20 a month service but you know that you will net $400 over the lifetime of an average customer, suddenly you have a lot more options for marketing, not to mention some great metrics to show investors.

Start Marketing Early and Validate Your Idea ASAP

You don’t need a product to start marketing. Let me say that again. You don’t need anything to start marketing. All you need is a vague idea and a landing page where you can collect email addresses from prospective customers. It’s called dry testing, and it works, at least for gauging initial interest to see if an idea is worth pushing further.

It pains me to see so many startups emailing me who have already spent months or even years building a product without thinking about promotion or validating their idea at all before launching. “Launch first, then figure out marketing” is a recipe for disaster. You need to be able to answer at least these questions as soon as possible, ideally before you write a single line of code:

  1. Is there a target market for my product and how big is it?
  2. Who are the current players in the market? Is it controlled by a few big players or dominated by many smaller companies?
  3. How much market share can I realistically expect to capture, and how well can I monetize them?

Remember this: A startup is a business. And any business requires basic market research. If you were thinking of opening a coffee shop, would you jump right in and start building it? Or would you first see if there are any other coffee shops nearby, how many customers they have, how much they charge for coffee, etc?

Remember this: A startup is a business.

Marketing isn’t just emailing bloggers and driving traffic. It’s everything- product, price, placement, and promotion. Start thinking about these things before you launch, learn from them, and iterate quickly before wasting a lot of time and money.

Very nice wrap of the most important point when marketing out your startup.

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost