9 Insights We Gained From 4 Months of Beta Testing

There’s a well-trodden path for developing a viable startup.

Come up with an idea, build an MVP, and do beta testing to catch bugs while making the startup better.

It’s simple right? One thing I’ve learned is that simple is NOT the same as easy. After four months and tons of beta testing lessons, we’ve officially ended our testing phase and have rolled out a product we’re proud of.

It wasn’t easy and we had a lot of sleepless nights. It was worth it because acquired a lot of insights into what our customers wanted from a solution like ours.

In this post, I’ll share some of the insights we learned from beta testing. I’ll also make the case for why everyone building a software enable startup (or any startup for that matter) should perform a round of beta testing.

1.  Some people are at different stages of familiarity with the internet

Going into our beta test, I was confident that people were familiar with the underlying use cases for the technology.

You make an opt-in form or quiz to capture leads, connect with your email marketing service, and promote. I knew we’d have to explain how to use our specific solution but we were prepared for that.

That’s not exactly what happened. I found myself fielding live chat messages and emails asking what someone would need an opt-in form for.

At first, I chalked this up to poor messaging or targeting. I rewrote the copy on key pages but the messages kept coming in.

I ignored the temptation to link a few stats and instead did a bit of research.

It turns out that 59% of American adults find the internet overwhelming. This blew me away. We took it for granted that people would just get our solution.

Source

It made me reassess how we’d educate both our audience and our new users.

Right now, we’re in the process of refining our onboarding process. I’ll share more about that when we have more conclusive results.

2.  Documentation is super important even while beta testing

There’s never enough time to do all the things you’d like to do. That’s why efficiency and effectiveness are important.

You’re juggling one million processes, customer support, and acquisition. Anything that can cut down the amount of time spent on repetitive tasks is worth its weight in gold.

When the beta launched, we didn’t have a single knowledgebase article. We were worried about over optimizing for features that may not be used.

We decided to wait and see what our early users would ask for.

My expectation was that most of the process would be intuitive and people wouldn’t need to any additional help.

I was wrong.

Even though there were clear indications of success like this one:

People would still reach out just to confirm they were doing it the right way. That happened because there was no documentation so they were taking stabs in the dark.

Stabbing – and darkness – aren’t good.

Once we made the documentation, we used Intercom to set up notifications on pages that caused friction.

This cut down on support requests but also opened up a new line of inquiry from our users.

3.  Even when you have the documentation, people still want to talk.

We eventually made the most requested documentation which revolved around integrating email marketing services and setting up quizzes.

Even though we made the documentation, people would still reach out.

Their messages would run along the lines of “this is my first time making quizzes, would you check it out and let us know if it’s any good?”

I was ecstatic about this. I mean, we do this all day every day so I was more than happy to help our users make quizzes that’d convert.

It was interesting that people didn’t ask about opt-in forms much. My guess is that people are more interested quizzes because opt-in forms are a staple of the internet.

When we were able to talk to people about their quizzes, we naturally started asking them about their niche, their goals, and why they signed up.

This gave us deep insights into why people were signing up for KyLeads which helped us refine our copy.

4.  An intuitive user interface isn’t optional

This is related to documentation. Our initial interface was downright embarrassing. I was ashamed to share it with the world.

I know it’s been said if you’re not embarrassed by your first version then you’ve launched too late.

That doesn’t make it any easier to put something downright ugly into the world. Here’s what our initial app looked like.

Here’s what our current app looks like.

People were utterly confused about how to use KyLeads because it wasn’t an intuitive process. Some of the elements were hidden behind buttons that you wouldn’t click without a prompt.

I blame myself.

When we were building the initial MVP, we experienced a lot of challenges. We went through multiple iterations of the product and the user interface took a backseat.

After launching the MVP and getting initial feedback, we also invested in a UI designer to revamp the app.

It was worth it.

When you’re deciding on whether to use your resources to develop another feature and polishing your UI, choose the UI.

5. You have to fight for engagement and feedback

I was surprised at this beta testing lesson.

We thought the major challenge would be getting our initial users. It turns out, that wasn’t so hard.

The hard part was keeping engagement up and getting unsolicited feedback.

Here’s how it would go.

Someone would sign up for KyLeads, click around a bit, maybe set up their email marketing service, and then disappear.

At the initial stages, we hadn’t set up Intercom to capture the emails of people who signed up for the app. That means there were no automatic onboarding messages.

We did everything manually.

When we looked at our logs, we noticed people were leaving and not coming back. We initiated a manual outreach campaign to re-engage our users.

We sent simple emails that focused on highlighting some of the things they could do and direct emails asking them to jump on a call.

Here’s an example of one of the emails:

Subject: Did you know KyLeads could do this?

Hey firstname,

KyLeads was built to help you increase your conversions, at the same time, it’s possible to segment your leads and send better messages.

When you create a quiz, each outcome can be mapped to a different list or tag in your email marketing service.

It’s as simple as creating the outcome and mapping it to the list you want to segment your subscribers into. As long as you’ve added your email marketing service, this information will be populated for you.

Sign in to your account and try it out for yourself.

Regards,

Daniel Ndukwu

This email generated a 15% click-through rate and helped us keep our engagement up. We’re in the process of rolling out an onboarding sequence for new users. We’ll let you know about that when we have more data.

6.  Use cases and features I would’ve never thought of

People use your product in whichever way best suits them. Kleenex was originally marketed as a disposable face towel to remove makeup. When the manufacturer, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, conducted market research, they realized people used it as a disposable handkerchief instead.

They changed their marketing to reflect that and their sales rose as a result.

We realized that people wanted to use KyLeads in more ways than we thought and got a lot of feature requests as a result.

  • Copying quizzes

We thought split testing would be all people needed to test different versions of their quizzes. Though our users liked that, they also wanted the ability to copy quizzes, change a few things, and publish it differently.

  • One answer, multiple outcomes

We also discovered that our users would like to have one answer that would be mapped to multiple outcomes. For example, if there was a question like “what’s your favorite food?” and one of the answers was sushi, they wanted to map it to multiple end results.

That way, people wouldn’t be pigeonholed into a specific outcome.

  • Survey forms

Though you can hack quizzes into a certain kind of survey form (we’ve done it multiple times), people wanted more. They wanted dedicated surveys that they could use to capture lead information.

We’ve taken note and we’re on it.

These are just a few of the features people requested that we took note of. There’s a lot more added to our long term roadmap.

7.  The faster you respond to people, the more they’re willing to forgive you

Early on, I decided to take customer support seriously. Coming out the gate, our competitors had more mature apps than us.

We couldn’t differentiate on features and we’d spent a lot of time on the app as is. The only thing we could do was be human.

I made everyone on the team download the Intercom app on their phone and keep it open at all times. Though we have office hours, they don’t really matter.

We have a global user base and they contact us whenever they run into a problem. If someone didn’t reply within a few minutes, I’d jump into the conversation.

Our app, naturally, had a lot of glitches. There was an ugly error screen that displayed the code to tell you there was an error, the app wasn’t so fast, and Infusionsoft was being a bitch.

Our users would contact us and we’d reply as fast as humanly possible. Though we don’t apologize much (we don’t use sorry lightly) we do empathize and tell it like it is.

If it’s something we can fix now then we’re on it. If it’ll take some time then we let them know. I’ve even turned away users after having a conversation and figuring out KyLeads wasn’t right for them.

We don’t have enough users for word of mouth to kick in yet, but the few we do have appreciate the effort we put in. They also let us slide when our app decided to malfunction.

How do I know?

They told me so.

We’ve also gotten our support times down to below five minutes.

People aren’t grateful for features – they’re grateful for outcomes.

8.  Not everything that can be automated in the beginning should be.

We have an automated email that goes out asking people to give us feedback about why they signed up for KyLeads. It gets opened most of the time and even gets a few responses. I’m happy with it.

The problem was that we didn’t have enough users to make it matter.

If you have a 5% percent response rate from one hundred users it’s still a negligible amount of feedback.

If you personally send those emails, you’ll get a much better response rate.

That’s what we did.

We sent out personal emails to users the day after they signed up and asked them why.

For the people that replied, we’d follow up and ask if they’d be willing to jump on a call for a free consultation.

Obviously, we’d need to know about their business before we could give them useful insights. A few people took us up on the offer which proved to be invaluable for us.

If we’d automated all of that then those insights would’ve gone right over our heads.

Even if you can automate something, that doesn’t mean you should – at least not in the beginning. Do it manually for a while until you understand what’s going on or have achieved the maximum amount of learning.

9.  Be there and be helpful

This is one of the most important beta testing lessons we learned.

In the end, our product – your product – is a solution to a problem. That problem could be life-threatening or a commodity.

It doesn’t matter.

The faster you can help someone solve that problem, the better. There’s only so much a good onboarding flow, a well-designed product, and documentation can achieve.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to show up, be helpful, and put in the work.

When you’re beta testing, you don’t a thousand customers so it’s an efficient use of your time.

Conclusion

I was reluctant to beta test because I knew our product would solve a need and was anxious to put it out there and get our first few customers.

Wiser heads prevailed and it has been a valuable learning experience for everyone on the team.

We stayed in beta testing mode for only four months. Some startups do it longer and some don’t do it at all. Whatever timeframe you choose, go in with a learning mindset and you’ll realize just how valuable it is.

Let me know what insights you’ve gained from beta testing in the comments and don’t forget to share.

How We Got 400 Free Beta Testers

Have you heard this startup narrative?

Come up with an idea, build it, launch to an audience that accepts you wholeheartedly, and watch the money roll in.

While that may happen to a select few, it’s a bit different for us mere mortals.

Before your product is ready for prime time, it needs to be tested by a pool of users who represent your target market.

These beta testers will let you know if you’re on the right track and help you spot bugs and useful features.

You learn more about your customers, your developers get a clear roadmap, and customers get to use an awesome product.

Everyone wins.

winning beta lessons

source

It used to be easy to get people to sign up for your app. Now – not so much. Markets are saturated.

In this post, I’ll share how we got our first four hundred beta testers which helped us learn invaluable lessons.

Blogging from (almost) day one

When we started KyLeads, it was just an ugly landing page:

first version of KyLeads landing page

We didn’t start blogging from day one because we wanted a beautiful blog that would appeal to our visitors. Because of that, we spent an inordinate amount of time designing and developing a custom WordPress theme.

It turned out alright, but we lost months going back and forth on design decisions and squashing bugs that came up.

It was worth it but we should’ve started blogging from the beginning even while the theme was being designed.

We would’ve been further along in terms of organic traffic and social footprint. You win some and lose some – right?

From that point on, we focused on creating in-depth posts that helped the people we would one day call our customers.

We focused on topics like this one about lead magnets, this one about headline formulas, and this one about website optimization.

Since it was a new domain and we didn’t have any backlinks, audience, or social footprint, I used my own mailing list and social accounts to promote our posts.

From there, we derived our first trickle of traffic and aggressively promoted our mailing list.

A few people would click through to our homepage and sign up to be notified of our beta launch. Once the mailing list started to grow, we were able to promote posts directly to them.

It was a self-reinforcing cycle that paid off. About 25% (100) of our beta users came from people who interacted with our blog content.

Guest posting for beta testers

While we were creating content for our blog, we also focused on getting the word out there through guest blog posts.

We found opportunities in three ways.

  • We followed influencers in our niche.

For example, we’d just type in Neil Patel or Pat Flynn and see what Google brought back.

The first few results will be their own websites and social media accounts. If you keep going, you’ll start seeing where they appeared on other websites.

This showed us opportunities we would’ve otherwise missed. We added every promising website to a spreadsheet and kept researching.

  • We used Ahrefs to backlink opportunities

If you’re not familiar with Ahrefs, it’s an SEO and competitive analysis tool. We’d type in the URL of websites that were in a similar space but weren’t competing with us directly.

This gave us a bunch of websites that were linking around in our niche and had a similar audience demographic.

We did this with about ten websites and added them to our spreadsheet.

  • Used guest blog compilation articles

Up until this point, we were looking at guest post opportunities that weren’t obvious. Most of them weren’t actively looking for guest post authors.

After we exhausted that route, we went the obvious path and typed in variations of “list of guest blogging websites niche” in Google. That brought back quite a few opportunities and filled out our spreadsheet.

We got down to the serious business of pitching these websites. Here’s the pitch we used:

Hey first name,

My name is (your name) from (your company/website). I was on your website reading (name of article) and like how (point or perspective you liked).

I’m reaching out to see if you’d be interested in a few guest post ideas I think your audience would find valuable.

Idea 1

Idea 2

and Idea 3

If you choose any of them, I’d use relevant imagery and reputable references to support the points I make. Here are links to some articles I’ve written in the past:

Link one

Link two

You can also find me on social media

Twitter handle

Other social handle.

I’m looking forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you,

Your name

This lets the editor/owner of the website know you’ve taken time to read their content so are familiar with their style. It also gives them a few ideas to choose from if they don’t like the first one.

You also show them where you’ve written before so they can see if they like your writing.

I was surprised because some of these websites would message us back and tell us we’d have to pay for the guest post slot. I’ve never paid for a guest post and I don’t plan on starting.

A few of them were cool and we landed guest post slots like this one on sales funnels.

Looking back, we should’ve spent more time on guest posting but there’s always the future right?

Roughly fifty users signed up for our beta test through guest blogging.

Quora

I’ve been active on Quora for a few years and have over five million views on the platform. I actually hang out there and have a lot of fun doing it so answering questions and linking back to KyLeads was a no-brainer.

The essence of a Quora strategy is as follows:

  • Set up a killer profile and cross-promote your digital assets (social and websites)
  • Follow writers and topics in your space (add a few just for fun as well)
  • Choose questions with a good follower to answer ratio (make sure they have at least 20 followers).
  • Create longer answers (300-1000) words and share it on your social profiles.
  • Add a footer with a call to action

Rinse and repeat. You can read a more in-depth guide to using Quora here.

I wrote on Quora almost every day for a few weeks and drove thousands of visitors back to KyLeads. A lot of them signed up for our mailing list.

When the dust settled, we had roughly 100 beta testers from this route.

Indie Hackers

Indie Hackers is an interesting community full of makers. It’s unique because you’re encouraged to share links to projects you’re working on.

If you post about your product on Reddit you’ll be downvoted into oblivion. On Indie Hackers, if you don’t share your product people will ask you to.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve been an active member. At first, I just wanted to share my experiences and learn from people who were building similar (and not so similar products).

Over time, I got a few followers, hundreds of upvotes, and connected with interesting people.

People would go to my profile and click through to my websites.

Apart from a product page on Indie Hackers, this the only place I mention KyLeads unless someone asks me a direct relevant question.

We get a few visitors every week from the forum.

They’re quick to share feedback and let you know if there are any bugs or strange design issues. We only got a few beta testers (about 20) from here but they’re super engaged one so it was definitely a win.

Beta Bound

Betabound is a curation website that connects interested beta testers with the people who need them. There’s not much difference between them and BetaList except there’s no paid option on betabound.

The website is created and maintained by Centercode – a company that provides different types of testing for high growth startups (read funded) and enterprise companies.

We submitted to betabound and got a reply in a few days and were on the homepage within a week.

Our performance on the website left a lot to be desired. It may be because their audience found no interest in our product.

In the end, we got 34 referral visits from betabound and a few turned into beta testers for KyLeads.

SaaS directories

There are tons of SaaS directories like G2 Crowd, SaasGenius, Capterra, GetApp and tons of other ones.

We weren’t keen on using the platforms because we had no budget to sign up for their PPC campaigns and no built-in reputation/reviews.

In the end, we added KyLeads to a few of the most popular ones like G2 Crowd and SaaSGenius. All of their approval processes are straightforward but that’s not what matters.

Once we were live on their websites, my team expected the traffic to start rolling in. I wasn’t convinced because I have a clear idea of how these platforms work.

You get out what you put in.

We didn’t put in much work so I didn’t expect to get much in the way of benefits.

I almost missed the referral traffic. The ones that came didn’t sign up. We got a grand total of one beta user from this route.

SlideShare

We were inspired to repurpose content on SlideShare after reading about the strategies drift used to get early traction and build an audience for their blog.

I’ve personally had some success with SlideShare and have been featured in their daily/weekly roundups so I was open to giving it a try.

We created two presentations which took way longer than they should have. We made one for my personal SlideShare account and another for a brand new account we set up for KyLeads.

The one on my personal account got just over 200 views.

slideshare post for beta testers

The one on our company account got 100 views.

Together, they sent fifty people back to KyLeads. Frankly, I was shocked it sent us that much referral traffic.

Beginners luck?

Anyways, of those fifty people, ten decided to sign up to be beta testers and pad out our numbers. Again, I was shocked at the level of engagement we were getting from SlideShare.

This is something we plan on revisiting in the future when we can dedicate enough energy to the design of the content.

We ran a giveaway

I’ve written about our experiences with our giveaway in great detail here.

Here’s the TL;DR version:

  • We reached out to companies we respected to partner with us to on our giveaway
  • We got a few on board and created a prize pool worth $100,000+
  • There were tons of impressions but our conversion rates were poor.
  • We capture just over one hundred and fifty email subscribers.
  • They were uber engaged with us after we ended the giveaway
  • 50+ decided to join our beta

This was the most responsive group of people we ran into. I think it had something to do with the sheer value we gave away as well as the discounts we created for them with our partners.

We didn’t ask so we’ll never know.

What we noticed during our beta was the people who joined through the giveaway needed extra support than people we encountered through other channels.

They were also vocal and gave us invaluable feedback about where and how we could improve the user experience.

We got active on HARO to get beta testers

I’ve been aware of Haro for years but never used it to its full potential. It’s not until I listened to an episode of The Side Hustle Nation with Pete Walter that I decided to revisit it.

I sent the episode to everyone and told them to sign up for Haro. Every single night, I’d sit down and scroll through the thrice daily emails.

I’d find at least one request I could answer every day.

To make sure everyone was following up, I’d ping them in the morning to send me requests and their response so I could help them out if it needed polishing.

We got quite a few placements through this route.

Though the direct referral traffic wasn’t much to talk about, it had a positive effect on our search traffic which started to increase during this period.

It’s not easy to analyze the traffic from these sources because not all them told us when our content went live (or if they accepted the pitch). We had to monitor Ahrefs and our analytics to spot them.

By hacking the data together, we found out 50+ people signed up for our beta from the referral traffic generated by Haro.

Conclusion

If you’ve read this far, I don’t need to tell you how important beta testers are to your eventual success. I’ve outlined the major strategies we used to get four hundred beta users.

Blogging – 100

Guest posting – 51

Quora – 103

Indie Hackers – 18

Betabound – 3

SaaS directories – 1

Slideshare – 10

Giveaway – 56

Haro – 53

Total – 395 (Don’t shoot me, I rounded up).

We tested a lot of channels and not all of them were successful. Use this article as a starting point in your efforts to craft a beta test that will help you maximize your learnings.

Some of what we used may work and some may not. If you find a winner then double down. What works during your beta will work when you launch.

It’s important to note that beta testers don’t automatically equal engaged users or success. Of the four hundred people that signed up, more than half dropped off throughout the process.

The remaining people weren’t as engaged as we would’ve liked. Only a handful love what we’re doing as much as we do.

It’s the nature of building a product.

Let us know your stories about how you got your beta testers in the comments and don’t forget to share.

9 Lessons Learned Hiring Software Developers as a Non-tech Founder

Roughly one year ago, I started looking into hiring software developers to build KyLeads and plot world domination.

It proved to be more of a challenge than I’d anticipated. I went in thinking it couldn’t be more difficult than hiring a virtual assistant.

I was wrong.

Before I started KyLeads, my only experience hiring tech talent was the one-off customization or plugin for WordPress.

What you need to understand for that pales in comparison to building a product form the ground up.

Over the course of a year, I made a lot of mistakes and learned invaluable lessons.

Now, I’m better equipped for hiring software developers.

This post details the wins and losses we experienced on the road to MVP and KyLeads v1.

1.If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is

When I decided to build KyLeads it was all about the quick and dirty MVP (minimum viable product). I wanted to show it to potential customers ASAP.

Once they got their hands on it, they’d tell me what they loved, what they hated, and we’d know where to improve.

To start, I looked at Upwork and a few other platforms to find talent. I set up my job listing and got a lot of applications who seemed competent.

When I asked them if they needed any clarification they would tell me no, they understood.

I’ve worked with clients in a consulting capacity. There’s always more they need to explain before you understand their vision.

The software developers I was getting made me uneasy because of their lack of preparation. I abandoned the freelancing websites and started looking for an Agency or a low-cost service to get it done.

That’s when I found Pebbled.io.

They billed themselves as a one-stop shop for development and design work. I jumped on board with their lowest tier to test the service.

I was happy with their design work even though it was slow so I upgraded to the highest tier of the service.

We settled on the deliverables for the project and they worked on it for a month before telling me they couldn’t do it.

I was pissed but they gave me that month free to compensate for the time wasted.

I was still pissed.

It was too good to be true.

This was the first time I thought about quitting – it wouldn’t be the last.

2.  It’s never a good idea to outsource your core product

Around this time, I mentioned my project to a friend, Eco, in an offhanded way. He didn’t say much about it but suggested I outsource to a small firm that’s just getting off the ground.

They’d be more likely to throw me a deal to pad out their portfolio. I took his advice and went back to Upwork to find organizations represented there.

I settled on a development shop out of India and we started work. They quoted me $2,500 to get an MVP done.

From the beginning, there were red flags. The person they set me up with seemed to be different than the person I interviewed. I think I was stuck with a junior member of their team.

He took forever to set up, had horrible communication, and was generally sloppy. After a few weeks, I paid them five hundred dollars, requested my work, and ended the contract.

People have seen good results from outsourcing the initial development of their product but for us, it was a bad move.

We were left with barely usable code and I was depressed about our progress. This was the second time I thought about giving up.

3.  Hire for what you need now – not what people can grow into

After my experience with outsourcing, I was determined that I’d hire software developers directly to my team.

I knew I couldn’t afford a full-time developer in the U.S. so I looked at different platforms that aggregate talent outside the country.

After doing a bit of research, I discovered The Philippines was a growing destination for tech talent. I signed up for Onlinejobs.ph and set up a detailed job description.

I got a lot of applicants and performed interviews to the best of my ability.

After about a week, I got an application that piqued my interest.

A senior developer, let’s call him John, was grooming a group of students to work with companies. He’d serve as the project manager while guiding them and making sure they’d deliver on time.

He assured me they were talented and could get the work done.

I bit and hired two of them. Within a week, they were writing code and shipping.

My new hires weren’t experienced. They were learning as they went and we ran into issue after issue. They needed to learn new technology midway through the project and slowed us down for weeks at a time.

I knew what I was getting into so I tried to be patient but the weeks dragged into months and I needed results. In a bootstrapped startup, you don’t have the time or resources to train talent in the beginning.

I made the mistake of underestimating the learning curve of my new hires. That’s when we decided to bring on another senior developer to help out.

4.  Have clear responsibilities for your teammates

I went back to Upwork but this time I was more confident because I had John there to help me vet the applicants.

I set up a job post and the applicants flooded in. John vetted their technical abilities for me. I’d conduct the final interview.

We found someone after a week of searching and integrated him into the team. I didn’t have a clear understanding of what needed to be done on the technical side and my earlier hires seemed had trouble communicating with their new teammate.

We gave him assignments but he didn’t deliver the way we needed him to. From my perspective, he was also being a dick about the milestones.

I worked with him as best I could but he kept complaining about what his job was.

One of my teammates said he explained everything to him. He, on the other hand, said no one told him anything.

I called an all hands meeting.

We jumped on a conference call – all five of us – and ironed out any issues we had. This helped us for about a week before everything deteriorated again.

I was fed up with our Upwork hire and asked him to deliver what he’d done and cancel the job. He took exception to that and decided to open a dispute.

We resolved it amicably.

Looking back, I realize the fault was with me. I tried to pass off setting his tasks to another teammate. The problem was I didn’t clearly define what I needed from him in the first place.

I felt they would be in the best position to tell him because they’re the ones that needed the extra help.

Lesson learned. Unless you have a manager that’s tasked with setting the responsibilities of your teammates, it’s your job.

5.  Lean on your network to help you vet people for technical expertise

We let our Upwork hire go and soon after that and the dev team I hired quit on me.

I was pissed because I went into the relationship with the assurance that they’d deliver.

Another lesson learned.

John, who was the one in charge of bringing them on, assured me that he’d find new talent. This was the end of February and we’d blown our projections by roughly three months.

source

We created another job post on Onlinejobs.ph and I gave him access to my account. Over the course of a month, we interviewed dozens of software developers. John rejected all of them because he felt their skills weren’t up to par.

I wish he’d done that with the two people he brought on board originally.

Moving on.

This lasted for about a month and I eventually closed my account with OnlineJobs and called my friend Eco. After talking for a few minutes, I told him about the challenges I was going through.

He laughed at me for a while then promised he’d help with hiring software developers. In a few days, he brought someone for me to vet after vouching for his skills.

We had a conversation where he grilled me about the project. I can’t tell you how happy I was because, in my past experience, people who don’t ask questions won’t deliver what you’re looking for.

I shared the code I had, he picked it apart, and we threw out over half of it. We agreed to work towards an MVP within sixty days.

I added him to slack and started the next phase of our journey.

6.  When hiring software developers make sure they can communicate well

The developer my friend brought on was worth his weight in gold. He was fast, efficient, and knowledgeable. Eco and I started calling him our super developer.

We were building two apps in one. We knocked out the opt-in forms first then moved on to the quizzes.

There were two problems.

  • There was no UI design for him to work with so we spent a lot of time going back and forth clarifying things.
  • The second was that he didn’t have domain expertise. Things I felt were obvious were alien to him.

We lost a lot of time hammering out what we needed in a quiz. He thought it was educational and started building quizzes with tons of features that wouldn’t matter to our users.

At the time, he was shipping updates once a week. That was every Friday. We’d discuss them then plot the most important things to be done the next week.

I noticed that we’d have to roll back a bunch of the changes because they weren’t needed.

We moved to shorter shipping times and started talking in Slack every single day. We missed our sixty-day deadline by a week and hammered the scope of the project but I was still happy.

We’d finally gotten an MVP.

7.  You need some type of project management tool.

After shipping the MVP, I stepped up my promotion game and got one hundred beta users. They were sending us invaluable feedback, complaints, and bug reports.

We needed a way to continuously develop KyLeads while addressing their needs. At first, we just used Slack to keep track of bugs and features. That quickly deteriorated.

There was no real way to prioritize what we were doing. Conversations would get buried and since we were using the free version, we had a limit on what we could search.

I started looking for a way to prioritize tasks for myself and my teammate. I tried craft for a while – it’s a robust tool – but the free plan only allowed for one user.

That was useless.

After that, I read an article about Trello for project management. It was just what we were looking for.

We set up a development board and I added all the features we needed, wanted, and were working on. Now, everything concerning development is placed there and it’s easy to see what’s being worked on and what’s coming up.

Once the team expands a bit more, we may switch to Asana – then Craft.

8.  Make sure deadlines matter

We didn’t handle deadlines well. They basically didn’t matter.

I’d set a hard date, we’d miss it, then we’d recalibrate. This bred a type of complacency within me and all the contractors we worked with.

It started from my experience with Pebbled. The smallest tasks took forever.

The consensus was that deadlines were a rough guideline made out of clay. If they don’t work then we’d be able to reshape them.

It was hurting us because we had actual users at this point and we were making promises that we weren’t meeting up with. With such a young brand, there was no way we’d survive if we created a reputation for breaking promises.

I faced the situation head-on. My approach was simple.

  • I asked you how long it would take to do xyz.
  • They’d tell me how long it would take and I’d add another few days.
  • I would get back to them with a hard date for completion.
  • When that day rolled around and I didn’t have what I needed, I’d give them a hard time until it was done.

It was effective because I’d remind them that I didn’t impose the timeframe on them. They said they could do it by that time and I even added extra time.

I fired two contractors because they were chronically late. The rest of the team (Note that when I say team, I mean the software developers, marketing team, and contractors that worked together on KyLeads) got the message and started estimating their time better.

Now, we’re pretty good with deadlines. We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better.

9.  Develop processes from day one

This is the last challenge we faced and we’re still trying to wrap our heads around it. We’ve gotten better but there’s a long way to go.

In the beginning, we just gave ourselves tasks and did it to the best of our abilities.

The issue was that if anyone came in behind us, it would take a lot of work to get up and running. This kept happening when hiring software developers.

I’ve started experimenting with creating processes for the marketing side of things and I’ve also tasked our super developer to do the same on the programming side.

It’s slow going and requires a lot of testing but it’s worth it.

Our content production as well as development process has  gotten faster. Within the next few months, we’ll have our major processes documented and ready for new hires.

Conclusion

Hiring software developers is easier said than done. As a non-technical founder, it can be downright daunting.

Over the course of a year, I experienced a lot of the bad that comes with it. Some people took advantage of my inexperience and part of it was me not doing the preliminary work.

I eventually learned my lesson and hooked up with great teammates. They’ve seen me through dozens of ups and downs and we’re just getting started.

Common sense will see you through a lot but when you’re in the trenches; you don’t always make your best decisions. Hiring software developers right can save you a lot of time, money, and energy.

Let me know the lessons you’ve learned from hiring software developers or any of my lessons you can relate to.

How To Host A Giveaway And Not Crush It – Our Experience


A few weeks ago, we were throwing around ideas about how we could build awareness and an email list for KyLeads ahead of our beta launch. We’ve been blogging and creating content on other platforms so that was bringing in a few visitors every day.

We needed something that was relatively cheap because we had no data about our core metrics like LTV, ARPU, MRR (well, we knew that, it was zero), value of a subscriber, trial to customer conversion rate, etc etc. The only thing we knew was we wanted something that would give us outlandish results – fast.

That means content marketing and website optimization were out. It could give us outlandish results – I can’t say it would be fast.

Advertising was out. We weren’t ready to spend a lot of money when we didn’t know our numbers.

Outreach for promotion wasn’t ideal because we didn’t have anything compelling to share at the time. After a bit of soul-searching, I stumbled on a few posts talking about how to host a giveaway.

After reading up a bit, I thought to myself – this can’t be that hard. Once I pitched it to the team and a few friends, everyone was on board.  We locked it in for the beginning of June and got to work.

Image of crush it gif

This post outlines what we did, what worked, what didn’t, and our key learnings.

How we settled on a prize for our giveaway.

If you look around the internet for information on how to choose the best prize for a giveaway, the advice is consistent. Don’t use an iPhone or any other general consumer good. The reasoning is you’ll get a lot of interest but those people won’t be right for your core offer.

We sell software that allows website owners to make popups and quizzes to generate more email subscribers and personalize their messages.

At the very least, the giveaway should appeal to people who own websites. The best case scenario would be bloggers, digital entrepreneurs, authors, etc who’re actively building their online presence. With the right prize, conversion rates can be as high as 85%.

That meant general prizes like tickets to x, phones, computers, etc were out of it.

We settled on a set of books related to business and marketing. In all, there were half a dozen books I’ve read personally and people have recommended to me. It was a good prize and it was cheap (less than $100).

We could’ve gone live like that but I thought we could do better. Why not give away some relevant software too? KyLeads may be unknown but there are a lot of software companies which would complement our offering.

The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. It took me all of 30 minutes to come up with the idea and adapt a quick template to reach out to folks with.

It took another 2 hours to compile a list of potential partners and get the email address of the decision makers. In all, I ended up with a list of 30 companies who I thought would be a good fit.

I personally reached out to everyone on my list. Within minutes of sending the first email, Ryan Kulp responded and agreed to a lifetime account.

image of reply from Ryan about partnering

I was stoked. That was much easier than I thought it’d be. Over the course of the next week, the replies started to trickle in.

Some people weren’t able to participate but they still replied and let me down easy. They were cool about the whole thing.

Susan from Buzzsumo even thanked me for following up with her. She said no in the end but her response was encouraging. Respect to people like Alex from Groove and Francois from Hunter who are polite even when they don’t have to be.

Side note: The worst thing that can happen in any of these situations is someone telling you no or ignoring your email. No one is going to hunt you down and f*ck up your life because you emailed them. Just go for it.

Once the dust settled, we had seven partners on board and a few more expressing interest. That’s a 20% success rate on a cold email. The reply rate was about 50%.

Gif of boom baby

Our partners included:

Inputkit.io

Tettra.co

fomo.com

Wpfusionplugin.com

Complice.co

Pixelme.me

Ninja Outreach

Big thanks to everyone who participated.

Our prize pool had swelled to over $100,000. Each company was giving away at least one lifetime account. The $100,000 is a conservative estimate.

Needless to say, with a prize pool like this, I was sure we were about to crush it.

Getting ready to host a giveaway

We knew creating the giveaway wasn’t enough. We had to promote it as far and wide as we could. After a bit of deliberation, we decided to attack as many avenues as possible.

That would be organic, ads, and other people’s networks. In preparation for that, I set up a Facebook ads campaign, created custom images, and compiled a list of possible influencers who’d help us spread the message.

Here are a few of the images we used:

image used to host giveaway

To find influencers, I searched for Podcasts related to marketing and entrepreneurship. A few at the top of the list were:

After settling on the podcasts, I ran through past guests and listened to shows that seemed relevant and took notes.

EOF podcast episode list

There were over 2,000 guests to choose from.

I’d then go to the guest website, find their email address, and save it in an excel file. In the end, I had about 80 names and email addresses from doing this.

The other strategy I used to find influencers was by typing “top marketing blogs” “top small business blogs” and “top anything else relevant blogs.”

I was looking for compilations of influencers that would find the giveaway interesting and possibly share it with their audience.

image of google search of best small business blog

This tactic yielded another 75 relevant contacts. In total, we had over two hundred contacts ready to email once we went live.

Apart from that, we set up a Facebook ads campaign. I’ll give you more details about that in the strategy section.

Setting up the giveaway for maximum results

We had a number of goals for the giveaway.

  • Build awareness about KyLeads by getting it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
  • Get more email subscribers.
  • Grow our social media following on Facebook and Twitter.

We needed software that would allow us to accomplish those goals without having to do most of the work manually. We also wanted a piece of software that had virality built in.

We looked at Gleam, kingsumo, and Vyper.

We eventually went with Vyper. The setup process is pretty straightforward. I liked Vyper so much because they have a great landing page and a leaderboard to encourage additional actions. You can view a screenshot of the landing page here.

You can set it up with tons of custom actions that give participants extra entries and increase their chances of winning the grand prize. We took advantage of those features.

We decided to go with three prize tiers. If you enter the giveaway you get a prize, two winners based on points, and three random draw winners.

Anyone could win and everyone was guaranteed to get a prize.

image of entry page and custom actions

Comment on a blog post, share articles, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, share on social media platforms, etc. Once everything was set up on the technical side, we ran through the giveaway to make sure everything was working as expected.

The giveaway went live on May 28.

Strategies we used to promote the sweepstakes.

No matter how awesome you think your giveaway prize is, it won’t do anything if you don’t promote it far and wide. We did a lot of preparation leading up to the actual giveaway and now was the moment of truth.

We had fourteen days to go big or go home.

Harassed friends

The first thing I did was tap my own network to get the ball rolling. If the people who’re required to support you don’t then something is wrong. Luckily, I’ve got some cool peeps.

Since we already communicate on a regular basis, I didn’t stress myself about how to word the email I sent them. It was basically me telling them to share it on social and a rundown of what’s involved.

Adam from Blogging Wizard came through and tweeted it to thousands of followers:


Your network is only so large. At least, our network is relatively small so it didn’t take long to exhaust that avenue. We moved right into emailing our existing list.

Emailed our list

The very next step was to get my existing audience on board. This is an audience that’s separate from KyLeads but still relevant. The Friday before the giveaway went live, I sent out an email letting them know I had a surprise in store.

I didn’t let them know exactly what it was but I did make it clear that it was epic.

Image of the giveaway email I sent

On the following Monday, I revealed the details of the giveaway with a longer email. The goal was to let them know what was happening, how it was relevant to them, and get them to click to find out all the details.

This is how we got our very first sign ups for the giveaway.

Over the course of the giveaway, we sent out three more emails. One was to let them know it was halfway over and strategies to get more entries (or enter in the first place).

The second one was to let them know about the current leaderboard and keep the giveaway top of mind. The third email was to announce just a few hours left in the giveaway.

I thought about incentivizing the laggards on my email list, but when time rolled around for the final email, I decided against it.

Facebook ads

Facebook is a fickle beast. It showed us its true nature when we were preparing for this giveaway.

I’m an old hand when it comes to Facebook ads. Nothing is written in stone so I follow a simple strategy. Come up with your epic ad angle, get a few creatives, use small budgets, tweak until you have a winner, then scale until people get tired.

It’s straightforward. Until it’s not.

I made an ad campaign for the KyLeads giveaway and followed the normal steps I’d take.

I made three ad sets targeting different groups of people. I set a low daily budget of $15 for each ad set just to get a feel for what was working and what wasn’t.

Facebook ad sets

I won’t bore you with the details because that’s not the focus of this post. After I created the ad sets, I drilled down and created three different ads for each ad set. In the end, I had nine ads primed and ready to go.

Image of facebook ad for giveaway.

Side note: If you’re writing ads, test out long copy as well as short copy. I know there are schools of thought which champion short copy. I don’t know why. I’ve seen long copy perform better in head to head tests more often than not. The thing is, if someone reads all that copy and clicks through then you’re more likely to get a conversion.

I digress.

After everything was set up, I decided to go and pay my outstanding ad balance early so I wouldn’t have any issues during the contest. So, I click pay and boom, this is what I see.

Image of Facebook error

I was pissed. I wasn’t so annoyed with the time I spent or the fact that my account was blocked temporarily. It was because Facebook has the worst customer service I’ve ever seen. I would be lucky if they sorted this issue out in the same month let alone within the timeframe we were working with.

We tried to reach out to them but they didn’t reply with anything useful for the first week. The chunk of change I wanted to spend would’ve made no difference to their billions.

I had to move on – fast.

StumbleUpon ads

The next choice for us was StumbleUpon ads. I’ve used them in the past but I’m by no means an expert with the platform. When I landed on their ads login page, I saw this:

image of stumbleupon ads home screen

At this point, it felt like the world was conspiring against us and this contest. I had a fleeting moment of weakness where I thought about throwing in the towel. It passed.

I logged into my StumbleUpon ad account to see if I could salvage anything. It was a good day. I had a few bucks left from an old campaign. I tried to load some money into my account and they just refunded it instantly. After three times I gave up.

I set up a campaign and let it run. This ended up bringing in a few hundred hits.

Side note: StumbleUpon itself is also going through a transition. They’re moving to Mix.com at the end of this month (June 2018). It may be a good opportunity to be an early adopter for a platform that promises to have millions of users.

Twitter ads

I’ve advertised on Twitter once before. That was way back in 2016. The results I got then made me decide to write it off.

I was running out of options. Facebook was shot. Stumbleupon was shot. Pinterest was acting like a dick.

I turned back to Twitter and decided to give it another shot. For the most part, it was similar to other ad platforms. What I disliked was how to implement the tracking. Instead of putting it in the head tag, it goes in the body.

I couldn’t get it to work properly with the software I was using. In the end, I had to do some magic in Google analytics.

We created four Twitter ads and let them loose on the world.

Image of twitter ad examples

The absolute results weren’t bad.

Image of twitter ad results

Our targeting seemed to be off because even though we got thousands of clicks, they converted poorly. I switched up the targeting again and this time the cost per click shot up by 100x.

Needless to say, I turned that one off and turned Twitter off as well.

Side note: People at Twitter. It’s hard to find data on your platform.

Quora ads

When Quora rolled out ads, I requested access and didn’t hear back from them. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it and went on with my life.

It wasn’t until I saw ads from a company I knew was in the early stages and couldn’t afford $5,000+ a month that I got curious again.

During the contest, we decided to give it a shot. The interface is similar to Facebook in that it has campaigns, ad sets, and ads.

What I didn’t like was how limited the text space was and their punctuation rules. The kept disapproving my ads because their software didn’t like the way I constructed my sentences. I’m a fan of long copy which helps pre-qualify the people who click to my website. Over time, I’m sure their real customers – the advertisers – will change this.

What am I supposed to do with that?

The CPC seems a bit high in comparison to other platforms I’ve used. Usually, your CPC goes down when your CTR goes up. With one of the ads I sent live, the CTR was about 1.5% (decent) but the CPC was over $2. It was odd to me. I kept the ad running to see if it would balance itself out.

In the end, the CTR and the CPC dropped to .06% and $1.50 respectively.

Though it didn’t drive much traffic, I’ll revisit Quora ads at a later date and really dive in to see how to make it work for us.

At this point, we’d run through our paid advertising options and didn’t even consider Google because the Keywords we’d be bidding on were too expensive. We’d burned a few days and didn’t have the time or motivation to tweak a Display ad campaign.

That left us with a few options.

Email outreach

We knew we were going to do a lot of email outreach from the beginning. We just thought we’d have more engagement before starting the process.

Whatever.

We pulled out our list of hundreds of emails and got to work.

Our results weren’t too bad considering the context. These were cold emails we sent out to people in the hopes that they’d promote what we were offering with no visible kickback for them. Our conversion rate from this was ~ 15%.

Maybe they’re betting on our future and our ability to return the favor later. Not likely. Looking back, I think it was because the contest was epic and they were generous people.

A few people were really cool about it and shared on Twitter and even emailed us back. In a few instances it led to interesting conversations and possible opportunities in the future.

People like Sam Hurley and Nick Loper did us a solid.

Nick Loper Twet Sam Hurley Tweet

Tapping into existing traffic

We didn’t have a lot of traffic to KyLeads at the time so there wasn’t much traffic to tap into. That’s not to say I couldn’t tap into traffic from other websites I own.

I put a single page takeover on one of my websites announcing the giveaway.

Image of full page takeover

I tested two versions of the CTA and it seems people liked the phrasing “learn more” over “enter to win.”

It converted over 53% more visitors.

Through all these strategies, it was difficult to monitor the conversion rates via specific channels. I was busy slicing and dicing Google analytics data. After a while, I just monitored conversion rates in aggregate.

If KyLeads had more traffic, there were a number of things we could’ve done.

  1. Use a floating bar on all pages to increase awareness.
  2. Added a call to action in the sidebar to capture blog readers
  3. Add a site wide pop up to build more awareness.

Posted on social media

Of course we published the giveaway on all of our social channels. We added it to multiple group boards on Pinterest, used this tool to post in multiple LinkedIn groups, posted on Twitter multiple times, made a Facebook post about it, and hit the other major social networks.

It was surprising to me that the post was almost completely ignored on Reddit. Not even the troll who told me to get a life. It just got buried.

There are a lot of guides out there about how to use specific social media channels so I won’t get into that.

Things we could’ve done better.

We’re a small team by design. This is one of those times when more could’ve been better. Even if it was just a temporary increase in headcount by way of virtual assistants.

That’s neither here nor there. Looking back, there are specific things we could’ve done to improve the results of our giveaway.

Prepared for setbacks.

I didn’t think Facebook would kick us in the ass like it did. We spent a lot of time and budgeted considerable resources betting on it. When it fell through, we were left scrambling to find alternatives.

Though Twitter drove a lot of traffic, it didn’t convert well for us. At the same time, other avenues closed before we had a chance to explore them.

We could’ve cut down on the effect this had on us by preparing a few contingency plans. That may have looked like preparing ads on different networks ahead of time and testing interest through other avenues.

The best laid plans can and will go south. That’s what happened to us and we ended up being reactionary instead of proactive dealing with situations as they occurred.

I’m sure we could’ve had a different outcome if we’d been able to recollect ourselves midway and go in a different direction.

Lesson learned. Always be prepared for when your plans go wrong – they will.

Written a blog post

I debated writing a blog post because, as I’ve mentioned earlier, KyLeads doesn’t have much traffic. That being said, it wouldn’t have hurt us if we’d written the post and taken a unique angle.

It would’ve been another opportunity to promote the brand itself in addition to hosting a giveaway.

At the very least, it would’ve made for an interesting read. As it was, most of our efforts focused on the things we did offsite.

Going forward, we’re using our blog as much more than a way to contribute to customer success. Yes, posts about how to create compelling lead magnets are indispensable. They’re not the only thing we can produce.

The fact that I’m writing this post is evidence of that commitment. The old me would’ve kept quiet about it and gone on with my day. Now, I’m much more inclined to share.

Coordinated with partners better

The only thing we did to get our partners on board with promotion was to send them a few emails before, during, and after the giveaway. Now, don’t confuse this with not communicating with them.

We kept them up to date during every step of the process. What I mean is we didn’t push promotion on them. I felt like they were already doing us a solid so it should be our responsibility to get the word out.

With that line of thinking, I shared a few graphics we made for social media and encouraged them to share to their following. There were no other dedicated messages asking them to participate.

In hindsight, I could’ve chosen strategic opportunities to get them to involve their respective audiences.

  1. At the launch
  2. The midway point
  3. With just a few hours left.

Not everyone would’ve taken me up on it, but the ones who did could’ve made a big difference. Going forward, we’ll create collateral for all stakeholders when we’re cross promoting:

  1. Social sharing images
  2. Templates for posts to different social media networks.
  3. Email templates

It’s their choice whether or not they use it. People are more likely to participate if you make it easy for them to say less by reducing their cognitive load and risk.

Better Identified influencers

Another area where we fell short was communicating with the right influencers through outreach. We used a generic approach and the emails to top bloggers fell on deaf ears for the most part.

Not surprisingly, the emails to podcast guests that mentioned specific parts of their podcast episodes got the highest response. In some cases, that was just to tell us it wouldn’t be a good fit.

Think about that, not only did they open the email we sent, they read it, and felt compelled to reply to a complete stranger.

That shows the merit and power of a tailored email.

Going forward, we’re going to focus on the quality of our outreach as opposed to the size of our outreach pool. It’s obviously easier said than done but I think we’re equal to the task.

Breakdown of our giveaway stats

Finally, let’s look at the results we got from the giveaway.

Total impressions: 150,000 (win)

Facebook: 10,000

Twitter: 100,000 (paid and organic)

Quora: 25,000 (paid and organic – I’m an active member of the community)

Other (hacker news, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc): 15,000

Click through rate: 3.0%

Total visitors – 4,500 unique visitors

Page views 5,000

Conversion rate (aggregate): 3.62%

Total new email subscribers: 163

Fake/invalid or catchall email addresses: 9 or 5% (average is roughly 15-20%)

Average email open rate during the giveaway 42%

email open rate image

New Facebook likes: 27

New Twitter followers: 8

Blog comments: 14

Virality score: 42

 

Virality score is a metric from Vyper.io that lets you know how well referrals are working in your contest. It’s from 1-100 and the higher the number the better.

As you can see from our stats. We got a lot of raw exposure but in the end, that exposure didn’t bring the result we’re looking for.

Conclusion

We did a lot of things right and we did a lot of things wrong during our giveaway. I’m happy about the learning experience and the connections we were able to build.

Do I wish we got 10,000 email subscribers? Of course.

Am I worried this is part of a larger trend? Not at all. You win some and you lose some.

I want to say thanks to all of our partners once again, you’re the real MVP (the teammate kind, not software 🙂 )  and for everyone who participated in the giveaway.

If there’s anything you think I left out let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share.

We Wrote on Medium Every Day for 30 Days – This Is What Happened.


Medium has been around for a while. Some people sing its praises. Others are vocal about how Medium continues to change their business model to their detriment

Whatever.

That’s not why I’m on Medium. Though I’ve been republishing articles on the platform for a while, I’ve never focused on it. It’s never been and will never be our base of operations. It’s more like a loosely defended outpost.

It was always a small piece to an overall content marketing strategy. One of the reasons I never went too deep into it was because when you publish on Medium, you’re just another Medium writer.

I cease to be Daniel Ndukwu or KyLeads. You lose your identity unless you’ve already brought a huge audience with you. I didn’t. Apart from that, the reporting features leave a lot to be desired.

I’ve never adopted a consistent strategy specific to Medium. If I wanted to write something that didn’t fit into the topic of our blog then I’d just publish a Medium article. That was all the thought I gave to it.

Some of them were successful. Most weren’t.

In April 2018 that changed. I decided to give it 30 days of consistent effort and measure the results. This article sums up my learnings.

Where I started my Medium experiment

On April 12, 2018, I started my Medium experiment. The premise was simple. Write an article every day for thirty days. I also put a few limitations on myself:

  • I couldn’t email my list
  • I wouldn’t promote it (apart from Twitter) across the internet
  • The only extra push would be from Medium publications
  • I wouldn’t tell anyone about the experiment so they wouldn’t visit my Medium profile more often.

Apart from that, I was free to write about any and everything. The only other thing I tried to do was link back to KyLeads on relevant articles. This wasn’t a big deal; it was just something I kept in mind.

I started the experiment with 731 followers.

first day profile page

I had 420 article views and 134 reads in the thirty days before I started the experiment.

Medium writing stats

It’s important to note I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch. I’m by no means the most popular writer on Medium but a few people follow me and clap for my articles regularly. In addition to a few followers, I’m also a writer for a half a dozen publications.

During the course of the experiment, I didn’t hustle for my articles to be featured in any new publications. If you’re brand new to Medium, that may be one of the most effective things you can do to get more eyeballs on your content.

Now, let’s look at what actually happened during my Medium experiment.

The Medium Writing Experience

As I mentioned before, I’m a writer for many publications on Medium. The plan was to write an article and submit to them on a daily basis.

I quickly ran into a snag. The editors are busy people. They get submissions all day every day. It takes time for them to review and accept a submission. I didn’t take that into account.

I’d submit one article a day and sometime three of them would get published at the same time. If you look at my timeline, you’ll see I would publish up to four articles at the same time.

That wouldn’t work for what I was trying to accomplish.

I stopped submitting first. Instead, I’d publish directly then submit to publications. They could accept at their leisure and I’d get the benefit of adding my work to a publication while keeping a consistent schedule.

It worked out pretty well. Not all my articles were accepted. Either it wasn’t a good fit or I removed it from one publication and added it to another because I felt like I’d get more exposure that way.

In the end, out of 30 articles, 19 were accepted to publications. Not bad.

Engagement increased

One thing I noticed was an increase in engagement across the board. I was expecting a few shares and claps. I got more than that. People were commenting on the articles and highlighting parts that stood out to them.

medium writing highlights

I think this was in part due to the way I was writing. Usually, I write about topics related to entrepreneurship and marketing. During the thirty day period, I touched on a wider range of topics. With many of them, I was shooting from the hip.

image of medium engagement and comments

What I mean by that is my articles weren’t as narrow in scope. I wrote about a variety of subjects like how I felt like giving up at times, not going for broke, and overwork. It appealed to a wider audience.

There was just a larger amount to consume. Gary V refers to this as content, on content, on content. His process is a bit more sophisticated.

Many of those people may not become subscribers or customers. It’s all good. They may still introduce me to the person that will. Apart from that, it’s interesting to see which parts of an article resonate with people the most.

The results of my Medium writing

The part you’ve been waiting for. What actually happens when you write on Medium for a full month?

For me, the metric I wanted to improve the most was my Medium follower count. While I got a little boost, it was negligible. This is probably due to the fact that I didn’t promote the articles much.

I started with 731 followers and ended with 759 followers.

30 day profile results

That’s an increase of 28 followers or roughly 4%. My target was to hit a thousand followers or a 36% increase. I failed woefully in that regard.

Looking back, I could have utilized more calls to action. For the most part, I just wrote and published. Only a handful of the articles had any sort of call to action to speak of.

Let’s look at my traffic stats.

After thirty days of writing on Medium, I got 1421 views on my articles and 488 reads.

medium writing stats after 30 days

I started with 420 views which is a 338% increase. Not bad. As far as actual reads, I started with 134 and increased it by 364%. Also not bad.

Even though I started with pretty low numbers, I’m happy with the increase. But these are stats for my Medium activity. More important to me is how many people left medium and went to my websites.

Google seemed to have trouble picking up the referrals sent from Medium. Luckily, I was also using a short link via bit.ly.

That one picked up 27 clicks to our website.

Out of the 488 people that read my articles a little over 5% clicked through to my website. Ehn, it’s not great and it’s not horrible. If it was an advertisement I would be jumping for joy.

It could’ve been improved a lot if I was actively promoting something. What I was doing was linking in the body of my content. There was no call to action or anything of that nature. So, I’m ok with the results.

Conclusion

I still believe in the power of Medium. Even though the results of my case study appear to be lackluster, you have to consider a few things. I basically published and prayed. I tweeted each article once, maybe twice, and did absolutely no more promotion.

If I were to do that on a normal blog, my views would’ve been much lower. I was also able to drive traffic to my website. Even though it was only 27 clicks, that translates to about two subscribers (the website is converting at 10% or so.

That’s two subscribers we didn’t have before so it’s a win.

If you’re going to throw your weight behind Medium, make sure you promote your articles and get accepted to publications. You can get much better results than me.