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Growing the Mailing List

So we've just come to the end of the third week since I launched Skype Voice Changer, and at the end of week two I'd just finished a site redesign, which included requiring an email address to access the download. The original plan was that they had to complete a sign up to my mailing list to get at the download, but that would require them to receive two emails - one from MailChimp first to confirm their address, and then one from me with the actual link to the download. I felt that was too cumbersome, so they actually get redirected directly to the download page before they click the confirm email in their inbox, meaning they are not forced to complete the mailing list signup.

However, of the first 30 people who provided their emails (and they all looked pretty legitimate), only four clicked on the confirmation email from MailChimp. So I probably need to revisit this and force them to really subscribe before they get the download. This would involve me using the MailChimp API to subscribe them directly, having handled the double opt-in myself. Still, I got at least five new subscribers a day this week, so the new mailing list is growing at a decent rate.

Bugfixes and Nag Screens

On Monday night, I launched a new version of the app containing a round of bugfixes, particularly around handling exceptions better, thanks to the automated error reports I was receiving. I also implemented a better nag screen, with a nicer message asking you if you want to see the special offers. Unlicensed users will have to dismiss this screen every time they launch the app. Interestingly, I started noticing people coming to the purchase page from this nag message within minutes of pushing this update live.

Where is everybody?

So now I had a nice new website and a more reliable app and a nag screen. Surely this meant I would get more than the six sales I managed the previous week? But two whole days passed without a sale and I started to fear that I had broken the ability to purchase. But eventually, my first sale of the week came in, and the first one from the EU. Thanks to, VAT at the German rate was handled for me.

Slow and Steady Sales

It became obvious that I was unlikely to beat the six sales of the previous week, but more sales did come in as the week progressed. Wednesday evening saw the first purchaser come in from the new nag screen. And then I got my first UK sale on Thursday. UK has the highest VAT rate of all, so those sales give the lowest profit.

On Friday, another UK sale, but this time I was contacted immediately as the customer couldn’t get it to accept his license key. I scrambled to find out what was going wrong, and it seems like he had run into a weird error to do with the fact that one of my dependencies in the app is a portable library, and so he needed to run Windows Update to patch his .NET framework.

Customer Support

However, this was now the second of my 11 customers who had needed customer support to get the app running on their machine. This is concerning because this does not scale well at all. What if I sold 1000 copies of the app? Would that mean over 100 support cases? Obviously I can keep improving the help on the site to work around common issues, and for this most recent issue I could put in an error handler and tell the user they need to run Windows Update. But clearly I need to reduce the frequency of customer support issues if this is to become a genuine source of "passive income".

Crafting a Marketing Email

I've been trying to send out marketing emails once a week. I figure that that keeps the product in people's minds without being so irritatingly frequent that they unsubscribe immediately.

But what to talk about in the emails? There's only so much I can say about the features of the program, and I'm waiting for a few more weeks before I try the "SALE ENDING SOON" approach.

Thankfully, I had a eureka moment as I realised that Valentine's Day was the perfect excuse to prompt people to use the product. I crafted what I felt was a pretty decent marketing email suggesting that people Skype someone they love, make it a conversation to remember using the effects and sounds features, and retaining a "treasured memory" by recording the conversation! I got my fifth sale of the week within minutes of it going out, but currently have no way to prove that it came from that email campaign. I really need to improve my tracking of sales.

Another issue the marketing emails raised is what time should I send the things? Because I'm still on the MailChimp free tier, I can't get them auto-sent at the best times, so I currently send out emails and tweets in late afternoon in UK time, since that's when America is awake too. I've noticed that around 8am UK time has the least traffic on my site, and the majority of my sales are still from the US, so I'm optimising times for US customers.

Next Steps - Videos and Adverts

So what's next? Well I don't really have time to be making major improvements to the site and the app next week, as I have other projects that need my attention. But there are a few obvious things that I need to look into.

The first is that I need to make a product demo video. I have a YouTube channel waiting to put something on, and I think that a video for my website would help a lot with people "getting" what the product actually does as well as teaching how to use it. But I also think creating some YouTube videos with titles like "How to record your Skype conversations", or "How to disguise your voice in Skype", or "How to create a Skype soundboard", may actually be a good way of advertising the product (another idea inspired by an episode of Entreprogrammers). I'll let you know how it works out when I get round to trying this.

Finally, I'm starting to think about adverts. What if I put 10 or even 20 percent of the profits of the app into advertising? How many more sales would that generate? I'm still getting 1 sale a day from about 100 visits to the site. So if I can get 200 visits a day will that mean 2 sales a day? The challenge here is deciding what type of advertising to go for. Google Ad Words? Twitter? Facebook? I'm leaning towards facebook at the moment, as it seems very simple to set up.

So I'll end with a question. Tell me, fellow entrepreneurs, what sort of advertising should I try first?


Comment by markheath

thanks Dan, the passive income has a long way to go before it reaches that level! But it has been a good learning experience so far.