Welcome to my June 2016 Monthly Income Report! I just got back from Podcast Movement 2016 in Chicago, which was awesome! Thanks to everyone who came by to say hi, and I look forward to sharing more about my PM16 experience in next month’s report.
In the meantime, as always, I’m here to share the latest goings-on from last month here on SPI. If you’re new, you can find the archive of monthly income reports dating back to October 2008 on the income reports page, which covers not only income streams from my various online businesses, but also, more importantly, the lessons learned from both the wins and failures I’ve experienced along the way.
Latest Goings-On in June
In last month’s report, I shared that I was working with another company in the food truck industry to bring FoodTruckr.com back to life. Although it wasn’t really “dead,” it was definitely static for a while, with no new content for more than a year. Despite that, however, the site had continued to grow in terms of monthly visitors, and it had a consistent income from product sales the entire time.
In June, the partnership that represents the new era of this site became official, and FoodTruckr, LLC is now an official company that is outside of the Flynndustries, LLC umbrella.
New content has already been added to the site, and we’re now working to grow the social media following on our FoodTruckr Facebook page, which now has over 14,000 likes.
We’re also repurposing older content, including the podcast episodes, into new forms of content, such as videos for Facebook and a new YouTube channel.
I’m excited to see where this takes FoodTruckr, and because I’ve spent a lot of time forming the brand and earning trust in the industry to begin with, it’ll be nice to have a team on board to help execute product sales and more rapid growth strategies into the future.
Beyond growing, of course, it’s actually an exit. We’re hoping to increase the revenue more than 10x and eventually get to a point where we’d be comfortable selling it. We’re still in discussion of what that number is, but it’s important that it becomes defined so we know exactly what it might take to get there.
I’ll make sure to share more on the progress and growth of FoodTruckr coming soon, of course. Based on last month’s reaction to the announcement that FoodTruckr was getting a second wind, it seems like you’re just as excited as I am, which is super cool!
SPI Labs is the software company that I co-founded with my partner Matt Gartland. It was formed to own the development and distribution of The Smart Podcast Player (SPP) and other software items related to SPI.
The Smart Podcast Player is performing extremely well, averaging about $14k in earnings per month over the last six months, and new customers are being added every single day. What’s nice is that all of the marketing for the software has been purely organic!
We still have yet to pay for advertising of any kind.
Many people I’ve shared this with have actually expressed quite a bit of concern.
Because since it’s a proven product, we should be putting marketing dollars into advertising. When you have a product that sells, advertising becomes not just a way to gain more exposure, but it’s like trading dimes for quarters, or quarters for dollars. It becomes a machine, and it’s one that Matt and I have yet to implement.
So how come we haven’t yet?
We have all of the tools, and even the people in line to help us with Facebook advertising when we’re ready, but there are two things that we want to optimize first before we begin to spend marketing dollars:
- The sales page
- The product itself
First, let’s talk about the sales page.
The current sales page works and converts, but it could be much better. We’ve had a plan to upgrade the sales page for a long time now and we’re finally executing on that. To prepare, we’ve run a number of split-tests behind the scenes to understand what works and what doesn’t (using a fantastic tool called Optimizely to make it all happen), and we’ve also been researching a number of other SaaS (Software as a Service) companies for best practices too.
For example, one thing we found to be very interesting is pricing pages are often separate from the homepage of the same product. My initial thinking was that this was because price can sometimes scare people off, and you want to entice people to click through to find your pricing page in order begin that “yes ladder”—where small confirmations (or clicks in this case) along the way can lead to a bigger “yes” down the road (or up the ladder).
In doing more research and speaking to a lot of my software buddies, I found that my theory was true, but there was a more clear cut reason for setting up a pricing page in this way:
To enable a more optimized retargeting campaign.
Retargeting is a popular advertising strategy that enables you to serve ads to people based on certain actions that they’ve taken, or parts of your website they’ve visited. This is typically accomplished by adding a “pixel” to the page on your website you want tracked. Have you ever visited a website and then left, only to see an ad related to the website (or the products sold on that website) later? That’s retargeting in action, and from what I’ve heard from others, it works.
Using this strategy, if you know people have clicked through to your pricing page, but have not followed through to the checkout page, you can serve them an ad that’s a little more targeted than one if they visited the homepage only. Furthermore, you could add a pixel onto the checkout page for even further retargeting in case people abandon the cart.
We’ve been sitting on the idea for the new sales page and a more strategic advertising campaign for a while, but to be honest, because The Smart Podcast Player was always doing “okay” right out of the gate, we never felt the incredible urge to really get these changes done, which is a mistake.
And that’s the danger of complacency. I’ve experienced complacency in all of my different businesses. It’s a good idea to be proud of the work you’ve done and be happy with the results that you’ve earned, but it’s also smart to continue to upgrade your goals and add more urgency to the work that you’re doing too, or else your business is going to go stagnant, and you’ll have products that become ineffective or past the point of resuscitation.
Matt and I have recently undergone a mindset shift related to The Smart Podcast Player regarding what we really want to accomplish, and we’re excited for this new era in the software—not only in our approach and the marketing of it, but also how it looks and performs too.
Smart Podcast Player 2.0
The design of The Smart Podcast Player is what made it stand out from other web-based players. It’s made thousands of podcasts look and perform much better on websites (which is especially important for those first time visitors who are discovering your podcast on your website before anything else), and it has also accounted for several of our customers reporting a significant increase in overall downloads.
The design, however, limited the growing number of features that we’ve wanted to add to the player, mainly those requested by the users. The last thing we wanted to do was create something that looks like those universal remote controls for your TV that has 100 different buttons.
The foundation for the design was to be smart, minimal, and, most importantly, useful. But in order to add some of the new features we want to add in the near future, we had to redesign the player again from the ground up.
Dustin, the original designer for the player (and several other things that you’ve seen before, like the new design of the SPI Blog, the book cover and interior for Will It Fly?, and more) took another crack at it based on the feedback from users and our team, and I have to say, it’s gorgeous! You'll get a look at it soon—we're still putting the finishing touches on it. [This link leads to Amazon. Full disclosure: I receive affiliate commission if you purchase from this link.]
The new player and the new sales page debut in September. A smarter search, integration with new hosting platforms (such as BuzzSprout), and a more intuitive layout are just a few of the upcoming features that you’ll see in September. Woohoo!
And finally, one last thing about this particular business in general . . .
Ever since we started selling The Smart Podcast Player, we’ve been offering a discount to go along with it. When we launch limited time campaigns for the player or have some special arrangement with another partner, we have always included an expiring discount, which was our tactic to inject scarcity into the sales process.
Scarcity is important, and as you’ll hear in an upcoming episode of the SPI Podcast with Ramit Sethi this week, there are different types of scarcity you can use to get your audience to move on your product. But offering a discount can be a terrible move, especially when it’s something your audience can get used to. Do it too much, and they’ll expect a discount every time, and then all of a sudden, you’re like Bed Bath & Beyond, where people don’t shop with you unless they have their 20% discount coupon.
You’ll hear more about all of this in the podcast episode this week, but here’s the heart of it: when you discount your product, you’re cheapening it. There is less perceived value, and when you play around with the price point like that and just slice a part off the top, it says something about the product itself: that it’s not actually worth the price that you’re charging, and that’s bad. If you have to discount a product in order to sell it, it means you’re not exactly sure what you’re offering and how much value comes with it.
It’s important to know your product’s worth, and fight the urge to discount. Instead, you can add other bonuses that are offered along with the sale, and those can be just as limited, and often valued a lot more than some cash off the top.
Okay, more on that later of course. Again, please look out for the new player and sales page in September. For now, let’s get into this month’s income breakdown.
Full Disclosure: Some of the items in the list below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase through that link, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Note: Items with an empty difference percentage were not present on the previous month's income report.
Lesson Learned in June
Beyond the business related items, June was also a big month for my family. My six-year-old boy, Keoni, graduated Kindergarten! We’re super proud of him. He’s been excelling in reading and math like a champ, and he’s already eager to get back to school and start first grade, which is awesome.
Now that he’s home and doesn’t go to school everyday, he has a lot more free time to enjoy what he loves doing, like swimming in the pool, riding his bike, and the thing that he’s become most obsessed with as of late, Minecraft.
Minecraft is a video game that I’ve heard about over the past few years, but I’ve never had any desire to learn about it or play. It seemed like a dinky kids game with weird blocky graphics. I’m more into first-person shooter games like Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Halo, so I had no interested in Minecraft at all. I was always curious to see if Keoni would pick up on the Minecraft bug like so many other kids his age, and in the last few weeks of school, he’s become obsessed with it.
His friends showed him what it was, and after downloading it onto an iPad here in the house, he’s been playing it during his free time to a point where most conversations he starts have something to do with the game.
Not wanting to be left out of the conversation, I decided to see what this Minecraft thing was all about, so I downloaded it onto my desktop computer and started to play. After about ten minutes, I was hooked, and for the last few weeks I’ve been playing non-stop with Keoni during our free time. It’s become a cool thing we’ve bonded over, and the best part is that, as we’re playing the game together (sometimes in the same server in the same virtual world), he’s actually learning how to problem solve and plan ahead. I also see a transition in the way he’s reacting when things go wrong, which often happens in the game.
For example, when a creeper (a creature that can explode when you come in close contact with it) blows up a part of the house he’s built or tears apart the farm that he’s crafted, initially I’d see him get super frustrated and give up. Now, he’s not only learning how to deal with the mistakes after they happen, he’s also learning how to prevent them—like in building a fortress around his main properties so that he won’t even have to deal with the issue anymore.
Keoni has become so interested in Minecraft that he’s also asked to learn how to program in the game. What’s cool about Minecraft is that it’s an open-source program that anyone can use to customize and code new things in it using actual lines of code. My wife actually signed him up for Minecraft Camp this summer at UCSD where a professor will teach him programming using Minecraft as the basis of it, which is epic!
So what’s the big lesson here? The big lesson is that this game, which I initially pre-judged as being weird and not anything I would want to get involved with, has actually become an important element in the relationship that my son and I have. All of his friends now think I’m the cool dad because I play Minecraft too. But it’s not about being the cool dad, of course. It’s about speaking the same language and being able to teach him in a way that he responds to.
I could teach these same life lessons about life to Keoni in any other way. I could simply explain it to him. But because the learning is enclosed in something that he’s super engaged with, he responds much faster and is more likely to listen. And as he grows, I know he’ll get involved with other things that I cannot even fathom right now, and I hope to always be able to remember this Minecraft example as a reminder that it’s not about me and what I like. It’s about keeping an open mind, paying attention to what our kids are into, and never judging before I really know what it’s about and why they are interested in it.
A lot of this can apply online business too, of course, when it comes to your own audience, customers, and others you serve.
Thanks for letting me share this with you. It’s been fun playing Minecraft and learning (and playing!) along with my son. And thanks again for reading this month’s report. Wishing you all the best here in July, and keep on the lookout for this week’s podcast and other content coming your way soon here on SPI.
I appreciate you! Thanks!