Our Monthly Report – January 2015
Welcome to our Monthly Business Report for January, 2015.
After our best month ever in December, we’ve dropped back down into more normal territory in January. We’re happy with how things turned out, but will have some catching up to do if we expect to hit our goals for the quarter.
You’ll see that the vast majority of our revenue comes from the deals closed on our marketplace from both website buyers and sellers. This will remain our core offer through 2015 and we thank all of our customers that choose us as their trusted partner when it comes time to sell their business or acquire a website.
We’ll get into all the nitty-gritty details but first, let’s take a look at the overall numbers for the month of January.
Our hope is that this report encourages, inspires, and helps you build your online empire.
After an amazing $300K+ month in December, we’re hoping to keep $200K+ per month the norm as we head into 2015. I think this should be easier to do now that we’ve got quite a bit of inventory and plenty of new submissions and listings coming down the pipeline.
- Employees: 7
- Apprentice: 1
- Contractors: 1
- Contact Records: 26,055 24,467 (+1,588 from previous month)
- Email Subscribers: 16,761 (+1,140)
- Site Visits: 30,083 23,205 (+6,878)
- Brokered Site Sales: $218,846.91 (-$93,914.69)
- Brokered Site Earnings: $30,205.87 (-$13,502.89)
- Listing Fees: $5,734.00 (+$3,261.00) 20 new, 2 returning
- Our Sites Sold: $0.00 ($0.00)
- Outsourcing: $0.00 (-$575.14)
- Additional Revenue: $1,103.68 = ($416.06 Affiliates) ($27.62 Niche Guide) ($660.00 Services)
TOTAL Revenue: $37,043.55 (-$10,584.97)
Alright, so that’s a look at our overall numbers. Let’s dig into the details and look at the breakdown to better understand how everything played out.
Brokered Site Revenue
We had another strong month in January with $218,846.91 in sales and $30,205.87 in revenue for our company.
We’re happy with how the month played out, but know that we’ll have some catch-up to do if we want to hit our goal of $750K for Q1. If we can end up around $250K in Feb and close to $300K in March we’ll be on track.
Here’s a look at our all-time sales for brokered websites:
And our month-by-month report:
For the first time ever, we’ve noticed a trend where our inventory is outpacing purchases. This probably has to do with some heavy seller-focused content and marketing we’ve been doing over the last 3-6 months that’s finally starting to pay off. This is a good thing – we can only sell as much as the inventory we have available – but it definitely leads to more of a buyer’s market than a seller’s market and it seems the pendulum has swung.
We’ve already begun ramping up efforts on the buyer’s side of the equation by beefing up our ad spend, deeper distribution of our listings on 3rd party platforms, and more personalized attention towards depositors and website buyers. We’re also pretty confident that our investor program can pick up some of the slack on the buyer side.
Website Listing Fees
We had an excellent month for new listings in January, more than doubling our revenue and pulling in $5,734.00.
- 20 First-time listings @ $5,540.00
- 2 Repeat listings @ $194.00
We normally downplay the listing fee as it’s such a small percentage of our overall revenue, but it was much more significant for us in January.
We’ve been working with our team to improve the vetting process and have been able to increase efficiencies, correct errors, etc. At this point, Joe’s role is becoming more of a bottleneck – something we’re hoping to improve when the new apprentice arrives.
Our Valuation Tool continues to be a big lead driver for us here and has done remarkably well in attracting new sellers to our marketplace. It’s a perfect tool when we combine it with paid traffic and our ROI there has been incredible. We continue to work with Vincent Nguyen who has now setup a service for this over at Growth Ninja.
Most of the affiliate revenue came from sales of Long Tail Pro and a few other products we’ve mentioned on EF. I haven’t added any affiliate links for over a year, but some of our old content still drives this revenue.
I’m not particularly sure where the $660.00 came from. Our bookkeeper included a line item, “Reimbursed Fees, Site Sales” and so I’ve included it here as miscellaneous revenue.
After reviewing the program for months, Joe, Mike, and I have finally taken some steps to start rolling this out in 2015. The program is currently closed and we have a small list of high net worth investors we’ll be working with to test this out in the coming months. While we don’t have any earnings in January, I’ve included this section as we should start to see some growth here by the end of Q1.
Traffic And Audience
Here’s a peek at our blog traffic, podcast downloads, and email list for January.
Blog Traffic & Analytics
We crushed it with traffic in January, bringing in 30,083 visits – nearly 30% growth over the month before.
While some of that was due to our paid FB traffic, we’ve also noticed significant improvements in the rankings for some of our targeted keywords. We’d made some effort 4-6 months ago to improve our internal SEO and it looks like some of that work is starting to pay off. Not only have we seen improvements in our organic traffic, but we’re also attracting more of the “right” types of visitors based on our keywords and organic rankings.
One of our goals in Q1 is to have an expert do some in-depth analysis on our current on-site SEO and then recommend + implement those changes. This is a long-ball strategy that isn’t likely to have any immediate results, but we’re hoping will pay off for a long time to come.
Here’s a look at our top content for January:
Here are our top three posts:
Here were our top referral sources and all goal conversions for January:
I’m more of a lurker on Reddit, but I’ve been engaging more and it’s turned into a bit of traffic. I wonder if some strategic advertising on niche-specific subreddits would be a good idea.
We popped back up again with podcast downloads, pulling in 13,519 for the month.
It’s difficult to put out a consistently good show, week after week. I feel like we’ve done some of our best AND worst work with the show in the last 30 episodes. I’ve got some good ideas for future episodes and I’m keen to try them out.
Here are a few of my recent favorites:
I’ve been debating starting a new show in addition to The Empire Podcast, but I’m a little worried about the time commitment.
Emails & Contacts
Our contact records are at 26,055 as of Jan 31st, up around 1,588 from the previous month.
We’re up to 16,761 email subscribers – up 1,140 from the previous month.
Many of these email subscribers have come through a campaign we’ve been using called After Offers. After reviewing the actual customers we’ve had from this campaign in the last six months, we’re going to minimize the campaign in February with a plan to close it down in March if we don’t see improvements. At $1 per email subscriber I thought it was a no-brainer, but it just doesn’t make much sense if we’re not getting the “right” subscribers, no matter the quantity.
I know that we could significantly improve our opt-ins with things like pop-ups, more aggressive placement, etc. but I’m wary to do that. My guess is that we’d be attracting the lower end of the market to subscribe and, ultimately, we wouldn’t gain new customers from that approach.
I think looking at the data and feedback from the customer experience is important. I want to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes feedback we’re getting from some of our customers.
Our customer satisfaction remains high, but we saw a slight dip in response times.
Here’s a look at January’s numbers:
Vs. December’s numbers:
That’s not bad considering we had an additional 80 or so tickets compared to last month. I’m glad to see less than 4% of tickets had to wait 24 hours or more for a response.
There’s a problem here, though. While Zendesk tracks first response to NEW tickets, it doesn’t have anything in place to track how quickly open tickets are responded to. This is a problem for us, as many of our tickets aren’t handled on first response. (Ongoing depositors, active listings with sellers, etc.) We maybe be GREAT at the initial response, but miserably slow to all subsequent responses to customers – I just don’t know.
This is one of the reasons we’re hiring our latest apprentice. The Account Manager will be responsible for directly routing tickets, ensuring they’re answered in a reasonable timeframe, and following up where needed.
In looking at tickets for the last 60 days, I see that we have a total of 120 good/satisfied tickets and only 3 bad/unsatisfied tickets. I’ll share three of those tickets below to give you a sense of their tone, what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, etc.
Here’s a comment from a happy buyer:
And one from a happy seller:
Here’s another new, nervous, but ultimately happy seller:
Not all were positive, of course. Here’s a comment from a not-so-happy depositor:
He’s spot-on here, actually. We dropped the ball a bit in our follow-ups. I think it might have had to do with a serious depositor closing the deal right around the same time, but we really should have kept this potential buyer better informed.
Our Goals For 2015
I missed this in our last report that was a sort-of annual review for 2014. It was intentional – I’d already written so many words that I just couldn’t justify sneaking them in!
I’ll include the major goals for 2015 here.
Note: We create these goals during our quarterly strategy meetings. This basically consists of us looking at our 3-5 year plan and working backwards to designate set goalposts and benchmarks to ensure we’re working towards that goal. We adjust and re-evaluate once per quarter.
- $4M in brokered sales in 2015
- $1M in assets for our investor program
- Valuation Tool becomes a pricing tool and is used for listing prices on the marketplace
- Two profitable, ROI-driven paid traffic strategies established for both buyers and sellers
- Consolidation of other brokers and 3rd parties to buy/sell on our platform
We have others, but that covers the bulk of what we’re looking to accomplish this year.
I’m a little unhappy with the last goal as it will be pretty hard to determine whether this was actually accomplished or not. The idea was to encourage other smaller/independent brokers to list their sites on our platform. Additionally, we’d like to find more “institutional” buyers that are building out and expanding their own portfolios. (As part of an investment group, partnership, etc.)
What We’re Working On
Here are a few of the projects we were working on in January:
1. Testing Paid Traffic Strategies For Buyers
We’re finally starting to see our inventory catch up (and surpass?) organic demand. Up until this point, we’ve always had more buyers than sellers, but now that we’re moving into 6-figure website territory and have seen a significant increase in 5-figure submissions, we’re having to swing the pendulum over to buy-side marketing.
We’ve just recently switched our buyer-focused paid marketing to 70% of our budget. Additionally, we’re creating funnels and follow-ups to better capitalize on those leads.
This is unfortunate as we were seeing a fantastic ROI on the seller-focused funnels, but we have to balance that with the needs of our marketplace.
2. Expanding Our Website Listing Distribution Channels
We’ve increased our exposure on sites like BizBuySell, BizQuest, etc. This gives us added 3rd party distribution for our listings and increases our broker exposure on the sites. We’ve improved our funnel to better capture leads and quickly respond to buyer inquiries by pushing those to our support staff and getting them out of email.
3. Polishing Our Website Redesign
Improving our website remains an ongoing, long-term project. We’ve recently made some changes to our marketplace and are adding additional information to the listing pages to better help buyers make an informed decision.
We just recently removed the options for buyers to purchase the site outright via credit card. We have quite a bit to say about why that is, but we’re currently in the middle of it and would rather wait until we have some resolution to lay out the backstory here.
That’s it for this month’s report – thank you for checking it out! Please feel free to share if you think others might find it useful too:
“New – Monthly Business Report for January 2015 from the @empireflippers!” – Tweet This!
So how did your month turn out? Any thoughts or comments you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!