Justin Cooke

August 25, 2014

Welcome to our Monthly Business Report for July, 2014.

After making some serious changes to our business, we’ve finally consolidated down to what we consider our “core” offering – a curated website marketplace for investors, buyers, and sellers.

We’ve dropped our Products & Services, lost or sold off our outsourcing clients, and have dropped everything else we were working on that’s not directly serving our core audience and customers.

It’s been an exciting (and a bit stressful) couple of months, but things are beginning to settle down and we’re seeing some of the results of those changes now.

We hope this report both inspires and encourages you as you build your online empire.

Executive Summary

We took a bit of a hit in sales this month, but still pulled out our second biggest month ever compared to June, so we can’t be too disappointed. We know it will take time for our renewed focus to turn into revenue and hope to be at around $200K/month in sales by the end/beginning of 2014/2015.

Even with the hit to revenue, we haven’t seen a negative effect to our profits or bottom line with some significantly reduced costs. (discussed later)

Here’s a look at all our revenue streams over time:

Monthly Chart All July 2014

And here are those same revenue streams without the outsourcing revenue:

Monthly Chart No Outsourcing July 2014

July 2014

Business Data:

  • Employees: 9
  • Apprentice: 1
  • Contractors: 2
  • Contact Records: 17,786 (As of 7/31)
  • Email Subscribers: 10,551 (As of 7/31)
  • Site Visits: 24,533

Earnings:

  • Brokered Sites: $20,706.94 ($139,195.26 in vetted sites sold)
  • Our Sites: $0.00
  • Listing Fees: $5,399.00
  • Outsourcing: $5,077.88
  • Additional Revenue: $2,588.44 = ($1,256.40 AdSense) + ($291.00 IntelliTheme) + ($965.90 affiliate) + ($75.14 Niche Site Guide eBook)

TOTAL: $33,772.26

Monthly Revenue

Let’s take a look at each piece of our revenue in July and break it down a bit.

Brokered Site Revenue

We dropped down a bit from sales of nearly $200K to $139,195.26 for the month of July, but that still gives us our second best month ever. We’ll look to pick this up over the next couple of months though, as we want to be at around $200K per month heading into next year.

Here’s a look at our all-time numbers for brokered websites:

Brokered Sites All Time July 2014

And a look at our month-by-month growth that led us here:

Brokered Sites Monthly July 2014

We’re just over $760K in brokered sites for 2014 and we’re going to really have to pick it up if we want to hit our goal of $2MM. We’ve got a shot, though, as we’ve seen some interest in our $80K+ listings and might be selling a few of them in the near future.

Website Listing Fees

Our new and repeat listings brought in a total of $5,399.00 for the month of July, much more than our $1.4K last month.

We’ve been working hard to recruit new and repeat sellers and those efforts are paying off. We’re getting quite a few new sites listed on our marketplace which is great as we prepare to launch our rebrand/redesign.

If you’d like to hear more about how to list and sell your website with us, please click here.

Outsourcing Clients

We’re wrapping up our outsourcing operation and only brought in $5,077.88 for the month of July.

We should still see a few more payments over the next couple of months as residual from the sale of our office and our last remaining outsourcing client.

Our Sites

We still hold a small portfolio of websites we’ve built for ourselves that brought in $1,256.40 in AdSense for the month. We’ll likely be selling these sites off in early September when we get the new site up and running.

Additional Revenue

We brought in $965.90 worth of affiliate commissions with the bulk of that coming from sales of Long Tail Pro.

Sales of our WordPress theme (IntelliTheme) brought in $291.00. We’ll be looking to sell IntelliTheme in September.

Our Amazon eBook sales for Building A Niche Site Empire brought in $75.14 in July.

Traffic And Audience

Here’s a detailed look at our blog traffic, podcast downloads, and list growth and how that helped to achieve our revenue for the month.

Blog Traffic & Analytics

We dropped back down by around 4K sessions, only bringing in 24,533 for the month.

Google Analytics Overall July 2014

That wasn’t terribly surprising, given the fact that much of our previous month’s traffic came from quick bursts via Reddit and HN.

Here’s a look at our top content for the month of July:

What to Do if Your AdSense Account is Disabled

EFP 100: Lessons Learned Building Million Dollar Empires

The Problem With Flippa

Monthly Business Report – June 2014

Empire Workshops: Vietnam

GA Top Content July 2014

I really had to dig this month to pick out the content pages instead of the marketplace and individual listings.

Here are the top referral sources and subscribers they brought for July.

GA Referrals July 2014

We’ve been publishing our $20K+ listings on both BizBuySell and BizQuest to boost some additional exposure and that’s starting to pay off. We’ve received a total of 284 subscribers from the two since we started.

Podcast Downloads

Podcast downloads bounced back big in July with 22,566 downloads. That’s 9K more than we received the previous month.

Podcast Downloads July 2014

Part of the reason for the bump was because we finally fixed the problem where only the last 50 episodes of the podcast were showing in iTunes. Taylor White was kind enough to point us to the fix on Twitter and I think some of our subscribers ended up auto-downloading some of the old episodes, heh.

Emails & Contacts

We grew our total contact records to 17,786 by the end of July, up around 800 from the previous month:

Contact Records July 2014

We broke the 10K subscriber mark in July, putting us at a total of 10,551 active subscribers. Sweet! I’m guessing we’ll continue to grow at about the same pace through August until September when we plan to turn back on some of the paid traffic channels we’d been using before.

Just a quick clarification – Contact records includes all unsubscribes, contacts we’ve added but didn’t add as an email subscriber, etc.

Customer Experience

Improving the customer experience is a critical goal for us and our new Marketplace Manager is quickly getting up to speed to help us with the task.

We’ve seen internal improvements with communication and our customers are able to reap the benefits. It’s much easier to keep everyone on track with a smaller team (and easier to see where some of the deficiencies are too).

Zendesk Support

We held a ton of training in July with our Customer Heroes to train them on the new process, improving customer communication, and to give them order of operations to follow when handling priority tickets.

Here’s a look at our July numbers:

ZenDesk July 2014

As compared to our June numbers:

Zendesk June 2014

Ouch. It’s good to see that more than 80% of our tickets were handled in less than 8 hours, but I’d really like that number to be 90% or higher. Additionally, an average first reply time of 11.6 hours is entirely too slow.

In our team’s defense, there are a few valid reasons for the jump:

  1. Tickets more than doubled. Joe and I were becoming overloaded with emails and started forwarding many more support requests to the team.
  2. We kept interrupting their schedules. Between multiple full-days of training and a failed relaunch, we were taking up quite a bit of their time and taking them away from working with our customers.

Either way, we’re going to have to get better here.

Customer Feedback

We regularly review and reply to feedback in ZenDesk and I wanted to share a few of the messages we received in July with you here.

Here’s a look at feedback from a happy website buyer:

Happy Buyer July 2014

And another from a website seller:

Happy Seller July 2014

Not all of our feedback comes from customers, though. We do get lots of requests via email and try to handle them all, whether we think they’ll end up a customer or not. Here’s one of my favorite responses in July:

Happy Reader July 2014

They’re not all sunshine and gumdrops, though. Here’s someone who claimed to have purchased IntelliTheme and upset he didn’t get a refund:

Unhappy Customer 1

We looked everywhere for this customer’s order history and couldn’t find anything. While he copy/pasted his details, we couldn’t find any record of him actually purchasing from us. Either he purchased from someone else selling a copy or was looking for a refund for money we never received.

Not all of our critical feedback can be as easily explained away, though. Here’s a look at a depositor that was frustrated because he hadn’t received information about the site within 24 hours (and our reply):

Unhappy Customer 2

Joanne was right in that we replied to the original ticket within 6 hours, but Zendesk had both a ticket with the deposit information AND the order form request from the customer. My guess is that our reply to the order form submission got lost in his spam folder and he didn’t get it in time.

We’ve also heard from customers that using ZenDesk can create extraordinarily long email chains that get extremely difficult for them to follow. I’m sure there’s a solution, but we haven’t yet figured out what that is.

Case Studies & Interviews

We had several interviews and mentions go live in July that I thought I’d highlight (and thank):

Selling Shovels in a Goldrush – Interesting (and not quite right?) comparisons and guidance given on how to spot trends and capitalize on them.

Small Business Express Ep. 32: Advanced Website Strategies – Had fun with this interview discussing the importance of copywriting and email marketing for small businesses in 2014.

Daily Travel Podcast Ep. 62: How To Live & Work Anywhere – Less business and more lifestyle/travel with Nathaniel. Fun one, here!

While I can’t always do guest posts, it’s much easier to get me on the phone to chat about business or living in SE Asia and I always dig supporting podcasts and chatting it up with other podcast hosts. Some of the best conversations always seem to happen before and after we hit the record button though!

What We’re Working On

Most of the changes made in July related directly to our staff. With our new focus, we realize we need a smaller, tighter team to handle the growing and expanding needs of our customers.

Here are a few of the highlights in July:

1. Dropping to 9 employees.

Wow – we’re definitely getting smaller! With the cancellation of a major outsourcing client and selling off the last remaining client, we’ve dropped down to only nine full-time employees (and one of them includes our previous apprentice, Vincent).

Most of the team is currently filling a “Customer Hero” role, although each has a particular specialty that relates to serving our customers (website transfers, the vetting process, etc.)

2. Our New Marketplace Manager: Welcome, Mike Vranjkovic!

Mike finally arrived from Chicago, IL to join our team here in Davao City, Philippines. He’s been training and we’re working with him to get him up to speed to better serve our customers. He’ll be acting as Tier 2 support for our marketplace and helping facilitate deals between buyers and sellers as needed.

3. Failing to launch our redesign.

We originally planned to launch our redesign at the end of July, but as the date got closer we realized the site just wasn’t ready. Rather than launch something buggy, we wanted to hold off and complete what we started. We HATE to miss dates and push things like this back, but really felt it was the best move for our company and, ultimately, our customers. We can’t wait to show off the new design – we think you’re going to love it!

“New – Monthly Business Report for July 2014 from the @empireflippers!” – Tweet This!

So how did your July turn out? What are you working on to grow your empire? What do you think about the new format for the monthly reports? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!


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Discussion
Leave a comment
  1. That’s a lot of interesting data, thanks for sharing.

  2. Nick says:

    To be honest, this is the first online income report that I’ve actually read…properly…all the way through. And I must admit, it is awesome.

    There’s just so much to learn here (at least for me). From your transparency (highlighting customer support issues), to your bold approach in re-focusing the business.

    Thanks so much for giving us a “behind the scenes” look at your operations. I think I’ll probably go digging for your older Income Reports now. Tons of educational value and encouragement.

    More grease..Justin & Joe!

    • Thanks Nick, we were actually just actually talking about these reports last night. I feel it’s a great monthly diary of our business — something to look back on for both success and failures. It’s real and holds us accountable for doing the best business we can.

  3. Dan Andrews says:

    Pumped to see the new design too guys! Great report as always, Zen Desk stuff is interesting

  4. I hate missing deadlines! We need to launch now! ;-)

  5. Nathaniel says:

    Justin! Thanks so much for the inspiring conversation. I’ve had a number of people highlight your episode as being a favorite, and it’s been one of the most listened to as well. You’re right — so much great conversation happens offline. Would be excellent bonus content… Cheers!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks so much for having me, man. You’ve got a good show – I love when hosts ask interesting questions.

      Whenever I’ve had what I consider a “bad” interview, I usually try to point the finger at myself. It was ME not asking interesting questions and making the interview, well, interesting!

      Yeah, love the before/after recording chats. Gonna record those sometime and ask for permission to publish, I think. (After he/she hears them first, of course!)

  6. Oluwaseun says:

    That’s a good one guys. But for me July was cool too did $5k in site sales (flipped) the site was consistently making $1,500 with about 15k visits per month, and ranked for about 20 keywords on page 1 of google, It was had to let go of the site but I had to because I needed that cash so urgently. But the proceeds has been put to good use, 2 new site up and already on page 5, 2,10 and 15 for about 8 keywords. Outsourcing has been of great help so far and I am looking forward to building portfolio of sites as they seem to be savings for the dry season.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      $5K – not too shabby!

      That’s a pretty low sum for a site making $1.5K per month though, unfortunately. Still – good to hear you’re reinvesting the funds wisely. Hope your next flips crush it!

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