Justin Cooke

November 24, 2014

Welcome to our Monthly Business Report for October 2014.

After an outstanding September, the following month turned out to be a disappointment. We’ve had our worst month in a very long time – especially considering the fact that our expenses were much higher with all of the traveling and conferences.

We’ll get into all of the nitty-gritty for October below, but first, let’s take a look at the overall numbers.

Our hope is that this report encourages, inspires, and helps you as you build your online empire.

Executive Summary

Watching our revenue fall off a cliff after an excellent September has been a real disappointment for all of us. We weren’t even close to where we need to be and our company was significantly in the red this month.

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

Oct 2014 Monthly Revenue Chart All

And those same revenue streams with our outsourcing company removed:

Oct 2014 Monthly Revenue Chart No Outsourcing

October 2014

Business Data:
Employees: 9
Apprentice: 1
Contractors: 2
Contact Records: 21,260 (+1,179 from previous month)
Email Subscribers: 13,148 (+970)
Site Visits: 21,073 (-11,937)

Earnings:
Brokered Site Sales: $79,468.06 (-$187,273.32)
Brokered Site Earnings: $13,566.21 (-$28,086.76)
Listing Fees: $2,558.00 (+$548.00) – 6 new, 8 returning
Our Sites Sold: $0.00 (No Change)
Outsourcing: $0.00 (-$10,000.00)
Additional Revenue: $1,525.43 = ($106.94 AdSense) ($997.00 other) ($368.61 affiliate) ($52.88 niche guide)

TOTAL Revenue: $17,649.64 (-$38,174.82)

Monthly Revenue

Let’s take a look at each of the revenue streams to see how they shaped out in October.

Brokered Site Revenue

October was a bad month for us with only $79,468.06 in website sales. That’s actually pretty close to what we were pulling in per month at the beginning of the year, but since we’ve cut out everything else in our business and made this our focus, we were expecting this to remain much higher through October. We knew that we’d probably see a drop-off from September, but a 70% drop-off really hurt!

This leaves revenue for us at only $13,566.21 – not great when this should be our primary revenue stream going forward.

The thing I’d add is that the brokering business does tend to get a bit “streaky”. One bigger sale would have completely turned the month around here, so we’re looking to make a real push in November to help us finish out the year. With nearly $400K currently listed on the marketplace and another $200K or so currently in vetting, I think we’ll have a good shot at finishing strong as we close out the year, assuming we can get some of those deals done before the holidays!

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

Oct 2014 Marketplace Overall Sales

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

Oct 2014 Marketplace Monthly Sales

If we can sell another $350K+ through the end of the year I’ll be happy – we can chalk October up to a particularly bad month!

Website Listing Fees

We saw a bump in websites submitted for sale in October, bringing in a total of $2,558.00 in revenue:

6 First-time listings @ $1,782.00
8 Repeat listings @ $776.00

After a rough month in sales, it was encouraging to see listing submissions growing again. A few of those site submissions came in from attendees of our workshops, DSL in Chiang Mai, the DCBKK event, and Rhodium Weekend. It’s too early to tell if we’ll see a direct ROI from the workshops and conferences, but both Joe and I think it was worth it.

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

Our Sites

We don’t have any current inventory and have no plan to start building out new sites again. We are looking at options to purchase and flip ourselves, but we haven’t found any viable targets. (Or spent much time looking…yet)

Additional Revenue

Additional Revenue: $1,525.43 = ($106.94 AdSense) ($997.00 other) ($368.61 affiliate) ($52.88 niche guide)

We still have some odds-and-ends AdSense earnings, along with some of the older affiliate links we still have on the blog. We’ll likely see a bit of an increase here in November as there will be a promotional sale for Long Tail Pro (our biggest affiliate earner.)

Traffic And Audience

Here’s a peek at our blog traffic, podcast downloads, and email list for October 2014.

Blog Traffic & Analytics

After a great re-launch of the site in September, we saw our traffic dip in October by more than 33% to 21,073 visits:

Oct 2014 Google Analytics Overall

This wasn’t too surprising – we missed a couple of podcasts and only put out one blog post for the month! (Something we’re definitely changing in Nov/Dec)

Here’s a look at our top content for October:

Oct 2014 GA Top Content

The bulk of our traffic went to the Marketplace, How It Works page, and the individual listing pages.

Here’s a look at our top referral sources and their email conversions for October:

Oct 2014 GA Referral Sources

Our email conversions for referral traffic doesn’t seem too far off what it’s been historically at just under 1%, even though our referral traffic dropped a bit. We had slight drops in traffic across the board, but our biggest slip was in direct traffic – primarily due to overblown numbers in September due to our relaunch.

Podcast Downloads

With less podcast published, we lost another 900 or so downloads in October, dropping to 14,025 overall.

Oct 2014 Podcast Downloads

Not all that surprising with our break in publishing, but I’d expect this to bounce back up a bit in Nov/Dec.

Emails & Contacts

Contact Records: 21,260 (+1,179 from previous month)
Email Subscribers: 13,148 (+970)

Our contact records continue to climb, breaking 21K in October.

Contact Records Oct 2014

We ended the month with 13,148 active email subscribers. While we’re still getting several hundred per month directly from Empire Flippers, the bulk of those have come through our campaign with After Offers. We’ll be testing various paid campaigns through the end of the year to see if we can significantly add to our active email subscribers by the end of the year.

Our feedback on the emails we send out has been great with some referring to them as some of the most helpful emails they get from all of their subscriptions. Aside from the Monday emails that go out with new listings, we rarely “pitch” to email subscribers and instead look to provide them with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions as buyers and sellers.

Customer Experience

Customer experience is extremely important to us, which is why we’ve added this section to our monthly reports. Our goal is to highlight the positives and negatives so that we can continue to improve.

The experience our customers have when doing business with us is important and part of the reason we track our successes and failures on this report. Going through the process of highlighting some of our successes and failures ensures that we’re looking the overall experience our customers are having and it gives us opportunities to improve that experience.

Zendesk Support

We’ve again seen improvements in our reply time and our satisfaction rating has remained fairly consistent.

Here’s a look at October’s numbers:

Oct 2014 Zendesk Support Team

Vs. September’s numbers:

Zendesk Overall Sep 2014

I’m glad to see that we’re at 90% or more of our first replies answered in 8 hours or less, but I’d still like to get the “24 hours or more” number down to 2% or less. It’s concerning that any tickets aren’t answered in less than 24 hours and fixing this will again bring our overall reply time down even further.

Customer Feedback

I think a true test of your support team is how they handle things when they don’t run so smoothly. Here’s an excellent example of a problem our team was able to solve that turned into a positive review:

Feedback 1 Good with hiccups

Mike was able to quickly help this customer out with his deposit and get him refunded on the sold site.

Jack made a deposit and, although he didn’t purchase this time around, says he’ll be back again:

Feedback 2 Good

Sometimes we get requests and we’re not really sure what they’re asking. “Q” in this case is not interested in selling his site, but wants our help in sharing traffic strategies that don’t include free advertising. Alright, but that’s a little out of our scope:

Feedback 3 Bad

Ok, maybe the answer was a bit short, but explaining that you should look for other relevant blogs in your niche and provide them guest posts doesn’t exactly require much technical skill, right? We might have been able to give a better answer here, but this was clearly a waste of our time too. Looks like a variation of the “I Want Your Monies” email.

I’m not sure what drew this out, but we had another negative review in support that was quite outside the scope of our business. I really don’t know what the guy was expecting – we don’t provide ready-made advice for business owners in the Philippines. I’ll leave the full response here:

Feedback 4 Bad

Case Studies & Interviews

We got a bit of love in October from others around the web that I wanted to highlight (and thank):

Interview with Spencer for the Niche Pursuits Podcast

Interview with Brandon over at Mad Fientist

Intro video from our presentation at the Drop Shop Lifestyle event in Chiang Mai

What We’re Working On

October was a bit of a whirlwind for us. We spent most of the month going from event to event giving presentations and running workshops. I’ll break each one down for you here and share some feedback/insights we received from each.

Empire Workshop – Chiang Mai (and Las Vegas)

We had around 15 people attend each and we went through the same format we used previously and added some tweaks based on the feedback from attendees at the Ho Chi Minh workshop. We decided to balance out the content around buying/selling instead of having it so focused on sellers and that seemed to be a hit. Many of the attendees had specific questions about their situation for buying/selling, so much of the conversation between sessions seemed to be more personalized (and valuable) for attendees.

Unlike Ho Chi Minh, we charged a non-refundable $100 for the workshop and the attendees thought that was more than fair. We came pretty close to break-even when you consider the cost of the venue, lunch, and then dinner/drinks afterwards.

One of the things that surprised me is that most of the attendees weren’t regular podcast listeners or even on our email list. They heard of the event through a friend, Facebook, or were attending the Dropship Lifestyle or Rhodium Weekend events later in the week. I thought we’d mostly be talking with people who already knew us, but instead it turned out as a great opportunity for us to introduce who we are and what we do to people who didn’t know us that well.

Drop Ship Lifestyle Retreat – Chiang Mai

Dropship Lifestyle Retreat 2014
What started off as a plan to get 15-20 guys and gals together in Chiang Mai turned into a full-on, week-long event! Anton and crew over at DSL had around 100-120 attendees and brought together about a dozen presenters. They stretched the event out so there was plenty of time for co-working and less structured meetups and get togethers – perfect for a fun place like Chiang Mai.

Joe and I put on a 2.5 hour presentation that included some of our workshop material (particularly suited for dropship website builders/sellers) and then covered an additional (new) section on scaling your business through process, automation, and outsourcing.

One of the things I loved about this event was how excited everyone was to be there and to be getting started with their online business. Many of the attendees had never been to Asia before and were relatively early in their online entrepreneurial career. It was exciting to see so many scrappy, hungry entrepreneurs in one place and the friendships and networks created at this event were incredible. This was such a hit I’m SURE they’ll be putting on another retreat in 2015.

For anyone looking to get started at building a profitable online business, I highly recommend checking out Anton’s Dropship Lifestyle course. I’m not saying this as an affiliate (because we’re not), but if you’re at all interested in building a physical product business online you’ll find Anton’s No-Bullshit, just-the-facts training approach refreshing.

DCBKK – Bangkok

Hard to believe this is the third annual event from our friends over at TropicalMBA!

For anyone unfamiliar, Dan and Ian run a membership group for established, location-independent entrepreneurs living and working around the world called the Dynamite Circle. Every year there’s a pilgrimage taken to Bangkok where we all get to meet each other, hear presentations from our peers, and party together.

It really felt like everything was clicking the third time around – they REALLY threw a great event this year. With more than 200 attendees the keynotes felt much larger, but they were smart to break many of the speakers into different tracks of 30-50 or so attendees for each. That gave the conference a much smaller feel, but still allowed all of us to get together for the weekend.

Justin and Joe DCBKK

Our presentation was short at 8 minutes and was titled, “To Hell with Diversification: Double Down on Your One Big Thing”. In talking to so many other entrepreneurs in Asia, there’s a common thread to focus on “coconut cash” – smaller cashflows that might allow you to get by, but will never bring you the true wealth you’re looking for. We laid out our case for dumping our side projects and to instead focus on our biggest and best value to the market.

This is a community we really dig – definitely our “people”. We don’t attend this conference to “do business”, really…but after looking around the room we realized we’d sold more than $300K worth of sites for attendees – wow!

As is typical with many conferences, much of the value we got out of it was in the hallways, at dinner, or having drinks around Bangkok. Whether it was chatting with Derek and Peter, having drinks and cigars with Mark, Ben, and Josh, or partying it up late into the night with other new and old friends – we had an absolute blast.

Rhodium Weekend

Chris Yates and David Gass put on the Rhodium Weekend event which finally forced Joe and I to head back stateside and gave us the opportunity to meet others in our industry.

It was great to be back in the US and after our obligatory In-N-Out and Chipotle noms we were ready to attend the event! There were 50-60 attendees and about a dozen or so presenters over the weekend. We stayed at the not-so-fantastic Orleans Hotel, but the actual event was at a really cool space called the Innevation Center.

We were most excited to meet and hang out with everyone that was going to be there and the event did not disappoint. We were finally able to meetup with guys like Spencer from NichePursuits, Matt Paulson, Jordan Harbinger, Justin Gilchrist, Chris Guthrie, and a host of other friends, customers, and industry insiders. We were looking to plant some seeds with potential buyers/sellers, but Joe actually sat down with one of the attendees and she bought one of our websites for sale on the spot – sweet!

Big thanks to Chris and David for putting this on and “forcing” us to come back to the US! :-) We recently had Chris on the podcast as well – you can check that out here.

First Class Cabin

A first-class flight back to Asia, a few more weeks in Thailand, and then a quick flight over to Ho Chi Minh has us back to settling in and getting back to work on our business.

All of these events kept us pretty occupied for the month and likely had a negative impact on our revenue. That’s ok for now – we’re hopeful that these connections will help our long-ball strategy…even at a short-term cost.

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 October 2014 from the @empireflippers!” – Tweet This!

So how did your October shape up? Any thoughts or comments you’d like to share?


Make a living buying and selling websites
Sign up now to get our best tips, strategies, and case studies
Discussion
Leave a comment
  1. Dennis says:

    Is there some overview page where these Asia based meetings are announced? Would like to attend one ore more in the future.

  2. Anisul Islam says:

    Hi Justin and joe
    Thank you very much for informative post. this is really an excellent post from you as usual.
    wow such a variety of exercises going on. Exceptionally itemized month to month report !Maybe this will be distinctive for site deals. Truth be told, you are not managing the same corporate society motivations. It surely appears that route taking a gander at the most recent 12 months of information you displayed.

    Proceeded with achievement. What’s more much obliged concerning being such an incredible wellspring of data.

    Regards
    Anisul ISlam
    Clockedge

  3. Joseph Ho says:

    wow so many activities going on. Very detailed monthly report !

  4. Hi guys,

    I hate to see the revenue drop. I know you guys are going to power through and crush it, so hang in there.

    I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but people who contact you for off-topic help and then complain can be a time suck. I’ve learned that you have to politely cut them off in the first contact, otherwise you can get dragged into a time and emotionally draining back and forth.

    I’m looking forward to selling some niche sites in the next 6-9 months, and I know where I’m listing! :)

    Best,

    Richard

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Richard.

      You’re right about the time-suck. I’m “pretty” good about dealing with them at this point, but I still get sucked down the rabbit hole every once in a while, heh.

      Looking forward to helping you sell your sites!

  5. David Rubenstein says:

    Thanks for sharing.

    In M&A, the 4th quarter is usually the biggest for the year. Maybe this will be different for website sales. After all, you are not dealing with the same corporate culture incentives. It certainly seems that way looking at the last 14 months of data you presented.

    On the other hand, I wonder if there is some lingering uncertainty in the market following the PBN update a few months back. Probably too early to tell. And that would also further validate your outlier data point hypothesis.

    Continued success. And thanks for being such a great source of information.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey David – I certainly hope you’re right about the 4th quarter!

      I think it’s more likely to be true at the upper-end of our market than the lower-end. Less buyers for the $3K – $20K sites, but more opportunity in the $60K – $200K+ range still.

      I think the uncertainty regarding the stability of sites, PBN’s, etc. definitely had an effect but, at our lower level, I think our lack of involvement played a bigger role.

      Working on that!

  6. Walt says:

    What software are you guys using for the above diagrams?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Walt,

      Which are you referring to? They’re all screenshots from a bunch of different software/programs.

      The four at the very top are really basic – just reports inside of Google Docs. :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a site to sell?
Sell Your Site

Click here to find out how much your website is worth