Day 20: Starting to Create Momentum
This update was supposed to be about sales, but we have some unfinished business left over from Day 18. CofounderGPT and I did keyword research, wrote some ad copy but didn’t manage to start a small Google Adwords campaign. We only managed to post about Knowlo on Indie Hunters which has brought about 20 people to the website but 0 new email addresses.
After the work that Slobodan and CofounderGPT’s managed to get done on Day 19, we are a few weeks from onboarding our first beta customers. So far, these include Vacation Tracker, Lead Delta, a secret subscription startup, and maybe some of the 40 people we have on our email list so far.
Our goal is to get more people on that email list so that there is a higher likelihood some of them may actually try out our product and give us feedback when we launch.
we’re going to experiment a little bit with paid traffic today. And everyone knows that the kings of paid traffic on the internet are Google and Facebook. we’ll start with Google Ads because this is where people are actually searching for a solution, so there is intent. On Facebook/Instagram, you are interrupting them in their feed or somewhere while they are trying to be distracted by pictures of furry animals.
Google Ads are more expensive than Facebook ads exactly because there is intent behind what people are searching for on the internet. Some super competitive keywords with clear buyer intent can cost hundreds of dollars per click on Google.
So Let’s get started with Google Ads by going to their site and signing in with our Knowlo Google account:
To sign up, I had to enter some information about the company, the website and then I was asked about goals. I was able to put the link to the thank you page to track conversions for our Google Ads campaign. I went through the first couple of steps and then I got to this screen:
You might be tempted to go with the “Performance Max“ campaign type if you don’t know any better. I’m not so sure It’s a good idea. Google has gotten very good at extracting money from people for ads. So if you quickly want to blow through your entire budget with crappy automated results, then go with Performance Max. They picked a nice name to trick you to go with this option. What this option should be called is “Google Earning Max“. Anyway, I went with Search because that’s the best (and most expensive) option for us at this stage.
Another thing I want to take a moment to mention is that if you sign up for a Google Ads account, you should expect a phone call from a “Google Ads specialist“ who will offer to help you optimize your campaign for maximum performance, free of charge!? This is another trap. I’ve tried these calls several times and It’s clear that the goal of these calls is “Google Earning Max“ and not to help your campaign perform better. So we’re staying away from anything that Google is pushing onto us.
After completing the first couple of steps relating to the company and our goals, we actually get to create some ads and set a budget for those ads. We already did all the prep work in Day 18 but didn’t have time to actually create the ads. So I’ll just use the keywords, titles and descriptions that we wrote in Day 18.
To make a long story short, this experience with Google Ads ended ip being really frustrating to set up and get going. At first, I went through their “simplified“ sign-up process. Then I got stuck, it just wouldn’t let me move to the next step. It took me a minute to realize that you can skip this simplified signup after the second step so I did. Finally I spent some time looking at Youtube videos and figured out how to create the ads using the keywords, titles and descriptions CofounderGPT and I created last time. The ad budget was set to $15 CAD per day and the campaign length to 10 days. So that should be about $150 CAD. Now we wait 1-2 days for Google to approve our ads.
This took way longer than I expected. But this is something I’ve gotten used to with startups. When I was starting my entrepreneurial journey a mentor gave me some words of wisdom: “Everything with startups costs more and takes longer than you expect.“ And in most cases, these words of wisdom have turned out to be true. Hopefully, this campaign will bring at least 5 email addresses.
When we were launching Vacation Tracker, one the websites we posted it on to get some traffic was Betalist. At the time, we weren’t tracking conversions properly so we’re not sure if any people actually signed up because of Betalist. But it doesn’t take long to create a profile so we’ll do that today. At the very least, we’ll have a link back to our site (which is good for Google rankings) if we don’t get any mailing list signups.
I went through all the signup steps and CofounderGPT helped me write all the required text for our profile. Then I got to the last step of the signup process to see this:
I don’t recall there being a one month waiting queue for Betalist the last time we submitted our profile for Vacation Tracker. But since we have absolutely no intention of spending $300+ on this, I guess we’re stuck waiting a month which means It’s unlikely that we’ll get any immediate beta customers from Betalist.
A great place where we can get some advice on how to get beta customers is Microconf. In the words of CofounderGPT:
The MicroConf community is a vibrant and supportive network of self-funded startups and entrepreneurs, keen on learning, sharing, and growing together. It’s a space where founders from diverse backgrounds converge, enriching each other with insights, advice, and camaraderie centered around bootstrapping businesses.CofounderGPT
we’re already members of Microconf connect, which is a 5,000 member Slack community of bootstrapped SaaS founders. Exactly who we would want to try out our product. And we’re lucky that we are already members because of Vacation Tracker. It seems they have paused allowing new people into Microconf temporarily.
There are some really awesome entrepreneurs on Microconf so we’re going to ask for advice on how to get beta users from the community and we’ll probably get some good ideas from the community.
The first thing I did was check all the available channels that I can post to in Microconf. It turns out there is a #feedback-requests channel where we can ask for people to try out our product. And from what I see, there is an #amplify channel for when you are launching a Product Hunt campaign (which we will do in a few weeks). This is good to know. we’ll save these for later when the beta is live.
But I want to ask for some advice in a channel which is more relevant to producing some good ideas. There are two possible channels which I think might be good for that: #growth and #saas. I checked both channels and it seems that #saas is more active and also I just think It’s more relevant to ask the question there at the stage we’re at.
I asked CofounderGPT to write up a draft message for me:
I need to write a message for the Microconf community. This message will be posted in the Microconf Slack, in the #growth channel. This is a channel where people ask other community members for help with their startup. Here is what the message has to say:
– Introductory sentence
– Explain what Knowlo is in 1 sentence
– Mention that at our first startup Vacation Tracker, we did it with a landing page and some Google and Facebook ads. We are going to do that again this time but we’re looking for some advice for other things we could try
– Don’t be spammy and click-baity. Be authentic and genuinely ask for advice
– Be as concise as possible
As expected, the first version I got back from CofounderGPT was average. So I did my usual workflow of asking for it to do better with small comments attached to it. After 3 iterations, I decided that I have a few tidbits that I can use but that this message to Microconf really needs to be in my own words.
Here is what I came up with:
My partner @slobodan and I are teaming up with CofounderGPT to build our next startup and we need some advice.
The project is called Knowlo. Our goal is to turn tooltips into interactive in-app assistants. Basically a SaaS B2B business targeting (for now we assume) product managers and support leaders at software startups. We’re planning to roll out the beta version of Knowlo within a few weeks.
When we were launching our first product Vacation Tracker, we primarily relied on landing pages and a blend of Google and Facebook ads which worked well for us. We’re thinking of repeating this, but we’re also open to fresh ideas. On top of the ads, we’re also building this product in public. We’ve had some minor success building momentum with our articles. If you’re interested, I’ll post a link to our first article in the comments below.
Anyway, our question today is: what strategies did you use to attract your initial beta users? We would really appreciate advice and ideas from any B2B SaaS entrepreneurs who’ve done this already.
If some good advice comes from this, I will of course include it in an upcoming article.
Product Hunt Discussions
A great place to launch a digital product on the internet is through Product Hunt. And we’re definitely going to do that when we launch but we’re not ready for a full launch yet. But Product Hunt does have a Discussion board where you can post questions for other people in the community. So maybe we can do the same thing that we did with Microconf and ask for some advice there.
I repackaged what I wrote for Microconf a little bit and posted it on the Product Hunt discussion board. Let’s see if either of these channels produce any good ideas for us to try out.
Update on our Newsletter
We talked about starting a newsletter in Day 13 and we actually started sending one that week. we’ve sent another 3 since that week so we are at 4 sent in total. On Day 13, we had 20 emails on the list. When I started writing this article, we were at 40 and I just checked one day later, and we’re currently at 42. This is great news, we’ve basically doubled our list of subscribers over the last 2 weeks!
But, someone pointed out to me that there is an issue with the deliverability of our newsletter. In other words, it seems that It’s being flagged as spam by some of the email providers:
I checked with another person that I know who is subscribed to our waitlist and they confirmed that it ended up in their spam as well. I then went into Mailchimp to check the open rate and we can see a substantial drop compared to last week. Last week 75% of people opened the newsletter while this week only 52% opened it:
I know that sending emails from a new domain is not as straight-forward as just sending it to a person who signed up to your list. There are all sorts of things that professional email marketers do to maximize the chances that their email will be delivered and that it will convert. Things like warming up the email address, setting up the proper DNS records and of course, the messaging in the email itself. But this is not a new domain, we’ve had this domain for over 10 years.
The way to set-up and send emails properly from your domain is a wide ranging subject which is beyond the scope of these articles. It’s also way too early for us to be thinking about this kind of stuff because we’re not doing enough emailing for it to be a concern. But we have a specific problem with deliverability that we need to look into now.
Fixing our deliverability problem
If you go through all the effort of building a mailing list, you want to maximize the chances of your emails getting into the intended inboxes. This may sound simple, but spammers have made it very difficult even for honest companies sending legitimate emails to people who subscribed to their lists.
There are ways to fix our deliverability issue. we’ll start with the Mailchimp domain set-up instructions to make sure that we configured domain properly.
This is what I saw in the settings of our Mailchimp account:
Since we didn’t want to create a whole new email system for Knowlo yet, we decided to send emails from our @cloudhorizon.com domain for now. And it seems to be verified but there is a start authentication button. So I authenticated the domain by entering some DNS records for cloudhorizon.com to show Mailchimp that we are a legitimate sender and then the status of the domain changed to authenticated:
I think this may have been the problem. So hopefully this solves it. But Let’s be thorough and double check.
Domain Spam Test
There are many companies on the web which check to see if your domain is healthy for sending emails. Someone that I trust recommended Mail Tester. The way it works is it gives you an email address to which you send an email to, and then it gives you an analysis and score for your domain. Here is what ours looks like:
The result seems pretty good but there are a few warnings. Specifically, in the “Authenticated“ section, there is a record missing in our DNS which would make that perfect. So I added that quickly through our domain registrar for cloudhorizon.com.
And then there are 3 places that our domain is listed in blacklists:
I checked and Redhawk does not seem to exist anymore. But SORBS is an active spam tracker and we do seem to have a little problem with them. we’ll need to apply through their website to get this resolved. However, since we don’t plan on using cloudhorizon.com for much longer to send our emails, I’ll skip doing that for now. In an upcoming article, we’ll explain how we’re going to set up an email system for Knowlo and how we’re going to “warm it up“ for sending out emails.
As you’ve probably noticed, there was very little help from CofounderGPT today. Unfortunately, I had to do most of these things on my own. AI tools are not quite there yet to help with setting up ad accounts, ad campaigns, and posting to sites like Product Hunt and communities like Microconf. So when it comes to promoting your startup, CofounderGPT can help with ideas, strategies, and writing. But at this point in time, most of the execution will be up to you. Hopefully, this gets better over the next 3 years as AI tools start talking to one another.
Since I don’t trust Google to charge my card automatically for ads because I’ve seen them abuse this power many times in Vacation Tracker. I made a pre-payment of $150 CAD and asked it to stick within that prepaid budget.
Time spent today: 8h
Total time spent: 137h
Investment today: $112 USD ($150 CAD is about $112 USD)
Total investment: $1,141.54 USD
Beta list subscribers: 42
Paying customers: 0
Next, we’ll try to set up a Facebook ad campaign with a smaller budget and we’ll set up some retargeting pixels to be used later. Slobodan and ConfounderGPT will provide an update on their progress connecting the front end of the application.