Ninja Outreach did a soft launch on January 15th.
A soft launch means that for the first time an individual could come to the website and purchase the product.
For us, this is a pretty big deal. We have been developing the product for about seven months now, and for the first time we were going to sell it.
However, in many ways it was just the first step.
For example, it did not mean that we ended our beta. In fact, there were over 120 beta users who are still using the product for free.
Now that we are underway, I want to institute some monthly tracking - essentially a progress report on how the business is going.
January Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) - $168
There are a lot of metrics that you can track for a software company.
- Free trial sign-ups
- Free trial to paid trial conversion rate
- Churn rate
- Lifetime value
and so on and so forth.
However, given that we have just launched, it is not overly important to dive into most of these. Frankly, they just don't have meaning, because the numbers are so small.
But there is one metric that I would like to keep tracking, because I do think it is important; monthly recurring revenue.
The goal by the end of the year is to get to $20,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
By the end of January, we were at $168.
Clearly, we have a long way to go.
However, despite the seemingly small number, there are a lot of positives.
Firstly, as of February 4th, that number has almost doubled to $304.
This is the result of a two week free trial, so launching January 15th does not give us much room to convert paying customers in January. Basically there will always be a bit of a lag, and a few people have converted over the last few days.
Additionally, we are only just beginning to convert the beta customers. It is difficult to say how many of the 120 users who activated the software will convert paying customers. My guess is that it will be a relatively small number, like 10-20. However, it could still have a significant impact on our MRR.
Hopefully, February, being our first full month of marketing, will be an interesting and more lucrative month.
Top Priorities - Marketing
We have been marketing the software for months, pretty much since inception.
However, a lot of the marketing methods that we have been using have been very direct. For example direct email outreach, and direct Twitter outreach.
These have been successful in generating a decent sized beta class. It is why we now have a list of over 500 individuals who seem generally interested in trying out the software (although only 120 of them actually activated).
That said, now that people can finally sign up for free trial, we will be shifting our marketing to more large-scale efforts. In a sense, we are trying to get out there at a more aggregate level by doing things such as guest posting, appearing on podcasts and interviews, white hat link building, social media marketing, and content marketing.
We have had quite a few guest posts go live and several podcast interviews. Individually, to be honest, these don't provide that much traffic. However I'm hoping that in aggregate, they will start to build our online reputation, and we will grow our traffic and brand.
Right now we are starting to see about one pretrial sign up for day.
Top Priorities - Development
Although the product is commercial, there is still a lot of work that we want to do to improve it.
We have been voraciously collecting feedback from the betas, and we have a very clear line of sight as to what people want. I will summarize a few of the most commonly requested improvements.
IMPORTANT: On May 1st, NinjaOutreach launched it's Web App so it is no longer just a desktop application
Ninja Outreach is a desktop application for Windows. This is the first iteration of the product, and while it works for some people, it does exclude quite a bit of people.
In fact, about half of the people who come to the website, either are not Windows users or are not comfortable with a desktop application. This is the primary reason why despite having over 450 people interested in the software, only 120 of them actually activated it.
The good news is there is a lot of interest - we just need to get them a version that is compatible with their operating system.
The team has been discussing what it will take to build a web application, and we are hoping to have our first version available in approximately three months.
Improved Data and Performance
People want quality data and they want it fast.
One of the advantages to Ninja Outreach is that it isn't just a blogger outreach software, but also collects websites for whatever search term you're interested in. As a result we have seen interest from people who are doing business-to-business marketing and lead generation.
The downside of this is that people who exclusively want blogs are often shown results of commercial websites.
On top of that, the structure of Ninja Outreach often has it running fresh searches, which can take a few minutes.
This leaves a lot of room for data and performance improvement.
But again, if we look at this as a positive, it simply means that there's a lot of opportunity to improve the tool and we know exactly how to do that. It will just take time.
And luckily, this is very consistent with our goal to build a web application. Essentially we will be building our own database of blogs, which will allow the searches to be a lot faster and of higher quality.
We have already begun caching thousands of websites and performance is improving daily.
Bulk Email Feature
Perhaps the most heavily requested feature is a way to send bulk emails. To be honest, a bulk email feature is rarely a part of most outreach tools because it can lead to spam issues.
However, I believe we have devised a way to include the bulk email feature while at the same time making it as unspammy as possible.
I don't believe that we will have this feature ready in February, but my goal would be to have it out in March.
Many of the people using the software come from other tools, in which they already have their own database of bloggers. Naturally, they want to import these into the software.
Although Ninja Outreach has import functionality, it is relatively basic. Essentially it allows you to upload URLs, and it will run a search to add the additional data we capture. This is quite a nice feature if you have a list of website URLs and want the contact information for example, but it doesn't help you transfer over an existing list of contacts from another tool you may be using.
Automatic Follow Ups and Chrome Extension
Two features that we are looking to introduce in February will be an automatic follow-up and a Chrome extension.
The first feature will allow you to set automatic follow-ups with all of the emails that you send out. Anyone who does not respond to the message right away will get another self-selected message.
The chrome extension is an add-on that will allow you to utilize ninja outreach while you are browsing.
Launching Our Affiliate Program
One of our main marketing strategies is to work with bloggers, and to work with bloggers you need to give them something.
This is why in January we lauched our affiliate program, where we are offering a 50% monthly recurring commission. If you haven't signed up yet - check it out! You do not have to be a user to sign up.
I know that we still have a long way to go with Ninja Outreach, but I see a lot of opportunities. They're out there for us to go and get them.
There've been a lot of positives from the last month including our first paying customers, one being an enterprise customer. We've had a fair amount of pretrial sign-ups, and ithe conversion rate is pretty decent, with the main reason for cancellation being that the people cannot use a desktop application for Windows. Solvable problems.
In addition to that, we have done relatively little marketing in the grand scheme of things.
Upwards and onwards!