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Transparency Report #15 – June 2017

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It’s time for another transparency report. Since writing the last report there’s been quite a few changes in various tools that I was using to chart the growth of Epic Plugins and Epic Themes.

Firstly, ahrefs killed their free account. Meaning I can’t grab the usual ahref reports like I used to. Secondly, SimilarWeb started to change things and make seeing the numbers tricker. Plus, they just use Google Analytics anyway to chart the traffic numbers.

I also made a change and added the Google Analytics tracking code to the Theme Demo websites (and I’ll be doing the same for the Plugin Demo websites shortly too!)

What this means is there’s a bit of a jump in June for the traffic (as I wasn’t recording the visits to the demo sites, and subsequently wasn’t tracking the full conversion funnel).

But first up, you may have noticed that this transparency report is starting off a little different than usual. That’s because it’s the mid point of the year and I wanted to review the usefulness of these reports.

Transparency Check Point

The old transparency reports were taking a good chunk of time each month to put together. So I’m refining them and cutting down the information in them. It was mostly about what’s been happening with financials and growth of the businesses that I run.

I wanted to take a step back, and look at this from a higher level.  What I wanted to record in these reports is the following:-

  • Revenue figures each month. These can come in useful for looking back at how (and if) the revenues are growing
  • Traffic reports and are my sites getting more hits which eventually result in more sales (or that’s the plan)
  • Conversion rates (I’ve been analysing conversions monthly)

And I’ll continue to do this. Historically I’ve been using Zero BS CRM to track the revenues (and I still do), but for these reports I’m flicking back to Google Analytics. Why?

Well, it’s really good to track the full picture. What I’m using ZBS CRM for to support this is the following:-

  • Verifies the figure from Google Analytics (GA can still miss some transactions)
  • Look at the funnel picture (i.e. how many customers am I getting, what leads are hitting my site)

So, holistically, my CRM will aim to track who is doing what (i.e. which touch points do I collect an email) and how I am at converting them to customers. But at which points do I collect emails?

  • When someone signs up to my email list
  • When someone comments on a blog post
  • When someone purchases a product

Having this information (and being able to track this) is really what will stand apart these reports to others that I’m seeing. So in theory, I’ll be able to track how many visits I’m getting, of those, how many are giving their email and of those how many do I convert to a customer (and how long does it take from traffic -> email given -> being a customer)

Sounds great? I’ll share my setup once it’s up and running for this, but in a nutshell I’ve got:-

  • ConvertKit running to capture people who sign up from any of my Opt in Forms
  • Zapier running to add a new ConvertKit sign up to my CRM as a ‘Lead’
  • Comment to ZBS CRM (custom extension) to store commenters into my CRM as ‘Leads’
  • ZBS CRM sitting on a ‘CRM only’ install (using the API to post data to it)
  • WooSync bringing in my Theme Sales (from Epic Themes)
  • PayPal Sync and Stripe Sync bringing in sales from Epic Plugins and Freelance
  • A custom background script to strip out any transactions brought in from Stripe which were brought in from WooSync
    • This is custom to the fact I run two sites through stripe (Plugins and Themes)
    • And two PayPal business accounts
  • WooCommerce ‘ConvertKit’ integration to add customers to a ConvertKit form (and my Zapier to add them into the CRM)
    • If they’re already added, this won’t overwrite the ‘Customer’ status back to ‘Lead’
  • Then, eventually, through the use of analytics be able to share nice visual funnels

I’m also (obviously) tracking daily hits to the website through Google Analytics so from this I can analyse my funnel over time and really see how my efforts are (or aren’t) working.

The Revenue Numbers

The highlights, are this month I’ve added a new source of income. I launched my eBook Growth on the 1st June. It didn’t sell too many copies but I’m still building up the traction for this (and it’s a completely different niche). It’s also priced relatively high for an eBook. I can assure you though it’s packed with actionable insights and I would be surprised if you didn’t make back the cost of the book from one of the areas I cover in the book.

You can purchase Growth here.

Since it’s the half year touch point, I also did some quick sums over the last 6 reports on a total revenue basis.

This is so I can compare a projection to the last 12 months (assuming the same happens in the 2nd half of 2017).

Overall, in the first 6 months of 2017 I’ve managed to make $30,135 and I couldn’t have done this without the customers of my plugins and themes. THANK YOU.

While this may seem a LOT of revenue (and it is), what I don’t cover in these reports is the expenses side of things. Generally the expenses I have are lean (for plugins and theme sales it’s the transaction fees of PayPal or Stripe). Then on top of that there’s website hosting, and domain names as well as my email marketing (ConvertKit) and our support software (Groove).

The remaining net revenue after running expenses is then used to pay salaries. So on average over the first half of 2017 the revenue’s been $5k a month.

  • Myself and my partner personally draw around $1,200 each as salary a month
  • Various freelancers (content writers, developers), this varies but can be around $500 a month (all that the budget supports right now)
  • Business travel (such as attending a client meeting in USA,  the Paris WordCamp and UK business meetings)
  • Any excess remains in the business for any potential acquisitions or dividend payouts

So while $5k a month seems impressive this quickly whittles down.  I’ve been doing my own thing for just about a year now and this type of critical review really helps understand what the next goals should be.

Goal for the 2nd half of 2017. Maintain $30k in net revenue (i.e. after deducting transaction costs and ad spend)

This will be a tough goal since I did quite a lot of Freelance in the first half of 2017 (around $13k) so I’ll need to up my product game.

In June I’ve also been setting up and experimenting with PPC campaigns, however as touched on above I want to have the ‘God Mode’ overview up and running before spending too much on ads.

Upping my Product Game

My Product Game has been pretty good so far, but it’s certainly not up there with some of the other WordPress businesses I’ve had the pleasure to meet at WordCamp Paris. What do they do that I don’t do (yet).

  • They have teams (most of them) so have grown through re-investing in larger teams
  • They have cool products (but hey, so do I)
  • They’ve marketed a lot more than I have (which I’ll be doing more of in the 2nd half of 2017)
  • They have their own t-shirts.

Cool products is a big one, while I have cool themes and plugins. What I didn’t have until ZBS CRM came along was a plugin that I can be really passionate about. A plugin which is on par with plugins like EDD, WooCommerce, GiveWP (in the setup structure) and serving a market in WordPress that’s historically been covered by SaaS type companies.

You may have noticed that plugin revenue has been increasing since April 2017 and that’s down to all the efforts that have been going into developing v2.0 of ZBS CRM.

July will be no different, and with more extensions and integrations in the pipeline. I have high hopes for ZBS CRM and have some interesting targets set for it over the next few months.

What about Themes and Plugins

Have I given up? Absolutely not. I’m still pushing out regular updates to the themes and plugins so there’s no worries there. One of the main concerns over the past couple of years has been how the most popular plugin I’ve got (http://socialgalleryplugin.com) has been performing on CodeCanyon. Sales have been falling consistently over the past couple of years (perhaps it’s reaching its lifespan) but, as I wrote about in my post (Why I removed 9+ plugins for sale on CodeCanyon) I suspect CodeCanyon has been partly to “blame”.

There were certainly wide reports of falling revenues on the Envato Forums. So in June I’ve made some changes to the plugins

  • I switched to non exclusive for my CodeCanyon account
  • I added Freemius to Social Gallery Lite (with a view to help me analyse its performance and improve conversions from Lite to Pro)
  • I’ll be adding other plugins in due course to Freemius (ones where I have a ‘Lite’ version) assuming it pans out

Recurring Subscriptions (Auto-Renew)

Towards the end of 2016 (around the end of October / start of November). I moved the payment model from a one off purchase to a subscription purchase (auto renewing).

While I expected that this might reduce the number of sales, in fact they’ve stayed pretty stable (Themes is the best control, since with Plugins, there’s been the effects of decreasing CodeCanyon sales as well as increasing ZBS sales)

So, switching to an annual subscription basis hasn’t really made the theme sales fall off a cliff. I’ll write in more detail about this as a model when the renewals start to trigger (from November 2017). If you want to follow along then please do sign up using the form at the bottom of this post.

Support Tickets

I wanted to touch on this too because I did some useful analysis (we use Groove for support). This was on the back of me feeling the strain of support with all the marketing we’ve been doing around ZBS and the new product features we’ve been building

Quite a trend upwards in Support Tickets since the launch of v2.0 of Zero BS CRM. A lot of these have been various questions while we get the new Knowledge Base up and running.

On average the support inbox has been getting around 3 tickets a day (but with Non-ZBS support dropping off slightly).

That’s all folks

That’s it for this update. There’s lots for me to work on and the next Quarter is looking like it’ll be an interesting one. Don’t forget to sign up to the email list below to keep following along with my journey.

P.S My first eBook is now available. It’s about how I got started, and how you can too. Find out more here.

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