The Grouvia Signup Drive

My brother’s father-in-law passed away on Monday morning. That put me in a funk, as I had to weigh hopping in the car and driving seven hours to Connecticut to be with family, or staying home to focus on business. I admit I do tend to be impulsive, and driving under pressure and exhausting myself would not have helped anyone so I’m glad I didn’t do it.

Jacque was a great guy, and we’ll miss him at family gatherings. So Jacque, this blog post is for you.

I’m behind on everything this week. My blog posts are late, I can’t keep up with my email much less my daily reading. My To Do list is getting longer instead of shorter. I think I might be at a saturation point where every task seems daunting, if not overwhelming.

I wake up in the middle of the night and think about where I am with Grouvia and how much further we still have to go before we’ll see results.

Why is it that everything seems more scary and uncertain at 3 am?

I much prefer broad daylight. I tell you this so you understand that this is my state of mind as I write this. I’m generally an optimistic confident person.

My big challenge at the moment is this: How to drive Grouvia signups.

There are several ways to tackle this. You know by now how much I love making lists, so here’s my list for Ways to Drive Grouvia Signups.

  1. Google AdWords: We did some testing with different keywords, ads, and landing pages and while the ads got a respectable click-through rate (see my Sept. 3rd post about this test) the actual sign up rate was not great. The presumption here is that the landing pages failed to get people to take action. So, we’re learning from this experience and working on improving the landing pages.
  2. Direct Selling: This is a lot of effort for very few signups. However, the signups we do get are of very good quality. I am currently trying to get the Yahoo group moderator for my networking group to move at least part of the group’s site to Grouvia.

    A side benefit of this exercise is that I’m finding out what messages work and don’t work. For example, no matter how many times I say “Grouvia is a free tool…” people always ask “How much does it cost?”

  3. Social Networking: While I do post blurbs and links to my blog posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, I have not asked people to sign up yet using these venues. I think it’s still early and I want to have something more concrete to show with the application before pushing into these channels.
  4. Email Sales: This is a bit dicey because some people might think this crosses the Spam line. Personally I don’t think it does and I am very intolerant of Spam. The concept here is that we search for people who run clubs or organizations and send them an email about Grouvia. There’s a lot more to this than what I’m describing, and I’ll probably write a post specifically about this topic at some point.

    At any rate, the process of finding these group organizers is tedious, but we’ve got a pretty long list compiled already. Did you ever notice how many organized groups there are? It’s probably in the seven figures. (Incidentally, *that* is the main reason I believe so strongly in Grouvia’s ultimate success.)

    (By the way I want to state unequivocally and for the record that Grouvia does not practice Spam techniques, and we are very careful to comply with the CAN-SPAM act of 2003.)

  5. Create Listings: Here’s another dicey one and there are certain risks involved. The idea is to create directory listings of clubs that we find are active online. This is a basic group listing consisting of the group’s name, topic, location, email link, phone number, and maybe a short description — whatever is available online. Then we email the organizer, tell them we’ve created this listing for them, and ask them to log into their account and create a password so they can enhance their listing and start adding their members.

    Honestly I’m not sure about this one, I think we’ll do a test and see what happens. If there is a negative reaction we’ll can it. The risk I mentioned is about creating stale content. The listings that don’t get validated somehow by the group’s owner would have to expire to make sure they don’t create a bunch of stale content.

So there you have it – the five ways we are trying to get sign ups. Are you using any of these approaches? Are you using any other methods that you want to share? Please let us know, so we can all benefit from each other’s experiences.

* * *

Do you enjoy reading these posts? Why not sign-up to receive Grouvia’s e-newsletter? You’ll get the latest news delivered to your inbox and you can participate in the Grouvia development process. It’s free. Sign up at www.grouvia.com.

Sometimes Great People Will Work For Free

The headline is not a ruse just to get you to read this post. It’s really true, there are excellent people out there who will help you for nothing, or next to nothing, just for the benefit of being able to build their portfolio or resume or even just to keep up their skills.

In a deep recession, people do a lot of things they wouldn’t normally do, and if you’re smart and a little lucky you can leverage that.

I currently have no less than FOUR people working on Grouvia for free (if you count me it’s five), and I’d like to introduce them to you.

  • DK – 50-some odd years in sales and marketing. He’s helping me because he’s a family member and he loves me and wants to help me succeed.
  • RR – Consultant. 20+ years in IT, from programming to system analysis to user interface design. Smart, excellent communicator, highly organized and a super-nice person. She’s doing it because I ran out of cash to pay her and she wants to see it through and is not otherwise employed (but continues to seek a paying gig).
  • CT – young hungry self-taught graphic designer I met through LinkedIn. Needs to build her portfolio and add to her client list and willing to work pro-bono to get references.
  • DR – Marketing and Communications professional with 15+ years of experience in arts and non-profit sector. Currently not working and heard about the Grouvia project through a friend, and wants to help out as well as learn new skills related to the technology sector.

If and when Grouvia makes it to the big time I will give something back to all of these people. In the meantime, not a day goes by that I don’t realize how truly lucky I am that these wonderful talented people have seen enough potential value in Grouvia to give their time to help it succeed.

We should all be looking for every opportunity to utilize an untapped resource, with an eye toward giving back wherever and whenever possible.

* * *
Do you enjoy reading these posts? Why not sign-up to receive Grouvia’s e-newsletter? You’ll get the latest news delivered to your inbox and you can participate in the Grouvia development process. It’s free. Sign up at www.grouvia.com.

Ready or Not, Here I Come

I don’t think I can beat the list of last week’s accomplishments so I won’t even try (but being the type-A entrepreneur that I am, I know I will soon enough).

I worked all Labor Day weekend finishing up the requirements so I could deliver them to the development team, which I did on Monday night. The document is 188 pages long and I’m sure it will take them a couple of days to absorb it all. In the meantime we’re working hard to design mockups to illustrate some of Grouvia’s more complicated features.

We’re continuing to get signups on the Grouvia site, even though I paused the AdWords campaign over the Labor Day weekend. I’m not sure where they’re coming from, but the signups continue to trickle in, at a rate of 1 or 2 a day.

Getting the word out about Grouvia is proving to be a challenge. I Facebook and Twitter every day, I comment on other blogs, I go to networking groups, I keep up with the LinkedIn discussions, I blog twice a week, I do the Google AdWords thing, we got some good media coverage, but the signups are a slow trickle.

I know you’re out there, future Grouvia users! How do I reach you???

The urgent goal now is to get an early alpha release up and running ASAP, get people to start playing with it, then solicit feedback. I’m not sure I agree with my developers’ prioritized list of deliverables; I know they want to do it the way that is most efficient from a system design and coding perspective, but I have to look at the business side.

For example, to me it makes the most sense to approach it like this:

  1. Start with as many of the member features as possible (early alpha),
  2. Build the group site features (alpha),
  3. Add events and group management features (beta).

We can do the mobile device support, advertising, and Grouvia Admin CMS stuff right the end, right before the 1.0 launch. What do you think?

The test is: Can we get that first iteration out by the end of this month? I hope so, and I may need to negotiate with them to get what I want.

I can be very tenacious when I want something… just ask my Mother. But I do think this approach makes the most sense from a business perspective.

* * *
Do you enjoy reading these posts? Why not sign-up to receive Grouvia’s e-newsletter? You’ll get the latest news delivered to your inbox and you can participate in the Grouvia development process. It’s free. Sign up at http://grouvia.com.

Release 0.01 – Four Things Grouvia Just Did

We had four really big accomplishments this past week.

1. Grouvia Has a New Development Team

Yup, I pulled the trigger. I hired what I thought was the best development team of the bunch and now I can’t look back. I have to trust that I did the right thing and plunge onwards. I did choose a company from India, in a small industrial town near Utter Pradesh. The company’s name is “SmartData Enterprises” and I found them on oDesk.com. I had also invited a handful of firms via guru.com, but I do like the oDesk development features better. I won’t write about those details here, you can check out the sites if you’re interested. (And if you’re doing that don’t forget to look at elance.com as well.)

Hopefully we will sign the contract this week, so I can engage the developers and walk through the requirements with them. The functional requirements are very good, but they’re not super-tight. I could tweak these requirements until kingdom come and still not be happy with them. So now that the train is on the tracks and moving out of the station, I have little time to dicker around with the documentation, and hope the developers will ask the right questions to get it done the way I envision it.

There is something very satisfying as well as terrifying about this. It’s satisfying because we are taking a major step forward (and I’m a big believer in getting things done quickly). It’s terrifying, well… just being in business for yourself can be terrifying so it comes with the territory.

2. Got the Public Web Site (Mostly) Up and Running
This is not a big deal really, but it was time consuming. Fortunately I have HTML/CSS skills and was able to code it myself. Could I have used my time better? Sure, but I also could be $500 poorer if I got someone else to do it, besides not being certain it would be good code and then not having time or inclination to go fix it. At least now I know it’s good, and I practically did it in my sleep.

Having the web site up allowed me to get the next two items accomplished as well…

3. The Users Are Starting to Gather ‘Round
Another cool thing I did this week was to create a Google AdWords campaign. I developed three different ad groups for different personas: 1) Outdoors Types with an existing club; 2) people who are looking for tips on How to Start a Club; and 3) people who just want a new Club Web Site for Free. (The links go to the different landing pages.)

After four days of watching results, my ads in the #2 group are outpacing the others by a mile. Funny thing is I have no idea why. My “Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords” book states that you should do “split testing” where you always have two ads up at the same time. Whichever one doesn’t do well gets dropped, then you replace the dropped one with a new one and repeat the process over and over. It sounds a little tedious but I can now see why they say that – because you have no idea what people will respond to, you can only guess and test. I am now a believer in the importance of testing your advertising.

Another thing that’s interesting in all this is the signups. We have received 13 signups so far and need to figure out if that’s a good conversion rate or not. Here are the early numbers:

  • 5,210 Impressions
  • 211 Click-Throughs
  • 13 Signups

That’s an overall CTR (Click Through Rate) of 4.05% and a Conversion rate of 6.2%. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? The bill so far is about $64 so it’s costing about $5 per signup. It doesn’t sound so great when you put it that way. It’s actually not even that good because I know some of the signups did not come from the ads. On the other hand, I also know that the CTR is getting better as I continue to tweak the ads. For example the current best performing ad is averaging a respectable CTR of 4.59%. What this tells me is that I need to improve my conversions by re-writing my landing pages. Test and tweak.

4. Grouvia Issued its First Press Release and Got Its First Article
Last week, we issued a press release announcing the pre-release alpha site. We also reached out to a number of reporters to start to develop relationships as we move forward. Bill Freehling, a reporter at the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, liked the story and contacted me. He even wrote an article, which was in Tuesday’s edition of the paper and can be seen on the paper’s web site at fredericksburg.com.

There are signup numbers associated with the press release and the article, but I’ll report on those next week.

I said it was a busy week, didn’t I? And that doesn’t even cover the 349 other little things I was working on.

Happy Labor Day!

* * *