2017 was the year I launched DNDEmail and signed up our first several hundred users. Those initial users helped me prove there was a real demand for adding do not disturb features to Gmail and inboxes everywhere. And, they helped me improve the first versions of the service to be truly useful for a broad group of productivity-focused people.

In 2018, my goal is to aggressively market and promote DNDEmail to a wider audience. In 2017, I spent nearly 100% of my time on DNDEmail focused on coding new features and fixing bugs. In 2018, I will split my time evenly between marketing and coding — 50/50.

That 50/50 principal – the idea of devoting 1 hour of marketing for every 1 hour of code – comes from the book Traction: How Any Startup can Achieve Explosive Consumer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. This book offers a pathway for a consumer-focused startup to reach a large audience.

Setting the Goals

The first step of the Traction system is to set your goals. What is a meaningful goal that will move the needle in the development of your startup? For some, that is enough new users to attract a series A venture round.

I am not building a venture-backed business, however. I am building a software-focused small business I want to run and own into retirement. For me, the question of what is a meaningful number to move the needle is: how much revenue do I need to achieve to ensure this business is self-sustaining for the long-term? The goal I have set is $1 million of annual revenue by year 5 of this new marketing plan.

The Numbers

Once I set the goal of $1M of annual revenue in year 5, I built a simple model to project how many new visitors I need to attract to the DNDEmail website.

The new visitors required to hit my Traction "Moving the Needle" goal of $1M of revenue a year.
The new visitors required to hit my Traction “Moving the Needle” goal of $1M of revenue a year.

From the last 6 months, I know that 5% of new visitors to my website convert into free account sign-ups. So far, 10% of those sign-ups turn into paying subscribers.

Using those figures, I could work backward:

  1. $1M of revenues at $39/year subscription means I need 25,641 paying subscribers in year 5.
  2. I made an assumption: that I would roughly double my subscribers each year until year 5. But, in year 1, I would only get 1,000 paying subscribers.
  3. I also forecasted a churn of 4% per year.

The question I am trying to answer is: How many NEW visitors to my website do I need each year in order to make my subscriber goals?

The funnel works like this:

New Visitor to Website ==> Convert to Free Account 5% ==> Convert to Paid Subscriber 10%

The Bottom Line

The VISITS (NEW) row shows the final figures:

  • Year 1: 200,000 new visitors are needed to generate 1,000 paying subscribers
  • By year 5, that grows to 2.8 million visitors to generate 12,821 new paying subscribers.

For context, my website only received 11,000 new visitors in the prior 12 months. I need to grow my traffic 20x in the first year alone!

The Good News

The good news? I have done literally NO marketing and still gotten 11,000 new visits. I can only go up from here.

I have selected the following channels to focus my marketing efforts:

  1. Blogger outreach
  2. Forum/Discussions
  3. Social media
  4. Content generation
  5. App store ratings
  6. SEO

In year 1, I will attempt to execute on these 6 channels to get those 200,000 visitors! Today is day 1. This blog post is action #1.