4 Jun

Web App Challenge Update: The Final Stretch

I’ve been a little quiet about The Web App Challenge lately. Launching Authority and speaking at a BaconBizConf have taken up all my time. Though I’ve still been hard at work. Progress has been made every day, but it is still slower than I would like (which is all my fault).


Currently ConvertKit makes $1,888 per month, which means I am 37% of the way towards my $5,000 per month goal. Growth has been quite slow after the preorders, averaging a new trial account every other day. That needs to increase considerably in order to meet my goal.

Also, many of those trials are not converting into paid accounts, which means I need to do more work with the on-boarding process to increase that conversion rate.

With only 27 days left until July 1st (the deadline), I really need to step up my game. More on that later.


Out of my initial $5,000 budget I have added an additional $5,066 in revenue from customers. But then I’ve spent $7,653, making my remaining budget $2,612.80. Based on the rate I’ve been spending money, my remaining budget will carry me through to the end of the challenge. I don’t expect any issues there.

A new developer

Sam, the wonderful developer who has built ConvertKit so far, is taking some time off to travel in Europe starting this week. Taking his place is Ben Sharpe, who has been excellent to work with already.

Often when a developer works with code written by someone else they start by criticizing. I’ve seen this dozens of time while working on previous teams. The old code is always wrong—often just because it was written in a different style.

Ben isn’t like that at all. He’s found plenty of great places to refactor the code, but only does it where there is real improvement to be made, not just because it isn’t how he would have coded it.

Developers, take note: there are many “right” ways to write code. It isn’t wrong just because it isn’t your coding style. 

I hope to be able to work with both Ben and Sam for quite some time to come.

New pricing plans

ConvertKit now has new pricing plans targeted at larger businesses. A few companies I talked to in the last week need larger numbers and more hands-on help for their email strategies, so these new plans are designed just for them.

The new plans are at $500, $1,000, and $1,750 per month. Take a look here. A few customers on those plans will quickly bring me closer to my sales goals.


The sales problem

I’ve got a problem. I need to add $3,112/month in revenue in only 27 days. At $50/month per customer I would need to add 62 new customers, or more than two new paying customers per day. Yikes. That would be really fast growth. But it’s possible, and I plan to hit that number. Here’s how:

Authority readers

I created ConvertKit to be the perfect tool to help me sell my books. That means it is a great fit for authors. By design, readers of Authority (my most recent book) are a perfect fit for ConvertKit, both to set up landing pages and opt in forms for their book launch and to use drip campaigns to sell books long after the launch splash dies out.

As of today 366 people have purchased Authority, so I’ll be reaching out to each of them to see if ConvertKit is a good fit. Bundled with their purchase is a credit to ConvertKit for one, two, or three months (depending on which package they purchased), so the barrier to entry is quite low.

My goal is to get at least 30 readers of Authority to also sign up for ConvertKit.

Direct sales

This weekend I was flying back from BaconBizConf (which was a great conference!) with Ryan Delk from Gumroad. Ryan is responsible for bringing hundreds of sellers to the Gumroad platform, and his direct connections have resulted in a lot of revenue. In fact, it was his emails that brought me to Gumroad in the first place—which I am very thankful for!

Up until now I’ve been writing blog posts and hoping that a few of those readers are interested in using ConvertKit. This is a useful, but very passive, sales model.

That’s not going to work to bring in the necessary revenue in such a short amount of time. So I am also going to focus on direct sales. I will directly contact authors, founders, and anyone else who sells a product that is a good fit for ConvertKit, to see if I can help them make more sales with ConvertKit.

So if you sell a product, expect an email from me. Or you could help me out by contacting me directly to see how I can help.

Blog and podcasts

I don’t think that my current readers and direct sales will be enough to add the necessary number of customers, so I’m looking elsewhere. In the next few weeks I’ll have guest posts coming out on a lot of popular blogs on how to sell more products, launch successfully, and use email to make more money, all topics that should help drive signups for ConvertKit.

There are also a few podcasts that have been generous enough to have me on. Hopefully all the scheduling details will work out.

Instead of driving all those visitors directly to the ConvertKit sales page, I plan to launch a new email course.

A new course

In the last year I’ve planned and executed five new product launches. Most were successful, but one failed miserably. Everything I learned is going into a brand new email course. This new free course will be three weeks long and is called Mastering Product Launches.

It should bring in some traffic on its own, but I also plan to drive readers there from the guest posts.

The course will be powered by ConvertKit and will also try to drive some new signups in the process. Stay tuned.

The ConvertKit list

There are also 750 people who have downloaded my guide on increasing conversion rates from the ConvertKit home page. I plan to contact each of them to see how many would be interested in actually creating a ConvertKit account.

I am also hosting a webinar for potential ConvertKit customers to learn more about how ConvertKit works and see if it is a good fit for them. There will also be plenty of content to help anyone doing email marketing—even if they don’t use ConvertKit. If you are interested you can signup here.

What if I fail?

When I started the Web App Challenge I thought about what would happen if I failed. Really, nothing. Basically I wouldn’t meet my goals with thousands of people following along. Here’s what I wrote in the launch post:

“I don’t think it is likely that I will fail completely. A more likely failure is that I reach only a couple thousand in revenue, but that’s still a partial success. If it does completely fail, then it will be public. At least I, and everyone reading my posts, will have learned something to apply to future projects.”

Is it possible?

I think so. But adding that many customers will be very hard. Is there something major I am missing? Do you think I can do it?

Let me know in the comments.

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9 Responses to “Web App Challenge Update: The Final Stretch”

  1. Dilbert has a term for that process where one developer hates a previous developer’s code and is unable to constructively adopt it: code mocking.


    It happens way too often; if you have found a developer who can avoid the syndrome, you have truly found a treasure.

  2. Does requiring a credit card for your 14-day free trial end up scaring people away?

    Also… whilst you have the free e-Book form at the bottom of your main application, it definitely isn’t front-and-centre. Could you be potentially discouraging people from using your service by not implementing the concept loud-and-proud for the product itself?

  3. Hi Nathan,

    I’ve been following your Web App Challenge with great interest and noticed how you rely on sending e-mails a lot. The ConvertKit tool is also all about sending e-mails.

    Today I received you blog post with the e-mail subject marked with #### Spam ####. Some of your readers have marked your messages as spam and your address ended up being blacklisted.

    I found “unsubscribe” and “add ud to your address book” links in your messages that try to avoid being put into spam. What are your other actions to avoid this issue that can reduce the efficiency of your e-mail campaigns over time?

  4. Goro says:

    I think you’re doing a lot better than most people would at this point considering your incredibly short timeline. It can take years for these things to solidify.

    I do feel like the “Features” page might make for a better home page than the current one. It’s a bit more product-oriented, and gets right to the point as to what you do. Might be worth A/B testing.

    The home page doesn’t really feel like a you’re pitching a SAAS-product, more like you’re selling a book or PDF. There are no immediately obvious sign up buttons or screenshots, and a quick scroll past all the text leads to a sign up form for a newsletter (which also gives the impression that your product isn’t available yet). That’s gotta hurt your conversion rate a bit…

    btw, switching to a money back guarantee rather than a trial will give you a 14-day head start towards your monthly revenue goal. :-)

  5. Abe says:

    I think it would be good to highlight “the gain” that people would receive from joining ConverterKit versus building a landing page and integrating it with Aweber. And any cost savings associated with that.

    When I first looked at ConverterKit my immediate thought was is this going to be cheaper than using Aweber and building my own landing page? I thought I would hold off until I did the math. I was also looking for other benefits for going with ConverterKit.

  6. Hi Nathan,
    It’s great to see your progress and I will all the best for your app challenge.

    A suggestion for getting the word out for your product. Do you know Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com . Check this link: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/nichesiteduel

    I think your product site will benefit from his backlinking strategies (watch out for the some outdated techniques there).

  7. Frank Goertzen says:

    Your willingness to be so open and transparent is really helpful and inspiring. Even if you don’t reach your goal you should be proud of how many people you’ve helped along the way.

    Partially thanks to you I’ll be writing a book and launching an app I’ve been working on.


  8. Hi Nathan,

    Really inspiring to see how far you’ve got so far! Getting over $1,000 MRR and having such a nice looking product within 6 months is an achievement in itself! It’s a milestone than many bootstrapped SaaS startups never get to. In fact, there are funded startups that don’t even get that far…

    Here are some outside observations that might help kickstart some ideas, apologies if any of these sound patronising and I’m telling you what you already know!:

    1) What do your stats tell you? I’m biassed (as the cofounder of http://trak.io) but there’s usually so much within your data that can help drive your next actions. What’s the conversion rate of your homepage? What’s the activation rate of you’re free trials? A lot of your steps in this post are about increasing your acquisitions, when there could be a lot of untapped revenue in your existing traffic & signups.

    2) Looking back at acquisitions, you should try A/B testing the marketing site and specifically, the signup rate. Personally, I’d test switching your ‘Features’ page to your homepage as it feels much stronger. The homepage didn’t “jump” at me and I only scrolled down because I’ve read your blog posts on the challenge and was curious what the app actually did – but as a regular customer I don’t think I would have. The fold is 100% text, and I have to scroll all the way down before my eyes start getting anything visual. In contrast, your features page is hyper visual and I can understand the whole app in 5 seconds.

    3) Pricing: have you done much testing here? $50 for a starting tier is higher than a lot of SaaS – have you done any A/B testing on what happens when you send out a special promo for a $29 or even $19 plan? If you had activated free trials, who didn’t convert to paid, price could have been an issue. Nothing wrong with being expensive, but worth experimenting to see if you’re losing the bottom of your market.

    I hope something in there is useful. We’re a few months into http://trak.io (Customer analytics for startups using a simplified AARRR model) and on a similar mission to yourself. If there’s any help I can offer or you just want to shoot a hello, feel free!

  9. Greetings! Quick question that’s entirely off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My site looks weird
    when browsing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a theme or
    plugin that might be able to resolve this problem. If
    you have any recommendations, please share. Appreciate it!

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