Female Track Athletes at Starting Line

This is the first entry in a series in which I’d like to share Nelio’s strategic and marketing plan for the launch of our new product, Nelio Content. Here you have the links to all posts so you don’t miss any of them:

  1. The Idea
  2. Strategic Objectives
  3. Marketing Training
  4. Marketing KPIs
  5. Buyer Persona
  6. Webdesign
  7. SEO Strategy
  8. Web Content
  9. The Blog
  10. Social Media and Emailing

I really believe this series is of your interest, since learning what others do and how they do it is always beneficial. So, for example, if you’re part of a startup team that starts a development project from scratch, you’ll learn how we do things, learn from it, and possibly avoid the same mistakes we may do. Or if you’re a marketing expert, reading what I tell you will let you see how a startup like ours (with limited resources; we are just 3 members and not marketing experts) is able to put into practice what we learn from the articles you or your peers publish.

We, of course, are confident that the process that I’m about to share will be part of our journey to success, but if this is not the case, then, ?☠??⛈?!! But that’s one of the aspects that’ll make these posts awesome—we don’t know for sure how things will end up!

My idea is to very pragmatically explain the various issues we consider based on our own experiences. However, some posts might also include theory about the issue at hand or interesting references that I ‘ve found helpful when working on a particular point.

And, of course, I encourage you to take part in our journey! How? Well, simply share your thoughts on the steps we’re taking! It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert or not, we’d love to hear from you, for we’ll sure learn from your ideas and opinions!

The objective of this first entry, the first of this series, is to contextualize our new project: Nelio Content. If you read our post on the decision of whether or not to merge our blogs, you already know a little about our context… but, anyway, here you’ll find more details about our startup and how the idea for creating the new product came about.

A little about Nelio

In 2013, three colleagues and I founded Nelio Software. Surprising as it may be, we didn’t know exactly what we would be working on at that time—we didn’t have a concrete project in mind yet, just this vague idea of creating a scalable service. What service? How would we do it? We didn’t know, but we were super thrilled about running our own business… so, who cares, right?

Anyway, in the end we decided we’d work within the WordPress ecosystem. Why WordPress? Because we like it! It’s open source, one can easily extend it and build a business around it, it’s used by millions of people all over the world, and we all had some experience using it. Plus, taking into account our backgrounds (in case you’re wondering, we’re PhDs in Computer Engineering), developing software for a highly-used platform as WordPress seemed logical.

Nelio Team
The Nelio Team

Another requirement we had was, we wanted to undertake a philosophy of bootstrapping (I love this term!? I think I learned it a year after beginning our startup…), with the advantages and disadvantages that this entails. That is, the capital of this company was little more than the minimum required to create a limited company in Spain. We didn’t want to have any debt (and we still don’t). We didn’t want to value our startup based on what was raised by investment rounds either (which apparently is very fashionable today), because we wanted to create something tangible and valuable. Nelio is exclusively financed by revenue that we generate from our customers. Of course, we do not rule out acquiring external funding in the future to accelerate our growth, but so far we have worked this way.

So, in order to get some cash we started by helping users migrate their websites to WordPress. As it turns out, there’s a lot of demand for high-quality migrations, and so we decided to satisfy it. However, we still wanted to create a much more scalable service (migrations aren’t), so only one of us (Antonio) devoted some of his time to migration projects.

In late 2013 we launched the first beta of our attempt at creating a scalable business model: Nelio A/B Testing. This service allows your website to create split tests; that is, you can run two or more different versions of your own website so that at any one time, half your visitors see one version, while the other half see the other. This way, you can analyze which version generates more conversions. In other words, you discover what works best to get your visitors doing what you want them to do (buy, click a button, visit some content, etc.)

Split testing of headlines of posts
A/B Testing Headlines

Nelio A/B Testing was born as a WordPress plugin. If you don’t know what a WordPress plugin is, in a nutshell: WordPress is a platform (a content management system) for creating basic blogs or websites, but if you want to include more interesting things such as forms, a store, a forum, etc, you can add “add-ons” (plugins) to your website for much more power. Just imagine WordPress as a basic car and think of all the add-ons and accessories that you can add to make it what you really want.

Accesories for your car
In the same way that adding accessories can be very convenient in your car, you can add WordPress plugins to improve your website.

In June 2014 we moved to Barcelona Activa, a business incubator in our city. If you’re thinking about whether to move or not to a business incubator, we totally recommend it. In our particular case, moving to Barcelona Activa had some great advantages, such as being able to participate in several workshops: a Workshop on Strategic Acceleration organized by IESE Business School, a couple of mentoring programs (one organized by Barcelona Activa directly and the other by ESADE Business School), and ODAME (another workshop, this time for women entrepreneurs). All the things you can learn there, and the people you meet, will definitely help you grow as a person and entrepreneur.

Are you wondering how things are going for us so far? Well, currently there are more than 1,000 websites in WordPress using Nelio A/B Testing and our current market is focused in countries with the most years of marketing tradition. As you can see in the chart below, of the revenue we had in the first 30 days of 2016, more than 80% came from US customers.

Nelio billing for first 30 days of 2016
Nelio billing for first 30 days of 2016

But we are still very far from the figures we’d like (did I not yet mention that we want to earn a lot of money?). And so we continue to push higher!

How did the idea for Nelio Content come about?

In October 2015 we saw that although our number of customers (and hence revenues) grew, it was not at the desired speed. Truth is, when we created our initial business plan, we thought Nelio A/B Testing would be a product that would serve any website or blog on WordPress, but without quite being able to properly identify our “market fit” (core market). It was not until we had close to 100 customers that we were able to identify that, these were primarily marketing agencies or web designers. I guess any expert on the subject could have seen this from the beginning, but we needed some experience.

Be as it may, we “quickly” realized that, if we wanted faster growth, we needed to do something. Maintaining our main services (Nelio A/B Testing and Migrate to WordPress) and scaling them up required a significant investment in staff to help us implement more features, migrate more websites, and possibly offering additional, complementary services such as website maintenance, SEO, or marketing consulting. With everything we’d done and achieved up to this point, this was a very interesting option to consider.

Still, we thought we could do better. And so we started to brainstorm all kinds of possible solutions we could offer, given our resources and expertise. I still laugh at the outrageous things we proposed! I will simply tell you what was finally adopted as the “best option.”

One of the problems we had previously encountered with Nelio was not being  organized enough and not publishing content on our websites and social networks regularly enough. At the time, with the idea of finding the solution to our problem, we started scouring the internet for information on how to generate better content or how to better organize the creation of posts and automatization of their publication.

We found a payment editorial calendar which we thought solved our problem pretty well . But the point is that more than once we also had some “I wish I could also do that” or “I waste too much time with this… and I’m sure we could automate it better” moments. Mulling over this issue, at some point in the brainstorming process, it occurred to us that we could create a better product than the one we were using, integrating other features we liked from various plugins.

We then did a detailed analysis of the plugins that we were interested in to clearly identify what was offered by companies that would become our competitors. It is clear that this analysis is critical and necessary before you begin to develop a new product.

Moreover, we considered the following aspects to help us decide whether the new idea was worth it or not:

Ability to develop the product. With prior experience in plugin development, we knew we had the necessary knowledge to develop a quality WordPress plugin—I always say Antonio and David are awesome at this!

Identifying the needs of bloggers and web publishers in terms of content publishing clearly. This was quite easy, for we ourselves (as bloggers on our own blogs) had already identified the problems and needs we had (and we were willing to pay to resolve them). Besides, we talked to a lot of other people and confirmed our assumptions.

Scalability and (maybe?) the need to increase the size of the team. We wanted to create a new product with the resources we had, and we wanted it to be really scalable.

Need for an investment round? We knew it was possible to build the new service without looking for investors, because the income from Nelio A/B Testing gave us sufficient margin for the three of us to survive for a year.

WordPress Community. The new product was within the WordPress ecosystem, which we love. We are part of the WordPress community (Toni had been invited as a speaker at several WordCamps & WordPress Days and David also presented at WordCamp Europe 2015), and remaining there was very appealing to us.

Once it was clear we wanted to go for this new project, we started to think about what it should do and how it could solve the problems we had found. The feature list we were compiling was incredibly long (this is good news, for there’s a lot of room for future improvement), so we narrowed it down to our MVP (Minimum Viable Product for launch to the market). Here are our first sketches of Nelio Content.

Nelio Content Mockups
Sketches of Nelio Content displays. We’re very computer savvy … but as you see we draw by hand. A startup is not the same without postits, is it?

As we were already experienced in the process of the creation and promotion of a plugin, we quickly established a plan for the development of the product, as well as all for the marketing, administrative, and legal issues that occurred to us. We organized our work as follows: David and Toni would be responsible for the development of the front-end and back-end of the product, respectively; I would do the testing, user documentation and marketing tasks; and we would hire some design experts (Verónica Valenzuela and Ricardo Prieto, from Silo Creativo) to design the logo and new website.

And that’s how Nelio Content was born! We wanted faster growth and we wanted to solve the problems we (and others) had whilst publishing content in WordPress.

In the next post I’ll explain the first thing we’ve done: we defined the goals we wanted to achieve with this new product. Don’t miss it…? But first, if you’re here it’s probably because you’ve also started (or have spent time on) some new project. How did you come up with the idea? Why not share it? It’s always fun and interesting to share different experiences.

Featured image from tableatny (license)

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