Our first 1,000 customers

Evolution of our strategy

Our goal for 2021 was to generate £100k in revenue. We decided to prioritise commercialisation so that we can sustain and scale our impact.

Graduate recruiters

As we started talking to graduate recruiters, we quickly realised that they didn’t have really strong needs around finding candidates. Many effective channels already exist to advertise jobs to students. And many companies already have fairly mature systems in place to screen and qualify candidates. There were some needs around finding candidates for certain roles (such as sales, where it’s hard to test for soft skills) and specialised roles. But the needs weren’t strong enough for us to prioritise this strategy.

Schools

So we pivoted to focus on selling access to our software to schools and colleges. We ran a handful of school and college trials over Zoom and in person, which taught us a tremendous amount and worked very well.

Direct to consumers

In order to sell to schools, we had to paywall our product. Our quiz and software has always been free. Except for a small experiment I ran at the end of 2019 which didn’t yield a single purchase! Given this failed experiment and the fact that the 100 users we’ve spoken with over the past year have only ever paid for training and coaching when it comes to their careers, I wasn’t very optimistic people would pay for our software. But if we kept it free, we couldn’t really charge schools to access it.

Our journey to 1,000 customers

Over the past 4 ½ months, we ran 16 separate product, ad and pricing experiments with the goal of optimising the ROI (return on investment) on our ad spend. For our first experiment, we spent £642 on Facebook and Instagram ads over four days and generated £49.17 in revenue (33 sales at £1.49 each), which gave us an ROI of 7.7%. The work we did over the following 4 ½ months, and 15 more experiments was focused on driving this number up as high as possible.

Facebook and Instagram ads

The primary channels we use to acquire new users are Facebook and Instagram. We tested other channels, such as Google, Tiktok and Snapchat, but we couldn’t get them to work very well on the first try. And we have very limited capacity. So we’re keeping with just Facebook and Instagram for now.

Ad creative

For our first experiment, we tried a variety of different ads. Emma designed this price comparison ad, which performed far better than the others:

Narrow vs broad

Another big debate we had with a variety of experts over the past few months was whether we should target people in a narrow or broad way. Facebook provides advertisers with very powerful targeting capabilities — like demographics, location, interests etc. One school of thought is to use these targeting capabilities to decide who our ideal customer is and find them that way. Which sounds very sensible. This is called “narrow” targeting.

iOS privacy headwinds

One challenge we’ve faced over the past few months was due to an update Apple made to it’s iPhones back in April. It essentially meant that an increasing number of users since then have disabled the ability for apps to track them. Which essentially means that Facebook targeting doesn’t work as well.

Optimising our funnel

In the tech industry, the stages a user goes through from landing on a homepage to eventually making a payment is called a “funnel”. Think of it as many users entering at the top of the funnel, but only a few make it to the end and pay.

Price

We’ve experimented with different price points and we still have a few experiments left to do. Our starting price was £1.49, which was really low. This was really just to see if we could get people to pay at all. We rapidly increased this price to £4.49, £9.49 and then £14.49. Our ROI dramatically improved up to £9.49, but then dropped a little at £14.49. So we settled on £9.49 for most of our experiments.

How we charge

We initially gave users access to two of their final results careers for free, along with all information such as their personalised pathways into them. But to see the rest of their careers and pathways, they had to pay. And this worked pretty well.

Showing more information for free

We ran a test whereby we gave more away for free, in the hope that people would realise the value of the product more and then pay. So we gave them a view on all their recommended careers, and all information, but they could only explore two. After they’d explored two, we’d lock all careers, so they couldn’t see any of the detailed information for any of them without paying.

Showing less information for free

So we worked hard to hide all final results careers, and only show them once a user pays. The challenge here was communicating the value of the product without showing the product. So we worked hard to redesign our homepage and show screenshots of the features. At the end of the quiz, we even show top insights for the user. Such as how many careers are in their final results and how many they can enter immediately and at no cost.

Charging user up front

The last main method of charging users is up front before they even start the quiz. One of the down sides to this approach is that you can’t capture their email address to try and up-sell them after their session. If instead you charge them after completing the quiz, you have the option of asking for their email first and sending them insights and interesting career content weekly, along with an up-sell. Which would probably improve ROI. For this reason, I wasn’t too keen on this approach.

Our homepage

We must have made at least ten fairly large changes to our homepage over the past few months. We’ve spent a lot of time on it! I thought our homepage was in pretty good shape back in February, but it’s so much better now! Here’s a side-by-side view of our homepage at the start of June and now.

Improvements to our product

Most of our time over the past few months was actually spent on improving our product. Since we started charging users back in May, we’ve always offered a “money back guarantee”. And we’ve had a few users request refunds. But what we’ve found is that as we’ve finished and shipped new features, we’ve had fewer and fewer refund requests, showing that people are getting more value out of the product.

Completed Pathways

While we had shipped our Pathways feature at the end of February (more on that here), we’d only enabled it for 81 of our 504 careers as each new career requires about 1–2 hours of research. So we hired Laura at the start of March to complete this research. It took her 5 months of intense work, and she completed them by mid-August. It was a truly valiant effort and really excellent research.

In-education variant

Our product back in February had a single flow that everyone went through. It had four screens that asked about their situation, location, education and experience. The problem with this is that it didn’t work too well for people in full-time education. For example, it asked about their past education, not what they’re currently studying.

Skills

Back in February, each career had a “skills match” score. This was a feature we built back in November, which worked pretty well. But some users found the score confusing. And others wanted more granular information on what exact skills they had that were relevant to their careers of interest.

Search/Browse/Delete

Other feedback we’ve had from users is that their final results are missing one or two careers they are interested in. So we created a way for users to add careers to their final results and delete them too.

Videos

We had a fantastic intern join us over the summer. A Cambridge university student called Georgie. She spent 8 weeks with us and made a big difference in that short space of time.

What’s next

We’re focused on three strands for the rest of the year, which I’m hopeful will give us the metrics we need to take the company to the next level…

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