Two years ago, almost to the day, I started to work on ConvertKit. Since then we've built one of the best email marketing platforms, but it hasn't been easy to get to this point.
My initial goal was to create the best email marketing platform for authors and creators, just like me. On that front ConvertKit has been a massive success. It was critical in growing my own email list to 30,000 subscribers in just 2 years. That wouldn't have been easy with any of our competitors.
But I failed when it came to getting the message out about ConvertKit to the right people. As a result we never hit our goal of $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
When growth didn't happen I moved ConvertKit to the back burner and focused on more profitable projects. The software consistently improved, but without marketing efforts revenue gradually decreased.
Every few months I'd circle back to promoting ConvertKit, but if the attempted method didn't work out immediately I would shift focus back to a product that actually made money. After all my training business was consistently bringing in $250,000 per year.
I loved ConvertKit as a product, but unfortunately it was a business failure. Barely covering it's own expenses. Though at least it did cover it's expenses: I invested $5,000 to start the project, but after that all additional development was paid for from revenue.
Though I cheated on that a little bit since I hired Dan Gamito to help with my training and publishing business, but he also did support part-time for ConvertKit.
In late September I knew something needed to change. The question was should I double down on ConvertKit or put it on auto-pilot? I wouldn't shut down ConvertKit since it was so useful for my own list and training business, but if it wasn't going to be a success I should try to automate as much of the management as possible and focus on selling books (which are very profitable).
Which one? A or B?
After a very encouraging call with Tim Grahl I made my decisions. It was time to double down on ConvertKit.
I immediately changed my focus and started spending 80% of my time on ConvertKit. That meant refocusing the marketing to be focused on authors, relaunching the marketing site, and started direct sales to acquire new customers.
Now, 3 months later, did I make the right decision? I think so. Here's what happened:
- Revenue grew by about 40% in the first month. Then 68% the next month. And 50% in December.
- Churn dropped significantly.
- The sales process became much easier (a focused product makes all the difference).
In short, the last three months have been incredible. I know it will be hard to keep growing at these percentages going forward, but even if we grow just by the same dollar amount each month, we'll have a sustainable business very soon.
A $50,000 investment and growing the team
The big changes don't stop there. I quickly realized that we couldn't move the product forward fast enough with just one developer. And as he worked more hours the cost was going up faster than revenue. So I made a big decision:
I personally invested $50,000 in ConvertKit.
I'd already gone all in with my time, but it was time to do that with my money as well. This money will give us the operating capital to continue to grow quickly. It also gave the the opportunity to hire David Wheeler as lead developer.
David and I have worked together on various projects over the years and I always wanted to recruit him for ConvertKit. But quite simply I couldn't afford him. After I decided to make the new investment in ConvertKit I reached out to David again. I knew it was a long-shot, but I had to try.
And he turned me down. Unfortunately.
But then a couple weeks later we talked again and he was open to moving from his current job. The short version is David joined the ConvertKit team full-time last Monday. He's already made a ton of progress on our new marketing automation features.
Revenue continues to grow very quickly and our team has grown to four (Dan handling support and operations, David and Marc on development, and me on everything else). In the next month we'll have some massive new features in the product and plans to improve all the existing features.
If you'd like to join us on this journey, create your ConvertKit account. We'd love to have you.