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Phone: 617-227-8800
Email: ByronWhite At WriterAccess.com
Byron White
205 Portland Street
Suite 500
Boston MA 02114

Entrepreneur Screw-Ups

March 14th, 2014 by

Screwing up is part of the learning process for all entrepreneurs.  It’s never an overnight success story. It’s more like this: Launch, fail, improve, fail again, re-launch, possibly succeed. Mistakes are a crucial part of the process.

Throughout my years of starting businesses, I’ve made my share of mistakes.  The most recent blunder happened in July of 2013.  Here is a summary that might help you learn an easier way, without the bumps and bruises.

The vision made sense: Launch Content Analytics in the WriterAccess platform, FREE! We’d then upsell opportunity for customers that wanted even more analytics—an entirely new revenue stream for WriterAccess.

We had built a software product years ago called WordVision that was a smash hit for the 100 customers we serviced at our full-service content marketing agency (called ideaLaunch actually). All our clients used it, and loved it. It was our secret sauce that distinquished us from the competition. We had no need to charge clients for the software because our contracts where in the tens of thousands of dollars with plenty of margin for the software cost.

We had it figured out. We’d simply code up Content Analytics using the WordVision code base as a guide.  The math for profit looked great on paper, even if a small percentage of our customers upgraded from freemium to Pay-for-the-Software.

Launch day arrived, and 10,000+ invitations were blasted out. Guess what—only a few hundred showed up.  Disaster.  What happened? Was it the product? Who could say no to FREE?

I picked up the phone and made lots of calls to customers and prospects. I performed demo after demo, and everyone loved it. Even worse, there was no one who really didn’t like the product, leaving me even more puzzled.

At the end of a long week and a long day, one customer returned my voice mail and caught me on the way out the door.  I took a new tact with this call due to shortness of time. Instead of going through the demo like most all the other calls, I simply asked “how are things going for you at WriterAccess and what would you like us to do differently or better?”

The client’s answer did not mention Content Analytics. Instead, the request was for more service and support, which they would pay for with additional fees.  By Monday morning, I developed a new plan to launch Plus Service that addressed this need and a few others learned along the way. We bundled Content Analytics into Plus Service, along with many other jewels designed around customer needs, like access to Getty Images, custom templates, conference call services and more. Within days of re-launch, we generated tens of thousands of dollars of revenue and nicely recouped our investment in the content analytics software, without actually selling any of that software as a stand alone

In the end, success is all about customer’s want and needs, and your solutions to those challenges. Features and benefits do not necessarily make a startup or business successful.

One Response to “Entrepreneur Screw-Ups”

  1. Sometimes it’s hard to learn the lesson that what the customer needs and wants is more important than what we think they want. I’m glad that you asked the question of your customer: “What do you need?” It’s something I try to remember to ask periodically. As much as we think we’re in our client’s shoes, we’re not and it’s important to get out of our bubble in order to get to know them. The best way is by asking. Thanks for sharing this!

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