Happy Belated Birthday to Us
I’ve also done a terrible job of posting company updates — clearly one of those “cobbler’s kids have no shoes” situations! Here’s a look at just some of the features we’ve launched since my last real update (June 14 of last year):
- Better inline editing
A simpler, more reliable text editor makes it even easier to add your own commentary to stories you share.
- Better management of custom RSS feeds
In true MVP style, we launched the feature to add RSS feeds without the ability to remove or modify them. That’s no longer the case :).
- Ability to pull from multiple Facebook pages
Particularly useful for practice-practitioner or franchisor-franchisee situations.
- One-click SendGrid integration
Replicating the functionality we’d previously built for Mailchimp and Constant Contact.
- Support for sending to groups and segments
Heading down the path of better-targeted, more personalized content.
- Major under-the-hood speed and reliability improvements
I’d anecdotally estimate the product is 50% faster now versus when we launched.
- Ability to send a preview to someone else
Common feature request from agencies (more on this below).
- Ability to add a persistent subject line
Saving you even more time from week-to-week or month-to-month.
- Ability to bookmark articles into your newsletter via our Firefox add-on
Building your newsletter is now a seamless part of your day-to-day workflow.
- Ability to bookmark articles into your newsletter via our iOS app
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- Options for font and color scheme
No longer the default blue/Helvetica combination for everyone…we automatically match these from your website’s stylesheet file where we can detect.
- Ability to replace cover + profile photo
You’re no longer locked in to your Facebook branding with our simple image replacement feature.
- Ability to replace images per article
Don’t like the OpenGraph image showing up for a particular article? Upload your own.
- (Additional templates coming soon)
Thanks to Dana DiTomaso of Kick Point for the kick in the butt on this one.
Fully whitelabel-able agency platform
I’ve half-joked for the past several months that we should have started by building a whitelabel platform and then figured out a product to whitelabel (but only half-joked; you’ll see why below). It’s been even more popular than I’d imagined when we started down the development path. Despite a minimal and lackluster marketing effort on my part, we’ve got 17 signed resellers and another 4 in the process of reviewing our agreement with their teams.
While I ran GetListed and helped run Moz Local, it was a frequent/ongoing internal discussion as to whether the added back-end complexity that a whitelabel product required was worth the engineering investment. At least in Tidings’ whitelabel platform’s initial 6 months, the answer seems to be a resounding yes and I regret not going this route with my previous products.
Along the way, we also put on a really great educational event for small businesses in our community, grew our own email list to 1120 subscribers (with an average open / click rate of 40% / 13%), and won Street Fight’s Best New Product of the Year award.
TLDR; if it’s been awhile since you’ve checked out the product I hope you’ll give it another look!
Hard Lessons from Year One
I don’t want to give the impression with my enthusiasm above that 2017 was all unicorns and cotton candy. Far from it. Professionally, it was the most stressful year of my life. I’ve bootstrapped 100% of Tidings and it’s been hard seeing so much cash head out the door with a minuscule percentage coming back as revenue.
Customer-wise, we’re way behind where I expected to be a year in. We don’t have enough revenue that I can pay myself a salary just yet (though after reading this excellent piece from Stripe sent to me by friend and Tidings Advisory Board member Matthew Brown, it looks another 6 months to get there is totally normal).
I focused too much on product and not enough on both marketing and product-market fit. Despite a ton of interviews prior to launching, I vastly overestimated the extent to which agency and consulting folks in my personal and second-degree network sell anything except SEO (hence my two recent posts on Moz and Duct Tape Marketing). I continue to feel that Google’s increasing monetization and voice search represent existential threats to the small SEO agency, but it may be a couple more years before those threats are felt acutely.
And on the direct marketing front, small businesses are as hard to acquire directly as everyone says — particularly with a low-cost product like ours that can’t sustain a high Cost of Acquisition.
That being said…
I’m really proud of our product. And if we didn’t spend another nickel on marketing or feature development, our minimal hard costs put us well-beyond break-even.
It seems like the word is starting to get out (maybe our StreetFight award is part of it). February was our best month in the last quarter for new trials. I was thrilled to get this Slack message from my friend Joy Hawkins on Friday:
We’re starting to find a good product-market fit, especially with more full-service agencies. And I see that fit tightening even further with these three trends:
The Facebook Reach-pocalypse.
It was hard to miss Facebook’s very public announcements in January about the updates to its news feed. Businesses should absolutely still engage with their customers on Facebook (and pay to boost their posts to targeted new audiences). But we offer a turnkey solution to help extend that reach and deepen their relationships via email.
Compressing reseller margins.
As Google and Facebook both automate more and more small business ad production, the ability of agencies to add value by reselling those ads declines precipitously.
The continued effectiveness of newsletters.
None other than the New York Times digital director strongly believes in newsletters as critical for maintaining your connection with your audience.
We’ll be releasing a new audience intelligence tool in the coming days that I’m really excited about.
And we’re excited to integrate with even more ESPs in the coming weeks and months.
Overall, I’m incredibly grateful to our early-adopter customers for giving us a shot — and sticking with us — in 2017. Year Two of Tidings is shaping up to be a great one!