I usually post these little monthly recaps on Twitter, but this one started to get windy and felt more like a blog post. Here's last month's recap:
Intro Maker July Stats:— SimianLogic (@SimianLogic) August 7, 2022
$3823 in gross profit (down ~$800)
traffic down slightly
ads reverted to normal
good traffic picked up towards the end of the month
(Click through to see the whole thread.)
August was pretty good!
Gross profit was $5,050 (up 32%). Traffic was up slightly, but not up 32%. Subscribers (measured as subscription in month 2+) went from 30 to 38. Trials (measured as subscriptions in their first month) went from 22 to 21.
Despite having pinkeye, I finished all of the immediate TODOs on the list… mostly. The H1 test never happened, but that was an alpha test of a 3rd-party service that never materialized. I could easily run one myself with Google Optimize, but it's less appealing when I actually have to do stuff.
I automated my MRR reporting and matched it up with the ProfitWell MRR guide pretty well. It turns out I was being too harsh and included "will churn" along with "already churned" but my monthly reports only include actual subscription payments from the prior month, which lines up great with how I calculate the live snapshots now. That looks like this in my admin dashboard now:
I thought that the trial churn was going to be MUCH MUCH higher than the regular subscription churn, but it's been pretty close (higher, but not double). It's probably not worth turning these into actual trials in Stripe – they're not skewing the output as much as I thought they would.
I ran a test with much higher prices ($8/16/24 and $10/20/30), but they underperformed dramatically. I'm sticking with $6/12/18 for now.
I did end up rebuilding one of my render servers (it was running out of hard drive space and crapping out), but then also added a stability dashboard to my admin section:
If Queue Time starts going up, it probably means I need to go restart a hung renderer or two – which is much easier than logging in to servers to check manually.
I've been on a cadence of releasing 8-12 new video templates every month for a couple of years now. New templates are the raw materials for all the other content production I do for Intro Maker: I can talk about them in the newsletter, I can add them to a blog post, I can make a YouTube video near-automatically by stitching them together, and I can queue a bunch of tweets (one for each new template).
It takes around 20 hours to prep video templates, upload them, QA them, build audio tracks, and crank out all the tertiary stuff (YouTube video, tweets, newsletter, blog post).
The site (IntroCave at the time) had around 100 templates when I bought it in 2018, and now it's got over 400. The marginal "value" produced by each new template is probably pretty low… except that new videos make the rest of the content flywheels spin.
But what if they didn't?
It was getting near the end of the month and I hadn't prepped any videos yet, so I decided: screw it! I'll try something different this month.
This video is pretty low-effort. Even using my own ready-to-go templates and only a couple of minutes of talking head footage, it took 3-4 hours to put together and then another 1-2 hours to prep/send the newsletter.
Compared to just producing more templates, I'm not sure it's worth the effort… but it is kinda fun.
I engaged an SEO agency last year when I migrated domains from introcave.com to intromaker.com, which has eaten most of the free cash flow for the year.
Was it worth it?
Probably, yes. You can't A/B test life. The site was doing ~$3-4k/mo on the old domain, but dipped hard down to ~$2k/mo the first month or two at the new domain. I'm back up higher than I was before (~$4-5k/mo these last few months), but pocketing less than I was before the migration. Most of that revenue growth comes from pricing optimization (yay subscriptions!), while traffic has returned to right around pre-migration levels.
My hope when starting the SEO agency was that we'd shoot up the rankings on some juicy terms and the site would make $7-10k/mo instead of $3-4k/mo. At that point, the agency pays for itself and continues to build long-term value.
Instead, we're in the muddy middle.
There might be some growth for expanding into other formats (perhaps into TikTok, slideshows, quotes, or ad formats), but I'm not sure Intro Videos alone can get to $7-10k.
Just as adding more videos to the site might not be driving incremental value at this point, doing more outreach/backlinks likely has a point of diminishing returns.
I'm not living on the Intro Maker money, so reinvesting it back into the business seems okay. The question I'm pondering is: could I spend $3k/mo on ads and get better results? (I think the answer is yes, but I also think that's a lot more work. There is a lot of value in "done for you.")
I've kind of phoned it in for the last couple of months (covid + pinkeye, thanks immune system!) but the site has kept on chugging along due to all the earlier subscription + pricing experiments.
Do I want to hold it or sell it? And what do each of those look like?
(I talked a bit about my original plan for a microPE Empire in this post).
The argument for selling boils down to free time. Would I rather spend my time tinkering with AI, FXHash, game dev, or video production? Is there a way to align my Intro Maker tasks with the kind of stuff I want to tinker on anyway?
Went paddling yesterday afternoon and cranked the steps up to 250 to make more Waterhouse pug knights while we were out of the house.— SimianLogic (@SimianLogic) August 29, 2022
Here are the best boys: pic.twitter.com/TrCJCE0qOv
I use a pretty simple model to evaluate businesses when looking to buy one. If you know [new customers/month] and [customer LTV], you can multiply those two to figure out where a business will plateau. The inputs to those two figures can vary depending on the business (traffic, trials, churn, pricing, etc), but assuming those inputs are stable the business will eventually hit a plateau (how long it takes depends on churn). I feel like I've optimized most of those inputs (traffic, conversion rate, pricing) over the last few months (let's not talk about churn).
Without adding a new acquisition channel (i.e. paid ads) and if the current traffic/churn numbers hold, Intro Maker should plateau around $2,500 MRR in about a year (up ~$1.5k from today). Using numbers from the MicroAcquire multiples report, a 4.2 multiple on revenue would be somewhere around an extra $75k for waiting it out ($1.5k * 4.2 * 12)–perhaps slightly lower because of trailing 3/6/12 math. It's arguable that a growing MRR is worthy of a higher multiple than a flat MRR, but "arguable" sounds like work.
I'm arguably on this path already with the outsourced SEO. Customer service is light/easy. I might be able to outsource the template prep, but the actual final asset prep is pretty technical (lots of manual scripts to prep final content and update the database). The amount of work it would take to make that process easier to hand off is likely not worth the amount of work it would take off my plate. In a perfect world where I've systematized and outsourced everything, I still think I spend ~1 hour/week managing someone and a few hours reviewing/uploading each month.
I could just stop… making new content. My attribution isn't super great, but on average the monthly newsletter drives $200-400 in sales (mostly one-time) and costs ~$40 and a few hours to send out (plus about a day to make the new content). One-time repeat purchases made up ~13% of sales when I bought the business back in 2018, and now they account for… 17%.
It's not a huge revenue driver (abandoned cart emails do ~$300/mo with no work!)
I drop users off the newsletter after a few months of inactivity, but the stats were better than I thought. On average:
This plan would likely include revamping and extending the automated sequences to see if I can get that number higher, but it's unlikely that I could get anywhere near 10.5 touch points with automated emails alone.
Then again… the newsletter is largely structured around "Here are 10 new videos." Every video is new to a new user. With 400+ video templates across 11 categories and a crap ton of tags, I could write 24 newsletters using existing content and send one every two weeks in a sequence.
I work for an AI copywriting service. I like tinkering with keyword research. Instead of creating 10(ish) new video templates every month, I could shift to producing 1-2 blog posts and 1-2 YouTube videos every month and use those to feed the newsletter. This is closer to what I want to tinker on anyway (playing with AI + video production), but it also sounds like more work overall.
The Intro Maker youtube channel just crossed 500 subscribers, so it feels like I should be doing more there.
I was going to list this one last as the obvious "right choice," but I'm not ready to commit to something that feels like more work yet. Making the site easier to run aligns well with making the site easier to sell, and ramping up content production doesn't move in that direction.
I still want to explore how I can use Copy.ai to write YouTube scripts, but until I figure that out it's hard to commit to a regular cadence.
There's a version of the story where all this "what should I do" waffling boils down to good weather. The weather is going to turn to shit in a month or two, and spending one weekend a month cranking out new templates and a newsletter is going to be a lot more palatable than when it's 90+ degrees outside and I'd rather be on a river or lake somewhere.
Rather than make big changes, maybe I just need to lower the cadence to ~6-8 videos/month and bank a few extra videos this winter knowing that I want to take summer "off."
I can still make time investments in content/video production, but I can do it sporadically when inspiration hits and spend most of my tinker time working on my own random stuff (i.e. making Beat Saber videos or game prototypes or weird AI images).