Wordpress

Pagely – We help startups scale WordPress.

Pretty interesting, these guys provide a documented way to scale hosted WordPress using Amazon AWS and unlike most of the other players in this market provide the configurations and their methods they are selling.

A few years ago this site melted down when the guys from 4 short links at O’Reilly sent me thousands of visitors in a matter of minutes to a page that was a collection of over 100 IOT Startups all with images of the devices, my traditional WordPress hosting just melted, likewise I hear similar reports from startups that have suddenly had their Techcrunch moment and their traditional hosting couldn’t cope.

Its almost impossible to solve this problem on a traditional WordPress hosting platform in real time, you end up losing the traffic and if they notice your hosting company often will throttle the site. This is a good way to solve this problem.

 

Startup Name: Pagely

Tagline: We help startups scale WordPress.

Pagely created the Managed WordPress hosting space in 2009, and has been providing secure and reliable WP hosting services to companies like Facebook and NGINX with a focus on:

Performance: Opcode caching, full page caching, optimized PHP and Database setups are essentially platform defaults now instead of the customer trying to figure it out on their own with a mix of plugins and research. More sensible resource balancing on shared setups (old shared hosting providers were notorious for overselling). Collectively these things have made WordPress dramatically faster (vs. a default install) in most use cases.

Pagely Tech Stack

Security: Some level of malware/file scanning, hardened OS installs, least-privileged access, web application firewalls and DDoS mitigation may be defaults at most Managed WordPress providers now. You don’t hear about widespread security issues as we did in say the 2008-2011 period. Those that come up are mitigated quickly by the Core team (or the respective plugin author) and aided by rapidly deployed patches or firewall rules by the Managed hosts.

Tooling: Automating installs, code updates, and backups along with staging and deployment workflows enabled development teams to work faster and create more complex yet stable sites on WordPress.

Support: More knowledgeable support technicians that understand WordPress to a higher degree than a generic web host. Some providers are better than others but all seem to at least make an attempt to specialize in the unique support requirements of WordPress. Here at Pagely we take great pride in our quality over quantity approach to support ensuring that every agent is not only deeply skilled in WordPress but proficient in the core technical skills of DevOps and deployment management allowing them to address any performance or security issue that may arise.

What’s next for Pagely?
It’s odd to look at the landscape, this $1 Billion-channel we created (and of course others helped to grow) and reflect on where we fit in the picture going forward. For us, it’s fairly simple – do more of the things that have made us successful thus far: Investing in our people and focusing on the customer. It’s a recipe that wins over the long term.

Target Segment: Businesses

How will you make money? Monthly plans based on project size

Capital Raised? None

Founder: Joshua Strebel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pagely

Website: https://pagely.com

 

Startup Business Ideas – WordPress

WordPress is a web juggernaut. There are an estimated ~70 million blogs powered by WordPress and a good portion of those are businesses. 

While I love WordPress and have been using it for 9-10 years it is still lacking in some hardcore business functionality.

If we accept WordPress is a huge play in the business market and we accept that a critical aspect of marketing and customer acquisition is attracting and communicating with existing and potential customers then these ideas are pretty critical to fulfilling that mission, however the existing solutions just don’t cut it.

Here are some pressing needs for entrepreneurs looking for business ideas.

Newsletter Platforms

Newsletter management on WordPress is a nightmare. It is not a native function so there is no core functionality that supports generating a newsletter from your posts. 

The worlds biggest Newsletter platform Mailchimp and the worlds biggest Website platform WordPress don’t play nicely together.

I know you can hook up a form to Mailchimp & dozens of other email services to send your newsletter, however none of these are actually integrated with WordPress.

They might pass an email subscription across but you can’t select a WordPress post to be included in a newsletter from Mailchimp or select a Post in WordPress and have it published to the newsletter, its a completely manual process to make a newsletter and if you do this daily it takes a stack of time so we have for the moment avoided it.

In any of these popular newsletter tools you have to copy the images, posts and links then paste it all into the campaign repeat 2-4 for each story and make sure its formatted properly and then send. 

Life’s too short to do the same menial hack work every day, why not just allow an integration that allows you to insert WordPress posts from the Mailchimp control panel?

Every possible solution you can cobble together has some sort of bug or issues which don’t work for a high volume daily newsletter.

Cobble is really the key term as none of them are tightly integrated.

We currently use the Mailpoet plugin sending via the transactional mail service Mandrill.

Mandrill we like a lot, Mailpoet less so (I will do a separate blog on how to get a working solution for a high volume mail service and why you would use Mandrill not the standard WordPress onboard email).

Mailpoet lets you select posts from inside the WordPress which is great.

The trouble is so far I have had some many problems with their plugin. I get frequent reports that the unsubscribe function is not working, the plugin has failed to record the transaction. Numerous problems with layout, responsiveness etc, always finding problems.

Mailpoet has advised that they have stopped supporting their current version and will not release any bug fixes instead working on a completely new solution from the ground up so that gives you an idea of the sort of problems we have experienced.

Mailpoet also doesn’t talk to anything else in WordPress so if you don’t use their forms (which are very basic and don’t provide a popup or any of the other useful pretty useless) then you have to manually copy new emails in and you have to manually check that bounces, unsubscribes and rejections are being transferred from Mandrill to Mailpoet. Its a 20 minute operation every day that shouldn’t have to be done. 

Also you can’t automatically share usage or customer data with outside systems like a CRM.

So why am I still using them? Because despite days of research and experimentation I have not been able to find a valid alternatives without incurring a stack of extra work every day.

Mailchimp would be the obvious choice however every newsletter is a completely manual setup. Cut, paste, link, upload, format, resize for each story and link in each newsletter, its labour intensive and I am already peddling as hard as I can.

You can use a Mailchimp RSS feed Newsletter but its poorly formatted and requires extra plugins from WordPress to get the images working and they look terrible.

Here is a checklist for a good Newsletter solution

  • Sends via Mandrill, Sendgrid or other dedicated transactional mail service
  • Allows you to compose automatic daily or weekly newsletters from existing posts
  • Beautiful formatting of both the newsletter and the images
  • Allows you to send ad hoc newsletters
  • Responsive for Mobile
  • Integrates with Zapier or WordPress Webhooks
  • A subscribe form that included A/B testing, popups and slideups, images
  • Collects all new emails that are added for all transactions on WordPress
  • If a user has unsubscribed this must be preserved even if their details are uploaded again, unsubscribes need a manual override to send to them again

Have to think there are 100s of thousands of sites like me that need a better solution, the existing solutions just feel like they are held together with brown paper and string.

If anyone can suggest a great alternative that fits the above requirements please message me or comment below.

CRMs

No one seems to have a tightly integrated CRM that couples various WordPress plugins, capturing all data as well as user visits. Leadin by Hubspot has an interesting product which seems to capture most emails and visits except the popup for email subscribers we use from Sumome but suffers from occasional missed data.

I haven’t been able to find a well integrated CRM that works well with WordPress.

Must Have

  • Capture all emails submitted, comments, visits etc
  • Send to an external service
  • Record every transaction ie emails, visits, offers, forms submitted

Data Connectors

WordPress has become the default platform for launching a standard web presence. It has been customised in so many ways it now provides a method to sell, to capture leads, to sign users up to services, to sell product as an e-commerce site, as well as the traditional uses of publishing and blogging.

The trouble is most of the plugins don’t talk to each other. WordPress really needs a Plugin that can take any data from any other WordPress plugin or core and push it to other platforms. There is a plugin called Presshook but it only works on WordPress API and most plugins are adding capability to the core so this won’t work for them.

  • WordPress is not the ideal place to store your data (most are hosted on dodgy hosting companies where security may or may not exist) so ideally data should be stored off site.
  • Ideally the plugin should send data to the outside word via a gateway service such as Zapier or IFTTT or web hooks and should be secure/encrypted.

There are probably dozens of other niches you could occupy, the mistake most of the developers make is assuming a transactional mindset, that is they price their product as a once off sale price and support it accordingly, rather than an ongoing relationship and monthly fee.

Image is what WordPress looked like when I started using it many years ago

How I launched a 1100+ user SaaS business in stealth mode as a sole founder with zero marketing budget

 Pushkar Gaikwad is the founder of inBoundio.com a software as a service startup that provides the Wworlds simplest Inbound Online Marketing Software for Small Businesses. 

We formally launched inBoundio last week, I kept it in beta for eight months and kept working on it. It was slow going since I was the only one working on it — sometimes there was no progress for days. There were times when I got stuck and had to wait for people to reply on stackoverflow and answer my questions so I could finish the coding. Lot of things went wrong or didn’t work out. But some did, and in this post I want to share what I have learned.

InBoundio is just starting. It is in no way a finished product nor a mature product, but I feel I should share my knowledge and experience right now. If I wait until I’m done, I may forget many of the smaller things. So here is the complete story. If you want the TL;DR version, scroll to the bottom where I have put everything in points.

How I Began

I stopped thinking too much, stopped planning, and just started doing the things I wanted to do and which I loved. I love technology, internet and marketing, so the product I built aligned with all this and I never had to look at where I was going. Failure looked acceptable as I knew I was going to enjoy the process and the final product.

I also didn’t set any deadlines for myself, and didn’t care about making money or setting targets. This took time out of the picture, which made me more comfortable and reduced any anxiety about getting it done. I wanted to be sure I made as few mistakes as possible, and I wanted to fully understand the market and user requirement. I continued to work alone, and it was only last month that I opened an office and hired two awesome developers (who in just five weeks have become a big part of my life).

How I funded inBoundio

Since inBoundio started as a one-man company, the expenses were negligible. I got one year of free hosting from RackSpace , which saved some money. I got the logo done for $3 and the dashboard was a $12 template. That was all the initial expense. I did use freelancers later on, as I wasn’t able to code some features. I paid them primarily from money earned by selling software packages and offering services.

Offering services also helped me understand client needs and wants. Because InBoundio is still in the early stage, I will keep on doing this for at least this year.

The experience with freelancers was hot and cold. Overall, I felt I wasted a lot of time. Many features never got shipped and I probably overpaid on a few, but I have learned my lesson.

Where We are right Now

inBoundio is still in its very early stage, and I am still working on finding the correct business mode. Still, I felt I should write this post now, as I want to share my experience and journey so far (posts like “How we sold our business for 20 million dollars” suck, right?)

Right now I have a small team working from our office, both of which give more structure to the business and make things move fast. For example, we are shipping new features on a daily basis, something which was not possible earlier. We just launched our chrome plugin and waiting for our WordPress plugin to get approved.

inboundio_screenshot

My Learning while bootstrapping as a single founder

I am splitting my learning into 2 section. Startup and Business/Life.

Startup Learning

1. Use freelancers wherever you can, but be careful. I had mixed experience with freelancers. I met some nice people but I felt I also sometimes overpaid. Sometimes the freelancer just wasted time and did nothing. There is a huge cost involved in finding the right freelancer, plus there is a cost involved if something goes wrong. You can use freelancers for small tasks like testing—for example, I hired a freelancer from Vietnam on oDesk for $5/hour who did a great deal of testing and found lots of bugs. I also got the initial logo for $3 and bought the user dashboard template for $12.

2. Do not hire people unless you need them. Do as much as you can by yourself and understand the technology stack of your product as well as marketing. Find your first paid user by yourself. Find new marketing channels by yourself. Do sales and support by yourself. Take all the phone calls yourself. Do the site support chat by yourself. All these tasks are part of building your business.

3. SaaS businesses don’t grow fast and there is nothing great about them.  InBoundio is growing 15% month to month, which I think is on “faster” side of growth, although most of the SaaS businesses grow very slow. In fact I don’t even think SaaS are the best business model on the web for making money; the unit economics don’t work and most B2B products don’t spread by word of mouth. This means higher cost of marketing and no viral effect.

4. The best feedback you will get is from your product users. The best feedback I have ever gotten is from inBoundio users. I have asked questions on various web marketing forums like warriorforum, as well as on Reddit and Hackernews, and received helpful replies. But the best real feedback I got was from current users. Aimee, my first paid user, has replied to many of my emails telling me what was broken.

5. Building is easy, marketing is not. Marketing will always take more resources and time than building. Most founders put all their energy into building and then run out of steam and ideas. Products fail because they hit the wall of “How to Market and Sell” and the founders have no answer.

6. Win-Win partnership works on Internet. The best businesses on Internet are the ones where your user also wins. If you are just focusing on yourself and how you can grow and make money, you will find yourself alone. This is not what the Internet is about.

7. Bootstraping is not easy, and doing it is as a single founder is even more difficult. Bootstrapping sounds great when you are able to pull it off; when it don’t work out, it can do lot of damage to your personal finances. Being a single founder also means you are taking the risk and will burn out fast. So far, though, things are looking fine for me. I will keep on doing what is working. If I feel I am burning out or need funds for additional growth, I will look at alternatives– though personally, I will always chose Freedom over Money.

Business and Life Learning

1. Success and Failure are meaningless terms. Don’t waste your time judging yourself from others parameters.

2. Don’t look at other startups and how they are doing. There are people who started before you, and others have already finished the race before you even started, so it is stupid to compare your startup with others.

3. Don’t waste too much time thinking about company vision, disruption and denting the universe. You will end up doing what you want to do anyway, no matter what your earlier vision was.

4. Use your own software. This is the best way to understand the limitations of your software. I only use inBoundio to market inBoundio. Yesterday I sent 1,000 emails and today I made some social media postings. When you use your own software, you can take better action on your user feedback and learn what you want and what you don’t.

5. There is nothing wrong with doing services to fund your company product. I personally feel a business is a business, so it doesn’t matter if you are doing services or product. The end goal is to build a business.

6. If you are not enjoying what you are doing, don’t do it. It is just not worth it.

7. Only do things which make you happy. I don’t think I need to explain this.

8. Don’t chase money; it will always be the byproduct of your success. If you do well in life, you will make money, anyway. If you start chasing money, you will cut corners, compromise on quality, and become mediocre and unhappy.

9. How big you get, how big your business becomes, and how much money you make is NOT in your control. It doesn’t matter if you have an amazing team, a great product, big funding and work 18 hours a day, you can – and possibly will — still fail. Don’t waste your time on thinking things which may or may not happen. Live in the present, build your company in the present.

10. Don’t plan too much. Most of the plans are just wishful thinking.

11. Money will solve only one problem, money. The rest of the problems of building business have to solved by you only.

inboundio.com has a 30 day free trial for their in bound online marketing service

inBoundio – Contact and Lead Management CRM Software – Cool #Startups

After 15 years of generating leads for a number of businesses and websites I can tell you that it is still a pain in the ass to setup the multitude of systems needed to generate, capture and manage leads on your website, then you need still need a set of tools to market to them on a regular basis.

In the case of Startup88.com we have

  • a popup from Sumome.com (which is pretty good) however it doesnt connect to our newsletter system so new subscribers need to be manually loaded
  • A newsletter system by Mail Poet, which is convenient as it easily generates new newsletters from multiple wordpress posts but has some bugs that make us nervous occasionally. The alternative is to connect to an external email system such as Mailchimp but its not clear that we can easily create a newsletter with our new wordpress posts. (we dont like the auto send on wordpress, we prefer to send 1-2 emails a week not 20)
  • We manage social media using Buffer App (which we are big fans of) for sharing and scheduling updates and occasionally Hootsuite and Socialbro for big twitter pushes.
  • Add this for Social Media sharing.

Even with all of this we don’t have a CRM system, no ability to generate custom landing pages or manage social media from the site.

To do this we would have had to implement some form of connector from WordPress & Mail Poet to another external CRM system such as Basecamp, Salesforce or Sugar or something else which would have almost certainly required an middleware such as Zappier.

With 15 years of experience doing this and well about average technical ability, I still have a system which I think is clunky and in my opinion the problem hasn’t been solved properly.

inboundio-wp-dashboard

It looks like inBoundio which launched just last week and has over a 1000 users already might be most of the way to solving this problem by implementing

  • CRM
  • Landing Page Generation
  • Email generation and drip feed autoresponder
  • Social Media marketing
  • Email list management

I still think its missing a few things, it doesn’t appear to have a popup email capture form and its not clear how well it manages WordPress post selection and emailing but I think these are pretty easily resolved and I am going to give it a shot managing Startup88.com email subscriber list.

10 Ways to kickstart your Start-up – Lead Capture – CRM and Regular Communication

Salesforce

Salesforce

Capture every contact and keep communicating with them regularly

Many new business owners are looking for customers to serve right here right now and if the prospect is not ready today the owner keeps moving and forgets about them. Later when they see the customer, they are often disappointed to find out that the customer did business with someone else. When they asked why often the response is that another business called or sent an interesting email or had a special offer. Very few people are

When I sold my business I had over 5000 business and IT contacts in the database, which had been through a series of CRM package upgrades as we grew from ACT, to Goldmine to SugarCRM to a custom version.

My regret was I didn’t start doing this consistently until many years after I had launched the company.

I tell all new startup entrepreneurs, keep a database or CRM from day one. Religiously drive your team to use it, create processes to ensure that all web leads, call-ins and emails as well as the source of the new lead are entered into the CRM for every new contact.

Often customers want to buy but they are just not ready yet, it’s not no, just not today. Depending on your industry and the customers stage in the purchasing process it could be days, weeks or even years before they are ready to buy.

The entrepreneur needs to build a process that encourages the prospect to give you permission to continue to keep in contact with them on a regular basis, telling them about new work or happy customers, developments in their industry, new products or services you offer or better ways for them to do business.

There are stacks of different ideas you can use to write a newsletter or depending on your volume of blog posts you could setup a system to email your prospects and customers when you update your Blog. If you religiously do this every month you will pick up the opportunity to quote to the dormant prospect or the existing customer who forgot about you (it happen’s).

To make this work you need a few components.

Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)

Good CRMs I have used over the years include

Salesforce.com – Very enterprise and customisable, not for the faint hearted, expensive in my opinion.

Highrisehq.com – From the guys at 37 Signals, one of the nicest Web apps I have ever used, good for small to medium businesses

Highrise

Highrise

SugarCRM.com – This has been around for many years, it’s key advantage was it was open source, 10 years ago when I first implemented it, that allowed us to write modifications to it to intergrate our billing and support processes. Now it has gone all corporate and wants to charge between $35-100 per user per month however there is still a basic community version.

SugarCRM

SugarCRM

Insightly.com/ New entrant looks great works with Google Apps

InsightlyCRM

InsightlyCRM

Getbase.com New mobile oriented CRM

BaseCRM

BaseCRM

Whatever CRM you decide to use you need to check the following

  • All your web leads, emails from websites, support emails need to be captured automatically into the system. Most CRM have web forms you can use for this, failing that you can use Wufoo.com to capture the lead and then sync it with your CRM, most of them have an API to allow 3rd party apps to write to them for this very reason.
  • Mobile ready with iPhone and android Apps available
  • Try to get Social Media integration so that you can track past and future social media conversations
  • Every team member religiously enters every new contact and updates past contacts activities and changes.
  • The CRM is set up to sync with a email newsletter system, good tools to do this include wufoo.com which offers a Form that syncs to both your newsletter system (such as Mailchimp.com) and your CRM.

Once you have a system to capture leads you need something to generate a message when you want to communicate.

Social media takes care of some of this, however the data shows that people share a higher % of interesting articles they receive via email with their friends than they share via social media.

Regular Communications

If something changes in your industry you need to be the one that tells your clients and prospects. To do this you need an easy to use system that can send updates to your clients. They might be in the form of a formatted newsletter or could be in the form of a blog post update that gets emailed to people on your list.

A few options.

Mailchimp.com handles all the un-subscribe, bounce management and spam requirements and allows you to create beautiful templates to insert your content. Only problem is it takes a lot of time every month to create a good newsletter.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp

If you are running WordPress you should check out a plugin called Wysija.com. This will send out regular emails either as a daily, weekly or monthly collection of all of your blog posts or as each blog post is generated. You can set it up to be automated so that it captures every story in the last time period (day, week, month) and then lays them out on a nice newsletter format (with many preformed templates).

It takes a bit to get it setup correctly but once its done it will send out a formatted email like clockwork. It is worth setting up a test version to send to yourself 6-12 hours before the main email goes out so that you can pick up any problems as given the automated nature of this system its easy to send out an email with problems unless you have some means of vetting what it will look like.

Wysija

Wysija

 

If you are running WordPress on your own site and looking for a simple option load up the Jetpack plugin from WordPress. This will allow you to email subscribers each time there is a new post and it will manage all the un-subscribes and bounces and gives a nice readable format to each email. There is also an option to allow readers to comment by replying to the email which is very cool.

For most people the Jetpack plugin provides 90% of what you need to run a business website.

http://jetpack.me/

Jetpack

Jetpack

 

Using APIs to connect your web, CRM and Newsletter

If you are running another type of website management system (other than WordPress) there are a number of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which allow you to connect one system to another and transfer or synchronize transactions across all the systems.

The key ones that seem to be getting the most traction are

Wufoo.com which provides a multitude of forms that can be configured to manage just about any conceivable requirement. You create a form and then embed the code onto your website or Facebook page which creates a form on the site and when a user submits one of the forms the data is stored at Wufoo but can also be configured to synchronise to other platforms such as your CRM, Newsletter and other systems or email or SMS you the form details. 3 Forms for free then a small monthly fee.

Wufoo

Wufoo

 

Zapier.com is a web services or API gateway to allow you to synchronise transactions between 150+ different web services. For example you could receive a new lead in your webpage via a Wufoo form and have Zapier synchronise all the details to both your Mailchimp account for your newsletter and your Basecamp account for your CRM that way you never lose data or have data stranded in “islands” where the data is maintained separately (or most of often, not maintained) and contacts end up having multiple versions of the same contact and business information across the various services you use.

ZapierZapier-Action

 

Do it now

So in summary, if you haven’t implemented a CRM do it today, start with a Wufoo form and send it to a Highrise or Salesforce CRM, start collecting every piece of data and try to only keep one master database rather than create data islands, it’s probably best that your CRM keeps the master records and you use Zapier or similar to feed data from your website and other systems to the CRM thereby maintaining consistency and integrity of your data.

As always if you have any ideas or tips for other startups, please put your tip in the comments and I will add it to the post (and of course give you credit)

 

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