Numbers in Action

If you haven’t heard, Referly is switching gears to avoid becoming a “Zombie Startup”, and we’ve already posted a high level summary of our metrics on the front page of our site. This post is part of my ongoing retrospective, which is helping me get some closure while we incubate our next direction as a company.

Until 3 weeks ago I woke up early every day, eager to check our internal dashboard, Amazon Associates and Skimlinks and update a couple spreadsheets, set a goal or two for the day to keep us on track, and send an update email to the team with any adjustments to the week’s plans. There’s nothing I love more than operating the day-to-day. It was a joy to plow full steam ahead with our team of 8 content, engineering, and outreach folks. Seeing these numbers drop over the past few weeks has been painful, so after I post this it will be the last time I visit these operational tools for awhile, and probably my last post about Referly until we share what we’re doing next. Memento mori

I offer these metrics to you without analysis… and look forward to answering your questions and providing more insight in the comments depending on what you’re interested in.

Weekly Pace & Contributur Stats At A Glance

Each week we’d set goals for the week in our Monday team meeting. At our peak, we produced nearly 100,000 pageviews in a single week. The “X Created” stands for collections created. Engineers were asked to created 7 per week (and they were awesome!), everyone else on the growth team (myself, Andy, and our wonderfully creative interns) created 20-40 depending on our goals and the seasonal campaigns going on.

These show 0 created for everyone because this is a snapshot from today, but normally this would show the number of feature-worthy collections created (has cover photo, title, description, at least 3 pieces of content).

weekly summary

Daily & Monthly Stats

For each metric the graph on the left shows daily stats for all time, and the graph on the the right shows daily stats for the current month (so you can see more detail).

collection impressions

collections created

user accounts created

user logins

links created

link click throughs

That’s it.

Show Me the Money

You might be wondering why we didn’t share a graph for revenue or gross merchandise sold. This is intentional. I believe that whatever you measure and share is what people will focus on. Having a dashboard for individual revenues earned, or each aggregate revenue, would distract us from our number one priority: creating awesome content people would love reading and sharing. While I tracked this data and shared it with the team periodically it was never the focus of their attention. I set out content generation and traffic goals based on the ultimate revenue goal, but revenue wasn’t something the content team worried about from day-to-day.

Sometimes I wonder whether we would be pivoting now if every person in the company had been focused on maximizing revenue in every piece of content they produced from day one. While I think we might have earned marginally more money in the short term, I think the quality of our content would have been much lower overall and ultimately we wouldn’t have been able to attract the right readership or community of content producers.

To Be Continued…

Over the past year I’ve shared more about Referly than I ever expected to, and I hope seeing these metrics gives you (especially other founders) a sense of what things look like under the covers of a company that is growing, hitting goals and getting PR. Personally, I have learned so much about how to operationalize a technology-enabled media business that consistently puts out content that drives meaningful traffic and keeps people coming back. While we are no longer paying rewards, people from our community of more than 25,000 writers are still logging in and producing new content every day with our awesome edit-in-place CMS. You can absolutely sign up to use Referly as it is today (this link can’t be found on the site, just a little perk for my readers!), and you’ll be among the first to hear what’s next.

Do you need to create a business dashboard for your company? This one of my favorite things to do as a company mentor/advisor, and right now I am looking for opportunities to try different approaches and use some of my spreadsheets and other graphing and analytics packages. If you are interested, and willing to pay for my time (in money or beers or coffees) please get in touch at morrilldanielle (at) gmail.

Startup Gangnam Style PREVIEW TRAILER

Full length music video COMING SOON!

Gangnam Startup Style Teaser from Fawaz Al-Matrouk on Vimeo.

View more pictures and video stills here

Huge thank you to so many people for helping us make this drunken post Demo Day idea into a reality! From a couple beers and a night of K-pop, to many practice sessions, to a Facebook group of over 350 helpful friends who let us crash a wedding at 111 Minna, film at the original Facebook house, visit the set of the upcoming Bravo reality series on Silicon Valley, and take over the block of a peaceful neighborhood. We salut you, Gangnam style! Oh and sorry Google, we left as soon as security showed up…

Thank you to Fawaz Al-Matrouk who drove up from Los Angeles to do this shoot at the last minute and made it beautiful and high production. We can’t wait to release the final version, but this trailer will give you a few sneak peeks.

Scaling Myself

One of things that excites me most about building Referly is that I am able to take figuring out the best method for acquiring customers to a whole new scale.  Instead of working as the head of marketing for a single company, I can now literally participate in the customer acquisition planning and execution of thousands.

Referly API: Leverage Existing Users with Refer-a-Friend

The most obvious use case for Referly is to set up a refer-a-friend program on a business website and encourage existing users to participate by sharing their customer tracking link with friends.  This is what Love With Food and hundreds of others are doing, and since we launched our API hundreds of businesses have signed up to get our help generating new sales and signups.  Referly helps businesses acquire customers in two ways:

Referly Customer Acquisition as a Service: Pay for Results

When you sign up with Referly you set a reward amount you are willing to pay, usually it gets higher the greater your lifetime customer value is.

While existing users are the best and highest quality referrals you can get, sometimes their referrals just aren’t enough.  This is why we  also work to create campaigns to get you additional customers through paid, SEO, and other methods.  We make money when you get customers, because we try to acquire them for you for less than your bid amount.  That way you never pay more than your bid but you begin to access a whole new base of users.

How We Make Money: Performance

For example, if you bid $2 per new user and we are able to run a Facebook campaign that acquires them for $1.50 each then we keep the $0.50 each time.  This starts out small but it begins to add up as we learn more about your business and work with you to refine the customer acquisition models and bring higher value customers.

Alternately, some businesses bid so low that we can’t get them customers – but we are able to run experiments and give them that feedback without them risking a lot of money up front.

Marketing of the Future

Referly has just barely scratched the surface of customer acquisition automation and crowdsourcing, but we believe what we are offering will be the distributed sales and marketing department of the future – where millions of small and medium businesses will turn first when it comes to acquiring new customers online.  Try it and see!