You never want to bite off more than you can chew. Ever. Except when you do. So many tech entrepreneurs build products because they see a specific area they think they can not only make an impact in, but completely change or overhaul.
With that in mind, you can imagine how ambitious we were when it came to our initial strategies for growing our audience at Rukkus, a startup ticket marketplace. We saw enough unpleasant things about the process of buying tickets to live events that we thought we could revolutionize the industry almost overnight. But it’s taken a lot more work to consider ourselves anything close to successful.
One of the most important things we’ve learned along the way is that you have to be acutely aware of when it’s time to make changes in the way you track progress and results.
When we first started Rukkus, we envisioned our success hinging on three major factors: having the best product, leveraging any source possible in order to drive traffic, and building a community around artists and performers. Over the years, it’s striking to think about just how much our goals and focus have changed. And with those changes, we’ve changed the way we track performance as well. Conversely, so many of the major changes we’ve made have come directly from studying the results of what we track. As a leader of a company, you must be willing to not only look for new areas to improve on but constantly evaluate what already is working and make it better.
Much of our initial push centered around being a discovery engine of sorts for music fans. We looked at the ticketing space, and while there wasn’t necessarily a shortage of players, we knew (thought) we’d make our mark and stand out by being different in some specific ways. A lot of the trends you’re seeing now in the streaming music space, like the emphasis on artist-driven curation, or hyper-targeted aggregation and recommendations were a big part of our early initiatives. If a well-liked band wrote a blog post for us and then shared it with their fans, we thought we were the bee’s knees, and in some ways we were. Maybe going out to celebrate the rapper Chris Webby writing a blog post for us was a little over the top, but hey, you take the wins wherever you can get them. It wasn’t just celebration for symbolism’s sake; oftentimes, those endorsements went a long way to drive traffic back to our site — at times, much more than paid social advertising.
The issue we soon realized was that it was hard — really, really hard — to turn that traffic into conversions. Sure we might entice someone to visit our blog because an artist they like wrote something, but getting them from said article to our main site only happened from 2-5 percent of the time. Getting them further down the funnel, to actually engage with the platform, happened only a quarter percent of the time. An actual conversion (selling a ticket) to a user who originated through a blog post? I can’t even bring myself to tell you that number. Let’s just say it’s markedly lower than the previous, already very low conversion figure.
It seems very obvious now, but it wasn’t until we saw the true breadth from our tracking that we went down the arduous but necessary path of overhauling our content strategy. Creating new, more product-specific content became a priority on that front, but it wasn’t just out with the old. With a new iteration comes the opportunity to use information you’ve learned. We now knew what to try to attain going forward, but specifically what to track in order to make sure we were getting the results we needed. Not just the final numbers we were looking for, but also some of the key indicators that we encountered on the content side. In understanding your previous actions, you should always be able to take specific information and put it to use going forward.
Another massive change we made was how we went about limiting and more tightly focusing the channels we marketed through. For many startups, there comes a point where the “throwing gum at the wall and see what sticks” approach has to be reined in a bit, even if you’re getting a lot of gum to hang on. We did our best to be meticulous and focused when it came to keeping track of every initiative to increase our user base, monitoring and improving tactics along the way. But we eventually reached a point where we had to make decisions to stop focusing on so many channels in order to yield maximum results.
Today there are so many different ways to market that, just when you think you may be familiar with 30 percent of the ways to focus on different channels, a new player enters the game. This is where you as a decision maker need to know when foot down and say “this is working,” cut out areas that aren’t as beneficial, and reorganize your internal pathways so that you always have the right amount of bandwidth for what is most important to your company’s success.
No company has unlimited resources, and as the adage goes, time is the only commodity. It’s that modicum, reinforced by the success we’ve had since making the decisions previously mentioned that has shaped our strategies at every turn. Not being afraid to put your unequivocal momentum behind a finite number of processes is integral to a startup’s success. Knowing when and what indicators to trust is a puzzle that there is no legend for. But being nimble and open-minded when making necessary decisions puts you in the optimal position to succeed.