How I Bootstrapped A Social Media Automation Tool To $2MM/Year

$200,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
11
Employees
product
MeetEdgar
from North America
started May 2014
$200,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
11
Employees
23.5K
alexa rank
2.79K
followers
9.99K
followers
131
subs
productivity
other

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I’m Laura Roeder, the CEO and founder of MeetEdgar, a social media automation tool.

Since Edgar’s launch in June 2014, our remote team has grown from two to two dozen people, we’re doing $4MM in annual recurring revenue... AND we’ve bootstrapped the entire way. (No investor bucks for us!) We're now providing smarter social automation solutions to more than 5,000 happy customers.

how-i-bootstrapped-a-social-media-automation-tool-to-2mm-year

I began my entrepreneurial journey at the age of 22 when I quit my job to launch a social media consulting business. I quickly realized I needed a way to more effectively manage my own social media presence, and so in 2014 I pivoted and dove into the software world to do just that with Edgar! Our tool serves many customers, especially those that are online and content-based.

Here’s a recent team photo at one of our biannual company retreats. This was taken in Phoenix, Arizona.

how-i-bootstrapped-a-social-media-automation-tool-to-2mm-year

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I had been teaching social media marketing to entrepreneurs and I had an online course business called LKR Social Media that I had been running for about 5 years and I had created a training course called Social Brilliant that you can currently access if you’re an Edgar customer through Edgar University. The course is teaching people how to repost their social media and how to make sure that they can easily fill up all of their accounts across all the different platforms. A lot of our customers for the training courses were solopreneurs managing their own social media and I saw what a huge time burden it was to create content and write new social updates across multiple platforms every day.

The AHA moment that I had was noticing that your reach on any given platform is very small. You’re only reaching a small percentage of people that follow you on any platform. It’s actually really smart to make sure you’re repeating and repurposing your content. Entrepreneurs think that it seems like they are repeating the same stuff over and over again but that’s only because they are the ones seeing their own status updates, but nobody else does. It’s really smart to repurpose, upcycle, recycle and social brilliant taught people how to do that in an organized way. You would create a sheet with all of your social media updates with categories, all colour coded, so you’d know which ones you’ve sent, which ones need to be changed. SO, in 2014 when I launched MeetEdgar I wondered why I was keeping this spreadsheet and paying for a social media tool at the same time.

Social media tools did exist at that time and they do what they did then which is send an update for you but nothing more. Why isn’t the tool doing all the work that I’m doing on the spreadsheet -- that’s what MeetEdgar was created to do. To handle all that grunt work for Social media, to do more than just send out an update.

I validated the idea of MeetEdgar through the course, Social Brilliant, there were people willing to pay to learn how to organize and send updates, so I thought that they’d probably be willing to pay for a tool that does that work for them. We didn’t do any research beyond that, as far as my financial and career at the time, MeetEdgar was funded from profits from LKR Social media, we are a bootstrapped company, a self funded company and I brought over money from the social course, to create MeetEdgar.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Our product is software, we build it with code. I am not a developer so my husband, Chris has always been my partner at MeetEdgar and he’s the one who built the initial version of the software. This is my first software business, I had never done it before. Chris and I really worked closely together, with me really understanding the customer needs and how to make things easy for customers and outcomes for them in the world of social media. This is the world that I had been entrenched in for the past five years, working with entrepreneurs in the realm of social media. I knew that side really well, and Chris’s expertise was software, and helping decide which features we needed, and what we didn’t need.

He knew a lot about simplification and making sure we weren’t giving our customers too many complicated options so it took about six months of him working full time to build that initial version of Edgar that we launched with. He was a freelancer at the time, and we were in a good position for him to be able to devote the next six months to Edgar and it ended up paying off really well.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We launched Edgar in the summer of 2014 and got customers immediately. We are a bootstrapped business and we hit our first million in ARR less than a year after launch. For a bootstrapped business that is really fast growth. If you look in the first year you can see the gradual ladder of new customers that increased every month.

Right from the launch, we knew we had a hit on our hands, people were using it and liking it, and this was not a surprise to me because I knew from the online course business that this was something really needed. As a user myself, I also knew there was a gaping hole in the software that was offered at the time - we do offer something really unique with MeetEdgar that other tools don’t offer.

I did have a large email list from the online course business, of about 70,000 people, I had 25,000 followers on Twitter and a good social following. That was a huge help to have that audience, and it took me 5 years to build that audience, it wasn’t like I was born with that, but I believe anyone can put in the work to build that up over time. If you haven’t started building an online following or email list, the best day is today! You can start at any time.

Our launch strategy was to target our existing audience, and we also targeted people who were not in our audience, specifically people who were using other social media tools. We did have the largest ad spend we’ve ever had that first year of our company - we spent $40k on ads for new followers. They can work really well for people who are already using those tools and want to see what’s new out there.

how-i-bootstrapped-a-social-media-automation-tool-to-2mm-year

A lot of people do pay ads as something to do down the road but organic reach is really small in the early days because you haven’t built up that customer base, word of mouth or SEO for your website so I think front-loading your ad spend can make a lot of sense, and that’s what we did. We also used an invitation system on our website, so instead of buying it you had to request an invitation and that was a great way to capture email addresses and to get people excited about something a bit more exclusive.

We launched Edgar in the summer of 2014 and got customers immediately. We are a bootstrapped business and we hit our first million in ARR less than a year after launch.

What we did wrong with our launch was that in the beginning our marketing was too segmented, I had this idea of having already set up this email list from the previous business, so I’m going to try all these different offers, each group was given a different offer and I did that instead of having one big exciting launch, because I thought I could test offers and find the perfect one. That was a waste of time and I think we could have had a bigger impact if we had a big launch from the beginning.

The money that we used to fund the launch was the profits from the online course business which was still running. We ran both businesses together for a year. We were selling software and courses. We later ended up shuttering the online course businesses later down the road because the software just felt more fun and had less focus on just me, and I wanted to have a business that I could easily step back from.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The main way we have always attracted and retained customers is through content marketing, social media marketing, and organic search. In the early days, we spent a lot of ads, but that’s not where we get most of our customers today. It’s not what’s got us most of our customers through the years, it supplements our strategy but isn’t our core strategy.

We have always been strong on our blogging, our social media marketing, email marketing and collecting email addresses and word of mouth. Word of mouth is really important to scale and grow your business but the problem with word of mouth is you can’t really track is in any kind of quantifiable way. A lot of people aren’t clicking referral links, and a lot of people don’t know where they heard of you or when but at some point someone recommended MeetEdgar to them in a forum, on a tweet, in person and that has always been our biggest source of growth. The way I view it is word of mouth backed by content.

We have had some tough times in dealing with our external partners. Being a social media marketing tool we are very much at the mercy of the social platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Content gives people something to share, and a way for people to stay in touch with you so people don't buy the first time they hear of you. Marketers have this fantasy of a really tight funnel where it goes from the top to the bottom and the customer buys in. It’s very rare that you make any buying decision that first time you see an online product. Buying software is not how you would buy an item in a grocery store, for example. Most people do not impulse buy the software. We have to recognize it’s not a linear journey from where our customers hear about us and then buy us.

That’s why social media marketing is so important for that to keep in touch factor. Someone might hear about us and then start following us on Twitter or Instagram and then they might opt-in to get our emails which gives them an easy way to remember us and us an easy way to stay in front of them which is really important. Now that we’ve been around for five years and looking at our data, absolutely some people stay on our email list for years before they buy. It’s important to do these boring things like blogging or emails so that people following get these regular touchpoints and discover more about you. It keeps you top of mind until whatever reason where they are prompted to buy. You can’t ever control that part, you can help educate and why you are a better choice but it’s ultimately their decision and when they will be ready to buy it.

We have a lot of female customers, a lot of solopreneurs and we’re very focused on that small business market. Most of our customers are business owners who are managing their own social media. That’s another way we can stand out from other tools, we don’t serve agencies or enterprises. We don’t have plans for them. We serve small businesses.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Our business is profitable! The beauty of a bootstrapped business is that you have to be profitable, otherwise you don’t have a business!

Today our operations look like a very lean team, we have 13 distributed team members, we don’t have an office, we work remotely and we love working remotely.

Our plans for the future are to keep improving the product and keep solving the problems that come up for our target market. The expansion looks like meeting the needs of more and more entrepreneurs. We’re not looking to expand into enterprise or agency, we’re looking to help those small businesses run their social media to help them save time and do it really effectively. Edgar grabs their content for them, optimizes it, sends it out. That’s what we are going to continue to do better and better.

how-i-bootstrapped-a-social-media-automation-tool-to-2mm-year

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

We have had some tough times in dealing with our external partners. Being a social media marketing tool we are very much at the mercy of the social platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. In 2018 Twitter changed its rules so that you can no longer repost content on their platform ever, you can’t repost the same tweet on two different accounts. This was a feature of Edgar that our customers really liked and found useful, so we had some people leave our customer base and do their social media manually.

Start collecting money. The real test is to see if people will buy it. Sell something and collect money for it. Do that as soon as possible.

We ended up losing a percentage of our users. We knew that other tools were in the same boat as us but we didn’t realize people would stop using the tool to do it themselves. We lost a chunk of our revenue and then we lost other functionality to other platforms and then got it back, there was an error on Facebook’s part that we didn’t have any control over. We were also really late to the game with Instagram. We should have built that access sooner. We had to adapt and do what we can, which meant building a mobile app. I’ve learned that you can’t wait on external partners, you have to take action on whatever you can, sometimes that’s a good situation and sometimes it’s not.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Slack for our communications platform, it’s so great that it can integrate with so many things and we all stay connected their day-to-day.

We use Zoom for video calls, it’s the next best thing for real-life conversations. We default to video calls for meetings and any quick 1on1’s.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

How I built this is such a valuable behind the scenes story of the true ups and downs in business. Especially those that are farther ahead than you who have achieved all sorts of success and gone through the challenges, and how they think about things like marketing and product development.

I like that they ask the same question at the end which is, how much do you think is luck, and most entrepreneurs will say that it is. You can’t control what your partners or customers do, and so it’s a good reminder to not overthink things, you just have to try things and see what happens.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My advice for other entrepreneurs who are just getting started is to start collecting money. Get 1 customer to pay you. The real test is to see if people will buy it. Sell something and collect money for it. Do that as soon as possible.

It’s so important to stay in action and to realize that the perfect solution is not going to come down and shine on you, the only way to learn is from reality to see what really happens. To see how customers respond. You have to take action and take chances.

There are so many great small businesses out there with a lot of successes.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Not at the moment but keep an eye out in 2020! You can keep an eye out on our careers page.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Laura Roeder,   Founder of MeetEdgar

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