This is a follow up story for MarketBeat. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Matt Paulson and the business that I founded is called MarketBeat. MarketBeat is an Inc. 5000 financial media company that empowers stock market investors to make better investment decisions by providing real-time financial data and in-depth analytical tools.
We publish more than 250 pieces of original reporting each month on our website, offer several free investing newsletters to our subscribers, and provide a full suite of software-based investing research tools to our subscribers.
Our company generates revenue primarily through premium subscriptions and by selling advertising. We have more than 2.6 million subscribers to our email newsletters and more than 15 million people visit our website every month. The majority of our revenue comes from advertising sales, which includes display advertising on our website and advertisements sent to our email subscribers.
We ended 2021 at $25.6 million in top-line revenue and we did that with just 11 full-time employees.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
MarketBeat has seen some substantial growth since first being featured by Starter Story in 2019. We saw 26.9% revenue growth in 2019, 86.9% revenue growth in 2020, and 76.5% revenue growth in 2021. We can attribute some of our growth to COVID-19 and unusual activity in the stock market (e.g. /r/WallStreetBets), but a lot of our growth has been because we continue to find new marketing and distribution channels, and new ways to squeeze incremental revenue out of our existing business model.
We ended 2021 at $25.6 million in top-line revenue and we did that with just 11 full-time employees.
One thing we have done to continue pushing our growth metrics is hire a full-time media buyer to run Facebook, Google, Bing, and Outbrain advertising campaigns. We spend approximately $250,000 per month now to send people to opt-in pages like this one to generate email sign-ups. We end up paying about $10.00 per sign-up and will break even on advertising spend from these sources in 6-9 months. While these campaigns aren’t as profitable as some of our other efforts, they provide scale that we can’t achieve elsewhere.
Another big initiative that we had was launching two additional websites: PriceTargets.com and InsiderTrades.com. We believe that to continue growing in the future, we will need to be a federated network of investing websites and won’t be able to lean entirely on MarketBeat.com for growth:
- PriceTargets.com: provides Wall Street analyst ratings for any publicly-traded company.
- InsiderTrades.com: provides information about the purchases/sales of company stock from Wall Street executives. InsiderTrades.com has a unique SEO strategy in that it ranks for keywords such as “CEO Name” + “Net Worth” using semi-automated content pages.
We try to get people to land on those pages from Google, then offer to send them alerts when the executive mentioned executes another stock trade.
In 2022, we plan on implementing several new growth strategies:
- We will be launching a new website and email newsletter about dividend stock investing later this spring
- We plan on pursuing brand advertising for the first time (think radio and podcasts) so that we can reach an audience of investors that is a little bit different than we might normally hit.
- We also plan on expanding our paid-search campaigns and hope to spend more than $6 million on advertising in 2022.
Remember that markets change. Customer behavior changes. Industries change. It’s important to regularly test the key elements of your sales process/funnel to make sure the best practices you have implemented before are still best practices.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The biggest lesson I learned in 2021 is that you have to regularly test your preconceptions that you have about your business. Maybe there is something that was true about your industry or your customers five years ago that is no longer true. Maybe you ran a bunch of split tests several years ago and thought you knew what would work best.
Remember that markets change. Customer behavior changes. Industries change. For this reason it’s important to regularly test the key elements of your sales process/funnel to make sure the best practices you have implemented before are still best practices.
A great example of this is how MarketBeat collected email opt-ins. For the last ten years, we’ve shown a lightbox popup to our email subscribers offering them a free newsletter if they gave us their email address. This always got us a decent amount of email subscribers and we were able to slowly grow our opt-in rates over time by tweaking sales copy and adding Google/Facebook sign-up links. What we never did is consider if there was a better way than a pop-up on the first pageview to get email sign-ups.
Late last year, we replaced our traditional pop-up email opt-in with a login wall that required people to create an account after viewing five pages on the website. This means users no longer see an opt-in at all until they have visited five pages on our website, but it also means they need to sign-up if they want to continue to use our website for free. We saw a couple of competitive websites doing something similar and thought we would test it. It was some work to setup a proper split test, but we found that using the login wall doubled the number of organic email opt-ins we received compared to our traditional pop-up opt-in.
We always thought our pop-up opt-in was a best practice, but that was no longer the case. By testing our preconception about getting email sign-ups, we learned something about our audience and our business and are getting far more sign-ups as a result.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Our “true north” is to become the go-to website for anyone looking for news and information about the stock market. In other words, we want to be the next-generation Yahoo Finance. We want to build the biggest financial email list that exists (currently sitting at 2.6 million) and have the broadest distribution of any financial media company. We think there is a path to becoming a $100 million/year business under our current model.
In order to achieve our vision, we plan on aggressively investing in editorial, marketing, and software development. Our software development team has several unique investing research tools that we plan on bringing online later this year, but we aren’t ready to talk about them publicly. We are working to hire the best financial writers available to create content for our websites. We are also aggressively expanding our advertising budget and will be doing brand advertising and content syndication for the first time this year. We will also be expanding to new channels, including an improved mobile app and a new MarketBeat podcast early this year.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
One book that I have really enjoyed in the last year is 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. This book uses stories about important historical figures to highlight different leadership lessons. It’s also quite a diversion from most business and leadership books that entrepreneurs often read.
On the podcast front, I have really enjoyed listening to My First Million which breaks down unique ways that business owners are using to generate massive profits. Acquired is another great podcast in the same vein, which tells the history of big companies such as Standard Oil, CAA, and Apple. My favorite episode of Acquired is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) which discusses how the company has uniquely cornered the semiconductor market.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Take a moment and think about how you are focusing your time and attention in your business. What is the breakdown of your time on different business activities? How much time are you spending on product development, customer service, fulfillment, education, networking, marketing and sales?
Often entrepreneurs don’t spend enough time on revenue generating activities (sales and marketing) and spend too much time on easier tasks (such as getting organized, going to networking events, and reading business books). Ideally, 50% of your business time should be spent on direct sales and marketing activities where you are reaching out to potential customers.
Another habit that every entrepreneur should get in the habit of is relentlessly studying their competitors, especially their sales and marketing strategies. What methods are your competitors using to advertise or promote their business? How do their marketing strategies differ from yours? What do they know that you don’t?
For online businesses, tools like SimilarWeb.com and SEMRush.com are great ways to get an understanding of how your competitors are getting people to their websites. Also consider setting up Google Alerts for your competitors brand names so that you are aware of important developments in their companies.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes. We are looking to hire a full-time digital marketing specialist, a full-time .NET web developer, and a full-time mobile app developer. Anyone interested can visit our jobs website (jobs.marketbeat.com) to see a current list of job listings that we have open. These positions will be based out of our Sioux Falls, SD office and are 50% in-office and 50% remote.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can learn more about MarketBeat by visiting our website at www.marketbeat.com. You can read my personal blog at www.mattpaulson.com or follow me on Twitter: @MattPaulsonSD. Feel free to drop me a note via email as well at [email protected].
MarketBeat has provided an update on their business!
About 2 years ago, we followed up with MarketBeat to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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