This is a follow up story for ProjectionHub. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello! My name is Adam Hoeksema and I am the Co-Founder and CEO of ProjectionHub. We help entrepreneurs create financial projections to raise capital from investors, lenders, or simply for internal business planning.
Today, our primary product is our library of 80+ CPA-developed, business projection templates. Our spreadsheet templates are used by startups in almost every industry from SaaS, eCommerce, and hardware tech, to restaurants, dental offices, and trucking companies.
I started ProjectionHub as a side hustle with my brother back in 2012 when we were 23 and 17 respectively. Today, ProjectionHub has grown into a full-time gig, generating over $310,000 in annual revenue.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
2022 has been a year of growth for ProjectionHub. In particular, we grew our financial projection template sales minus our ad spending from $50,000 in 2021 to $150,000 in 2022. Template sales have now exceeded our consulting business from a revenue standpoint. Here is what I think might be most interesting and helpful to other founders.
New Checkout Tool - In early 2022 we switched our eCommerce checkout tool to SendOwl. This allowed us to do things like exit intent promo codes to offer a discount when someone started a checkout and then began to leave. It also allowed us to offer upsell offers with our products.
New Product Upsell - SendOwl unlocked the ability for us to offer upsells during the checkout process, so we built a pitch deck charts and graphs generator tool that we offer as a $20 upsell with most of our templates. Shockingly, this upsell became our single highest revenue product in 2022 with over $14,000 in revenue, $20 at a time!
SEO Growth - It has been a grind of continuing to produce high-quality content for the last 12 months, but our organic traffic started to take off in the last few months as you can see from Ahrefs.
We had to just keep grinding on creating content even though we had nothing to show for it for months and months.
One of the most effective things we have done is simply to continue to produce new content, wait to see what content starts to get traction with Google, and then improve that content even more to answer key questions that users are searching for.
- Youtube Conversion Rates - While we have grown our organic traffic quite significantly in 2022, it has been Youtube that has won the day when it comes to converting visitors into customers. You can see below that over a chunk of time in 2022 visitors from Google organic search had a .5% conversion rate while visitors from Youtube has a 4.9% conversion rate. Youtube had a 10x higher conversion rate!
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
The Waiting Game of SEO
I think the most challenging part of 2022 was simply waiting for organic traffic to start to show some life. We had to just keep grinding on creating content even though we had nothing to show for it for months and months. Sticking with it instead of giving up and trying something else was probably the most challenging part of 2022.
Converting New / Less Targeted Organic Traffic
Now that we are starting to see some significant increases in our organic traffic, the challenge is conversion rates. I wish I could say that when traffic went up 5x that sales went up 5x too, but that was not the case.
The new organic traffic we are getting is less targeted and probably not specifically looking to buy a financial projection template yet. So we are now looking for ways to get smarter about acquiring leads and nurturing those leads over time to eventually become customers. We implemented Hubspot in the last 45 days to start to help us nurture our leads with smarter email sequences.
How to Scale Content Production that Requires Me
I have been doing most of the writing for our blog and recording most of the videos for our Youtube channel personally. This limits how much content we can produce and doesn’t scale very well if it relies on me.
Yep, that’s me in nearly every video on our Youtube channel:
We are finding ways to help me produce content faster, but still, I have a role in nearly every piece of content which limits our growth right now.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I learned several lessons in 2022 and unfortunately, many of the lessons learned were expensive lessons. I am going to try to distill my lessons into two broad categories:
- Delegate the right things, not the wrong things
- Stay focused on the thing that is working until it doesn’t work
One of my biggest lessons for 2022 was that I continually tried to delegate things that eventually I had to do myself. In the process, I wasted a lot of time and money. I think the key thing I realized is that you can’t delegate high-level, strategic activities.
I thought that since I wasn’t an expert in Google Ads or SEO or schema markup or Youtube growth, I should hire an expert and assumed that they were advising me well. The problem was not with the experts, the problem was that I needed to take ownership and become the expert myself if I wanted the best outcome because no one is going to care more about my business than I do.
So what I ended up learning is that when I stopped using the experts and just learned and implemented myself, we ended up with a much better outcome. Now that I have a clue about what I am doing and our strategy with Google Ads, SEO, schema markup, and Youtube, I can better set the strategy and then delegate execution from there. I was relying on someone else to set a strategy for my company which was costly.
We lost some time and money in 2022 by getting distracted by other potential opportunities. We tried hosting webinars that drew a crowd, and received good feedback, but turned into precisely $0 in sales.
We tried going to our first conference which also produced $0 in sales, at least so far. We spent time building new products that we didn’t have a good way to sell yet and ended up never launching the new products. I spent quite a bit of time on LinkedIn which was fun to write a post and get good feedback, but again I can’t point to any sales from these efforts.
In my defense, a lot of these distractions were during that 9 or 10 months of waiting to see if SEO was going to work. Now that SEO is working, and after reading the book Traction it is clear that going forward we should simply focus on doing more of what is working until it doesn’t work anymore.
In the book Traction, they suggest finding one target customer acquisition approach and doing that and only that until it stops working. Once SEO plateaus for us, THEN we can start experimenting with webinars, conferences, new products, LinkedIn, etc to try to find the next target to focus on that can take us to the next level.
This was a key learning for me. I always thought diversifying made the most sense, but by diversifying we ended up giving a half effort at everything instead of trying to be great at one thing.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
In 2023, we plan to stick with the playbook that is working! We will produce high-quality blog and video content to help business owners create financial projections for their businesses. We will produce new and improved financial forecasting templates that will help founders raise capital from investors and lenders. We plan to stay disciplined on this playbook for all of 2023 and do our best to avoid shiny objects that might distract us from what is working.
5 Year Plan
When we started the business in 2012, we wanted to build a recurring revenue business through monthly subscriptions. Over the years we found that our customers were much more willing to pay a one-time fee for a spreadsheet template instead of a monthly fee for a projection software tool. We are quite happy providing one-time templates to our clients, but in five years we would love to also have a significant portion of our business be recurring revenue by selling access to our entire library of financial projection templates and tools to business consultants, accountants, and business advisors. We are in the early stages of developing ProjectionHub+ which is our annual template library subscription. In the long term, we think this could be the largest portion of our entire business, but we have some work to do to get there!
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
I read (ok I listened on Audible) the book - Traction. This book has made a huge impact on me and how I intend to operate ProjectionHub going forward. The main premise is that an entrepreneur should experiment to find a customer acquisition source that works and then double and triple down on that until it stops working. For us, our SEO efforts are working, and so we are doubling and tripling down on maximizing our growth from SEO before we get distracted by other customer acquisition channels like partnerships, going to conferences, affiliate marketing, paid ads, etc. The book allowed me to feel like I have the freedom to say no to things that might work or could be good in the future because we haven’t maximized our SEO efforts yet.
My favorite podcast for creative business or marketing ideas is My First Million.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
My advice is to focus on what is working for your business and keep doubling and tripling down until it doesn’t work anymore. This is the playbook out of the book Traction that I referenced, but I wish I would have done this years ago. Five years ago I was regularly writing blog content and we were growing our organic website visitors, then I just stopped for a variety of reasons and it has now taken a year of really hard work to regain the momentum we had with organic search traffic from 5 years ago. You can see the painful chart from Ahrefs below:
If I would have just kept going with what was working and looking for ways to improve, I can’t imagine where we would be right now.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking to up our Youtube game in 2023 and hope to hire a part-time Youtube expert who could help us grow our channel through both organic and PPC ads.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Check out our Financial Projection Spreadsheet Library
- Learn more about our custom financial modeling services
- Or reach out to [email protected]
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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