Calm. Ru - a year later
In June 2009, our service for the selection of car instructors first made itself known to the community , received a lot of useful comments that convinced us that we were on the right track, largely due to them determining our future development.
Those few of you who have come in handy during this time for personal purposes may find it interesting to learn about the financial results of our project and the difficulties that we have encountered. This can help the rest not to step on the rake, inventing a niche for such a business, without having studied the mentality of the “wards”. Indeed, for a young startup, contact with the audience is very important.
So why are we still alive? Caution, under the cut is really big text.
1) Low traffic to the site, as a result, all car instructors posted on our site receive few calls
Since the launch, we have grown to 2,000 unique visitors per day, providing about 9,000 impressions per day. Moreover, according to Google Analytics, the return percentage is only 30%, this is understandable - it makes sense to use our resource 1-2 times in life, it does not count on a constant audience. This could be an advantage, for example, in a dialogue with advertisers, but so far we have only negative experience, more details below.
You can speculate on the topic that one of our instructors “didn’t get rid of mugs”, trivially uploaded not the most successful photo (we haven’t helped him yet), set the training price too high, or there’s just too much competition in his area, but in fact, from month to month, for almost half a year, we have already formed a limited number of profiles of instructors, which does not grow, but which receives calls, and, accordingly, pays us for its placement.
Nevertheless, at least 1 new instructor is registered every day, and only a part of them, after passing a trial period of 1.5 months, remain with us for a fee. The rest fall off for various reasons.
We spent a lot of effort, now we know what percentage of users actually make calls, found a clear correlation with attendance, for this a lot of analytical work was done, a lot of reports were built, the call center worked from morning till night, not unstoppable. As a result, we found out that by slightly increasing attendance, you can provide at least 1 guaranteed call per month to the instructor. And for them, this is a criterion for the payback and usefulness of our resource, because students take an average of 5 lessons.
Costs for SEO during this period only increased, and if earlier we had hoped for the appearance of natural links, then, observing the appearance of links of such a plan as “I found a cool instructor for myself here ”, we quickly bid farewell to these hopes.
When we first started, we had a lot of unpleasant conversations with competing sites. Based on the fact that we borrowed information about car instructors from their websites, of course, phoning the instructors and asking for permission (I recall that the personal information about a particular person belongs only to that person). This was perceived, to put it mildly, with hostility, there were provocations and other attempts to deceive naive auto-instructors who were not familiar with the rules of the Network.
As a result: some of these sites began to cooperate with us, taking the initiative. Among them appeared “intermediaries”, people who collected money from the rest of the instructors who were not friends with the Internet, and placed them on our website with a certain discount, depending on the number of “listed” instructors. Everyone benefits, in principle.
Despite this, the majority of instructors did not get used to the idea that 1 site with all instructors is better than 100 personal pages on narod.ru. Some of them, in principle, do not believe in online advertising, they just fall into the hands of students through word of mouth, work in a driving school, someone generally takes it all in their own way, and rushes to make a personal website for themselves. We are able to maintain the technological advantage, so the 3 clone sites that appeared during this period (already with parsed instructors from our site!) Have not achieved anything yet.
3) Low price
We realized that we had hit the bar - not raising the price in any way, not increasing the number of satisfied instructors, not getting involved in advertising or working with driving schools that we dreamed about, we could not count on an increase in income.
It is clear that at least conscience does not allow us to simply raise the price. I wanted to launch new services, announce a new price only for newly connected instructors, and, under this simple cover, migrate the population to a new tariff that is beneficial for us.
Read more about our attempts to earn money in the next section.
1) Attempts at dialogue with driving schools
We promised a functional similar to autobeginner.ru at the time of launch. But first, it was necessary to work out the soil.
A rating of driving schools was compiled, with which it would make sense to talk, there were attempts to communicate by phone, email, even through Odnoklassniki directly with the director of the Central Driving School. All attempts to contact are like a wall. The time has come for a personal visit, to break through with the fight, so to speak. Then your humble servant felt all the hardships of working as a salesman. We prepared a presentation on the disc, which we hoped to leave as a last resort to the secretary if we could not meet with those in charge. I must say that the common practice among the directors of driving schools turned out to be a "reception day" and "appointment hours".
Here's what happened:
Watch the presentation .
In the end, the contact took place (solely thanks to the connections of one of our instructors), from which we found out the main thing: driving schools treat private instructors so badly that even the neighborhood on one site will distort them. We safely buried this idea until better times, wishing good luck to autobeginner.ru through clenched teeth.
2) Offline advertising to increase traffic
We were sure that our instructors would gladly replace their car frames with a number on ours, like these:
We can say that we were mistaken. Instructors are interested in advertising only their loved ones. As a result, only I myself and a couple of people go with this frame.
Now we have the idea of creating booklets / leaflets with the main fines for violating traffic rules, on the back of which there will be something like a coupon for a free lesson with an instructor. We plan that students will give such coupons to our instructors, and those so that they would not be so offended to work for free, compensate for part of the subscription fee by entering the number from this coupon in their personal account on our website. We plan to distribute through the counter with free press at gas stations, well, on the streets, in traffic jams. We do not yet know what this venture will turn into. Maybe, haberman, will you dissuade us in advance?
3) What future decisions already warm our hope? We plan to do this for the next six months.
- redesign. Decrease in bounce rate, work with content, simplification of the interface;
- work with advertisers. It seems to us that manufacturers of car navigators and extreme driving schools are our most potential advertisers;
- offline meetings with our instructors. We will take pictures of them ourselves, talk about coupons, hand frames to the number, etc.
- budget redistribution for SEO, taking into account not just real conversions, but the effectiveness of each request in terms of final calls to car instructors;
- launching a new tariff, introducing restrictions that will allow us to expect to pay 100% of the time per month (we have daily charges, it is possible to pay less monthly fee per month);
- introducing a new service for car instructors, creating personal third-level domains of the form instructor_name.spokoino.ru, a business card generator.
- launch payment in St. Petersburg, now there is already a decent audience;
- struggle with anonymous reviews through the use of openid.
Considering what we had, and still have a rather loyal investor to us, we are still alive. If the studio, the product of which is our project spokoino.ru, would not be engaged in parallel while still working, she would have nothing to eat. We still do not feel great joy from the lesson, because expectations, unfortunately, did not materialize. After all, when we started, and thought whether or not to undertake the project at all, the picture looked more than rosy, due to the high, on average on sites, indicators of solvency of instructors. But there was a crisis, it’s no secret that he hit on automotive topics, along with this there are thoughts about prohibiting surrender as an “external” driver, revoking licenses from driving schools without equipped racetracks, etc., in general, is not a pleasant situation on the market , and she clearly does not contribute to the development of young services. But enough about us.
- dissuade you from hasty conclusions about the success of a business, thinking about creating one;
- to open the secret of the veil over the still floundering startup;
- find new partners in your face;
- dissuade us from subsequent mistakes, confirming with our rich experience;
- to find a person among you for a job as a designer / illustrator / interface designer all rolled into one instead of a designer who left us for Yandex (by the way, over the past three years two more of our former employees have gone to Yandex as programmers).
Of course, we have reached certain indicators. It is nice to see how the implemented changes contribute to the financial result for the month. About 1,000 comments have already been left on our site, which we carefully, but not always successfully, moderate, with our help, thousands of students have already found a worthy auto-instructor. About 600 instructors passed through our hands, which the market itself divided into successful and not very successful groups. We finally understood the mentality of our audience, plunged into the topic until the very end. All this, in any case, is an excellent experience, for the sake of which it is already possible to start a business.
Most likely, we will not give up, because the investor wants to recapture the money spent. Perhaps some of our plans will finally work, and everything will be in chocolate. But even according to the most optimistic forecasts, the project itself will not be able to profitably feed the entire army of employees, implying the emergence of new, profitable projects. If you have any ideas that you want to implement with our help (including, our investor, I think, will not refuse to participate in them) - feel free, suggest. We are waiting for feedback on firstname.lastname@example.org
And we thank you, harachelovek, for reading this large article. God forbid, there will be more.
PS While writing, February was the most successful in terms of profit. Either the season has begun, or the article has worked :)