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FutureNow Article
Friday, Aug. 31, 2007

How to Grow 2,250% While Launching a New Online Business

By Bryan Eisenberg
August 31st, 2007

Acceller (formerly BuyTelco) has been a reference client of ours for the past 4 years. In that time, we’ve been fortunate to see become one of America’s top resources to compare Cable, DSL and High-Speed Internet options. But today, we’re especially proud of Acceller because they’ve been named #54 on the “Inc. 500″ list, with 2,250% growth. (The Inc. 500 ranks top U.S. companies based on growth acceleration for the last few years.)

Acceller CEO Steve McKean is happy to point out that “the Inc. 500 list looks at 4 years of data, and that you can correlate Acceller’s work with Future Now to that growth.” While we do appreciate the compliment, I correlate their success to Steve’s vision as CEO; a relentless focus on execution, the customer experience, and commitment to ongoing improvement.

Their next step: start a new business unit.

Digital LandingWhile many CEO’s would be content with 2,250% growth, Steve, aware of changes in his industry, knew they had to innovate. Rather than reinvent BuyTelco — which is focused solely on converting ready-to-buy, internet-service-only customers — they created an entirely new experience and brand: Digital Landing.

How did they do it? How does a company capitalize on what it knows about its current business while there are so many unknowns about the new brand’s potential customers and their buying process?

1.Assemble an Investigative Task Force, consisting of people experienced with past/current products, new research, and conversion issues. Make sure you ask the right questions, keeping lessons learned from the former site in play.

2. Develop customer persona assumptions. Why assumptions? Digital Landing didn’t have any customers yet, so we had to make assumptions as to who their customers might be. The good news is that, once a site launches, you can test these assumptions and optimize accordingly.

3. Develop and refine the buy-flow. This is the conversion-related part. Since they were adding additional services — e.g., phone, video, HD — and bundles, we knew it would be complicated. We worked closely with them to make sure it would be as smooth as possible, but much more time was focused on the details — specific wording of calls to action, shopping cart usability, color choice, etc. — pre-launch. There’s still work to be done (read: optimization).

4. Plan content strategy using personas. By planning content through the eyes of our personas, we were able to match both the tone and types of content to their individual needs. While one needs, say, a video on how to install a flat panel TV, another wants to print an article on how to set up a home office.

5. Develop top-quality content. Don’t skimp on production quality. Look at all these resources for digital newbies. Or this custom internet speed test. They didn’t have to do that — which, of course, is exactly why they did have to do it.

6. Develop a launch plan. Work with everyone on the team — engineers, researchers, project manager, the analytics team, designers, copywriters — to coordinate the launch. If something can’t make the launch date, prioritize what needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

7. Do a “soft launch” ahead of time. It makes everyone feel good and allows you to fix what’s broken before creating mixed first impressions. Digital Landing officially “launches” late next month. Here it is today, flaws and all. Why? Because the first version was never meant to be perfect. Besides, a soft launch gives search engines spiders a chance to crawl and index the site.

8. Allow customer’s to interact. Open it up to a small-yet-vocal audience; GrokDotCom readers, for instance. Launch a little Pay-Per-Click traffic and see how it affects the priorities on your optimization list.

9. Measure, Listen, and Optimize. TEST your original assumptions. Figure out who you’re losing, where you’re losing, and adjust.

10. Stay cool. This isn’t childbirth, even if it does feel like it at times.

Join me in congratulating Steve and the rest of his phenomenal team at Acceller on the “soft launch” of Digital Landing. While broadband growth has driven a lot of his business, the marketplace is shifting. People want additional services, and Digital Landing is meant to help us get away from the marketing hype individual providers in order to make intelligent choices and get the best offers on high-speed internet, digital phone, video, and HDTV services.

Originally, the goal was to have the site “soft” launched by Labor Day. They beat that by a few days. As I’m sure you can see, there’s still plenty of tweaking to be done. But one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make when launching a new site is trying to make it perfect from the get go. Getting it perfect in your eyes means very little. Getting it perfect for your customers matters a lot.

One of the best pieces of advice my mentor gave me — and hopefully I can teach you — is “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong.” It’s all about execution and allowing yourself to do it wrong quickly.

We’d love to have your fresh eyes check out Digital Landing. Go as far as you like, with or without placing an order, and share your feedback here.

Any suggestions to add to our list? Find any bugs?

We appreciate your help, as does Steve. He didn’t get on the Inc. 500 list by not listening carefully. :)

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Comments (6)

  1. I love this line:
    “They didn’t have to do that — which, of course, is exactly why they did have to do it.”

    One thing I’ve seen over the years is that any website that provides even just one useful tool/functionality gets lots of links, thus automatic SEO, and of course, the goodwill of those who use it.

  2. DigitalLanding looks great. Congrats to Acceller, the hard work is paying off.

  3. Soft launch is very good strategy. Congratulations.

  4. [...] of the previous month as well. In addition we have found that the regular improvements become your company’s lifestyle.  You get into that habit and then you become more fit and your improvements become easier and [...]

  5. To my opinion there is no alternative of developing top quality content for your sites-this technique will rule the business world for many years to come as well.thanks.

  6. While the results that were achieved are great for a new project. I do not think it is representative of most peoples results their first time out. Even using the same methodology.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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