Hey this is Bastián! Founder and CEO here at Wild Audience.
Today I want to share our story and tell you why we decided to change our business model from service to SaaS.
If you want to read the SaaS announcement and skip the story (I do this sometimes too haha) click here.
I started Wild Audience back in 2017 as a one man show selling my first online course called “Relationship Funnel” while traveling the world.
The first year was a crazy year. I left Silicon Valley in 2016 working with Steli Efti for Close in Palo Alto. My first stop was Costa Rica where I was able to reduce my living costs a lot and work from the beach.
I launched a blog about technical marketing to basically document what I taught myself while studying other marketers. This blog turned into my first online course called “Relationship Funnel” which I started to sell while being in Bali.
I found a fun screenshot from archive.org ..
It was just me alone having a great time generating $20,000 per month in revenue.
All of that revenue was generated through my online course “Relationship Funnel”. Most of that year was spent traveling and learning.
- My biggest lesson was about focus. When I started Wild Audience I was generating 1k-2k a month, not much. But my mind was everywhere driven by curiosity and wanting to do it all. Once I stopped and slowed down (and traveled less) I started to focus which worked wonders for me.
- My second learning was about doubling-down on one single traffic source instead of trying to get new leads from different corners. Suddenly I was able to drive the amount of leads I needed into my funnel.
- Facebook ads worked extremely well for me. Once I doubled-down on Facebook ads my revenue started to increase from 1-2k per month to 15,000-25,000 per month. That was a game changer for me!
After traveling for a while I decided to come back to Europe (I’m from Austria) and chose Barcelona as my new base. I love the latin vibes, good weather, beach+ocean and Europe 😉
I hired my first two full-time team members James & Daniel when I arrived in Barcelona. James is a friend and Daniel was a Wild Audience customer.
During our first team retreat in Barcelona we talked about our plans. One thing we all wanted to do is launch our own software in three years 🙂
Now being three people, I had to learn a lot of new things like project management and leading a team. As a first time founder I was of course absolute clueless (even if I thought I knew stuff hehe) .
In 2018 we decided to start offering consulting. That meant creating a new offer (Accelerator) and finding product market fit with that offer. Along the way we had to learn how to do sales calls, client service and delivering results. The switch from selling online courses as our main product to offering consulting services as our main gig, was a big switch and took us some time to get right.
This was also the year I had to go through quite a bit of personal learning. I started to question the importance of Wild Audience and what we do as a company. In 2018 I became an animal rights activist (after being vegan for many years) and as a result my mind & focus got distracted as I started to get involved in more and more activism projects on the side.
One project I am very proud of is actually writing a book about the most common objections against veganism (here’s the PDF version).
- That year I experienced the rollercoaster ride of what it means to be an entrepreneur for the first time. I had months of +30,000$ in revenue (less than 5,000 ad spent) and then other months not being able to pay myself.
- In 2018 we were still getting most our leads through Facebook ads and that’s also when I learned how important it is to not be dependent on one source of traffic. It’s why we started to diversify our traffic channels and produce content.
- I decided that Wild Audience is my highest priority and as a result reduced the amount of energy flowing towards other (activist) projects. I will have more time to do activism again in the future 🙂 There is no hurry to do it all at the same time.
In the beginning of 2019 we hired Emilie to join us as Customer Success & Project Manager. We love Emilie! We tried to convince her to move to Barcelona but so far she prefers the north of England. Who would have guessed, right?
This was the year of scaling things-up. We chose two ways to speed things up:
- Spending more aggressively on PPC to book our consulting services
- Opening the Spanish market
- Launching a membership
Overall our goal in 2019 was to have our first 100,000€ month (in hindsight an ego driven goal..).
We started to spend more on PPC (mainly Facebook ads) and as our Relationship Funnel was rock-solid and tested we got a lot of sales calls scheduled for our consulting services.
Revenue was going up quite a bit month by month but in the end we did not achieve our goal of 100,000$ (US dollar not Euros) per month but we got somewhat close. We were generating on average between 40,000€ and 60,000€ per month. Our biggest month was July 2019 with almost €70,000 and a 50% profit margin.
Even if we did not achieve our financial goals , life was very good 🙂 We had healthy profit margins and fun personal lives.
Wild Audience started with all its products in English language but as we were based in Spain and had Spanish speaking natives in our team we decided to open up the Spanish market.
Opening the Spanish speaking market came with a lot of learnings of course. We had to rethink some of our sales process. People in LATAM do business differently and we had to adjust to this new way of doing business (more WhatsApp and Skype, no Zoom, low show-up rates & lower email engagement rates etc..).
When buying a ton of leads for a high-ticket consulting offer, the majority of leads won’t qualify for Accelerator as their budget or experience is too low.
These type of people are looking for something else. They want to learn stuff at a lower cost.
That’s why we decided to launch a membership called Automation Rebels.
We got 70 rebels at 97€ per month into our membership in the first month of launching it. That was a great success for us 🙂
We soon learned that running a membership is not easy. Producing new content, tutorials and online courses takes time and work. We spend most of 2019 figuring out the right format to offer our membership.
And I am happy to say now that we did our learning and I have found our way! We will rebrand our membership to Automation University in April 2020 and launch the 2.0 version 🙂
Looking at our affiliate income of ActiveCampaign, I decided it made logical sense to become an official partner of ActiveCampaign and resell ActiveCampaign to our own customer base. The launch was a huge success and we got more than 100 paying customers within two weeks (we had no initial billing set-up and so I hacked something together with TypeForm+ThriveCart+Stripe).
Reselling ActiveCampaign was our first experience with software 🙂 We hired our first developer Leandro working remotely from Argentina.
During this year we did a bunch of surf trips to France, some fun parties on our roof-top co-working space and just generally lived a really good life.
And we also welcomed Benji as our new head consultant & digital marketing manager to the Wild Audience family.
What a year!
- I became obsessed with automating my business as much as I could and I was very successful with that. Some months I was able to reduce my work to 1-2 hours a day.
- Automating your business can also have downsides. For me as the CEO I lost touch with the most important people, our customers. Our processes automated pretty much everything: Our weekly emails, monthly promotions, PPC lead gen, content creation in form of articles, customer support, sales & consulting. Everything I once had to do in the past, I was able to delegate or automated (which is not an easy thing to do).
- During our team retreat in Q4 of 2019, we decided it was time to double down on software due to a few big learnings in 2019. More about this below.
2020 is the year of SaaS for Wild Audience. SaaS stands for software as a service in case you were wondering 😉
We changed our focus from digital products to services in 2018. Now in 2020 we pivot one more time from services to software.
So why did we change our focus again? Or why would you change something that works?
I remember the day when I wrote down the pros and cons of my consulting business. Everything you read below is based on my own experience (I am not trying to generalize here) and might be useful to you or might be totally different for you even though you have a service-based business model yourself. Keep that in mind.
Consulting is great for many reasons:
- It’s easy to get started (no real upfront cost)
- The only thing you need is expertise which you can learn on the internet or from past jobs
- You keep learning a ton by solving your clients problems
- You get insights into other industries and become better at what you do
- As a business owner you can automate & delegate pretty much everything
But like everything consulting has its downsides. Here are my top picks..
Consulting did not bring in consistent revenue for us. For Wild Audience, our Q1 was usually pretty okay (meaning steady growth and profitable) and Q2 + Q3 were always amazing. Q4 was bad (end of the year and Christmas). That meant we had to generate enough profits in Q2-Q3 in order to take Q4.
There are a few reasons for that. One reason is the way our offer was and still is structured.
Our consulting offer is structured around a “done-with-you” model which is the opposite of “done-for-you”. The reason we chose that model (and I tried done-for-you in the past) is to be more human efficient. Implementing funnels done-for-you style for clients takes a lot of man power which means the only way to scale is hiring more talent.
Look at Vayner Media by Gary Vaynerchuk. They have +200 people in their team. As much as I love to work with an awesome team and build culture I prefer to do that with a small team. But this is not compatible with a service-based business model if you want to scale it.
Sure, we could have chosen an agency style container model and offer a 3 months done-with-you consulting service and then a recurring container for lead generation services for example. That might have changed our situation but in the end we chose not to do it due to the reasons mentioned above.
That meant most of our clients paid for a 3 months project and that’s it. If you run an agency you probably have similar projects. They go over a specific time period and then they end. In order to squeeze more money from a client you would have to offer another related service to the same client. We did not have that kind of high-ticket service offer in place which meant we had to go out and find new clients. But we did noticed that most of our clients started to use ActiveCampaign (more about this later).
So if I had to summarize in two lines why a SaaS business model makes more sense for myself and Wild Audience, this would be my answer:
- Recurring revenue
That is why I have always loved the SaaS model. It has both of those ingredients.
Predictability: From a personal point of view there is nothing I love more than hiding behind my screen and building models.
Recurring revenue: This means that you can close new deals today and add that new revenue to the revenue you closed yesterday. How awesome is that?
Let’s explore what our plan is for SaaS in 2020..
Wild Audience turning SaaS
We have been a long-time ActiveCampaign customer (I signed-up for AC in 2016). In 2017 we became an affiliate. In 2019 we became an official partner focusing on the European market. In 2020 we decided to build new software apps on top of ActiveCampaign. I will explain what this means in a moment.
Building software is not easy. Even more difficult is building something that actually solves a problem so that companies are willing to give you money. My thinking was that building a brand new SaaS company and product from scratch is a 10-year project. That’s how I tackled the situation.
But I also learned about myself that I did not want to spend years and years building a product which is a very personal choice.
From the age of 16, I knew that one day, I would have my own company. As a young boy I always wanted to be rich and successful. But over the years I learned that there is more to life than business. I learned that running a 100 million dollar a year company is not that important to me anymore. 1-3 million a year (in revenue) does it for me too.
I know this may not sound very humble for a few readers but this amount pays for the freedom of a small team and funds small activism projects. In summary, I became simpler in my desires and started to discover what really fulfills me in life.
For me that’s not millions, VCs, board meetings and it’s also not sitting in front of a computer all day.
Instead I discovered a non-capitalistic world of activism and different ways of living that bring happiness, passion and fulfillment into my life. I met new people and made new friends that opened my eyes in many new ways.
To be clear: This means that my team and I are here for the long-term. Our goal is to serve our customers as best as we can and build small products that solve their problems. We want to stay small on purpose and be as authentic and personal as we can with our audience and customers. We are also building a culture that supports freedom, activism (for me that is climate & animal rights activism) and allows us to pursue the passions that elevate our spirits.
Taking into account the above, starting from scratch was not an option for me. But instead, it made sense to partner-up with a company I love and believe in. That is how our partnership with ActiveCampaign started. They focus on product development. We focus on our customers, marketing and selling as well as building additional products & add-ons on top of ActiveCampaign.
This is a win-win. This is our strategy.
Let me explain our strategy step-by-step:
The first thing we did already back in 2019 was to create our own brand “Wild Mail” for our ActiveCampaign product.
Why did we do that?
Imagine one business owner is asking another: “What email marketing tool are you using?” If the other guy is actually using ActiveCampaign through Wild Audience but answers that he uses ActiveCampaign, then Wild Audience would not benefit from that referral.
That is why we launched the name “Wild Mail” so that our customers refer to “Wild Mail” and not “ActiveCampaign”.
That means if you’re currently using ActiveCampaign but you want to move your account over to Wild Mail, you can do that with one click here. The only thing that changes is the logo as well as you will get access to our additional features (read on to see what I mean).
The next step was to update our positioning. How do we compete with ActiveCampaign and other tools like MailChimp, ConvertKit and Drip etc.? These guys have huge brands and big marketing budgets.
For us it’s obvious. Wild Audience started with a product called “Relationship Funnel“. We then created a marketing approach called “Respect-Based Marketing“. Everything around building authentic relationships with an audience comes natural to us. Hence we found our new positioning:
“Grow your business by building authentic relationships with marketing automation.”
This is how we position all our products (click the links and see for yourself):
Wild Mail (software)
Automation University (membership)
Wild Tracking (stand-alone software built on-top of Wild Mail launching in 2021)
This is how we plan to create our own little world.
Now you’re asking yourself what Wild Tracking is, huh?
Think Baremetrics for marketing attribution. Or ChartMogul for marketing attribution.
With Wild Tracking we want to solve the marketing attribution problem.
Potential use cases are:
- Is most of your revenue coming from Facebook ads or YouTube ads?
- Is it cheaper to acquire a new customer through your blog or YouTube channel?
- What is the CLV from customers coming from Facebook ads?
- What is my ROI for Instagram ads?
- Should I invest my marketing budget into PPC or content marketing?
These are the types of questions we want to solve with Wild Tracking.
Our special sauce is a tag-based approach (in contrast to link-based or pixel based tracking). But more about this another time. If you want to learn more about Wild Tracking and become a BETA customer, you can get in contact with me here.
2020 learnings so far:
- Changing business model also means changing your mindset. SaaS requires a completely different mindset than consulting and I love it. Our day to day changed quite a bit for us as a team.
- Changing business model also means to be smart with cashflow forecasting. The dynamics of cash changed after we changed our focus to Wild Mail.
- Product development is a completely new game for us and I am super happy to step into my new role as Product Manager at Wild Audience and learn all I can about this new & exciting skill-set.
- I am getting better at enjoying every part of our process. I am trying not to project the future of Wild Audience into the present anymore and therefore miss the present moment. You might be able to relate. We always think and aim for the goal and often we totally forget the here and now. We have now incorporated this into our team culture and try to be more aware of this phenomena.
- And the last learning of 2020 so far is about slowing down. This silicon valley VC high growth capitalistic area we startups live in, makes us start & ship new projects extremely quickly and without thinking things through in a deeper way. Don’t get me wrong: It’s good to ship fast and move on but at least at Wild Audience we shipped so many things too fast (even my founder friends asked me how we did that..) and thus we had to change things over and over again and simply missed out on the present moment.
Alight! That’s a wrap.
I know some of our lessons as a team and my personal lessons may sound a little strange to you and you might not relate to them. That’s cool! We are all different and want to create different lives for ourselves 🙂
In summary, I am extremely proud of our journey so far and what we have learned.
Building & selling software has changed my attitude towards business again. I feel like it’s 2017 again where I worked 11 hour days and loved every minute of it. This next chapter of Wild Audience is an exciting one.
I am forever grateful especially to my team. Without each team member that has joined me on this wild journey so far, this would not have been possible. Thank you James, Daniel, Emilie, Benji & Andrew for riding along. You all taught me so much!
I am grateful for the 220+ Wild Mail customers we already work with. We love you guys to the moon and back. Wild Audience was and is 100% customer funded and we will keep it this way.
To the 1000s of customers and clients we worked with through our consulting services and digital products: Thanks for making this possible!
Thank you for putting your trust into Wild Audience.
1) How do you fund the development of Wild Tracking?
Building software is not cheap of course but we are fortunate to have revenue streams from our consulting service called Accelerator and our membership Automation University that pay for the development of Wild Tracking.
2) What happens if I am an existing Accelerator client or Automation University (former name was Automation Rebels) student?
If you are a customer, client or student there is nothing you need to worry about. We will continue supporting all our clients and invest into both products. We will still grow both products and are very excited about our roadmap for Accelerator & Automation University.
3) Can I still become an Accelerator client or Automation University student?
4) How can I get started with Wild Mail?
You can try out Wild Mail by getting your trial account here. Wild Mail is perfect for service businesses (use case), online businesses (use case) and SaaS startups (use case) that want to grow their business by building authentic relationships with marketing automation.
5) How can I move from ActiveCampaign to Wild Mail?
You can do that with one click here. The only thing that changes is the logo as well as you will get access to our additional features. The whole process is simple and literally takes 1 minute.