You’ve got to be a bit crazy to leave a cushy job and a stable career to start your own business. Two months ago, I did exactly that when I left my multi-six figure salary and founded CarEdge with my business partner, AKA my dad.
At that time (the first week of March), it wasn’t clear what effect coronavirus would have in the United States. As the days and weeks unfolded I couldn’t help but get depressed. I’d talk with family or friends, and they’d say, “Boy, don’t you wish you had kept that job just a bit longer?” And I’d think to myself, “maybe?” I was confused, scared, and certainly not making much progress on my new business venture.
Then, amidst all this negative energy, my dad had a great idea; “Why don’t we film YouTube videos via Zoom?” Before working full time on CarEdge I had filmed a handful of videos with my dad. He would talk about the car business, I would post them on our YouTube channel, and we’d get a few hundred views. I had a vision for growing our YouTube channel into something sustainable and scalable for the business, but it never really took off.
Until… We started recording Zoom conversations like Ray had suggested. Here’s the story (and lessons learned) from growing CarEdge’s YouTube channel from 0 to 14,000+ subscribers in three weeks. Below you’ll see I am as transparent as I possibly can be, with screenshots from Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and Youtube Analytics. I hope you find this valuable.
What is CarEdge?
To provide clarity on what you are about to read, you need to have a brief understanding of what CarEdge is, and how YouTube (and content marketing in general) play into the company’s overall growth strategy.
CarEdge is a professional car buying service.
Let’s say you’re in the market to buy a new vehicle. Odds are, the thought of going into a dealership (or in our current state, going onto a dealer’s website), makes you queasy. That’s because most people do not trust car salespeople. I can’t blame them. Interacting with car dealerships is far from pleasant, and it’s tough to walk away from buying a new car feeling confident you got a great deal.
No one wants to be the guy or gal that makes the dealership a lot of money.
That’s where CarEdge helps. Instead of going to a dealership, you hire CarEdge. You tell CarEdge what vehicle you’re interested in, and they handle all of the dealer outreach and negotiation. Their only compensation comes from you, the client, so you have confidence they’re working the dealers for the best deal possible without a “kickback” of any sort.
That’s CarEdge in a nutshell. We make car buying simple, easy, and fun.
Now, to gain awareness for this new venture I was adamant that we needed to leverage Ray’s 43+ year career in the car business to teach consumers the ins and outs of how dealerships work. That led us to create videos and write written guides. My thought process was that if we could build trust with our audience early on, and give them the tools they needed to feel more comfortable buying a car on their own, then eventually, we’d find prospective customers that would pay us to simply do it for them.
Before we got traction
It’s important to recognize that CarEdge’s YouTube success did not occur overnight.
Before gaining traction, I fumbled around with a few videos that didn’t get more than a few hundred views. Those videos were shot in 4k, with professional lighting, a microphone, and more. The “new” videos we created from recorded Zoom calls (using our free Zoom accounts of course!), were in 360p, with no microphones, and no editing.
What changed from those original videos, to the recorded Zoom calls that allowed us to get over one million views in a few short weeks? Here’s what I think happened:
- People enjoy the back and forth banter and authenticity between Ray and I;
- People enjoy the poor quality of the videos, it appears more authentic than well produced content. I think this is really important to understand this point. Here is an email from a customer that sums it up well:
- Ray and I began creating videos that were topical and relevant based off of current events, rather than focusing on “general” information on the car business.
These three characteristics are what I think allowed us to find traction on YouTube.
The growth we experienced
As I wrote about a few months ago, finding your first paying customer is not easy. It was on April 19th, nearly 6 weeks after I quit my job, that we had our first paying customer. This is an important date, because it was just four days later that our YouTube videos began to pick up steam.
As you can see in the screenshot of our YouTube analytics, we saw a massive increase in viewership over the past week or so. Before this spike, we were averaging around 100 views per day across all of our videos. On Thursday April 23rd we knew something was happening, because we spiked to 1,852 views.
I sent my dad this message on that day:
Views on Friday the 24th grew to 4,400, then 21,916 on Saturday. This kept going until it reached the top on Saturday, May 2nd at 131,417 views in a single day.
We’ve seen viewership decline since then, and if you asked me “why,” I wouldn’t be able to provide a concrete answer. I don’t know why.
We have a base of 14,000+ subscribers now though, so each of our new videos receives a few thousand views when we upload them. We’ll see if we’re able to grow more rapidly again in the future.
I have a lot to learn when it comes to developing a YouTube channel!
Converting viewers into customers
The goal of content marketing is to generate customers for your business. One of the benefits of YouTube is that you can monetize your content (you may have noticed in the screenshot above it showed nearly $3,000 in revenue from ads on our videos, for example), but the primary goal is to convert readers or viewers into customers.
We saw a huge spike in website traffic in conjunction with our growth on YouTube. People that found CarEdge on YouTube would then google search our name. Here’s the search data for “CarEdge”:
Once traffic reaches your website it’s important to have a clear “flow” for how users can convert into customers. Fortunately for us, the traffic that made it to our website was converting at a high clip! In the screenshot below you can see (to the right) the “goal conversion” for Marketing Qualified Lead. That is anyone that completes our Sign Up form.
The bounce rate has been incredibly low, and the time on site has been incredibly high.
About 2% of traffic has converted into MQL, and over two thirds of that traffic has converted into a Sales Qualified Lead.
Those SQLs have converted into paying customers at a high clip too!
The funnel (as of writing this) is:
- 67 MQLs, converting into
- 26 customers
39% of visitors that fill out our sign up form have gone onto become paying customers!
Anecdotally speaking, the other 61% who are not converting into customers right now, have told us they’d like to work with us in the future, when they are ready to buy their next car. That being said, I anticipate more than 70% of our MQLs will convert into paying customers over the next few months. There really has been limited to no negative reaction to our business model, pricing, or value proposition. People really hate going into car dealerships or dealing with car salespeople, and we can take them out of that pain.
As in any service business, the more you can delight your customers, the better your chances are of gaining referrals and word of mouth recommendations. With that in mind, we created a compelling thank you page after paying your final invoice:
And, new reviews have been coming in too!
Where do we go from here?
Well, all this growth has forced CarEdge to mature more quickly than I had previously imagined. Our first employee will be joining us on May 25th to help us expand and meet demand! If you had asked me if this was possible one month ago I would have said “No way!” But look where we are now.
It’s truly incredible that some Zoom recordings with my dad have enabled our business to grow as quickly as it has. Authenticity goes a long way I suppose. Incredible.
There are a few high priority tasks I will be focusing on over the coming days and weeks:
- We need to find other marketing channels. YouTube as a marketing channel is great, but being entirely dependent on it as your growth engine is not smart. What if YouTube changes its algorithm and you don’t get as many views? Over the coming weeks I will be exploring and testing new marketing channels such as:
- Affiliate marketing;
- Referral marketing;
- Direct mail marketing;
- Social media marketing; and
- Partnership development (employee benefits programs).
- We need to make service delivery simpler, easier, and more fun. The other area of the business I will be focusing on is developing a product to wrap around the service we are currently providing. I have a vision for how we can make the user experience for both the customer, and the CarEdge representative that is working with them to be efficient, convenient, and seamless. If we do this right we’ll be able to scale the business in a way that is profitable.
- I need to create a timeline with goals, financial projections, and expected hiring dates. Since we’ve proven the business model, one of my primary responsibilities is to develop clarity around how quickly we can (and should grow), and what type of investment that will take. I owe it to myself, and all future team members to provide a clear roadmap of where we’re going and how we plan to get there.
I hope you found this interesting and valuable. I’ll post another update once I get a chance, sometime in June I imagine. Thanks for reading.