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Growing Adline From 0 To Over $200K ARR: Lessons Learned

In this article, both me and Carl-Wilhelm want to share with you what happened in our first 18-months of bringing our software to the market. We’re going to uncover some of our strategies, advertising tactics as well as the overall sales and marketing methods we use here at Adline.

Hopefully, some of the learning here will be helpful to your company’s journey and growth. 

So let’s dive in…

After a mere 6-months, Adline reached it’s hairy goal of 100 customers. 

Our first goal was to gain proof of concept, and I would say that 100 customers within 6-months, in 9 different countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, UK, USA, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland) was proof enough. 

So, as mentioned above, I am going to be sharing our journey, no bs, simply showing what worked well and what didn’t. The intention here is to portray why we started doing some things manually and how we have later been able to automate many of these routines to make it more scalable.

After a mere 6-months, Adline reached it’s hairy goal of “100 Customers”

– Mike Damnjanovic, Chief Commercial Officer

I want to start with my (Mike’s) first week in a venture-backed adtech startup.

Actually, let’s take the first day. 

I got to the office at 07:30 (start time was 08:00), it was a lovely, sunny day…okay let’s stay focused. Anyway, I had my introduction to the team, a quick run through of the platform and got my email, calendar, etc set up.

The next day, I started with a day of 5 inbound demos. I was in seller’s heaven.  

Speeding through the next 5 months, I was overloaded with 5 inbound demos every day, monday through friday. 
At this point, I want to introduce our first learning point. 

**Manual Demos vs Viral Sign Ups**

In order for us to understand the customers expectations, journey and buying capacity required hundreds of hours of research. 

If we jump today we have gone from 0% to 42% of all customers being onboarded completely virally. (Signing up and getting started without any help or communication with us).  

Personally, based on the fact that we are at 42% and not 80% or higher, I do not believe that we could have cut out the manual start.

However, I think that if we had implemented a clearer feedback system between; sales, marketing and tech, we would have been able to go viral a lot quicker. 

At this point, I want to introduce our second learning point.

**Have at least 1 predictable funnel**

Since 90% of our customer acquisition comes from our own advertising, we need to have an optimized funnel that convert traffic to sign ups and demos on a predictable basis. This way, we always have a good pipeline of new customers.

The funnel doesn’t have to be complicated and contain many steps. Sometimes it is enough with a simple landing page that contains a good content offering – an ebook, cheatsheet or a webinar – you can use to get their name and email. Then you can send them to a Thank you page that includes either a demo booking link or a 14 day free trial.

**Update your ads (creatives or copy) frequently to combat banner blindness**

When you finally find a few winning ads that have a fantastic Click-Through Rate and generates an enormous amount of traffic to your site, you will very often find sooner or later that the CTR will flatten out. You will discover that it becomes more expensive to run the same ads.

This happens very often because the ads are shown to the same audience over and over again. The solution is either to duplicate that same campaign and target another or a bigger audience. Or you can update your copy or creatives to refresh the ads a bit.

Producing content and creatives is the most time-consuming job behind online advertising, but it’s also the job that will give you the most impact. The more ads you’re able to test, the more likely you are to find high-converting ads that generates leads at a low cost.

P.S. Your creatives does not have to be taken on a professional photoshoot. Original and genuine images and videos often works just as well.

**Fix your lead nurturing**

Generating leads is not hard when you have a good offer, a compelling landing page and relevant ads. Many businesses have these things in place. We can call this Top of Funnel elements. But it is what happens after you’ve generated these leads that really will move the needle.

Have you heard the famous quote;

“The money is in the list”

All successful marketers since the dawn of the internet.

When you go on your very first date, you don’t ask him or her to marry you immediately. You need to get to know each other and build a relationship.

Funny example… but it applies to business too.

Very many companies generate leads, but don’t nurture the leads (“lead nurturing”).

Fixing your lead nurturing is what will give you the most bang for your buck. You build an automated email sequence and follow up your leads with valuable, educational, and inspirational content.

Sooner or later you ask for the sale. Not immediately, just like you wouldn’t propose on the first.

Give value, value, value and then ask for the sale because then your leads will also feel a sense of reciprocity and would want to pay you back.

Hence, the money is in the list.

**Testing were testing is not necessarily needed**

We already had a pretty good idea of where we should focus our advertising budget, and based on feedback from industry leaders we also had a pretty good idea on where we should not focus. 

Being a startup company, it was understood that everything needed to be tested. So, we spent a lot of time and money testing out messaging and campaigns in well over 20-countries. 

You guessed it, the feedback we received, plus our gut feelings proved to be overwhelmingly correct. The countries that did not gain any traction ended up being a pure money drain.

We picked ourselves up, brushed ourselves off and carried on – we had tested our messaging in around 10 countries that had great traction.

**Quick handover from sales to CSM**

The main success in onboarding so many customers in such a short period of time was the implementation of a quicker handover process between the sales team and the customer success manager. 

In order to use our platform, a user needs to install the Adline Tracking Script. This was proving to be a blocker for many potential customers. 

We quickly implemented a routine which aimed to get customers connected and ready to get started within 3 working days. 

In addition to this, we improved the communication from sign up and after sales demo to offer our assistance with connecting Adline to the potential customers website. 

Last-Click Attribution: Full credit is given to the last ad or touchpoint that the prospect clicked on – right before making the conversion. This model is the most common to use and the easiest to employ. 

**Always listen to your customers**

Our pricing model was way off at the beginning. It was a very clear winner for Adline but left customers and potential customers with an uneasy feeling. 

The price on its own was good, but the uncertainty of the monthly price being adjusted according to website traffic made a lot of businesses uncomfortable.

It essentially meant that they could pay $50 one month and $150 next month, based on the performance of their campaigns. 

We started testing new pricing to find out what our customers were willing to pay. Here it was also important to set a fair price for us as well.

At the end of the day, our software is saving our customers a ton of money and in addition enabling them to evolve their advertising and grow their businesses.

We landed on a more predictable subscription model, and it ended up increasing our conversion rates as well as reducing our monthly churn a little.

**Going after Enterprise companies too early**

As a sales individual, the big contracts are, of course, the most attractive to work with. 

But with a small team you need to be careful that you don’t gain one big customer that will take away focus and resources that should be allocated towards the company’s mission. Our mission at Adline is to help small and medium sized businesses advertise at the level of a professional. 

Onboarding an enterprise company that requires all your time and special adjustments or integrations will bring in some money, maybe even a ton of money, but will ultimately end in significant ramifications at a later date. 

So, what were our numbers 18-months after launch…

MRR: $17900
Average Month on Month growth: 25%

Churn: We ended Q4 with an average of just below 8%

What is next?

Well, I would say that we have had a good start – slow, yet steady.

We are going to continue to increase our MRR, we are going to continue our MoM growth and we are putting every possible resource to increasing retention.

The next part of our journey is turning Adline into a Lean and Mean Growth Machine and reach a $1 million in ARR.

Authors: Mike Damnjanovic (CCO) & Carl-Wilhelm Vedvik (Co-Founder & CEO)

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