Whenever you see successful businesses online that look like everything they do is well thought out and executed, it can be quite jarring to see that they can make really common mistakes.
I ran across one of these today with Baremetrics.
If you’re not familiar with Baremetrics, they make an exception tool for people who use Stripe, Braintree and Recurly to collect their revenue from customers. The Baremetrics product gives you really great visualized metrics of key data like Lifetime Value, Churn Rate, Monthly Recurring, etc. It can also handle things like dunning to recover failed transactions and monitor product trials to give you more actionable data.
Remember this idea that their ENTIRE business is about giving their customers valuable, insightful, meaningful data in visualised ways that can be actioned – that will be important later.
I just happened to be flipping through my Pocket list today and noticed a post from the founder of Baremetrics, Josh Pigford.
The post was about how Baremetrics were switching away from using Medium.
Again, if you’ve been reading these posts for any length of time, you know that Medium tends to be one of my whipping boys. I think they have a poor business model and the value they offer to people that are trying to build an actual business using content marketing (as opposed to being in the business of content marketing) is marginal.
Before I go on, let me unpack that last sentence in a bit of a tangent – using content marketing to help grow your business versus being in the business of content marketing.
Some people, like me, use content as a vehicle to attract an audience, build rapport and then attempt to convert that audience into customers. That’s an example of using content marketing to build a business.
What Medium attracts are people who have no business, just create content and try to attract you to that for seemingly no other purpose – they are just effectively bloggers. They are in the business of content marketing – which can be a great business in some circumstances, just not really on Medium because their business model is wobbly.
Anyway, back to Baremetrics moving to, and then away from Medium.
In late 2016, Josh decided to move Baremetrics’ blog to Medium but under a subdomain so it was all still branded under their baremetrics.com domain.
He says he was drawn in by the “buzz” around things posted on Medium from people he followed and the apparent traction those people’s content was getting. He saw the number of “likes” (or “claps” as Medium now refers to them) and “shares” and was drawn in.
For a guy whose entire business was built around making sense of data and surfacing the most valuable information, that’s a pretty dumb mistake to make.
Baremetrics spent an entire year posting their best content on Medium.
Josh admitted that he wasn’t really paying attention to the data, but when he looked at it, he noticed that his best content wasn’t getting a lot of views, but more importantly, their list subscribers numbers had tanked.
Let’s face it, content marketing is about getting subscribers to your email list and selling stuff to people, not getting “claps” and “views” on a third party platform.
Baremetrics had become a Digital Sharecropper on Medium’s platform.
Here’s his quote, I’ll let him make my point:
“The numbers just didn’t make sense. Yes, I could put more into Medium and try to build up readership even more. The guys at Basecamp regularly get 250k+ views on their content. But doing that helps Medium the most in the long run. They’ve been fumbling left and right trying to figure out how to make Medium sustainable, and I’m just not convinced they’ll always do what’s best for us and our business.”
He was drawn to what the guys at Basecamp were achieving and everyone in that particular startup space wants to be like those guys. Josh allowed his echo chamber to set his strategy for him.
But then, common sense stepped in – working harder on Medium only helped Medium in the long run and he wasn’t convinced that Medium would do what was in his best interests.
Why would they? Medium is in the business of serving the best interest of Medium – if someone or something else comes along that help Ev Williams turn that into a sustainable business, he will take it.
And so he should! That’s actually his job.
So there you have it, even successful, smart founders can make mistakes – a guy whose whole business is built on finding the needle in the haystack of data focused on vanity metrics and didn’t look at his numbers closely enough.
The secret for you is to avoid these mistakes – don’t be a digital sharecropper, don’t listen exclusively to your echo chamber, don’t forget to pay attention to the data that actually matters.
Learn this lesson from someone else’s mistakes, don’t make them yourself.