5 min read

How I doubled my revenue in 2020 without ads

How I doubled my revenue for my cycling print side-project without using paid advertising.

My revenue from Cyced in 2020 hit over 70% year on year growth. That’s close to double (and it sounded better in the title...). We're only talking revenue of five figures for my small side-project, but without any budget and no ad spend, I've grown it into a profitable asset.

Cyced Strava Print
A custom cycling Strava print from Cyced

So what did I do differently in 2020 compared to 2019? Quite a few small changes helped me hit this growth and I’ll run you through them in this update

Customer Survey

In March 2019 I put together a Google Form survey consisting of seven questions. It was scrappy, illogical in parts but had some of the key questions I wanted answers for about my custom Strava print product.

The question that led to growth was “What price do you feel is fair for a custom made Strava Cyced print?”

At the time, prints were selling at £40 minimum (free shipping) yet 65% of respondents felt £15 - £24.99 was a fair price.

I only acted on this data 6 months later in a state of despair at the low trickle of sales I was making. But it saved my side project.

My margins are now tighter and my average profit per sale is now 40% less yet I’m making 3x as many sales. The price being too high impacted conversion rate significantly.

Sending a survey to current and prospective customers in a transparent way is crucial to finding the right pricing and product fit and I have another example of this later on in this article.

Cyclist Partnership

At the end of 2019 I was fortunate to be included in British Cycling’s Christmas Gift Guide, distributed on their website and through an email newsletter to their membership of 150,000 at the time (although limited to just 40,000 as I didn’t believe I could cope with demand if things went well).

Seven sales were attributed to the discount code whilst a few more came through without it. A success for my small side project.

I was concerned that 2019 had ended so well that I couldn’t possibly match it in 2020. Yet here I am telling you about how I doubled my revenue.

Partnerships are hard to get, especially for a small league player like me where I can hardly offer a good affiliate programme with my low margins. Luckily, a friend at Cyclist saw something in my custom prints and sent out a discount to their VIP magazine subscribers in return for me including a discount to my newsletter database of 800.

I made six sales from this and my first from America, levelling the playing field for 2020’s results vs 2019.

This was interesting to see such conversions as January is not only outside of the gift-giving season, it is also a bit of a dead-zone in the road cycling / touring calendar.

Email Marketing

Most of my professional career has been in email marketing. Sounds like a real hoot right? Believe it or not, email is a real ROI driver whether it’s a regular newsletter or promotional solus sends.

This year I began emailing my database updates on product developments. Topics like the availability of A2 prints or the announcement of the Lookbook to give cyclists some inspiration of what other customers are ordering.

I can probably attribute 5-6 sales from email this year, all from data I’ve acquired from cycling route ebook lead magnets. It's something that should theoretically scale for my company.

I recommend you invest in email. I've been working with it at British Cycling and for a fintech firm and it's highly profitable in comparison to other paid channels.

Product variety

I mentioned in my first point that there was another example of surveying customers and prospects. Well, here it is.

Cyced colour options

In early 2018, I released two new colour variants of my custom Strava prints. There was no interest and I had designed them on a whim and to my own personal taste. So a few months later I took them down.

I approached this topic again in July 2019. This time asking customers and prospects what colour they preferred in a choice of four. Both red designs that I loved were voted down considerably whilst the green and white design received high praise.

Both white and green designs went into production and account for 30-40% of maps I now create for customers. That's why you should trust the data.

Would I have made those sales without the other colour variants? Hard to say. All my competitors have more choice than me right now. Some even leave it to the customer to do entirely. I’m fine with my small selection position right now but I may look to branch out further after more research.

Selling on Etsy

At the end of November 2020, I set up on Etsy. I had hesitations to do so for a while. I can’t compete on price with some sellers since my prints are not only printed to a higher standard, I also provide a highly one to one service allowing unlimited revisions and extra bespoke requests.

After-all, this is an important print to get right for the customer so it has to be perfect.

Cyced on Etsy

Secondly, I can’t add the same personalised fields in the order process as on my own website (which uses Wordpress and Woocommerce). This makes it tough and my first sale through here required me to chase up the customer for required details.

I bit the bullet having seen the platform's potential first hand from my girlfriend’s running community merchandise and have since created five maps from sales there. All came through organically from Etsy’s search.

What 2021 holds for growth

I have a hunch that growth will come in diversifying my product range and extending my custom listings in Etsy. I don’t necessarily want to become a “brand from Etsy” and have come a long way developing my SEO and word of mouth, yet I can’t turn a blind eye to it.

I’ve toyed around with the idea of affiliate schemes and further looking into partnerships. I’m still open to it but it takes a lot of energy and many close agreements have fallen at the last hurdle - a symptom of being small, a one-man-band and relatively unknown still.

Lastly, I’ll seek to double down on email. I’ve proven the funnel from lead capture to conversion works only recently so I hope investing time here will prove fruitful when scaling.