2017 WriterAccess Annual Report: Small Bets, Big Rewards

Each year I try and put together a summary of what we learned at WriterAccess in the past year, and how it shapes our vision for the future.

I kinda wish annual reports were required for all registered businesses. Anyone agree?

Years ago, I began my career after grad school(LSE) at Hill Holliday, followed by a branding and annual report design firm. The stakes were high back in those days with CEO’s and marketing pros teaming up to publish annual reports that re-caped the year and shared the highlights:

  • Annual reports affected future stock prices
  • Designers careers were impacted with awards and recognition
  • Shareholders were informed on what’s new, and what’s next

Maybe we should require a yearly blog post annual report format for all businesses.

Anyway. Back to my WriterAccess 2017 Annual Report.

Peter Sims 2011 book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries pops in my head this year, for lots reasons. He challenges us to constantly learn new things, separate the winning ideas with testing, and place small bets on discoveries that could pay big dividends for the future of our business, careers and life.

In a nutshell: We made the Inc 5000 list of fastest growing privately held companies in the US. Against the odds, WriterAccess zoomed from 100 to 26,000 customers with zero VC’s or Private Equity investment. Little bets helped us achieve these goals, with some variation of success along the way.

The following bets did not impact the business that well:

  • More staff and more tasks completed did necessarily translate to more revenue
  • Goal focused approach tied to individual, department and company goals
  • More structure around meetings and data that we thought would motivate staff
  • Investment in big, hairy tech projects did not have immediate impact on the biz

These bets did impact the business in a big way:

  • Migrating to a SaaS model, finally charging a small fee for our amazing platform
  • Developing a mobile app to make life better for customers and talent
  • Bringing in fresh sales and marketing consultants to rethink our plan and strategy
  • Investing in technology to make our platform ready for big partnerships
  • Investing in our Content Marketing Conference that is becoming its own creature

The big takeaway is that we proved we could make the transition to SaaS, even with our bootstrapped approach. And this was possible because of our amazing team and their tenacity to be constantly scouting out new ideas, surveying customer feedback, and cranking out killer messaging that made it all happen. And we’re committing to making small bets without vacillation in 2018.

Peter opens the book with insights on Chris Rock , a world class comedian that tirelessly crafts new jokes daily, showing up at clubs as a walk-on, stand-up comedian, testing the jokes with a live audience. Most bomb. A few have potential. A very very very few make it to the big stage and one hour act delivered to big crowds. As a matter of fact, Peter estimates that Chris’s 20 minute to one hour act takes six months to a year to develop.

Placing small bets needs to be applied to content marketing investments as well, for WriterAccess and all brands. Before you spend the 80 hours creating that white paper or video teaser you think everybody wants and needs, test the waters with small nuggets of content on your blog or social accounts, inexpensive to produce, and quick to get the reaction from the audience you need, before you go big with time and money investment.

Small bets win, when it comes to business, and content marketing. You can bet on it.

What bets do you place with your business or career? Love to hear from you, and open up some communication so we can all learn.


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