By Jacob Aldridge

Today’s Itinerary

In early December we asked Hacker News and Facebook whether we were crazy to launch a travel-themed startup.

Despite us completely ignoring Paul Graham’s sage advice on target markets, the feedback was generally positive – so on December 12 we launched!

We love peering under the hood of other businesses. So even though we don’t yet have a fancy engine to show off, we wanted to share the specifics of our business journey so far. We believe that they might help another business get off the ground.

We also hope that by opening our kimono we can get help from those who have gone before us. If you do have some some feedback or observations, you can comment below, on Hacker News, or privately by emailing us here.

What do we do?

everydaydream holiday is a free daily travel email for people who love to travel more than they love to work.

Our email follows a single, realistic journey around the world, guided by locals and local research.

Far too broad target market

Early iteration of our target market … Was a little too broad! See: ‘Launch Early, Iterate Often’

Readers may enjoy specific destinations – oooh, Vienna for Christmas markets! – or immerse themselves in the whole journey – we recently spent 10 days in New Zealand travelling 1,000 miles from Queenstown to Auckland.

Who are we?

Without repeating what’s available on our About page, we are two travel / business / tech- loving friends – and everydaydream holiday is at the centre of that Venn diagram.

This is why Jacob shouldn't really run our graphic department.

This is why Jacob shouldn’t really run our graphic department.

Pre-Launch: Iterate Early

We’re firm believers in the release early, iterate often business mentality. So the smartest thing we did was set-up and run a pre-launch survey. The full results are almost ready to be released, so here were the highlights and key benefits from doing this:

  1. Oh, you guys are serious
    It gave us something tangible to talk to people about. It wasn’t an ‘idea’ we had, it was a business we were creating – “here, look at the survey”. (We also set up an Unbounce landing page, but ultimately launched the full site before we really had a chance to use it.) In the time it was live, 101 people completed the whole survey.
  2. Change the name!
    This was hard. The original idea had been called ‘Eternal Holiday’ (because it’s one, never-ending holiday, rather than loads of different, disconnected destinations), and we had a few variations on the theme. Wanting to flesh out the survey question about different names, we added in some others that our loved ones had suggested. It was one of those – Every Daydream – that resoundingly won the poll. And so here we are on everydaydreamholiday.com
  3. Loads of other feedback, some of which we ignored
    Some of the key things we heard from the survey included ‘more local guides’ and ‘don’t do it daily’. We’ve implemented the former; the latter is a topic for much longer debate and was a case of listening to feedback and also looking at evidence.
    Yes, daily emails are a lot more work to create – but our hypothesis is that they are far more engaging and the business that is built on them will be far more valuable than one which only publishes weekly or monthly emails. This doesn’t mean weekly emails aren’t coming soon, as tomorrow’s post will detail.
  4. First subscribers
    This also helped us launch early. We didn’t want to be releasing daily emails for the sole benefit of our family on the mailing list. The survey asked people if they wanted to subscribe – 84 people did and so they were our initial list.
    DailyCandy, by comparison, started with 700 people on the list. Time will tell whether we may have benefited from spending the last month solely on increasing subscribers, rather than launching and sending something out five times a week.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

This is the stuff we love to learn from other businesses, so we’re going to be open and share it here. That’s a little scary – we’re not an overnight success story and aren’t claiming to be. If you’re going to be cruel, please ensure that you’re being cruel to be kind (and in the right measure).

Email Engagement Rates

Our First Month's Email Newsletter Engagement Rates.

Our First Month’s Email Newsletter Engagement Rates.

The name of the game in a daily email business is ‘Engagement’. In regards to email, we measure two things as Engagement Rates: “Open” and “Opened Click Through”.

Open Rate is pretty straight-forward – what percentage of people who were sent the email, actually opened it. Most email service providers (we use MailChimp) will tell you this, and also tell you your ‘Click Through Rate’ (CTR).

Now CTR is the number of people who clicked through as a percentage of how many people were sent the email. We want something slightly different – we want to know the number of people who click through as a percentage of only those that opened (“Opened Click Through Rate”). This latter distinction means more targeted testing – if your general click through rate is low, you don’t know whether it’s the Open Rate or Click Through Rate that’s the problem; if your Opened Click Through sucks then you know where to focus.

Overall, MailChimp tells us:

  • Average Open Rate of 38.4% (Travel industry average 21.2%).
  • General Click Through rate is 4.8% (industry average 2.7%) which looks good BUT
  • Opened Click Through rate is 12.6% (v industry average of 12.7%).
    This is why our metric is different – it reveals that our success so far has been high Open Rates (possible due to small database size; hopefully due to awesome engaging content) not Click Through.

Two weeks in, we identified this Click Through ‘problem’. We were also seeing a drop off in Open Rate, though the cause of that wasn’t obvious (we still have several theories). So we changed templates from our original (which included all of the content for that day, so was heavy on text and light on images) to our current version (which features more images, is more digestible for most readers, and has clearer calls to action for those who want to know more).

everydaydream holiday email template comparison

everydaydream holiday email template comparison – Old (left) v New (right).

We will do a future post on the specifics of our template change; suffice it to say right now that changing styles mid-month (see the Dec 31 spike) has definitely increased CTR by something in the order of a 10% improvement.

It’s still too early to sort the signal from the noise, as there’s a lot of data to work with – day of the week, time of the day, destination (we have a hypothesis that after 2 days in the same country, readers get bored), and of course the Christmas holiday was right in the middle of all this. So we can’t share specific lessons with you yet (but look forward to doing so).

We did have one a key lesson about spam filters, when one of our earliest emails was nabbed. Bangkok, Thailand, is the world’s hottest capital city – and even though readers found that fact interesting, we should not have sent them an email with “Bangkok- hot, hot, hot” in the copy! This accounts for the dip on Dec 21 when nobody clicked through!

Subscriber numbers
As at today we have 106 subscribers. It’s only a modest increase on the 84 we started with, not helped by an Unsubscribe rate that’s slightly above standard (0.71% v <0.5%). This has to be our key focus.

We recently released a beautiful new sign-up page (see http://everydaydreamholiday.com/travel-email) and are in the process of directing more people to our home page via that page.

The full story of our subscriber acquisition efforts so far is too long to include here. One key decision we’re juggling with is when and how to prompt people to sign up – we don’t want to frustrate existing subscribers by having a pop-up when they click through on an email; but at the same time our daily posts drive the most traffic the day they are published, so no pop-up there means missing a majority of potential subscribers.

We are definitely open to any suggestions on improving this! And if you don’t know how to win us more subscribers but you do love our emails, then remember you can always help by forwarding them to a friend or sharing them on Facebook etc. There are links in every one.

What’s Next for Improving Subscriber numbers?

We will continue to test different solutions. There is a current Optimizely A/B Test running on our sign up page; given our small traffic and sign-up numbers, we are also attempting some gut-feel solutions that won’t be statistically significant but could have significant results for our database growth.

Some of this is linked to increasing website traffic. PR and Guest blogs are our current focus, for both travel industry sites (we had our first press release published here) and also general start-up sites (for business data and experience, like what’s being published here – this will help traffic more than find targeted subscribers, but that’s great too).

If you run a travel or business website and would like to discuss content creation or partnerships with everydaydream holiday, please contact us and start the conversation.

End of Part One

Part Two will be published later this week (EDIT: Here it is). The focus will be on Website Traffic, Content and Revenue, and whatever else you might want us to include.

So please – if you do have some observations or requests for what we reveal, you can comment below, on Hacker News, or privately by emailing us here. And if you got this far, you should also follow Jacob and Chris on Twitter.

Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing,

Jacob and Chris, on our everydaydream holiday.