Bold Commerce serves over 80,000 entrepreneurs with their apps to help them make more money.
Previously, Jason “Jay” Myers shared his growth ramp to get Bold Commerce’s first 1,000 true fans. But growth strategies need to change with the times.
Marketing channels come and go. The competitive landscape evolves. And a big business means bigger opportunities and bigger threats.
Here is my growth strategy teardown of Bold Commerce. You’ll learn what Bold Commerce is doing well, not so well, and, well, downright ug-ly.
With these lessons, you can learn how to improve the growth strategy of your startup.
If you recall from my interview with Jay, Bold Commerce’s growth strategy was the same path to success Myer’s found with his online store: tapping marketplaces. He first used eBay to get customers to buy goods from his dad’s archery store. Later he launched Bold Commerce and grew off of Shopify’s app marketplace.
I recommend 80% of new businesses get their first customers here. Why?
Because marketplaces take care of the majority of your marketing. Then once you’ve figured out your model, you can build your brand outside of the marketplace.
Bold Commerce expanded their apps to integrate with BigCommerce. Smart move. With 20 products, they’re doubling down on what’s working.
First, I’d dedicate a small team to integrate their successful apps to other stores. I’d do this even if those Shopify competitors do not have app marketplaces. My reason is simple. They have customers who want what they’re offering.
It’s easier to find success by doubling down on what’s working than finding something new.
Second, Bold Commerce should build a page that explains its partnerships with each company. Each page can bring a fair amount of organic traffic.
“Shopify integrations” roughly pulls in 1,300 people per month. “BigCommerce integrations” pulls in another 110 people per month. And then I’d continue for each e-commerce integration they create.
These product keywords are high traffic and medium-high converting. You can learn more about how to find product keywords in “How to Find Powerful Product Keywords That Convert.”
Looking at Bold Commerce’s metrics, SEO has been another successful growth channel.
SEO is a common marketing play for B2B startups, though it’s starting to become more common in B2C.
Bill Widmer does an excellent job writing long-form content that gets results, with an estimated 25% of Bold’s content written by him. Widmer, Melanie Fatouros-Richardson, John Bruce, and other writers helped establish their SEO channel. (Source)
I’d test doubling down on content.
Bold Commerce did start webinars in 2017. They could double down on content by hiring a transcriptor to increase content. (Source)
While this is another content channel to double down on, I’m specifically talking about blog content.
Currently, Bold Commerce is writing 1-4 articles a month. I’d keep doubling down at least until they write 3 articles/week. Then keep testing by publishing multiple articles a day.
Companies like Shopify, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and Neil Patel’s brands (NeilPatel.com, Crazy Egg, and Quicksprout) were successful in ramping up as high as 3 articles a day. Many media outlets use this approach too.
At this stage, Bold Commerce should have a consistent blog posting schedule. It’s not uncommon that engagement will increase because it creates a habit for readers.
That said, they are hiring a content marketer (as of writing this today). So this may be working on this solution. (Source)
When you first start out, you should keep things simple. I recommend my clients start with one product and one price. As you grow, so too should your pricing tiers.
Looking at Bold Upsell, they now have five pricing tiers. This allows them to capture more of the value they are providing their customers. (Source)
And rather than a flat dollar per month, they are charging based on the number of views to the offer. This means their pricing is more closely tied to the value.
I’d test how they monetization once more. The customer’s value is better connected to the value from an upsell, not the page views.
Price testing isn’t easy. But testing how Bold Commerce monetizes will pay off in spades (diamonds, hearts, and clubs).
Why? Because they’re making more money off every transaction. More money means more they can invest in their growth ramp.
For more on pricing, read: Pricing Strategy: How to Precisely Price Your Product.
This is one of my favorite services we offer early-stage startups. Why?
Because it’s simple to test two scalable channels (SEO + PPC). Once you see which gets better results, you double down on that channel first.
Each product could be a stand-alone business. And some of their competitors are one-off product startups. Therefore each product should have a different strategy.
How much money is Bold Commerce failing to capture? About $85,500/month by not targeting competitor comparison shoppers for one product.
Let’s look at seven of their competitors for Bold Subscriptions:
Now you may think some of those competitors are not exact alternatives. However if potential Bold Subscription customers consider these potential alternatives, it’s worth creating pages to position Bold Subscription against the competitor.
To do this, first I put their competitors into a comparison matrix.
Next, when I use a keyword analysis tool like Ahrefs, you can see there is about 42,750 searches/month for these high conversion keywords.
That’s roughly $332,280 in annual revenue they’re missing out on for one product!
I made 3 assumptions to get to this number:
42,750 is the total searches, not including their long-tail keywords. These pages will get about 9% of the clicks averaging a search position of 3, or 3,847 clicks/month. (42,750 searches X 9% = 3,847 clicks/month). (Source)
A near-perfect comparison landing page will convert as high as 10% or higher. But 2% is a solid starting benchmark. That’s 923 new customers a year! (3,847 clicks/mo X 12 months X 2% = 923).
The typical SaaS churn rate is 3-5%. This means the average customer lifetime is 20 to 33 months. So it’s not unreasonable to expect that their customers will stay on for 12 months.
With Bold’s Subscription Essential plan at $30/month, the total annual revenue would be $332,280 (923 customers X $30/month X 12 months). This doesn’t include their 1% transaction fee or anyone who buys or upgrades to their Advanced or Professional plans.
Sure, my hypothesis could be wrong. It could be $432,000/year. Or it could be half of my estimate. The point is, Bold Commerce is leaving a lot of money on the table.
They also have 20 apps. While they do not monetize every app, even their free apps can bring in paying customers. And if one app’s comparison pages bring in $332,280/year, it would not be unreasonable to expect 5x the revenue with 20 apps, or $1,661,400/year.
Still, I think Myers would be ecstatic for an extra $332,280/year.
I’d create landing pages for each keyword.
Because they are a big brand, these pages will rank fast for their main keywords. It could happen in two weeks. I’d then gather data using heat maps, user surveys, and user recordings to A/B test each page.
I’d consider sending traffic using AdWords because they can target people with almost perfect customer intent. For example, they could set up a single keyword ad group for “Recurly alternatives.” They could then send those customers to a sales page how Bold Subscriptions is a different alternative compared to Recurly.
Talk about the right time, at the right place, and the right moment!
For more on comparison keywords, read: Comparative Advertising and Content Marketing.
This may seem to contradict my earlier point. But let me explain.
I’m a stickler for exceptional content. As I’ve written before, content needs to communicate true thought leadership. This means your content should:
People come to a blog (or Google) with a question in their mind. Your content should answer their question.
For example, here are a few questions I’ve received which my articles answer:
Q: I have a general idea of what I want my product to do, but I’m having a difficult time deciding the best way to create it. What should I do?
A: Find out the core problem your product solves by talking to your customers with customer discovery interviews.
Q: How do you set pricing when you're just testing an idea? I'd like to know if people will pay for my idea... but don't know what's the proper pricing range.
Q: How do you approach customers to validate your idea? Do you just cold-email, telephone, or find someone who could introduce you? What's the usual response ratio like?
A: Figure out who your customers are, then find a way to contact them. I prefer to do email outreach first, then get on a phone call if possible. I expect to get a 20-40% reply rate, with a 10% reply rate within 24 hours.
As you can see, it is critical your article answers their question. Even better, your article anticipates questions your customers will have and answers those too.
If your article does not answer their question in a meaningful way, then that potential customer will have a negative view of your brand.
Look at this article on Bold Commerce: “The 3 best sales to run on your Shopify store this Black Friday.” (Source)
I would guess the author believed the reader had two intentions:
If this is the case, three seems to be a small number. Why not 33? This better serves the reader in giving them ideas to consider.
If this is the case, I would focus on one Black Friday sale. Then give an end-to-end explanation. This would include why it’s valuable, how to increase the sales, and when to use that sale type, or avoid using the sale altogether. After all, discount codes can increase cart abandonment. (Source)
Bold Commerce could hire a consultant to train their content team. Another option is to have their content team interview industry experts. While this is harder to scale, it’s easier to increase the content thought leadership. Plus these relationships often pay off in more ways than creating exceptional content.
When you first start out, you do not want to chase every shiny marketing object.
Instead, you want to focus on one channel. Then once you get some success, create a repeatable process, and hire someone to do it better. Only then should you move to a new marketing channel.
But because Bold Commerce isn’t doing Google Ads, they’ve left their flank wide open to competitors:
They’re not doing anything on Facebook Ads as of this writing either (see the Facebook Ad Library). This may be a big issue for Bold Commerce if their competitors are targeting fans of their Facebook Page.
If I had to choose which PPC channel to do first because Bold Commerce doesn’t have enough funds, I’d pick AdWords.
AI Trillion and Shopify are directly competing for people looking up Bold Commerce in Google.
Yes, there are still people like my dad that search Google rather than directly going to the website. And yes, he doesn’t use AdBlock unless he uses the web browser my brother installed it on. So if my dad was in the market, he might buy from AI Trillion instead of Bold Commerce.
Early on, it’s smart to selectively ignore your competition.
You want to understand how you will delight customers different than what’s out there. Then keep your focus on delighting your customers, not copying your competitors’ every move. Otherwise, you’ll become a me-too copycat.
However, remaining ignorant has been the downfall of many businesses.
Bold Commerce made a lot of money because they were one of the first to serve e-commerce stores. But the first-mover advantage isn’t a permanent-growth strategy. It’s a temporary solution to get more customers. (Source)
Hi-5, MySpace, and Friendster came before Facebook. There were over 40 products before Quickbooks became the leader. 1,000’s of big-box retail stores are closing. Many of them could have become Amazon but failed to make the switch online. (Source)
This is why Bold Commerce cannot rest on past success and keep their old positioning. How do I know Bold Commerce needs to improve its positioning?
Look at their home page:
“Take your eCommerce store to the next level.”
Why should a customer choose Bold Commerce over the competition? More specifically, why does this statement sound like it could fit for any of their competitors?
Here’s the deal.
It doesn’t matter if Bold Commerce has the best products in the world. If they are not clear why they are different, how will their customers know which product to choose?
This means they are also overworking their sales and marketing team. Why?
Because they need to continuously explain why Bold Commerce is different.
Part of Growth Ramp’s services is to help early-stage entrepreneurs establish their positioning. This is a key part when establishing your growth strategy because you need the right messaging to rise above the noise.
For more on positioning, read: Positioning Strategy: Why Brand Messaging Makes or Breaks Startups.
As an entrepreneur, good is the enemy of great.
It’s easy to read an article like this, notice similar problems in your business, and want to do everything. This lack of focus will cause a downward spiral.
Instead, I would recommend you pick one area you could improve on, and bookmark this article. Then take action on that one area.
Once you see the results you expected, come back to this article or another article in our growth strategy teardown series. Then choose another tactic to work on and improve.
In doing so, you’ll scale your business and reduce wasting your money by doing too many things at once.
This growth audit is a sample of our full Growth Ramp Gap Analysis™. Click here to learn about our Gap Analysis Procedure™.