Power Your Online Business with the Most Flexible Shopping Cart and Affiliate Management Platform.
Mark Thompson is the Co-Founder of PayKickstart.
PayKickstart is reinventing the modern day shopping cart and affiliate management – providing the tools, flexibility and automation to scale subscription-based businesses without the technical hurdles.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, where I'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
On with us right now, we've got Mark Thompson. Mark, you are the Co-Founder of PayKickstart, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you for having me, Josh. I appreciate it.
So you're up the coast and you're in middle of North Carolina. Is that right?
I am. Yeah, I'm originally from Buffalo, New York and hence the bill side behind me but I had to get out of the snow. So I moved down here about 14 years ago now.
And what brought you to Wake Forest.
Um, I had some friends that moved out. After college and I visited the area and I loved it, it was just kind of a great environment, just relaxing, but it's also a nice tech hub as well with the Raleigh Durham area. So it's just a good environment.
Yeah. And so when you move to that area, you know, just kind of looking through your LinkedIn, what was what was your first work?
enterprise rent a car, I was renting cars, I was in a, you know, like a shirt and tie, and I was washing cars, and it was really just my job to kind of get by and pay my bills. So I knew that was not what I wanted to do, but it was kind of a, you know, I did that for about a year. And then I kind of found some marketing jobs and, and kind of went into the marketing agency world and that's kind of how I discovered internet marketing and, and, you know, the rest is history.
No kidding. And so was, so it looks like you know, if I'm kind of going through you, you were then the president of search creatively.
Yep. Yeah. So I worked for a few different marketing agencies before I started my own company. I got fired from my last job, which was kind of a blessing in disguise. I always kind of had one foot out the door, I knew that I didn't want to trade time for money. I didn't want to make someone else rich, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just didn't know exactly what that was going to look like. And so after I got fired, I started my own digital agency. And I was working with lots of different small to medium sized businesses on their marketing campaigns. And I discovered the whole side of software and how to create products. And again, you know, it was hard for me to scale up the services side of things, instead of having, you know, get an office and hire lots of people. And so that was one of the reasons I made the transition from working on the agency side to creating products.
So you're done with you know that you're the CEO and Founder of digital kickstart. And and was there an unmet need in the marketplace that led to the creation of a PayKickstart?
Um, well, yeah, for sure. So yeah, I started digital kickstart about five years ago. And so that was when I was learning how to create products. I created information products that created software and so that was really The brand for housing each of the different products I created. And as I created these products, and I started to become more successful, and I started to process, you know, millions of dollars in revenue, I started realized that the little tweaks in my sales funnel or minimizing processing fees, and all all sorts of things, all that stuff starts to add up. And I was I wasn't growing at a rate that I wanted to. And I noticed things like one click upsells, and cart abandonment, all these things that could help me increase the average transaction value, increase conversions, all these things had a really big impact on my business and the shopping carts that I was using. They just were they were hard to use. They were duct tape solutions, I would have to get custom programmers and stuff. And it was just a nightmare. And so at the time, I'm like, Hey, we're a software company. Why don't we just build this thing ourselves? And so we built out our own shopping cart and we integrated with stripe and PayPal, and then we later on built on the affiliate management component of it. We just built this an internal tool to sell our own products. Yeah,
you know, I think especially Actually in affiliate marketing, it does seem pretty disjointed. I just don't think that there's there's a lot of options out there. But I don't know, they they're either seem expensive or ugly. Or just it's just kind of a mast.
Yeah, I hundred percent agree and and that's what we found as well, you know, we've tried everything under the sun. And they're either really expensive, like you said, or they're just you can't customize anything and you can't really get it, get it to fit your needs for your business. And so that was what we were looking for. We're looking for a solution that had flexibility. But it didn't also car cost an arm and a leg. And it's one of the reasons that we're like, you know, what, we can build this thing ourselves, we, we looked at how much we were paying Justin, processing fees alone, let alone how, you know, like, just terrible conversion rates from terrible checkout pages and just a bad checkout experience. And so we're like, we can build this thing ourselves and save money.
So how do you build a software platform then? Have you had programmers on staff already?
Yeah, it's a it's a loaded question. I don't know how much time we have. But yeah, so, you know, it was one of those things where I kind of learned along the way, I can't write one one line of code. But I did learn how to manage developers. And so when I first created my my first piece of software, I hired a software company overseas. And that was really my first introduction to how the whole software process worked, when it came to wire framing the idea and then and then marking it up and then actually doing the backend coding. And so I learned a lot during that process. And then I actually partnered with someone who was a developer and I partnered with him for a couple years and we created a few solutions and, and so I learned a lot from him. So it was just a lot of like in the trenches, learning how to do this stuff. And so I learned along the way it took me you know, four or five years to really kind of get good at it and build a process. But then I started to build my own in house team of developers, designers support staff QA guys And obviously, it didn't happen overnight. I we grew. And so right now we're at about 25 people. But again, it didn't happen overnight.
Now, so pricing wise, then, I guess, where are you? aynd?
Yeah, so we're actually on the lower end of the spectrum. So when we first started, you know, we want to get our foot in the door, pay kickstart, has been around for about three years now. And still, when we first started, you know, being a new kid on the block, especially when it comes to handling people's money. And we were the backbone of people's businesses need, there's a lot of trust, and that goes along with it. And so one of the things that we realized we couldn't go just charge hundreds or thousands of dollars out of the gate. And so we we priced at a relatively low cost compared to some of our competitors, just to kind of get that initial customer base. And so that's, that's what we did for a number of years. And so, you know, we're anywhere between $29 a month to start up to $149 a month. We're actually at a point now, where The platform is mature, where, you know, it's been three years, we've been just adding tons of features and functionality and the you know, the framework of of the code base is super solid. We rarely have any any major bugs. So we're in the process of significantly increasing our pricing. So it's more in line with you know, what charge be recurly charge if I kind of some of the mainstream providers are charging,
you know, at, you know, if you pay annually, I mean, Slidell is $22 to handle that, which is really great. So, you know, currently so we use WooCommerce for you know, our products that we sell at up my influence, what would be the advantage to using paid kickstart over saving WooCommerce and again, not not to bad mouth em or anything, but just you know, in terms of like USP or like, feature set or whatever, what would what would we experience it would be different.
Yeah, it's a good question. So you know, obviously there's pros and cons to any solution that you're going to use especially civic to WooCommerce. Uh, you know, obviously you need to be using, I believe WordPress. So it's you know, so it can be more of a kind of a duct tape solution where you're hosting it. We're a SaaS product. So we host everything. Everything is really out of the box. So you don't have like one, click upsells and order bumps and coupon codes and text to play, all that stuff is built right in. You don't have to install anything, you don't have to worry about supporting anything, you don't have to buy any add ons, or anything like that. So I would say, you know, we're kind of like a plug and play you you can log in from anywhere. You don't have to install anything, you're good to go.
And so would someone normally put like a, they would do a sub domain to pay kickstart, then I don't need to, like get all nerdy on you and stuff. But I'm thinking about, you know, how would How would I implement this for my own company?
Yeah. So I mean, you would log in at PayKickstart. But we have lots of different options for how you want to handle your checkout. So we have an API. So if you want to do something fully custom for those of you who are, you know, SAS companies and you Have a completely customizable checkout experience, you can do that. Or we also have hosted checkout page templates that you can use. And then we also have embeddable widgets and foreman beds. So we have lots of people that like to say, Hey, you know, I, I built a page on Click Funnels, but I don't really like their checkout functionality, well, their sales and landing pages with Click Funnels, and then they'll embed our checkout widget, or form embed right on the page. And then we handle the checkout page. And we have just, you know, some minutes really our specialty is everything from checkout experience. onward.
Nice, nice. Okay, so going back to, you've developed this product, PayKickstart. How do you bring it to market? Like how did you get people to find out about it initially?
Yeah, it's a good question. So we've done a whole bunch of different things. we've thrown a whole bunch of you know, things at the wall and see and try to see what sticks. In the in the beginning. You know, we had a list of about 100,000 customers that had purchased products from our sister company digital kickstart from, you know all different apps and information products. And so that was kind of a natural fit just just to tell our existing customers, hey, we just built this solution. And so that's what we did. We emailed our list about it, we did, we set up a whole bunch of webinars, we also had affiliate partners that we've worked with in the past. So we promoted it to our affiliates that we gave them a commission, and we would funnel people through our webinars. So we did that. And then we also, you know, we did like a listing on product con, which was a great places to kind of get exposure for new patients. And then we had more of a long term strategy, which was more kind of your traditional SEO and, you know, lead magnets and Facebook ad advertising and retargeting, all those things kind of got blended into our strategy, but so we've had kind of a combination of short term and long term marketing approaches.
Tell me what happens when you submit to product on what happens what's that process like and like, and there's a risk to it as well, right? I mean, if you're not ready for prime time, it could be a Negative?
Yeah, I mean, well, you have about 24 hours to get it up onto the first page. And so, I mean, they have their own algorithm for how they rank these products. But a lot of it has to do with votes and engagement with your product. And so we treated it almost like a product launch, right? So we listed it on product time. And we're so we told our email list about it. We told everybody on social media, we asked our contacts, hey, if you wouldn't mind, give us an upvote. Or leave us a comment. We told any of our beta users that we're at the time we're beta users for a kickstart, we said, Hey, would you would you mind leaving a comment of voting? So you want to try to get it up there as quickly as possible? Because after 24 hours, it kind of falls off the map. So there's definitely a strategy involved with it. I think I even created a blog post on our blog that talked about kind of what we did.
Oh, very cool. So I mean, so what was your experience then?
Um, it was mixed. I mean, I wouldn't say it was revolutionary, but we got some traffic from it. We got some initial exposure from it. It wasn't anything groundbreaking. But, you know, it was just one of those things that we just wanted to test it and see how it worked. We noticed a lot of other startups that were doing it. So it was kind of it was easy to set up. There's more that went into the promotion side of things than actually setting up the listing.
Okay, and so after product launch, then what do you do?
Um, so after that, it was really yeah. I mean, it was really just listening to our beta customers and just doing kind of rinse and repeat, right, just listening to everything, what they liked about it, what they didn't like about it, you know, what bugs we needed to fix. we scaled relatively slowly. And we actually did that on purpose. Just because again, we're a shopping cart, and we're dealing with people's money, we need to make sure that everything's working flawlessly, or else they're never going to come back. So we started with about 25 to 50 beta users, just using the system and then we kind of inched our way into it. Doing a one off webinars with affiliate partners, emailing our list with different types of promotions. We did like a free plus shipping offer. Which we sent them a physical package, they also got some digital goods. And they also got a 30 day free trial of pay kickstart so that that free plus shipping offer did really well converted really high. And our stick rate was actually pretty good as about 30% of the people that did the free plus shipping offer actually kept their pay kickstart subscription. So that was really good as well. So that's what we did. And then a lot of just word of mouth initially, once you know once the platform was solid, people start talking about it organically. And then we started just getting more and more free trials every day.
Nice. Nice. So today you've done what kind of volume.
So right now we're at about a million ARR. So we're doing well like about so like 80 80,000 MRR. And so right now what we're really trying to do is hone in on how do we increase our free to paid so free trial to paid ratio. And then so we've been working on our in-app onboarding experience. So when someone signs in how do we get them to first value as quickly as possible. So, first value for us is they have their product listed in PayKickstart, and they're selling it. So how do we get them to do that? And obviously, there's a couple things they need to do they need to connect their payment gateway, they need to set up a campaign, set up a funnel and add their checkout links to their to their page. So we've been working on that in app experience, totally get them to first value as quickly as possible and minimize our churn as best as we can.
Yeah. How's it going with the team? As far as like, you know, keeping up are you going through hiring issues, scaling issues?
Um, no, I mean, in terms of hiring issues, we've been very fortunate we've had the same team for actually the past three years, I think we've we've picked up one or two here and there, but the the core at least the core development team has been with us since the beginning, which has been really nice, just to have continuity with within our company. And we feel we've added people over the years but we've been pretty aggressive with our support staff as well. So that's been kind of our main focus is making sure support is really dialed into what our customers need, and then relaying that to us or some of the upper management of our team. So we have our finger on the pulse as to what they need, what they like, what they don't like. And so we offer 24 hour support. And so that's been one of our main focuses over the last year is really providing excellent customer service. Excellent, excellent. Well, great. Well, Mark Thompson, there in North Carolina, you're the Co-Founder of PayKickstart, and you're the CEO and Founder of digital Kickstarter, as well. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me, Josh. Appreciate it.
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