It’s a ‘Knock My Head Against the Wall’ kind of day!

So, as we get tantalisingly closer to being able to take on our first full time member of staff, we’re spending more time thinking about what kind of a company we’d like to grow into.

Up towards the top of the shopping list is to be as open as possible.  Being open is easy when everything’s going okay, but it’s a bit tougher when things go wrong.

Which is why today, I’m going to test my own boundaries a bit by being open about my current biggest headache, and just how much it’s undermining my usual (over-) confidence…;-)

Here’s the thing:

We’d like to build an SSi language course for every language – most particularly, for all those languages that don’t currently have good materials for learners, and are in real danger as a result.

But because the process of training someone to adapt our framework to a new language is fairly detailed (we can’t just say ‘There’s the file, good luck!’ and expect it to work), we need cash flow to achieve what we want to achieve.

Which means that we need to find a way to market our courses.  SSiWelsh hasn’t needed that – we started it with an entirely voluntary structure, so we were able to sit back and let word-of-mouth from our fantastically supportive learners work its magic.

That’s a very slow process, though – if we focused entirely on other minority languages in the same way, we’d probably have a cash flow that would let us build a course for every language some time shortly after my 320th birthday.

Hello, Google Adwords!

To cut a long story short, I’ve been on an Adwords learning curve for most of the last year – and yesterday was our first test of the new approach we’ve been working on: sending people to a landing page with Phil and Alison’s terrific video on it, letting them know they can get access to the same 5 sessions Phil and Alison used for free, and then offering them the chance to get the full 20 session Tourist Course for Spanish for £19.


In the last 24 hours, Google has sent us 495 visitors (which cost about £130, so not the end of the world) – and Wistia, our lovely video hosting company, say that only 55 saw the video – even though it’s on autoplay!

So what the blinkety heck is going on there, eh?

Then of the 55 who saw the video, only about 20% watched it the whole way through (even though it’s less than 4 minutes) and only 4 registered to get access!  Hnghgh.

Not surprisingly, none of those 4 chose to upgrade to the full course straight off, but I’m guessing we can all agree that 4 is probably not quite a statistically valid sample.

Lessons learnt: I’m a language teacher, not a marketer

But even so, this dramatic failure is (for today) making me seriously doubt my ability to do anything right.

I know that doesn’t make any intellectual sense – why doubt my ability to build a successful language course when I get emails every week from people who are delighted by what they’ve learnt? – but that’s what’s happening.

It’s a similar feeling to how you lose faith in yourself when you plateau with a new language, or even feel as though you’re slipping back.  We spend a lot of time on the forum telling people they must have faith in themselves – maybe this is a timely reminder for me that having faith in yourself isn’t always easy.

I can see a bundle of things to test – the ‘how long do you think they’ve been learning?’ idea clearly isn’t triggering the curiosity I thought it would, so maybe we need a different headline that is explicit about how quickly they learnt, and a shorter video of their highlights, and perhaps limit the ads to show in the UK only.  We need to get the sign up form on the same page, which requires a technical fix that we’ll have to wait a little for, and we probably need to stick in two or three comments from people who’ve used the course.

So I’ll pick myself up, brush myself down, implement those changes and test again, and see what Round 2 brings.

I may be creating too much pressure for myself here.  It feels as though I have to get this to work, or we’ll never reach all the people we’d like to reach, and never help all the languages we’d like to help – not to mention letting down everyone who’s helping us at the moment, and everyone we’d like to employ in the future.  Oh, and my son and my daughter and my wife – yes, I may have my flaws, but I’m pretty good at this guilt stuff.

Maybe that’s wrong, and there are other ways to get Wil to bed (a Welsh idiom which I accept sounds a little odd in English!) – but perhaps I just don’t have enough confidence to see them at the moment.

So, to finish with a moeswers (moral lesson):

If you’re feeling stuck with a language, trust yourself, trust the process, and keep on going, however tough it feels in the bad patches.

And the next time I tell you that on the forum, you’ll know that I really do understand how you’re feeling…:-)

[Oh, and if any of you know anything about marketing and fancy having a look at the landing page and pointing out any particularly stupid mistakes, it’s here: ]

And did I mention my back is hurting?

Yes, it’s Self-Pity Friday here at SSi Towers…;-)

P.S. Now, this ‘Being Open’ stuff

Writing all that was easy.  I type quickly, and it just felt like a good old-fashioned rant.

Clicking ‘Publish’, though?  Now that’s a whole different ball game.  Letting people see that I’m not sure what to do and don’t feel much faith in myself at the moment?  Scary stuff.

C’mon, Jones, just go and click the damned thing…

20 responses to “It’s a ‘Knock My Head Against the Wall’ kind of day!

  1. 4 things jumped out at me from your marketing page, which may or may not be of interest:
    1. See if your video hosting company have a way to allow secure connections so it’ll load up on your https page. As it is, the video only loads if you click on the annoying browser ‘mixed-content’ message which could cost you viewers.
    2. Make the ‘Register’ link far more prominent….
    3. …though personally I wouldn’t even ask people to register at this point – that puts another barrier in the way and gives them a reason not to bother continuing. You have such a good product, getting people hooked-in should be easy if you can just get them to try it, so give them the first 1 or 2 sessions for free, without needing to register. If they like them, they’ll be more inclined to come back and register for more.
    4. You have no meta-data on that page to help out the search engines. That’s a whole black art in itself but is something you should address.

    • Thanks a lot, Dave, that’s really valuable input and I’m very grateful to you for taking the time to share. You’ve just made my day significantly better…:-)

      Great point about the https connection – that may be the solution for the lack of views, and I don’t think I’d ever have noticed that (it doesn’t happen for me, so it may not be a consistent thing across all browsers/builds).

      Yeah, we need a button to register, at the very least – but what I really want is to bring the form itself inline – just need to be patient about the coding…:-)

      I hear you about registering – it’s definitely something we’ll have to test at some point – the challenge there is to measure the engagement and be able to figure out what registrations come from the PPC traffic and then how many of them convert. My gut feeling is on your side, though, about the value of just getting people to try the content, so we need to rise to the measuring challenge.

      Meta-data – yup, I’m very lazy in that direction, you’ve got me bang to rights there! We’ve never needed to focus on it for Welsh, and have tended to presume that it’s a bad cost/benefit situation for major languages like Spanish – maybe something we’ll have to look at in more detail down the line.

      Thank you very much indeed once again, Dave – intelligent input at this stage of despair is a real life-saver! :-))

  2. Oh, excellent point Dave – I didn’t notice about the insecure elements thing because I don’t have my browser set to pester me about such things – but yes, that could definitely be putting people off, and would explain the bizarre figure of only 12% of the visitors actually playing the video despite it being set to play automatically.

    SEO is definitely a black art but I know from experience how important it is – if the SEO guys at LateRooms ever messed up, the impact on traffic could sometimes be dramatic.

    Paid digalonni, mae ‘na fwy nag un ffordd i ddigroeni cath 😉

  3. Just tried in Firefox (I use Chrome normally) and not only did the video not appear, but the browser didn’t even tell me it’d blocked anything. I had to go to the little HTTPS status jobbie in the corner to find out that anything was amiss. Hardly surprising then!

    So if 7% of the 55 who saw the video ended up signing up, then that would translate to 36 visitors if the video had displayed properly for everyone. How’s that for a more positive thought? And with a shorter, punchier video, I’m sure we can bring that figure up further 🙂

    • Ah, yes – I’m on Chrome too, so this is looking increasingly like the solution – in which case, that’s a huge step forward, because a 7% conversion rate is just disappointing, rather than calamitous! I’ve just been told that the measuring (for people who don’t register initially) plus bringing the form inline is probably about a week of work, which we can hope to get done in October, so that gives us time to get the shorter video ready to roll…:-)

  4. I’m glad I could be a bit of help anyway – you guys have given me so much through the lessons that it’s nice to be able to give something back 🙂

    • You’ve most certainly done that! I was very tentative about sharing an ‘Oh my God’ kind of post, but your response made it hugely worthwhile, so diolch o galon…:-)

  5. So when you said you were in a good place to watch that Brené Brown video, you really meant it. Not that I doubted it :), but now I know more of why. A most sincere thank you for sharing!

    I’m not gonna tell you the very true intellectual things you can tell yourself, but I can definitively say; I hear you.
    And you are not alone in not being able to comfort yourself with the rational arguments of your brain.
    Some days are just not good, I find it helps accepting those days as being so and remembering that they don’t define me. We can’t escape them and why should we try, there are things to learn in those moments too.

    (I’m always afraid of sounding a bit psycho-mumble-jumbly, (and that people are gonna be offended, which is even harder when you can’t talk face to face) but that is my field and more importantly I have more experience than my young years show) So have you considered that you’re back is trying to tell you something?!?!
    Honestly Aran you seem to be working VERY hard lately and this “issue” of wanting to save the world, sorry, I mean save all the threatened languages in the world, sounds like it’s creating a lot of stress.
    Stop. And listen. What’s your body telling you? What does it need? Slow down? Take a break? Ask for help?

    I do believe you’ve been speeding and now you’ve hit a brick wall and you’re trying to get away from the wall by keeping your foot on the pedal thereby keeping smashing in to the wall over and over again. Rather than stop, breathe, put your car in reverse and back away slowly to find another way.

    How about a break Aran? How about putting what you can put away and spend some relaxed, good quality time with your family? And not just a day or two, a week I say!
    – A WHOLE WEEK?!?!
    – Yes. At least.

    And then when you’re ready, not when you feel you should be ready, but when you’re actually ready you can come back, focus on something fun and manageable first. And then, you can come back to what I called an “issue” above and deal with it as what it actually is, one of your greatest joys, taking step by step for language rescue which you burn for (swedish phrase meaning you are passionate about something), but right now you are getting burned by it.

    And with that I’ll stop talking, for now.
    P.S. Welcome to the vulnerability club 🙂 you’re doing great.

    • Diolch o galon, Marie – moving and interesting.

      It’s a very fair point about the back – although time off for the back and quality time with the family aren’t a very good match! That’s basically what we did on our Holland trip – hugely worthwhile, but it almost certainly set everything on a slower path to recovery for the back. It’s possible I do need to take a week off to have another go at a heavy round of pain-killers to try and break the pain->muscle spasm->pain circle.

      One of the tricky things about being open, I think, might be that because it’s not a very usual thing, you can end up sounding as if you’re in a worse place than you actually are. I mean, a repressed person would have to be in a really bad place before they could share some of the stuff I posted – but I’m working on being less repressed…;-)

      In other words, while today has felt quite challenging, I really agree with what you say about challenging days being valuable – and it’s been fantastic to get really worthwhile and generous feedback on the blog, and to start to see what I need to do next. Meanwhile, the majority of my working week is either just fun or seriously intellectually interesting/challenging (and sometimes both, of course!) – I don’t generally suffer from stress, which I thinks makes me pretty lucky in terms of the modern world.

      Thank you so much once again for such a caring and kind response – it means a huge amount, and I’m definitely taking it on board…:-)

      • Diolch for your reply!

        Glad you found something interesting in there. I’m very good at talking at length about these sort of things and good at worrying too!

        I do hope your back gets better soon and if there is anything you feel you can do for it, the quicker the better usually. I suppose the whole young kids plus a bad back being a bad combo makes sense!

        You are definitively right about the trickiness of being open! That actually made me think that maybe people in general need to be more open about when thing are going good as well, to avoid an image that looks worse than it is. Which isn’t allowed either in this society. Don’t tell me when you’re doing bad, don’t tell me when you’re doing well. SSIW has done well to create a forum where those rules don’t apply 🙂

        Glad to hear you are taking good care 🙂 and you aspiring to be an open company is obviously a big part in your success so far and a good role model for others.

        Thank you for yet another rewarding little conversation. 🙂

  6. (So yes, I just have to add that I’m glad that even though my first reply was maybe a bit of an overkill I’m very glad that the place of care it came from showed through!)

    • I didn’t think it was overkill, I thought it was very generous and kind, and I really appreciated it. What work do you do, if you don’t mind my asking? I think you’d get on very well with my cousin – she’s very wise and sensitive too…:-)

      • Oh, you made me blush!
        Must run in your family then 🙂 Is she Welsh too, cause that would just make her too cool!

        I’m on a long and winding road to becoming a psychologist, currently on a break from studying because I struggle with exhaustion (that is steadily and slowly getting better!) so probably wont go back to uni for another year. But I also have some experience with working with trauma.

        I actually had a set back about a month ago and I was so(!) happy I have SSIW, something that I can adapt entirely to how much my brain is willing to function and that gives me a great since of achievement. 🙂

      • It means a huge amount to me when I know that SSiW is helping people with focus and a sense of achievement, so thank you very much indeed for being open enough to share that…:-)

        My cousin is very proud of her Welsh heritage, but she comes from a very anglicised branch of the family and doesn’t (at the moment!) have the language.

        Good luck with your long and winding road. It only took me forty years to work out that I was a language teacher – so I’m a fan of long and winding roads…;-)

  7. Have you thought about pushing it in the US where there is a large population who hear spanish all the time but have no understanding of it? Or approaching companies that have staff based in english and spanish speaking countries, it could be accessible through their intranet.

    Does SSiW attract a certain demograph, eg 30-40 year old females, or young families, etc.

    Does the website have web analysis tools active? You can use it to see where exactly you are losing people, where they are coming in from etc..

    One of the biggest hurdles I’m facing trying to persuade friends to give it a go is a sense of “its not going to be easy”, perhaps if you can distill the method description into an eye catching summary. eg “It works because it uses the method you learnt your first language with” (which scans terribly but something like that).

    • Diolch yn fawr iawn i ti, Ian – I really appreciate your characteristically intelligent input on this…:-)

      Good questions, all. We don’t have much demographic info, and it’s something in due course it would be good for us to improve with. Our advertising tests so far have been done in the US and Canada, and once we’ve got as far as we can in terms of fine-tuning the ‘initial contact’, we’ll definitely want to look at ways to make material available for particular companies – although that will be easier once we have a higher perceived value.

      Yes to web analysis – the key thing there is to go granular enough, and that’s what we’re doing with Adwords – seeing how many people who click the ad watch the video, how many finish the video, how many register, how many buy the full tourist course. That’s the first step what we need to get right – we have to break even at that stage in order to scale up. Once we can break even at that stage, then we’ll be able to start scaling, and at that point we’ll be putting a lot more effort into looking at usage patterns, and do a lot more work to make sure that we hold people’s hands successfully through the first few lessons…:-)

      The ‘easy’ thing is really tricky. What I want to say is ‘Look, it’s easy, compared to what you’re expecting, but of course it’s not as easy as just having a pint, for example, so do be realistic, but don’t be intimidated’ – as soon as I work that into a successful advertising headline, I’ll let you know…;-) Problematically, it doesn’t use the method you learnt your first language with – it just has certain similarities (as well as some huge differences)…:-)

      Diolch o galon i ti unwaith eto am gymryd yr amser i ateb…:-)

  8. I have an addin to Chrome installed called Flashblock, so all I see is a square where the video should be. One of the reasons I installed it was because of pages that auto played videos when I wasn’t expecting them. Especially awkward if you’re browsing somewhere that you shouldn’t e.g. in work, and a video starts playing. When that happened I used to very quickly exit the page…

    • Thanks James – interesting input – I’m going to run some tests in the next couple of weeks without video and see if we can find an approach that works better – although having said that, a lot of marketers report much better opt-in rates with videos, so there must be a way to make it work even if it means losing some viewers…:-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s