Yem Jam (Vol. 12)
I hope everyone is having a lovely Labor Day weekend!
It's been a while since we spoke. As a reminder (and welcome to those that are new), Yem Jam is a weekly summary of progress, learnings, and ideas as we build Yem. Let’s dive in!
Yem's raison d'être
During the past month, we've been working on refining Yem's story. Here's the latest:
Larger media companies can provide many benefits that are less accessible to individual creators. One benefit is a growth team — people whose job is solely focused on building an audience and increasing revenue. In response to the boom of individual creators, Jessica Lessin, CEO and founder of The Information, said part of their advantage was “sophisticated marketing around acquiring and retaining subscribers.” They recently hired Sam Rosen (former SVP of Growth at The Atlantic) to grow The Information’s subscription business and expand the marketing team.
It will be challenging for every creator to hire a growth team. Further, creators may not be well-positioned or want to manage a growth team. But it's clear these functions provide immense value for the larger media companies. And when we ask creators what their biggest challenge is, in near unison, the reply is "growth".
We're building products that allow creators to have their cake and eat it too. The freedom to earn a living doing what they love, fueled by the support of Yem’s world-class growth engine.
🛠 Building an MVP
In the last update, we covered the results from our first fully-automated email. Right after that, we started planning how to turn that kernel of progress into an initial product (“MVP”).
We outlined a suite of lifecycle emails based on insights from all the growth tests we've run over the past 6 months. These emails have a few key goals:
Increasing engagement / reducing dormancy
Converting free subscribers to paid subscriptions
Preventing paid subs from cancelling
Here’s a high-level of view of the emails we included in the MVP:
We then mapped out a 3-phase approach to building the MVP:
Phase 1 - 0 → 1 customer
Phase 2 - 2 → 10 customers
Phase 3 - 11 → 100 customers
Each phase has a different set of features. More than anything, we used this to scope and prioritize what we're building. At this stage, there’s a strong pull towards tackling new problems and building as much as possible. Focus and patience are counter-intuitive, but it's our only real advantage.
We've fully onboarded our first customer. The MVP series of messages has been going out for the past 6 days. We're on track to lift our customer’s subscription revenue by 10% (and there’s lots of room for improvement).
More exciting, consumers seem open to receiving these types of messages. We've seen solid open rates (35%) and click-through rates (15%). We have 0 spam reports and a low rate of folks unsubscribing from Yem notifications (0.3%).
Looking forward, we have work to do on analyzing the results, testing, and refining the MVP. We're also planning to add our second customer, which will give us a sense of scalability.
🌊🛶 Lost at sea
I've been lucky to be part of incredible growth teams at Hulu, Crunchyroll, and WarnerMedia. During that run, I was fortunate to help launch high-investment products (VRV, HBO Max). But those were mostly an extension of existing products, launched from a stable foundation. I've never been a part of bringing something into existence from nothing. It's been a unique challenge and an invaluable learning experience.
I've read a few books this year on long sea voyages and shipwrecks (both fiction and nonfiction). The characters describe in spooky detail the trauma of being lost at sea. The crew usually has supplies, so it's not so much about immediate survival. It's more psychological — having to deal with menacing uncertainty for a prolonged period of time, or trying to bend the will of the world when so many elements are uncontrollable.
Searching for product / market fit can feel like being lost at sea. We've been working on Yem for 6 months and see promising signs that we may be heading towards land. But that doesn't change our current reality — nothing but the ocean surrounding us, unsure whether we're solving a real problem, that we've built a product our customers need. Time will tell. For now, we're staying focused and patient, searching for that elusive beachhead.